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I am looking to identify a book series I read as a child. I read it between 1992 and 1996, and I would guess the complete series was published around 1990.

It was a five book series.

Each book centered on one school child that developed an elemental power (air, fire, water, earth).

The setting was earth as we know it. No magic in general. The four children generally didn't advertise they had powers but I think some of them had confidants.

I think the fifth book brought together the four disparate characters.

The children were strangers to each other, possibly from all around the world. No apparent link between them. The fifth book possibly explained why these five got powers but I don't recall.

I don't think the magic required any words or gestures, but I am hazy on that.

I helped out in a library at the time of reading them and unpacked the books when they arrived new from the book-seller. They came shrink wrapped in a pack of 5, each front cover was a different colour with a rune representing the element on the front. I distinctly remember thinking it was odd that the characters were different in each book with no apparent connection between them until the 5th book.

I remember only a couple of scenes from the air book

  • The protagonist (a school boy) was being beaten up but he hardened the air around his body so that he wasn't being hit. He pretended he was being hurt though.
  • He created a platform of hard air to walk across, possibly between buildings.
  • He teleported his parents and him to the surface of the moon, holding them all in a bubble of air.

KernalPanic has raised the idea that I have mixed two different series together which is a distinct possibility, but for now please discount the "Wizard" series. If Nobody can come up with a series that has four distinct characters - one to a book - then I will revisit that idea.

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    This is a nicely detailed ID question, but some more details could help to narrow down the genre or type of story this is. Were they attending a normal school in the modern world, keeping their powers secret from society? Or were they attending a special magic school that was itself a secret from the world, a la Harry Potter? Or were they in a fully fantasy world where such powers were normal? Kids with elemental powers is a pretty common trope, so this'd help to narrow the search.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Apr 25, 2021 at 8:17
  • Thanks. I have amended to describe the scenario better.
    – Hukk2010
    Apr 25, 2021 at 8:56

2 Answers 2

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This doesn't match the description of a 5-book series about elemental magic, but all 3 scenes you describe are in the first two books of the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane (published in 1983 and 1985). The books focus on human children from Earth, who have been entrusted with fighting the forces of entropy in the universe with wizardry. Wizardry is practiced in hiding on Earth, so at first they hide this part of their lives from their families.

There are two main characters in the first 2 books, a girl named Nita and a boy named Kit. The bullying incident actually happens to Nita, and both of them use the invisible bridge in book 1, So You Want To Be A Wizard.

She looked around, considering the best direction to run in—and then thought of the book she was carrying. There wasn’t much time, though. She forced herself to calm down even while she knew they were coming for her, made herself turn the pages slowly to the place Kit had shown her that morning, the spell that made blows slide off. She read through it slowly in the street, sounding out the syllables, taking the time to look up the pronunciation of the ones she wasn’t sure of, even though they were getting close and she could hear Joanne’s laugh.

Nita sat down on the curb to wait for them. They let her have it when they found her, as they had been intending to all day; and she rolled around on the ground and fell back from their punches and made what she hoped were horrible groaning noises. After a while Joanne and her four friends turned away to leave, satisfied that they had taught her a lesson. And Nita stood up and brushed herself off, uncut, unbruised, just a little dirty.

The air was so transparent that she misjudged the distance down to it— her foot hit before she thought it would, and the jolt went right up her spine. Still holding the railing, Nita lifted that foot a bit, then stomped down hard on the walkway. It was no different from stomping on a sidewalk. She let her weight down on that foot, brought the second down, and stomped with that too. It was solid.

“It’s rock, Kit!” she said, looking up at him, still holding the rail.

“Sure,” Kit said, skeptical. “Let go of the rail first.”

Nita made a face at Kit and let go. She held both arms out at first, as she might have on a balance beam in gym, and then waved them experimentally. “See? It works. Fred?”

Fred bobbed down beside her, looking with interest at the hardened air of the walkway. (And it will stay this way?)

“Until I turn it loose. Well?” She took a step backward, farther onto the walkway, and looked up challengingly. “How about it?”

Nita and Kit take Nita's parents to the moon in book 2, Deep Wizardry, as a way of revealing and explaining their wizardry to them.

Nita’s father slowly went down on one knee and brushed his hand along the dry, pale lunar soil, turning over the stones that lay there, then picking one up and clutching it hard in his fist. “Harry,” Nita’s mother said, still looking up. The tone of her voice made her husband look up too—and seeing what she saw, he forgot the rock.

What they saw was part of a disk four times the size of the Moon as seen from the Earth; and it seemed even bigger because of the Moon’s foreshortened horizon. It was not the full Earth so familiar from pictures, but a waning crescent, streaked with cloud swirls and burning with a fierce green-blue radiance—a light with depth, like the fire held in the heart of an opal, that light banished the idea that blue and green were “cool” colors; one could have warmed one’s hands at that crescent. The blackness to which it shaded was ever so faintly touched with silver—a disk more hinted at than seen; the new Earth in the old Earth’s arms.

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    That isn't it, but an interesting series though. Thanks.
    – Hukk2010
    Apr 25, 2021 at 14:17
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    @Hukk2010 the scenes match so precisely, is it possible that you have conflated two series? I ask because if explaining why this series isn't right jogged memories about any additional details on the elemental magic part of the books you remember, that might help someone find them. Apr 25, 2021 at 14:39
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    Those scenes do match really well. I helped out in a library at the time of reading them and unpacked the books when they arrived new from the book-seller. They came shrink wrapped in a pack of 5, each front cover was a different colour with a rune representing the element on the front. I distinctly remember thinking it was odd that the characters were different in each book with no apparent connection between them which doesn't match your suggestion. Can I be sure I am not conflating two series... not 100%. I will have a read of the first book and see if the rest triggers anything. Thanks
    – Hukk2010
    Apr 26, 2021 at 7:39
  • I have read the first two books you mentioned. Nothing else is ringing a bell and those scenes don't feel like the ones I remember but I can't pinpoint why. I keep coming back to the books having no characters in common until book 5. It does seem too much of a coincidence though so maybe I am mixing up two different series. I will leave the question open a bit longer to see if I get any other response but if not I will accept it and try to seperate out the two series.
    – Hukk2010
    May 4, 2021 at 8:55
  • No need to accept it if it's not the series you're looking for! The detail you mentioned in this comment thread about the colours and runes of the books seems interesting, maybe edit that into your question? May 4, 2021 at 21:11
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The Circle of Magic series (1997-1999) by Tamora Pierce.

Here's the Goodreads synopsis for the first book, Sandry's Book:

With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community. There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted at metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself. At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic - and to trust one another. But then disaster strikes their new home. Can Sandry weave together four kinds of magical power and save herself, her friends, and the one place where they've ever been accepted?

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    Given that OP has already identified that this is the Young Wizards series, is there any reason to think that this is actually the correct answer?
    – Valorum
    Nov 21, 2022 at 0:10
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    @Valorum - Judging by the comments the OP left beneath the accepted answer, the OP apparently accepted it without being confident that it was the correct answer. That doesn't mean that this answer is correct, of course, but it does give us cause to doubt the accuracy of the accepted answer. Nov 21, 2022 at 1:31
  • @LogicDictates - They made that comment, then a whole week later accepted the answer. We can't know what happened in the intervening period, but it's not like they made that comment and accepted it a few minutes later.
    – Valorum
    Nov 21, 2022 at 8:02
  • @Valorum - this may be true (I don't know how you see when an answer was accepted), but, since we don't know, I wouldn't suggest discouraging additional answers. The OP was not a drive-by member; hopefully he will visit again and comment.
    – Basya
    Nov 21, 2022 at 9:02
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    (as author of the accepted answer) I agree that it seems likely that OP is thinking of a different series than my suggestion; either completely different or conflating two series. I don't believe the Circle of Magic books are the right fit (not really elemental magic, the characters meet in book 1, and not set in "earth as we know it"), but I definitely encourage new answers to fit all the details of OP's memory. I think about this question periodically since it bugs me I know I didn't answer it! Nov 21, 2022 at 18:47

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