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Margaret Rogerson on Magic Systems | Sorcery of Thorns Blog Tour

I’m so excited to be taking part in the Sorcery of Thorns blog tour today for a couple of reasons.  The first being, Sorcery of Thorns is one of my favorite fantasy books that I’ve read this year and I want everyone else to dive in and discover this beautifully written masterpiece.  The second being, Margaret was kind enough to write a guest post for my blog, answering a question that I’ve been wondering about ever since I learned how Nathaniel’s magic works in the world of Sorcery. Another plus, Sorcery of Thorns is a standalone so you’ll get a complete (and very fulfilling) story in one go without having to wait years for a sequel (though I did fall so in love with the characters that I’m begging the book gods that Margaret will revisit them in the future).  Sorcery of Thorns follows a girl named Elizabeth who grew up in a library surrounded by magical grimoires.  Elizabeth finds herself on trial and is forced to reexamine her feelings toward sorcerers when she teams up with Nathaniel to uncover a conspiracy more shocking that anyone could’ve imagined.  Also there’s a demon named Silas and all you need to know is that he is the best.  Anyway, Margaret is going to tell us all about her magic system in Sorcery and share her top 5 magic systems from other books. Thanks again Margaret!

Guest Post

In Sorcery of Thorns, people aren’t born with the ability to do magic. Instead, they gain magical power by summoning demons and making bargains with them. Unsurprisingly, this comes at a terrible cost—aspiring sorcerers have to negotiate away a portion of their lives as payment. They must also be wary of the demon they’ve summoned, who remains at their side in the role of a servant, bound to obey their orders but eager to betray them at every turn. The sooner the sorcerer dies, after all, the faster the demon receives its payment.

For me, the most enjoyable part of writing the magic system wasn’t the magic itself, but rather the way that its consequences shape society and affect the characters. The Great Libraries are a good example. They exist because when sorcerers write spells down, the power of the demonic runes infuse the paper with magical properties. This results in dangerous, sentient grimoires that need an entire system of high-security libraries and sword-wielding librarians to keep them contained. The main character, Elisabeth, grew up in one of the Great Libraries, and living among the grimoires since infancy has shaped her in a special way—but I won’t go into that, because it’s a bit of a spoiler!

And then there are the sorcerers’ relationships with demons, which defines magical culture in a lot of ways. A person can only summon a demon if they know the demon’s true name, so those names are passed down within families like carefully guarded heirlooms. The most powerful sorcerers have had the same demon serving their ancestors for centuries, making sorcery an exclusive art in this kingdom that is associated with wealth and lineage, much like an alternate form of nobility. I loved developing the relationship between Nathaniel and his servant, Silas. They have an unusually close bond for a sorcerer and a demon; in a tragic twist of fate, Silas is the only family Nathaniel has left. But Silas still demands a substantial portion of Nathaniel’s life as payment for his servitude. The resulting dynamic is complex and at times very emotional.

As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of stories in which magic isn’t easy. I love when magic exacts some kind of toll on the characters who practice it, or it complicates their lives in unexpected ways. Here are five of my favorite magic systems in other fantasy books:

  1. Necromancy in the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. In Sabriel and its sequels, necromancers use a set of seven bells to subdue and battle the undead. Each bell has a different function, ranging from tiny Ranna the Sleeper to Astarael the Sorrowful, which sends everyone who hears it into the realm of death, including the necromancer who rings it. I’ve always been struck by how original this magic system is and how perfectly it meshes with the series’ world and atmosphere.
  2. In the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden, magic is associated with the world of gods and spirits rather than the world of mortals. Humans can sometimes practice it, but only at great risk to their sanity, because using magic requires a person to perceive the impossible until reality bends to their will. I loved how the main character, Vasya, is introduced to this idea by the god Morozko in the first book and progresses to wielding it in the third. It’s so intense and cathartic watching her grapple with this power at the risk of madness, drawing upon her traumatic experiences as fuel to fight.
  3. Daemons in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I don’t know if daemons technically count as a magic system, since they’re more like a magical element of the world, but I love them so much that I have to include them! Daemons are a physical embodiment of a person’s soul that take the form of an animal. Every person has a daemon, and I loved how you can tell so much about each character based on their daemon’s species. I also found the social complications they create to be really fascinating. You can harm a person by threatening their daemon, for example, and people and their daemons can’t stray far from each other, which can be hugely problematic when someone’s daemon settles in the shape of, say, a dolphin.
  4. The Facesmiths in A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and also one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. In the strange subterranean city of Caverna, babies are born without facial expressions. They must be taught expressions by Facesmiths, people who specialize in the art of designing joy and anger and sorrow. I loved how Hardinge used this system to weave in commentary on socioeconomic injustice. Only the wealthy and privileged of Caverna are able to afford a wide range of facial expressions, while the poor might only have two or three basic ones to choose from. This suits the privileged just fine, as it allows them to dehumanize the rest of the population as dull, emotionless drudges, perpetuating a long cycle of oppression.
  5. Everything in the Monster Blood Tattoo series by DM Cornish. These books contain so many wildly original ideas that I almost don’t know where to start. They take place in the Half-Continent, a world that’s filled with monsters, and one of the main characters is a fulgar, a flamboyant monster hunter who has had her organs altered via surgery, giving her enhanced fighting abilities at the cost of having to drink foul alchemical potions to keep her body from rejecting the organs. That’s only one small example of the bizarre and wonderful magic in this series, which I highly recommend to anyone looking for a unique read.

Whew, that got long! Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Super Space Chick. I had so much fun with this guest post!

Thank you so much again Margaret! Below is a full synopsis for Sorcery of Thorns as well as the rest of the blog tour schedule.

Book Synopsis

From the New York Times bestselling author of An Enchantment of Ravens comes an imaginative fantasy about an apprentice at a magical library who must battle a powerful sorcerer to save her kingdom.

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Author Bio

Margaret Rogerson is the author of the New York Times bestseller An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns. She has a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from Miami University. When not reading or writing she enjoys sketching, gaming, making pudding, and watching more documentaries than is socially acceptable (according to some). She lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, beside a garden full of hummingbirds and roses. Visit her at MargaretRogerson.com.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 27 – Alexa Loves Books

Tuesday, May 28 – The Novel Knight

Wednesday, May 29 – Adventures of a Book Junkie

Thursday, May 30 – Awkwordly Emma

Friday, May 31 – Mel to the Any

Monday, June 3 – The Fox’s Hideaway

Tuesday, June 4 – The Starry-Eyed Revue

Wednesday, June 5 – The Bookish Beagle

Thursday, June 6 – Super Space Chick

Friday, June 7 – Flying Paperbacks

Monday, June 10 – Bookshelves & Paperbacks

Tuesday, June 11 – Nightly Reading

Wednesday, June 12 – Novel Heartbeat

Thursday, June 13 – Hammock of Books

Friday, June 14 – The Everlasting Library

Monday, June 17 – The Eater of Books!

Tuesday, June 18 – Beware of the Reader

Wednesday, June 19 – This Dark Material

Thursday, June 20 – That Artsy Reader Girl

Friday, June 21 – SimplyAlly Tea

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One Response to “Margaret Rogerson on Magic Systems | Sorcery of Thorns Blog Tour”

  1. I added this to my goodreads list, this sounds interesting.

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