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Way back in the late '90s I read a book that I've been trying to remember the title of for damn near a decade. The magic in the series was done with ranked stones, the possession of which was supposed to unlock magical power.

Later on in the book it's revealed that it's actually the focusing of the human mind that allows for magic, and the stones merely assist in that task, when the main character manages a minor spell to help in in a sword fight. This is further reinforced when they find a town of people with a mental disability of undisclosed origin, where the birds were unable to fly. It was explained that the leader of these people had declared that they couldn't, and their mental state allowed them to both believe that and focus on it collectively, strongly enough that it evoked the effect.

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  • Does the word IOUN ring a bell?
    – Spencer
    Apr 9, 2022 at 21:38
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    The IOUN stones feature in Jack Vance's Dying Earth books, in particular the story Morreion. But those stories date from a lot earlier than 1990 and I don't recall anything about the the birds not flying. Apr 10, 2022 at 6:38
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    The phrase "ranked stones" seems odd. The work "ranked" normally mans arranged in rows. Are you sure they were called "ranked stones" and not something else that's similar? Apr 10, 2022 at 13:52
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    @JohnRennie I took it to mean that they're differentiated by some characteristic like type or color and, as such, provide greater or lesser power.
    – mkennedy
    Apr 10, 2022 at 22:08

1 Answer 1

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It’s The Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix, starting with The Fall

Tal has lived his whole life in darkness. He has never left his home, a mysterious castle of seven towers. He does not see the threat that will tear apart his family and his world.

But Tal cannot stay safe forever. When danger strikes, he must desperately climb the Red Tower to steal a Sunstone. He reaches the top... ...and then he falls into a strange and unknown world of warriors, ice ships, and hidden magic. There Tal makes an enemy who will save his life and holds the key to his future.

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Oh my gosh, it took me forever to find this book in my childhood boxes in the attic.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F! Can you add some quotes or descriptions from the book to demonstrate how it matches the details of the question?
    – DavidW
    Sep 18, 2023 at 18:52

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