I'm trying to identify a fantasy fiction (possibly epic fantasy) book I read several years ago, although I'm sure it was out well before then. It may or may not be in a series, but it was a decently thick hardcover book I found in the adult section of my local library. The book was set in medieval times (there were castles and a lord's solar), and the main character is able to perform magic by closing his eyes and concentrating on emptying his mind, kind of like a blackboard, and then mentally writing out the spells or symbols. I think he learns to do this during the book.

I seem to recall part of the plot being an effort to try to free somebody (a woman, perhaps) from an enemy's castle, but I'm not completely sure about that. I do remember the characters ride horses and fight with swords and there were also archers at some point: It's not just magic. I realize this is pretty vague.

  • 8
    Well, the castles and horses and swords help narrow it down. ;)
    – sjl
    Apr 18, 2012 at 3:30
  • Sounds like vancian magic, something that might be found in the books of Jack Vance.
    – Wilbert
    Jun 25, 2014 at 15:12

2 Answers 2


Sounds like one of Gordon Dickson's Dragon series. In the second book of the series, The Dragon Knight, protagonist Jim is taught use of his magical power by the wizard Carolinus. This turns out to involve clearing his mind, treating the inside of his head as a blackboard, and 'writing' spells on it in a simple symbolic pseudocode-like language.

For example, Jim's most commonly used spell ("turn into a dragon") is


The language isn't a true object-oriented magic language (though it made me want one); it's a channel for his thoughts. He often creates new and silly object nouns on the fly, as when looking out for magical traps from the bottom of an enemy's tower:


(The effects are consistent with the spell cast, however. Later Jim is caught out by a magical trap beneath him - specifying 'above' was a mistake.)

The solar you mentioned is in Jim's castle, which he takes from an evil knight in the first book, The Dragon and the George. The woman he rescues would probably be his wife Angie, whom he rescues from evil wizards in a dark tower at the end of that book. (He is not yet a wizard at this time, though he is a dragon for most of the first book - that being the premise.)

Nearer the end of the series Dickson dumped this system and let Jim move on to the because-I-say-so magic used throughout by his mentor.

  • That's the one! Thank you very much.
    – BenjaminRH
    Apr 19, 2012 at 17:07

In the book Magician by Raymond E Feist, Pug is able to cast a spell that is normally cast only from a scroll by seeing the symbols in his head. Pug and his friend Thomas are kids in the keep and Thomas is chosen to be a warrior and Pug is chosen by the wizard Kulgan to be his apprentice. Pug ends up being an escort for the Princess, and he rescues her from some attacking trolls by casting the spell as mentioned above causing them to drown.

There's a good chance that this isn't the book, but the details were so vague, I thought I'd give it a shot.

  • That actually could be! Now I'm running over to the library to check it out :) Thanks.
    – BenjaminRH
    Apr 19, 2012 at 12:54
  • 2
    This is actually not the book I was thinking of, but thank you very much for the suggestion!
    – BenjaminRH
    Apr 19, 2012 at 18:40

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