Today's guest post is from Christopher Hoare - author of Rast - as part of his ongoing blog tour: he's posting on one of my favourite topics in fantasy - magic systems! Welcome to the blog.
My fantasy, Rast, is what is called an ‘immersive’ fantasy – it exists entirely in its own world, distinct from the reader’s, but entirely natural to its inhabitants. In such a fantasy world, magic seems almost de rigeur, and indeed, Rast is a magic kingdom held secure only by its sorcerer king’s control of magic forces. The story takes place during an interregnum, while the ruler is about to die and his successor, Prince Egon, his son, has to meet new enemies even as he struggles to take over the sorcerer’s role.
The one thing that seems common to all novels where magic appears is that it is depicted as something ancient. Its genesis in fiction parallels its antiquity in our real world beliefs. The witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and Prospero the wizard in The Tempest were regarded as real to audiences in Elizabethan times. Not for nothing did the name Magi suggest magic, because the presence of religious magic and profane magic were then held to be equally real in the world.
Magic seems to have been always connected to ancient languages – in fact the belief that certain words and phrases could have power over the arcane is a thought as old as language. How else would early humans have regarded this magical gift of making noises that conveyed meaning to others? Humans are the only creatures we know of that have this ability to recognize the abstract and the concrete aspects of communication. It so happens that I was at a workshop recently put on by a scientist working in the field of animal communication and what it tells us about the human.
One example he showed us was an experiment in playing back sounds to families of baboons. Mothers could be seen to react to recordings of their offsprings’ voices and even run off to check on them, but when it came to replying vocally it seemed that they could not carry the thought of the meaning of cries in their own minds to recognise that sounds could have an equal meaning for the offspring. They could not comprehend that the very uniqueness of their own understanding was ‘magically’ accessible to others.
Is it any wonder that the earliest human languages were regarded as magical, and that the magical was connected to language? Hence the supposed efficacy of the spoken magic spell in olden times, when we know perfectly well that words have no power in themselves except in as much as they are understood by others. All the Abracadabras in the world will move nothing.
The step from that to the idea that magical artifacts were necessarily ancient, as were the ways and knowledge of the ancients, is a linear progression. The sword Excalibur in Mort d’Arthur and the One Ring in Tolkien’s trilogy are identified as being of great antiquity. The stories that grow out of them are automatically the ‘present’ working out of trials and perils left unresolved in the distant past.
While my fantasy novel Rast more or less evolved as I explored the story (the fun way to write) I unconsciously included most of these tropes. There is an Old Speech known to some, in which ideas and communication can be expressed in a magical setting. This idea of ancient is sometimes referred to in language, as in the ancient speech of the part human Krachins as they prepare to hurl their sacrifice into the Deepning Pools, or as some ancient knowledge such as the path on which Jady leads the princess’s entourage toward the Spring of Soicre.
Jady is the Prince of Rast’s sweetheart, a hereditary captain and the one character who seems most deeply immersed in the ancient rituals due to her role as Guardian of the Silent Forest. She has a gossamer net as an aid to one of her duties and I have her refer to it as “Woven by a wraith of midnight sorcery, an heirloom handed down from distant ancestors.” She gives directions to Cerefrus, her riding mount, in the ancient language. When, at the end of the story, the Prince establishes the entrance to a new watchtower, he gives the words to open it in the same Old Speech.
While we have (mostly) left the idea of the power of magic behind in our modern world, we still have the works of fantasy to remind us of our close association with it in the past. What young man wouldn’t want to venture out against enemies with a magic sword at his side? What young woman wouldn’t want a spell to bind the love of her intended mate to her? Sadly, we don’t possess either, but we can enjoy their magical effects at any time, by reading a work of fantasy.
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.
Thank you for such an engaging post, Chris. Interested readers can purchase Rast HERE, or on Amazon.com. Good luck for the rest of your blog tour!