The Different Rules of Magic

August 18, 2017
Casey Nugent
Riveted Editorial Board

So far I am loving Riveted’s Summer of Supernatural! We’re spending these two weeks celebrating everything mystical, mysterious, or unexplainable with some great free reads and extended excerpts (check them out here!)

One of my favorite things about the different supernatural worlds that these books inhabit is that they all work on their own set of rules. Magic in books comes in all sorts of forms — the magic of Harry Potter is way different from the magic of, say, the Shadowhunters books, or The Last Magician. But there are some common rules in these books that are usually abided by or broken gleefully. In honor of one of my favorite supernatural genres, the magic and fantasy book, I’ve decided to take a closer look at some of the most famous rules of magic, and the books that use or refuse them. Check it out, and let me know what your favorite magical and supernatural books are in the comments below!



The classic image of magicians is a staple of pop culture — tuxedo, top hat, cape, white rabbit, and a wand. The magic wand actually traces back to old mystical and religious uses, dating as far back as Ancient Egypt. And in tons of high-fantasy worlds, wands are the weapons and tools of the magicians and mages. Books like Harry Potter use classic, handheld wands as tools for dueling and casting spells. But tons of other media stray towards staffs, which are basically just walking-stick sized wands — think Gandalf in Lord of the Rings.



If wands aren’t your magic universes thing, then maybe yours uses some other way to project and wield power — like magical artifacts, or symbols. The Potion Diaries has the Talenteds, who are able to choose their own magic items and pick basically whatever — one character, for instance, has a magical pair of gloves. In The Last Magician, Esta’s able to strengthen her time-hopping power using mystical artifacts like Ishtar’s Key to strengthen her power. And the entire plot revolves around a magic book that’s supposed to unlock the secrets of the Brink. The Shadowhunters on the other hand channel magic through runes drawn on their body that grant them special supernatural abilities and powers beyond those of the Mundanes.



Some magical worlds are filled with fantastic creatures. For example, in Fate of Flames the world is terrorized by Phantoms, nightmare creatures that can only be defeated by the elemental power wielding Effigies. In the Shadowhunter books all the stories are true — meaning that werewolves, vampires, and faeries all exist — and they’re not all friendly, as Emma Carstairs finds out in Lady Midnight. One of this fall’s most anticipated reads, Enchantment of Ravens (available 9/26!) takes place in a world where there are immortal fair folk who rule the land — and who are basically unfeeling and incapable of creating any sort of craft. And of course, you can’t talk Fantastic Beasts without thinking of Newt Scamander and the Harry Potter universe.


 Magic: Law of the Land or Illegal to Wield?

Sometimes the magic folk rule themselves, or inhabit worlds where most or all of the people are magical. Other times, those who wield magic are few and far between, and their powers are feared and persecuted. And sometimes the world falls somewhere in the middle. In The Last Magician for instance, the sinister Order has created the Brink to prevent all magic people from leaving New York City, forcing them to live in the shadows. In the City of Bones magical creatures exist alongside largely oblivious Mundanes, similar to how the Muggles remain largely unaware of the Wizarding World in Harry Potter. And in The Potion Diaries series, the Talenteds and Ordinaries live in harmony each other, aware of each other’s existence and (mostly) at peace.


Magic As An Addictive Substance

In some worlds, magic is dangerous because of its power — a power so all-consuming people can actually become addictive to it. People can become consumed by the magic they wield, and it can have destructive effects on them. In Shimmer and Burn (currently a free read on Riveted!) Faris is tasked with smuggling stolen magic across a war-torn country willed with magic addicts who can sense it, crave it, and steal it easily. Similarly, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Willow is consumed by magic in the sixth season after a tragedy, turning into a bloodthirsty and ruthless killing machine.

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