Sunday, February 10, 2019

Examining the Magical System of "The Alchemist" Magical Steampunk Series

Examining the Magical System of Darkest London 1870

Perhaps you've not read The Alchemist's Kiss or Enchanter's Embrace, books 1 and 2 in the The Alchemist Magical Steampunk series by yours truly. In that case, you're getting an upfront look at how magic works in the series. Where it came from, who can use it, and how. 

As a short preface to the series, let's set the scene. London, 1870s. Icarus Kane is a wizard, recently returned from the American Civil War to take up a spot as the Warden of London. The Warden's job is to protect the city from various nefarious magical insurgents. Icarus has a protege, a Virginian nurse named Cora Mae Jenkins, and his best friend Archimedes Merriweather. Together, the three live in the converted top floor of a London hotel and work together to protect the city. Archimedes and Icarus met many years ago, when Icarus found Archie dying of severe wounds in a gutter and nursed him back to health. Icarus saved Archie's life, most notably by replacing his damaged right hand, arm and shoulder with a clockwork replacement. 

The world is governed by a council of the most powerful magic users, led by the Grand Master, Lucan Orrin. The Warden of London is under direct supervision of the Grand Master and his familiar, Machiavelli. Wizards use magic to accomplish almost any task, and are divided into house of magic pertaining to their talent. Some wizards help light the city, some wizards help maintain the city transit, and some assist in the mines. People who do not have access to magic have to pay the houses for their services. In many groups, those who cannot use magic are called The Lacking. As you could imagine, regular people are angry about paying for magic, and losing their jobs to magic users. 

But where did magic come from? First we must explore what magic is. In this world, magic is the power produced when wizards are able to contact, and bend to their will, particles called aether. It's rare to see aether when not accessing magic, but during spells it appears as a golden twinkling light. Wizards utilize runes, incantations and potions to make contact with aether and access the abilities of the aether to complete certain tasks. The most powerful wizards are those most able to utilize the aether to achieve specific outcomes. Though unknown to most in this time, aether has actually existed since the universe began. It is the light produced when cosmic darkness was splintered and the universe was made. Aether exists in a world that is parallel to our own, touching but not a part of, the earthly realm. 

What is aether? Aether is a sentient nano-particle, living, reproducing, and existing alongside humanity since the beginning of time. Aether once interacted freely with humans, as we learn in The Pharaoh's Heart (book 3-currently in production). Aether crossed the barrier between their world and our own to aid humanity, often appearing as gods in order to guide civilizations. Icarus learns that aether is sentient in The Alchemist's Kiss, and those wizards who gain this knowledge, understand that aether is alive, are all the more powerful. 

What happened to aether? At some point in history, though the exact timing isn't known, humanity learned how to enslave aether. The gods became the slaves, and the ancient civilizations grew too powerful, eventually dooming themselves and any aether trapped on the earthly side of the barrier between worlds. (Though never confirmed, this was likely the civilization of Atlantis). In order to protect itself from this kind of misuse again, the aether strengthened the barrier between worlds, limiting the amount of aether that could exist on the earthly side at one time. This means that magic is a limited commodity. Some blood mages have succeeded in corrupting aether, and turning it to evil means, limiting the restrictions on the amount of aether and invoking very powerful spells. Typically this requires extreme sacrifice and most blood mages fail, forfeiting their own lives in the process.

The understanding: Rarely, a wizard is able to communicate with the aether. The aether is a lifeform unlike humans, but they've limited their power by enacting three rules that restrict their ability to perform a wizard's request.

Rule #1: Though they can see past, present and future at once, they are not allowed to show the future, thereby limiting their interference with the time stream.

Rule #2: Aether cannot kill. If controlled by a blood mage, and instructed to do so, tainted aether is terminated in order to forestall any further contamination. 

Rule #3: The aether cannot give knowledge beyond the current ability of human comprehension. Understanding of the universe, physics, and science could not be gleaned from the aether, so that the true course of human civilization moved without their interference.

By understanding the rules, Icarus and his friends are able to craft spells that do what they need, without breaking them. 

What about familiars? Familiars are singularly intriguing characters in this world. They funnel the aether through their own bodies for their masters, giving their masters access to more aether than a wizard without a familiar. Machiavelli, as the familiar to the most powerful wizard in the world, can enact spells on his own, including turning himself into a human when he wishes.

Where do science and alchemy fit in? The aether are living particles in another dimension, making them ultimately scientific beings. Magic itself, can be explained away with science, though it rarely is. Icarus believes in using every tool at one's disposal to achieve a goal, and in this pursuit he studies "hard" sciences, alchemy and magic alike. In the effort to protect his city, and ultimately the world, from dark magic, he will often employ magic in concert with deductive reasoning and alchemy.  

This world is in upheaval as The Lacking band together, determined to take back the world from the wizards. Black mages scheme at every turn to find the ultimate font of power that is an understanding of the aether and how to control it. It's up to Icarus, Cora, Archie, Lucan and the others to protect their world and their magic any way, any how, they can. 

Stay tuned for Book 3 coming in 2019, The Pharaoh's Heart! Lucia and Archie travel to Egypt to explore the pyramids, hoping for some well-deserved rest, but nothing is ever that simple in a land of magic and upheaval. Beset by pirates, and swept into a mystery that spans more than 3000 years, it will take all of their will to find, and protect, The Pharaoh's Heart.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! I thought perhaps it would help readers who might want to jump in mid-series. LOL



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