This topic is sort-of a spinoff from my last post. You may want to check it out to get the idea of what I'm talking about...
What are everyone's views about magic systems? Do you prefer the mysterious, vague notions in Tolkien's works, or the in-your-face blatancy of Jordan?
I don't mind either one, so long as it fits the context of the story. If the story is a society where people left and right are throwing magic around, yet the author means for magic users to be strange and unusual, I feel the author loses his message. By the same token, a novel without any magic is hardly fantasy and more historical fiction. Personally, I have always been a fan of the mysterious, undefinable use of magic in stories. I think that a man casting a huge fireball at a dragon is going a bit too far. Still, there is always something to be said for a knock-down, drag-out wizard's duel. I like magic a lot, but not when it's overdone.
I like Robert Jordan's magic system in Wheel of Time, but not how he employs it (he makes it too common). The One Power is basically the ability to warp the threads of reality- some people have the talent to take the threads of power (that hold everything together) and maniupulate them as they will. There are no spells, so to speak, but there are common uses. I can't say that I have ever seen this idea before, so kudos to Jordan for being unique.
I liked the rune system from the Death Gate Cycle. It was an interesting take on the idea. magic is not based necessarily on latent power, but on practiced, learned skill based on shapes and their locations.
Tolkien's is less defined, so it is harder to classify it at all except to say that I enjoyed the mysterious nature and "rarity" of its use. I find it fascinating. Magic is innate, but the use of it must be restrained lest it be overused and corrupt. Tolkien's underlying magical theme is that magic gives ultimate power, but since no one was made to wield ultimate power, it ultimately corrupts the user. Only those wielding it in peaceful, blessed fashion can escape its ill effects. By using it for evil (that which is was never meant to be,) it is squandered.
I haven't read enough Goodkind to comment too much on his system except to say that Magic is a very basic element- though people may not like to admit it or even be aware of it, it plays a vital role in their lives. I'm not too sure about this system since I've only read one book by Goodkind, so I won't evaluate it positively or negatively.
Eddings is a pretty straight-forward wizards-and-sorceresses-casting spells system. Not a big fan.
Dragonlance is perhaps the most blatantly bad (from what I'm told.) I am not familiar enough with Dungeons and Dragons to
say for a fact, but from what I've seen, the magic system in the books relies strictly on the game mechanics, which I suppose is okay if you like the game, but pretty sad if you do not. I did not.
The Magic in Terry Brooks is often item-related except through the druids and evil villains (who surprisingly ALWAYS are wielders of secret powers in this genre). Good system, but I got tired of the overall story after a one or two Shanarra books.
(I won't even comment on the embarrassingly poor Magic Kingdom books)
Mary Stewart's magic system is (I believe) fantastic. It relies on mysticism and paganism. It is incredibly potent, but elusive enough to make the overall feel mysterious and strange.
Song of Ice and Fire- I loved that Martin had the guts (and talent) to write a successful fantasy novel without any real magic in it (the first book of the series). It gave the series a great feel and a sense of originality. When he incorporated magic into the second book, it obviously pleased fans. I thought he did an excellent job of introducing it but keeping it believable in the context of the first book. Magic has a potent impact in his setting because all factions do not have access to it. The one that does has a huge advantage despite its military deficiencies. Very original and intriguing.
How 'bout everyone else?
What do you look for in terms of magic in books? What makes a good magic system? What ruins a magic system? Which systems were terrible? Which systems are well done? Do you know of any good systems in bad books? Bad systems in good books? Let's see some of your thoughts posted here for the rest of us!