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Terrible, I know. I didn't get the title, or the author. I just heard about the magic system.

The story contains at least two schools of magic. Spell workings have various rules of grounding before being cast, or else there are wild and unpredictable results. However, these rules are upended when the protagonist and companions run across a wild wizard who breaks all the rules and doesn't ground his spells... this isn't the plot, but merely an episode in the story.

The book would have been published before 2000 (no idea how long before). I was interested, but this was all the information I could get on the story. It seemed to be a mythical medieval timeframe.

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  • When you say two schools of magic, do you mean school as in a literal school for children or more a school of thought (discipline)?
    – Cupit
    Jan 31, 2019 at 5:42
  • It's a long shot, but a scene involving magic and being grounded that takes place in a past century does occur as an episode in the insanely complicated plot of The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. At one point the hero, Doyle, having already time travelled from 1983 to 1810 jumps back even further to 1684 in pursuit of an evil magician. It's a factor in the ensuing battle that wizards are averse to touching the ground. The defence against hostile spells is to be in contact with the earth. To this end the hero and his followers wear small chains attached to their boots that drag along the ground. Feb 2, 2019 at 21:56

3 Answers 3

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I wonder if it might not be the Circle of Magic series, by Tamora Pierce - yes, the same author Cupit mentions. The series has two kinds of magic, "wild" magic and "academic" magic, where the latter requires study and practice but is more reliable and repeatable, and the former is more powerful but also more difficult to control. the main characters, of course, have wild magic. This is a theme that pops up in her work several times.

There are several incidents where wild magic is grounded or needs to be grounded to be safe. There's an incident early on [book 1, Sandry's Book] where a character tries to take power from the tides (against advice) and grounds the energy in a boulder, the power is too much to be held and the boulder softens, then shatters, and the character gets smacked with the backlash. Another incident much later [book 8, Shatterglass] shows the same character having learned how to do so properly, winding power through her braids including lightning and winds), and another time they encounter another person whose magic got away from him when it wasn't grounded (via circle) it drew in leftover magics from the whole area, which warped his own untrained magic into creating a living glass dragon.

Another set of circumstances [book 3, Daja's book] has a character whose power gets away from them when upset, it grounds itself in some nearby metal rods to create living metal, and ends needing to give it roots to stabilize it. There's another incident where she created a weave of fire, and was called out by another mage (academic magic) that she wasn't going about things the right way, since pure fire and magic wasn't grounded correctly. There's another character at the same time who had linked several people's powers together to deal with an emergency, but who hadn't grounded the result properly so the powers were bleeding into each other and was causing further control problems, and the result rad to be reworked and grounded into a different artifact (a weave) to regain control. And the last episode, she has to deal with a forest fire and ends up gathering it together and holding it (to prevent it from reaching others) and has to root down and ground it in the earth so it doesn't get out of control and consume her.

And the third set of circumstances [book 5, The Circle Opens], there's an enemy mage who deals with, well, a third kind of magic - a magic of "nothingness" which is an unmaking, unwinding sort of thing. Obviously it breaks a great many rules of both kinds of magic already noted - for example difficult to find and track because it is a lack rather than a presence or eats up/contaminates other spells. This magic also winds out of control, affecting the personalities of the people working with the mage and later their bodies, as they become contaminated with the nothingness.

There's a bunch of other smaller incidents, I think, in the various books of the series - these are just the ones that I recalled when I thought about it.

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The Immortals is a series of books by Tamora Pierce. It's set in a world that has two schools of magic. "Wild magic" and "Black-robed" magic. There is also another series, "The Song of the Lioness" which is set in the same universe.

They were written and published before 2000, in the 80s and 90s.

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  • 1
    I've read this series. I don't remember grounding of spells being a feature, at least a prominent one. Is it?
    – Adamant
    Jan 31, 2019 at 8:11
  • I never finished it but I'm sure you are correct. I can't remember anything about grounding magic but the rest of the points are similiar.
    – Cupit
    Jan 31, 2019 at 8:17
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    I wonder if the circle of magic series (same author, similar magic setup) might be closer - I think I recall a few instances of magic needing to be grounded to be kept in check (putting down roots to control fire-magic, or to control living metal, use of borders to control thread magic, etc)
    – Megha
    Feb 1, 2019 at 2:46
  • That sounds more likely. You should make it an answer,
    – Cupit
    Feb 1, 2019 at 7:04
  • @Cupit - alright, if you think it'll help. [by the way, using @ in front of a name sends an alert to the person, otherwise they may not see it]
    – Megha
    Mar 6, 2019 at 0:37
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It's probably a long shot, but your description reminds me of Terry Pratchett's Discworld universe. The library at the Unseen University has some books that have to be chained to the shelves - not to save the books from the readers, but to save the readers from the books, because the spells written in them are so powerful.

There are, especially in the early novels, two schools of magic. The wizards treat magic more like a science, while the witches enrich their magic with a healthy portion of psychology and insight to the human nature.

The "wild wizard" would be Ricewind, probably the most untalented wizard of all. But somehow he often finds himself in the epicenter of the action - or running away from that epicenter, trying to save his life, and sparking chaos while at it.

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  • I had similar thoughts, and "a wild wizard who breaks all the rules and doesn't ground his spells" made me think of Sourcery. But I agree it's a long shot. Mar 6, 2019 at 14:00

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