Most Interesting Magic System

Fantasy books with the most original, complex, and interesting magic system.
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1,672 books · 6,248 voters · list created September 29th, 2008 by Eric Gardner (votes) .
706 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Eric 1155 books
31 friends
Charlotte 318 books
13 friends
Jim 490 books
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Greyweather 2572 books
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Mary 2969 books
15 friends
I am Bastet 1916 books
147 friends
Choobie 200 books
34 friends
Marion 13 books
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More voters…


Comments (showing 1-50 of 178) (178 new)


message 1: by Eric (last edited Jun 01, 2011 03:13AM) (new)

Eric Gardner I don't think Harry Potter belongs on this list because the magic system in that world is not rigidly defined. Basically anything can happen at any time, there's no limitations on the powers of the Characters. As long as the kid knows the spell he or she can cast it all day.

This doesn't mean I am not a fan I love Harry Potter!


message 2: by Dave (new)

Dave Moore How can any list of books dealing in any fashion with magic be considered complete without reference to Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" series? Harry is a wizard and his employment of his magical skills (and the moral dilemmas it sometimes imposes) is core to the stories.


message 3: by Amir (last edited Nov 05, 2009 05:02AM) (new)

Amir Mishali Of course Harry Potter's magic system is the most interesting. How do you cast a spell? you wave a wand and say a single word and that's it! So intriguing! so mysterious! so complicated and original! And of course, the word you mutter must be in the correct accent! Not Leviosa, leviosa!


message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Eric wrote: "I don't think Harry Potter belongs on this list because the magic system in that world is not rigidly defined. Basically anything can happen at any time there's no limitations on the powers of the..."

Agreed.


message 6: by Xenophon (new)

Xenophon Hendrix I think Harry Potter doing so well is a function of reader inexperience and the popularity of the series. To those of us who have been reading fantasy for years, Harry Potter is fun but nothing that special.


message 7: by Didit (new)

Didit bartimaeus trilogy is certainly must be added to this list! it's magic system is so interesting, like summoning things, a pact, etc..


message 8: by Xenophon (new)

Xenophon Hendrix One can add books on the right of the page.


message 9: by Matt (new)

Matt Gibson Didit wrote: "bartimaeus trilogy is certainly must be added to this list! it's magic system is so interesting, like summoning things, a pact, etc.."

I quite agree. I loved that series.


message 10: by mercury (new)

mercury This list is FAILing it's job of rating books on interesting-ness of the magic system.

It's successfully rating books on popularity with readers, by which books they've actually read and are familiar with.

Harry Potter books are great, and they're fun. Yet there is absolutely nothing interesting (nor original) about the magic system. Magic exists, and works in a way convenient to the story and the writer. The effects of the magic might be interesting, but the books shouldn't really be considered in a "Most Interesting Magical System" category.


message 11: by Nathan (last edited May 20, 2010 07:04PM) (new)

Nathan mercury wrote: "This list is FAILing it's job of rating books on interesting-ness of the magic system.

It's successfully rating books on popularity with readers, by which books they've actually read and are fami..."


I was thinking the same thing... after looking at the list, it looks like a popularity contest. I suppose some people are rather limited in the reading they have done. I can't even remember all the books I've read. I actually added some books i don't even like to the list ;) I was thinking along the lines of original, well developed, unique, well explained, and interesting systems. I am refraining from voting on books already listed that I LOVE, because I don't think they really qualify for this list. Oh well...


message 12: by Eric (new)

Eric Gardner Nate wrote: "mercury wrote: "This list is FAILing it's job of rating books on interesting-ness of the magic system.

It's successfully rating books on popularity with readers, by which books they've actually r..."


I made the list and sorry but I don't see a way to kick books off!


message 13: by Derya (last edited Jun 01, 2010 07:23AM) (new)

Derya Oh, I see Twilight on this list, just like all the other lists. Good God, they're way too obsessed with it. =)


message 14: by Kierenne (new)

Kierenne I agree with those above. Harry Potter doesn't really have a place on the list, nor do any of the chronicle of Narnia books, I am fans of both, though =)


message 15: by Derya (last edited Jun 02, 2010 07:44AM) (new)

Derya After reading the comments above, I’d like to share my personal thoughts: Harry Potter series have the most interesting magical system, thus I’ve voted for them.

Some claims that Harry, as the boy who survived, can do any kind of magic, simply by pronouncing the required magical words in the correct tone and accent. It’s absolutely wrong. In order to do "magic", firstly you have to possess the magical power and ability. You may learn spells by reading spell books, but in order to cast one, you have to learn how to do so, and train yourself. For example; in “The Deathly Hallows”, Hagrid desperately tries to repair his motorbike up in the air, he screams “Reparo” the magical word to repair stuff, as you might recall, in the very correct accent, yet it does not work successfully. Why not? Hagrid has magical powers, as we witness in the first book, but he is incapable of casting certain kinds of spells.

If you’re not satisfied with this particular example, here’s another one for you: The Patronus Charm! It’s not all about swinging your wand and yelling “Expecto Patronum”. After learning the basics, you have to imagine your happiest moments to form a patronus, which is not an easy task, since many students seem amazed by the fact that Harry manages to produce it.

Another intriguing fact about the magical word of Harry Potter is that there are certain rules about “creating” things. For instance; you cannot create food out of thin air, as Hermione explains to Ron in “The Deathly Hallows”. There’s in indeed a limitation.

If you examine the books -quite carefully for once- you as well, will definitely come up with other facts, that may serve to prove the point.


message 16: by Derya (last edited Jun 02, 2010 09:17AM) (new)

Derya This is the most foolish statement I've ever read. Remember that you're bla bla bla-ing about a perfect stranger online. You have no idea about me at all. Of course I've read novels and short stories, with plots, evolving around magical worlds.

The question is have you ever read Harry Potter? When it comes to that, you're randomly guessing without reasoning.


message 17: by Derya (new)

Derya You've read only two plays, which are “the most popular” ones, by Shakespeare, and now you think you know it all, eh? How ridiculously sweet!

I understand that you don't have "anything" to say about HP world, you obviously have a very limited knowledge -probably based on the “popular” film adaptations- and you're not capable of criticizing my comment on the magical system of HP, therefore I have already successfully pointed out that you're randomly guessing.


message 18: by Derya (new)

Derya One must have the capacity and a higher taste in art, in order to appreciate it. We cannot expect an illiterate man to realize the beauty of The Mona Lisa.

You're the one, who clearly insulted each and every one, who like the pure escapist HP series, by claiming that they're for "unthinking masses". Actually, generalisation is for "unthinking" and lazy beings. Hope you remember it, the next time.


message 19: by Selena (new)

Selena Blutiful wrote: "Oh, I see Twilight on this list, just like all the other lists. Good God, they're way too obsessed with it. =)"

Agreed. How's Twilight even on this list? There is no magic in that book. Just weird vampire powers (still not magic).


message 20: by Ben (new)

Ben I usually vote for the most original.The Golden Compass doesn't use too much magic and the world uses it in conjunction with primal technology. I also voted for A Wizard of Earthsea and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell because of the difficulty and gravity of their "magic".


message 21: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Twilight, and many of the other books here, while excellent reads, do not have a structured magic system. In many of the worlds listed, the magic is free and without clear rules, serving whatever purpose the author desires. Of the books that I have read, only Eragon has an actual, defined, system of magic with rules that can never be broken.


message 22: by Eric (new)

Eric Gardner I made this list, I became a goodreads librarian to edit the books on the list and I still can't edit the books on the list! ouch!


message 23: by Adinata (new)

Adinata Crazedgenius wrote: "Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Twilight, and many of the other books here, while excellent reads, do not have a structured magic system. In many of the worlds listed, the magic is free an..."

Agreed. Have you ever read "Black Magician Trilogy" by Trudi Canavan? I believe the magic system in that story is as complex as Eragon. Not everyone can do magic. But everyone has magic. And the magic it self like a knowledge that needs to explored first. Just like a scienstist trying to find new thing.


message 24: by Christopher (new)

Christopher I have not. But I'll make sure to read those if I ever get the chance.


message 25: by Xenophon (last edited Dec 06, 2010 11:25AM) (new)

Xenophon Hendrix Librarians aren't supposed to kick books off a list unless they clearly don't belong. Harry Potter has magic, and persons who have not read much fantasy might believe it has some interesting ideas about magic, so it doesn't clearly not belong. Or, you know, maybe they have read a lot of fantasy and genuinely believe the Harry Potter books have some creative ideas about magic. There is room for disagreement.


message 26: by Eric (new)

Eric Gardner Xenophon wrote: "Librarians aren't supposed to kick books off a list unless they clearly don't belong. Harry Potter has magic, and persons who have not read much fantasy might believe it has some interesting ideas..."

By this logic eventually every book with the word magic in it somewhere will be clogging up the list eliminating any value it may have...


message 27: by Xenophon (new)

Xenophon Hendrix Not necessarily, those books that readers think well of should still bubble up high on the list. I've found that Listopia retains its utility if one simply ignores Harry Potter, Twilight, and other books that have become fads. That which is left near the top is often worth consideration.


message 28: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Ulmer Although there is some argument over Harrt Potter, I think we can all agree that Twilight does not, in any way shape or form, belong on this list.


message 29: by Aimee (new)

Aimee Eric wrote: "I don't think Harry Potter belongs on this list because the magic system in that world is not rigidly defined. Basically anything can happen at any time there's no limitations on the powers of the..."

I completely agree with you! I am also a Harry Potter fan but I do not understand the magic system at all.


message 30: by David (new)

David Harry Potter's magic system is the most interesting?! Those Potter fans really ought to read more fantasy books. How is waving a wand and saying some words "interesting"? It's the most basic, most traditional, and most typical way of performing magic, like Merlin.


message 31: by Patrick (new)

Patrick David wrote: "Harry Potter's magic system is the most interesting?! Those Potter fans really ought to read more fantasy books. How is waving a wand and saying some words "interesting"? It's the most basic, most ..."

I totally agree! I'd prefer to have A Wizard of Earthsea beat HP's position! I'd comment on the other books, but I haven't gotten to reading them yet. I will eventually!


message 32: by Minglis (new)

Minglis seriously HP has one of the most dull magic systems in fantasy.


message 33: by Melanie (last edited Jul 27, 2011 07:05PM) (new)

Melanie Matthew wrote: "Although there is some argument over Harrt Potter, I think we can all agree that Twilight does not, in any way shape or form, belong on this list."
Totally agree
I was thinking WTH is that doing in here! not only that but its almost in the top 50!
I swear twilight comes up on every list!
It was in a steampunk list at one point!
what is with the twilight fans ?


message 34: by Melanie (new)

Melanie I also agree about harry potter has much as I love thoese books the only interesting magic is the horcruxs and even then that are not the most imaginative.


message 35: by Cindy (new)

Cindy To me, what makes HP interesting is the way it turns some traditions around. Elves are not otherworldly, beautiful eerie creatures. They are short, helpful critters who do housework. And so on.

Maybe if the terms were more clearly and explicitly defined at the top of the page, people would be more discriminating about what books they add.


message 36: by David (new)

David Elves are only as they are now because of Tolkien primarily. Before that, there was a period where they were diminutive fairy-like creatures.

I suppose you're right about the description. Depending on one's experience with the fantasy genre, one may not understand what a magic "system" is, as opposed to a world or a setting.


message 37: by Kerri (new)

Kerri Harry Potter is one of my favorite series but really, its magic system isn't unique at all. It takes overdone and stereotypical magic (as in wands and incantations, witches on broomsticks, potions in cauldrons, pointy hats) and has fun with it. But it's all been seen before.


message 38: by Bobby (new)

Bobby Luke Yeah - harry potter fanchildren - stop giving it credit it doesn't deserve. THEY USE WANDS! How on earth is that the most "unique" ?

Another thing, whoever the heck is voting for Twilight, stop it!! They don't use magic - they are werewolves and vampires. And if that is magic, it's not new - books about werewolves and vampires are not "unique."

Furthermore, why don't we just vote on series, not series and the individual volumes? I mean, the magic in Mistborn doesn't change from book to book. The uniqueness of the system is the same in each book - so how is one more unique than the other? I mean, really.


message 39: by Ian (new)

Ian (first person omniscient) It is exceedingly difficult for me to pick any one magical system as the most unique. The best magical systems are those that are integrated fluidly, consistently and, as ridiculous as it might sound considering the topic, logically. The magic system in Harry Potter, for example, is the best magic system possible for THOSE stories. The charm and appeal for me was the integration of a traditional incantation and wand based magical world with the mundane reality of adolescence and our own world. In that sense it all but demanded the presence of things like wands, broomsticks and cauldrons. So no, the books would not have worked half as well if Mrs. Rowling had went with a system of magic like say the one in Mistborn. What she did with the traditional fantasy tropes was certainly unique but the magical system she used was not. I personally feel like it is a diservice to the books to condemn what she did as dull but I don't think they would have been nearly as popular if they actually deserved the top spot on this list. (Oh and someone mentioned the horcruxes as an example, I think, but even there the first thing it reminded me of was a phylactery.)

Speaking of Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson ALWAYS goes above and beyond when it comes to the creation and defining of magical systems. The systems always have clear limitations and, what to me at least, the best part about all of them is that none of them function in the absence of... well, something. Be it metal, color, trapped light or 'breath'/souls, each of his magic systems have an internal logic they must play by; in a sense each system has its own law of conservation of energy.

Garth Nix did the same thing in the Old Kingdom stories, when he brought a rather elegant system of magic to necromancy through the use of sound and the various gates of death. The aspects of charter magic and words are more traditional but since that was the magic of the common people inhabiting his world, it served as a nice counterpoint to the abilities of the abhorsen.

One of the most thought provoking systems of magic I have encountered was in A Shadow of Summer by Daniel Abraham. The golemesque 'andat' and the poets that bind them with unique 'names' and whose very own sense of self worth can infect those 'names' and allow weaknesses for the andat to exploit was wonderfully used and rich with philosophical potential that wouldn't have been found in the traditional summoner and summoning pact basis from which it springs.

I am going to stop before I go on and on about why I picked each book to vote for but I guess the main reason I stopped to write a reply to this list is simply because it is my favorite one to think about hands down.

Oh and Robin Hobb got two books in my list from the same series (or at least the same world) because the magic system diverges in very unique ways... and honestly, it does again in the third trilogy. I won't say more since most of it is closely tied to the plot.


message 40: by Bobby (new)

Bobby Luke I totally agree - the harry potter system was the correct and best system for the series - and most definitely worked better than anything else would have. However, although it may be the best application in that series - it is in no way a unique magical system. A great system yes, a unique system no. That's all I am saying.


message 41: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I agree. It worked for the story, but based on the description of this list (at the top of the page) I wouldn't include it here.


message 42: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey Didit wrote: "bartimaeus trilogy is certainly must be added to this list! it's magic system is so interesting, like summoning things, a pact, etc.."

I know! Where's Bartimaeus on this list? How can The Host be on while they aren't?!


message 43: by Bobby (last edited Nov 21, 2011 11:10PM) (new)

Bobby Luke Aubrey wrote: "Didit wrote: "bartimaeus trilogy is certainly must be added to this list! it's magic system is so interesting, like summoning things, a pact, etc.."

I know! Where's Bartimaeus on this list? How c..."


VERY good point. The magic in that book was very unique, and very cool.

As it stands, however, Bartimaeus IS on the list. Number 65.


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

The Ballad of Young Tam Lin. You can debate the "original," since it's somewhat based on Scottish folklore, but for a totally engaging fantasy romance, you won't find better than this. Preview 3 chapters on Amazon Kindle ("Look Inside").


message 45: by Bobby (new)

Bobby Luke What does everyone think of The Dark Tower series? The magic, albeit not used in the traditional sense like a harry potter or mistborn, is certainly present and is DEFINITELY unique. At least in my opinion.


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

Going back a bit (well, a BIG bit), there's the Amber series by Zelazny. Not nearly as well-written as The Ballad of Young Tam Lin (above), but the plotting in the early books is engaging, and the idea of a reality "more real" than our own is compelling.


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

The problem with the Harry Potter universe is that the magic HAS no system. Look at the magical duels. Harry and pals have to yell out obscure words, but Lord V and Dumbledore just throw raw magic around, a la Once and Future King (oh, there's a good one for the list). Reading the series, you can see how Rowling trapped herself with the silliness of the early books. (Anyone ever tried to drink real pumpkin juice? The skin crawls at the thought.)


Townsendforbeshotmail.co.uk mercury wrote: "This list is FAILing it's job of rating books on interesting-ness of the magic system.

It's successfully rating books on popularity with readers, by which books they've actually read and are fami..."


Agreed, and lord of the rings while definitely involving magic, encoperates scarce more a difinition than 'it exists'


message 49: by T. Blake (new)

T. Blake Why is Twilight on this list? Honestly? I've read it and it has nothing to with magic at all. It really is sad.


message 50: by Abhisek (new)

Abhisek Dash Eric wrote: "I don't think Harry Potter belongs on this list because the magic system in that world is not rigidly defined. Basically anything can happen at any time, there's no limitations on the powers of th..."

I agree, I agree completely. So, I'd love to see it removed...


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