Brandon Sanderson had an interesting thought one day: why is it that fantasy worlds stand still chronologically? Sure they often have great and epic histories, but the world itself doesn’t seem to advance over time. As the Wheel of Time so eloquently puts it:
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.
What if, instead of this kind of stasis, a fantasy world lived and grew over time just like our world does. How would the growth of technology effect magic? Would they become anathema to each other and cause wars that sundered the world, or would they combine harmoniously and create miracles never before considered?
It’s an interesting question, and it’s exactly what Brandon Sanderson has set out to explore with The Alloy of Law. Set in the same universe as his Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial, a world where certain people are gifted with the ability to transmute metal dusts into various powers, this book tells its tale hundreds of years after the conclusion of The Hero of Ages.
One of the core elements of fantasy is that it contains the fantastical. What could be more fantastical than the inhuman powers of magic wielded by the denizens of the universe? Magic is often found in fantasy books, although its provenance varies widely. In some universes, magic is an innate ability of certain people; in others it is merely the ability to bend wild forces of the universe to one’s will. What cannot be disputed is that magic has a significant effect on the worlds in which it exists.
When authors write magic into their books, they have to make a choice about how much of a factor it will be. Whether this choice is made consciously or not, it must be made, and it can make a big difference in how well the universe holds together. Magic, poorly incorporated, can result in instances of the Superman Problem, and, in doing so, cheapen the quality of an otherwise good book. I’m not bashing magic here. I’m saying that the way an author treats magic makes a huge difference in how well the constructed world holds up.
“They’re here.” Don’t check under your house for a Native American burial ground, and don’t go calling the Exorcist just yet – our Weekend Watch went on hiatus, but just because we’re back doesn’t mean you should suspect the supernatural. Maybe just the evolutionary – X-Men: First Class will most likely be high atop all our lists for the next three days, but we’ll give you a taste of some other especially nerdy plans we’ve concocted for the weekend. Read more