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I am looking for a fantasy book published sometime in the 90's (I remember it being on the shelf at the same time as Reign of the Brown Magician, which suggests about 1995).
Alas, I do not recall even a fragment of the book title or author's name.

It begins with the protagonist constructing a series of instruments of increasing accuracy, which serve to point to the (three?) magical poles or wellsprings, which are sources of magical power.

He succeeds but finds a small inaccuracy. He persists in re-constructing his instruments repeatedly, trying for a perfect instrument. In the course of this effort (described as based upon empirical theories of how this magic operates), he makes a breakthrough, concluding that the inaccuracy is due to a fourth, additional pole or wellspring of magic. Potentially, if he gained access to and control of this wellspring, he would become a major power in the world, like the (three?) rulers controlling the known wellsprings.

In the course of his search, he makes use of a science of astrology, which allows for extremely precise queries of a distant person, so long as they can be targeted by an exact reference to their time and place of birth. At one point, he is targeted by such a coercive query by one of the magical rulers, who seems to be related to him (his father?).

At one point in the story, he halts his journey at a site where an army is encamped, imminently subject to tremendous magical attack, similar to a storm of fire. He acts to defend them via plowing a furrow around the field where they are encamped, making a symbolic ward of great strength.

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    This sounds a little like Elizabeth Wiley's A Well-Favored Man and A Sorcerer and a Gentleman – Mark Olson Jul 26 '18 at 12:17
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This is The Well-Favored Man by Elizabeth Wiley and/or its sequels, A Sorcerer And a Gentleman, and The Price of Blood and Honor. All of the elements you mention are there: tracing the currents of magical power to discover that there is another wellspring, astrological manipulation, warding an area by plowing. They are sort of like the "Amber" books (magical many worlds, travel enabled by initiation into specific sources of magical power, family intrigue) mixed with The Tempest (the wizard patriarch is named Prospero, and has servitor elementals named Caliban and Ariel). I remember quite liking them when I read them in the distant past.

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  • This is a good start, but would be a better answer with more details. – Mal Aug 9 '18 at 21:56
  • Better? I'm not sure what else to put in an answer besides "matches A, B, and C exactly". Is a summary or review of the book/series called for? – Trip Space-Parasite Aug 9 '18 at 22:24
  • Yeah, that’s better! :) Summaries aren’t strictly necessary, but offten, people do add them. – Mal Aug 9 '18 at 22:25
  • That is it! Amazed to find it after pondering so long. – Sam Glasby Aug 10 '18 at 2:47
  • Glad I could help! – Trip Space-Parasite Aug 10 '18 at 16:42

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