There's a novel, or possibly a series, that I read years ago as a young teen. I've been trying to identify it for a while, but my search has been fruitless so far.

The novel is set in a fairly typical medieval setting with city states. Magic use is known, but is either outlawed within the main city state, or is only usable by the elite (who were also antagonists, if I remember correctly). The main character is a young man/teen who discovers somehow that he can use magic, and ends up having to go into exile because of it. He is taught more magic by an elf companion, and of course being the main character is just naturally good at picking it up.

I distinctly remember that there were different schools of magic in this system, with the one that stands out most to me being a combat magic where the user had time slow down for them, and their vision was altered to show where they should move next. There were also other uses of magic outside of combat, but it's been so long I'm having a hard time remembering many details. There was a scene in which the main character and his companion help to heal an injured unicorn.

I believe that before the main character had to go into exile, he had discovered a book of magic somehow, which was where he initially learned how to use it.

I know this is a pretty vague description, it's been around 15 years since I read the book, which at least narrows down the possible publication date to around or before the year 2000. I'd like to say it was probably written in the 80s or 90s, don't think it would have been any older than that.

I doubt it was the best fantasy around, but it's been a story that has recently been stuck in my mind and I wanted to see if I could find it for nostalgia's sake.

  • 3
    From the title, it could be Harry Potter
    – AJFaraday
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 14:19
  • Or even Merlin???
    – J Crosby
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 20:12
  • @AJFaraday Or Robin Hobb, "Assassin's Apprentice". But the details differ.
    – IMil
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 23:53

2 Answers 2


Perhaps Mercedes Lackey's The Outstretched Shadow? It was published in 2003, which is a little out of range but close. From memory, and it's been a while since I've read the series myself:

  • The main character is the son of a (or The?) high mage, but struggles with the formal magic system.
  • He finds a book to teach him Wild Magic in the city market
  • He learns in secret for a while, then is discovered and exiled from the city
  • He meets (or is rescued by) a unicorn, which leads to meeting an elf
  • The main character's magic gift is that of a Knight Mage -- weaker in overall magic, but heavily specialized in combat magic, including the slowing of time
  • 1
    As soon as I saw the cover and read your description I remembered so much more of the book! This really jogged my memory. Going to see if I can get a copy and verify, but I'm pretty sure this is it. Man, several months of unsuccessful Google searches made pointless by 20 minutes on stackexchange...
    – bheklilr
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 23:45
  • 4
    I happened to be lurking and have a freaky good memory for things I read.
    – S. Manke
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 23:51
  • That's amazing. I must have read that book right after it came out, but I feel like I probably picked it up at a used book store or something. I just figured that it was older. I'm glad that my half correct, patchy memory was good enough for you to know exactly what I was looking for though. Thanks :)
    – bheklilr
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 0:01
  • @bheklilr It wouldn't surprise me if you picked it up used not too long after it came out, she has huge name recognition so a lot of people might have picked it up based just on that, but it was a new series so they might not have liked it and gotten rid of it soon after. Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 12:50
  • Managed to snag a copy on libby, and this is definitely the book I was thinking of.
    – bheklilr
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 3:47

The book A Touch of Magic by Gregory L. Mahan has many similarities to what you describe:

  • Medieval setting
  • Magic is outlawed except by those under control of the king/elite
  • Main character found a book of magic
  • Main character meets/learns from imp
  • Main character in exile

Differences from what you describe include:

  • Recent - published in 2011
  • I don't recall anything about a unicorn
  • 8
    Matching but incorrect answers are still good answers for later searchers.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 14:00

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