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I've read a lot of books about magic being rediscovered after some cataclysm wiped it out, or the practitioners died/left. E.g., Wheel of Time, Eragon, Sword of Truth, many from Brandon Sanderson, etc. And there are others where magic is well established, but the protagonist is new to it. E.g., Harry Potter, The Magicians, others from Brandon Sanderson, etc. I have not, however, read any books where magic is newly discovered.

My example has Wheel of Time "spoilers", so it's hidden (just in case):

Robert Jordan hinted that the world in the WoT story was just our world two ages from now. That means that between now and the Age of Legends there will be a time where anyone/everyone is just learning about The One Power for the first time and how to use it. (Though RJ never wrote such a book.)

What was the earliest example of a book or book series that tackles the first discovery and use of magic by an entire group or society?

  • I understand your note at the end. But anything asking about a list of books is off-topic, unfortunately. – Edlothiad Oct 4 '17 at 19:21
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    However, if you ask for the first example of it... – FuzzyBoots Oct 4 '17 at 19:23
  • @Edlothiad I read through the rules, but didn't see that specifically (until you mentioned it, of course). – techturtle Oct 4 '17 at 19:34
  • @FuzzyBoots I don't understand why the first example of a book would be different than asking if any books fit the description. I'm not asking for all the books, or even lots. Only that I've read 100s of fantasy novels in my life but don't think I've ever encountered this. I almost labelled this as Story Identification because I'm just looking for at least one book with this, but I didn't know for a fact that it exists. – techturtle Oct 4 '17 at 19:34
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    @techturtle: Basically, one of the things we inherited from the original Stack Overflow is the idea that every question should be able to have one best answer. Anything asking for any examples can't, because pretty much all of them are valid. Asking for the first example provides one right answer. I don't necessarily agree with trying to cheat around the rules, but it is a thing. – FuzzyBoots Oct 4 '17 at 19:37
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This is touched on in Mayer Alan Brenner's "Dance of the Gods" quadrilogy -- Spell of Catastrophe, Spell of Fate, Spell of Apocalypse, Spell of Intrigue, published from 1989 for the first, to 1994 for the final volume. In fact, eventually the reader learns how magic was created, more or less by accident, as part of an apocalyptic series of events that changes magic at a fundamental level.

One of the characters turns out to be a member of the team who originally created the magic, and discovered how it works.

In fact, this is the earliest (and only) work I'm aware of that touches on the actual first discovery or creation of magic, as opposed to rediscovery, introduction to a hidden world, etc.

  • Another series that doesn't involve the discovery of magic but does eventually explain how magic came to be and is a large part of the plot, as your example above, is The Broken Empire Trilogy and The Red Queen's War trilogy by Mark Lawrence. Great books too!! – AtheistP3ace Oct 4 '17 at 19:54
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    @AtheistP3ace - Another example is the weaving of the Shannara books with the Word and the Void books (Terry Brooks) – JohnP Oct 5 '17 at 19:05
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I'll suggest 'The Birth of Flux and Anchor' (1985) by Jack L. Chalker. The 'magic' here has a technological basis, but people (eventually) treat it as magic and it acts the same as magic does in most fantasy settings.

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