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Do Fantasy Novels Need Magic?

After reading many fantasy novels, I’ve noticed that the majority of them have some sort of magic system. Harry Potter has one of the most known magic systems, while other fantasy series may be a bit more subtle. But do fantasy novels really need magic? Or can a great fantasy novel be written without magic.

Magic systems are a staple in the fantasy genre. From Lord of the Rings, to Harry Potter and more subtle magic in The Song of Ice and Fire. But it’s not required. One such series is A Natural History of Dragons (Buy it here on Amazon). Though it has dragons the rest of the book follows standard Earth Laws in regards to biology and no magic systems. Another example is Sixteen Way to Defend a Walled City (Buy it here on Amazon).

Defining Magic

So how are we defining magic? For the point of this article we will define magic as the ability for a person whether normal or abnormal being able to cast spells. To weave the natural world into what they need it to be. It can be as subtle as seeing in the dark with a spell to more powerful spells that level cities. If however, the laws of physics are able to be bent by everyone regardless of abilities then that won’t count as magic.

Alchemy is a tough one. It bridges the gap between reality and magic. Anything that has a logical process and takes a while to create won’t count as magic. But anything like The Fullmetal Alchemist system will count as magic.

Is Magic Needed?

For a great fantasy novel takes more than magic and mythical beasts. It needs great characters and an interesting setting.

An amazing magical system can’t cover up a bad plot. But a badly thought out magic system can be just as bad. Harry Potter series is a prime example. With fans picking holes in the system ever since the books released. I.e. Time Turners.

Another example of a bad magic system is Sword of Truth. The issue with the magic system in this novel is that it is so inconsistent. Magic that the main protagonist managed to use in earlier books and could help in the current situation, the main character magically forgets.

The issue with the magic system in this novel is that it is so inconsistent.

Probably the most obvious system is the Harry Potter series. Main example is the Weasleys. They have all this magical capability but never used to to make a better life for themselves. They could have easily integrated into the muggle world and made a lot of money. While keeping their status a secret.

There are also memory erase spells. Why couldn’t these spells be used on the dark lords? Or the time turners? Go back in time a few years and bring a lot more wizards as back up. Or Harry and Co go back in time to destroy the horcruxes before the second wizarding war.

Examples of Books with No Magic Systems

Now that we know that magic systems aren’t needed. What novels should you read that have no or minimal magical systems?

A Natural History of Dragons

Left Hand of God Trilogy

Joe Abercrombie’s Novels

A Dream of Eagles

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