Today I am so pleased to welcome Angel Martinez to Joyfully Jay. Angel has come to talk to us about her latest release, The Mage on the Hill (which we recently reviewed and loved!). She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!


Magical Systems

Fantasy writers of all stripes talk about magical systems—building them, understanding them, fleshing them out—in their work. But what do we mean by that? A magical system is how magic works in a fictional world, how intelligent beings use or don’t use it, how it exists outside magic users, who can use it and the mechanics of how it’s done. While variations on magical systems are numerous, I’ve found that they fall into three broad categories:

  1. Magic exists as a natural force. Anyone can learn to use it.
  2. Magic exists as a natural force. Only certain people can use it.
  3. Magic is a supernatural force that requires special knowledge to use.

For #1, the best example I can think of is Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, which are both a different POV retelling of an old Welsh story cycle, the Mabinogion, and a wonderful set of young person’s adventure stories. In these stories, magic just is and can be accessed through acquisition of knowledge (The Book of Three), magical items (The Black Cauldron) or even an oracular pig. Magic in this world, as in many worlds, is dangerous and can lead to terrible consequences in the wrong hands.

The second category is more prevalent. Magic exists in the world as a natural force, but only certain people have a talent for it. The Earthsea books by Ursula LeGuin emphasize a need for balance in all things when using magic and those with talent can learn, in larger or smaller ways, to use the true names of things for magical workings. In the Quarters series by Tanya Huff, magic exists in the form of elemental spirits and only gifted bards can learn to sing to these spirits to work magic. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series features magic that acts like the inebriated older brother of particle physics, but even here only certain people have an aptitude for it.

The third one’s a little harder to pin down, since any time we talk about the supernatural we start to edge into paranormal territory. I’d say the Grimoire Saga by S.M. Boyce is a good example, since it’s portal fantasy that features supernatural creatures and, of course, the Grimoire, that only the protagonist can read.

The Mage on the Hill definitely falls into the second category. Mages pull their power from elements in the natural world, but only a small subset of humans are mages, from family bloodlines that have hidden in plain sight for hundreds of years.

There are other ways to categorize magical systems, and more specific ones. This, for me, takes it down to its bare bones basics when we start to talk about magical systems in fiction.


Toby’s wild magic is killing him. The mage guilds have given up on him, and it’s only a matter of time before he dies in a spectacular, catastrophic bang. His only hope is an exiled wizard who lives in seclusion—and is rumored to have lost his mind.

The years alone on his hilltop estate have not been good for Darius Valstad. After the magical accident that disfigured him and nearly drowned Pittsburgh, he drifts through his days, a wraith trapped in memories and depression. Until a stricken young man collapses on his driveway, one who claims Darius is his last chance.

For the first time in fifteen years, Darius must make a choice—leave this wild mage to his fate or take him in and try to teach him, which may kill them both. The old Darius, brash and commanding, wouldn’t have hesitated. Darius the exile isn’t sure he can find the energy to try.


The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, gave birth to one amazing son, and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.

Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.

She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.


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Angel is giving away a $25 Dreamspinner gift card with this tour. For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter

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