Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Magic in Fantasy #12: "The Wall of Night" Series


Well, here we are: together we've reached No. 12 in this year's post series on Magic in Fantasy fiction.

I've had a pretty good time with it, both the author interviews in the first half of the year, and my reflections on a range of books in the second. So I hope you have as well, on the reading side of the blog. :-)

If you want to look back or see what's come before, a compleat list is included at the end of this post.

It's by no means a complete exploration of the wondrous arrays of magics and magic systems that characterize the fantasy genre  – but that, dear readers, would be the work of at least a decade, if not a lifetime, rather than my twelve-month span.

So to wrap up the year, I'm going to look at the magic in my own The Wall Of Night series. 


Magic in Fantasy #12: "The Wall of Night" Series

When Robin Hobb provided a cover quote for The Heir Of Night, (The WALL OF NIGHT (Book One)  she affirmed “A richly told tale of strange magic…” 

That focus felt right, because although for me, to be Fantasy there must be at least a glimmering of magic – but the Wall of Night series is absolutely full of magic, and some of it is exceedingly strange indeed.

I’m not sure it qualifies as a “system” in the Brandon Sanderson sense of the word, or even so much as in Courtney Schafer’s Shattered Sigil series. (Read the interview with Courtney from earlier this year.)

Shattered Sigil, Book 3

The magic of the Wall of Night universe is chaotic, natural, and diverse. There may, however, be some method in the magic, so let’s take a closer look.

The Magic Of The Derai

Firstly, there’s the magic of the Derai Alliance and their ancient enemy the Swarm, both of whom are alien to the world of Haarth, where they now find themselves. The magic of the Derai falls into four main areas: 

  • The Golden Fire, which comprised living entities, but was also a power source. At the time the story opens, the Golden Fire is believed extinguished; 
  • The Blood: those Derai that are both strongest in magic and traditionally most closely aligned with the Golden Fire;
  • Dream magic, comprising prophetic visions as well as manipulation of the dream plane; and 
  • The Magic of the Gods, which chiefly manifests through prophecy and artifacts, such as the three divinely-wrought weapons of the Derai’s greatest hero.

The magic of the Blood and the Derai’s lesser adepts covers a range of forms, including the ability to command objects and forces, both natural and physical; understanding the speech of beasts and birds; acute eyesight and hearing, including seeing in the dark and hearing outside normal human range; the chameleon ability to blend into surrounding materials and elements; prophetic dreaming; an empathic spirit bond; farseeing and foreseeing; fire calling; illusion working; mindspeaking; mind- and spiritwalking; psychic shielding; prophecy; seeking; truthsaying; and weatherworking.

Plus a few more! The unifying element, despite their chaotic diversity, is that all magic is grounded in the individual, like any other skill or talent. So an important limitation is the user’s physical endurance and psychic strength. Traditionally that limitation was enhanced by the bond to the Golden Fire, so the loss of the Fire represents a major reduction in the power of the Derai.

Dream Magic

Dream magic merits a section in its own right, because it is a form practiced by Derai adepts through sleeping dreams and waking visions. It is also used to access the Gate of Dreams, which is a realm-of-being in its own right, while offering access to other planes of existence. As is the way with dreams, the workings of this realm are frequently chaotic, jumbled, and mysterious, but can be clear as well.

The Gate of Dreams is also closely associated with portent. Truth may be discerned here, but it is equally likely that foretelling may only imperfectly reflect events in the waking or “daylight” world. Nothing is certain – and every action a protagonist takes acts on the dream realm, creating alternative possibilities for a dream or vision's fulfillment.

To further compound the mystery, the Gate of Dreams has its own denizens, including a long-dead hero who has been promised that her successor will not have to stand alone; the Huntmaster, who may not be more powerful than the hero, but is “older…and much, much darker”; and a ghost that guards a cavern of sleepers and holds the key to a millennia-old riddle. 

The Magic of Haarth

One of the interesting elements of The Wall of Night series is that the Derai and their archenemy, the Swarm, have long been the only players in the magic game. Until now, on the world of Haarth, which they are discovering has magic of its own... 

The story’s main protagonists, Malian and Kalan, are Derai, and only beginning to discover the magic of Haarth. What they have learned is that some elements are similar to their own powers: for example, Haarth magicians can access the Gate of Dreams. There is a deeper magic, however, which is tied to the world itself – what Malian calls a green magic and thinks of as the Song of Haarth. She is even beginning to suspect that the world itself may be sentient, although that is not yet certain.

This deeper magic also weaves together the magic of the natural world with the power of the three gods of Haarth – a magic that can take older, darker forms, such as the demons that walk during the dark of the moon, or the blood magic practiced in the land of Jhaine.


So there you have it: gods and ghosts and heroes; dream realms and blood and artifacts of power; mystery, mythology and more than a hint of chaos. I suspect that does add up to Robin Hobb’s “strange magic”, but with enough method in the mix to qualify as a magic system. :-)


Previous Posts In The “Magic In Fantasy” Year:

January 1: Happy New Year – Ushering In A Year of Friends, Fellow Authors, & Magic Systems

January 5: An Interview with AK Wilder – Talking Magic In Her New-Out Crown Of Bones (AMASSIA #1)

February 1: An Interview with T Frohock – Talking Magic In A Song With Teeth & The LOS NEFILIM Series

March 1: An Interview with Courtney Schafer – Talking Magic In The "Shattered Sigil" Series

April 1: An Interview with Kristin Cashore –Talking Magic In Winterkeep & The "Graceling Realm" Series
May 1: An Interview With Lee Murray – Talking Magic, the Supernatural & Horror

June 1: An Interview With Amanda Arista – Talking Magic In the MERCI LANARD & DIARIES OF AN URBAN PANTHER Series

July 1: The Magic of Magic In Fantasy -- & A Solstice Shift

August 1: More Magic In Fantasy: Lighting The Spark

October 1: The Magic of SF-nal Worlds

November 1: The Magic Next Door


About The Author:

Helen Lowe's first  novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we

No comments: