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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guest Post and Giveaway: "The Cost of Magic Systems" by Christopher Hoare

(Giveaway info will be at the very end of this post.)

I’d like to discuss some aspects of magic in fantasy novels, specifically how the magic in my novel Rast both differs from and coincides with that used as a plot device in other novels.

First, in my novel, magic is described as a power active in a particular place; the magic kingdom of Rast, ruled by a Drogar, the sorcerer king. But later developments reveal that there is also another realm where magic is mastered, Easderly, where cousins of the sorcerer king reside, and from where a daughter has to be sent to be mother of a future sorcerer king. This is similar to the treatment in other works as well as folklore, where special places exist where magic happens – in Fairie or Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter. In fact, the latter work has a fairy princess necessary to bear a future magic king – clearly testimony to the power of magic’s distant influences, because I’d never heard of that novel before researching for this blog post.

In this discussion I will assume (drearily lacking any sense of wonder) that in both the reader and
myself, magic is accepted as being wholly fictional. This was not always the case, even in fiction; in William Shakespeare's time, witches like the Weird Sisters in Macbeth and wizards like Prospero in The Tempest were widely considered to be real.

To my mind, the greatest difference between the magic in Rast and that in almost every other work of fiction is the ‘price’ mine charges for its use. In all works where magic is a plot device, there are two considerations; firstly that there must be sufficient limits on its use to retain the necessary plausibility that opposition to the magic wielders is possible (there is no story else); secondly that these magic wielders have had to learn or otherwise exert themselves to acquire the ability. There is one exception that I will deal with later.

In Rast, the ability to exersize magic is inherited, but has to be mastered and is ultimately fatal. It comes with a huge price; after a number of years the restless magic will overpower the sorcerer king and burst the bounds he places on it and so destroy him. This is the major plot problem of the story, which takes place during the interregnum while the old Drogar is losing his last struggle and his heir, Prince Egon, is learning how to take up the deadly power.

The wieldable magic isn’t the only manifestation in Rast; there are magic entities and creatures that have been created in the past by magic, but always through the workings of the same magic force. Thus these are all interconnected to that force by a greater or lesser degree, making magic an immanent reality, like gravity.

Magic artifacts are common to many fantasy novels, and there are a few artifacts of magic in Rast. The gossamer net that the Princes’ sweetheart uses to protect herself from the Deepning’s spells was created for the purpose in such a distant past that its origin is lost in myth. Prince Egon was given a saffron crystal by his father as an aid to learning to use and control the magic. The princess sent from Easderly was given one spell sealed in a bronze bound casket as a gift from her father. The Deepning, a magic created creature, can send out siren spells to lure victims, but they are actually part of its own substance.

And the earlier exception I mentioned? In many works of fantasy the magic is bestowed by some form of object, a talisman, a wand, or a ritual object, and here we get very close to folklore and the belief that magic actually exists. How much difference is there between believing the power of a magic lamp or an enchanted sword and in that of a holy relic? While magic in fiction has to be an integral part of the law of the story, in the real world magic is something that is completely outside of the laws of physics – supernatural; a completely unnatural power. In fiction we might enjoy playing with a tamed facsimile of this magic, but the tension is always greater when the audience has been brought to suppress their scepticism and to fear it as the ancients did. Perhaps we are not all that distant from Shakespeare’s audience after all.

About Rast
In Rast, magic is not a convenient parlour trick, it’s a deadly force that takes no prisoners. Those who must wield it are doomed, for it never ceases to work within the mind and nerves until it destroys its master.

And now, the time of the interregnum is here; the reigning sorcerer king, the Drogar of Rast, is struggling for a last grasp on magic power while his heir, Prince Egon, must take up the deadly mantle. Egon is fearful but courageous in his duty. Not one peril threatens Rast, but many.

While he struggles to tame the magic to his command the mechanistic Offrang adventurers arrive to seize the land for their empire. The Offrangs don’t just disbelieve in magic, they treat any attempt to discuss it with withering scorn. Then, when the Drogar falters, the North Folk sweep out in their multitudes to cover the land of Rast at the behest of their depraved Casket of Scrolls. Deepning too, a creature of earth magic in its mountain pools, stirs to gain power enough to conquer Rast.

The Prince’s sweetheart Jady does her best to support him, but she is not strong enough in the power of the lineage to bear him a magic wielding heir. She sets out to meet the caravansi of the cousin princess who is sent to be his consort with duty and anger both warring in her mind. The crisis will reveal surprising enemies, surprising friends, and as the Drogar tells Jady, “Even a Drogar may not see a future not yet determined.” While Egon goes west to spy on the Offrangs and Jady makes her way east, the oracle provided by the Pythian that lives in a cavern beneath the palace reveals, “You have no high point to see the scattered threads but must trust to those who grasp them.”

Everyone, enemy and friend, has a part to play in the preservation of Rast.

Rast is available for purchase here.


Christopher Hoare lives with his wife, Shirley, and two shelter dogs, Coco and Emmie, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. As a lad he lived, breathed, and dreamed aeroplanes, won a place at RAE Farnborough learning to engineer them, but found the reality didn’t fit the dream. Did a stint in the army and then away to Libya to join the oil circus. Flying objects only appear as tools when they now appear in his writing.

His stories never take place next door to the lives most people live; the less charitable find similarity in characters who tend to be stubborn, independent, and contrarian. Perhaps there’s a connection between the worlds he portrays in fiction, and his working life in oil exploration in the Libyan Desert, the Canadian Arctic, and the mountains and forests of Western Canada.

He has written stories set in Anglo-Saxon Britain, in modern industrial projects, in the alternate world of Gaia, and the fantasy world of Rast. Sometimes known to satirize jobs and organizations he knows. Likes to write central characters who are smart, beautiful, and dangerous women who lead their male counterparts to fulfill dangerous duties they'd rather avoid. Gisel Matah in the Iskander series is perhaps the most Bond-like of these, but Jady in Rast can match her in many aspects.

Visit his website at to learn much more, and download the free novella “Gisel Matah and the Slave Ship”. You can find his blog at


CONTEST! Christopher Hoare is giving away two e-Copies of Rast during his virtual book tour. You can find his entire tour schedule at here. Leave a comment (including your email address) at any of his blog stops during the tour. He will select two winners from all comments received. The more blogs you visit and comment at, the greater your chances of winning a copy of the book.

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  1. Thanks for hosting my virtual book tour stop and this guest post, Shaun. I like your selection of posts about SF and Fantasy listed here. I read a couple and will come back for another look.

    Chris H.

  2. Thanks for hosting Chris today. I just finished reading Rast. Though I'm not a huge lover of fantasy novels, this one had me hooked right away. I was glad Chris asked for my help to promote it.

    Good luck to all who enter the giveaway.


  3. Christopher and Cheryl: No problem! Hopefully folks check out the book.