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The thread What exactly does Butters mean by red carats? reminds me of a series I read about 5-10 years ago with a similar concept. One of the protagonists develops Knightly magic which presents as a video-game like overlay to help him in combat. The books are pure fantasy genre - there aren't explicit references to video-games and the character is not a refugee from a modern world.

There were multiple books - possibly a trilogy. I think it may have been an earlier work by an author known better for another series, but going through my Kindle library from the time nobody matches.

The world is a typical pseudo-European mediaevalish fantasy setting. The tone is light. Not comedic, but not grim-and-gritty. It may be close to YA, though I don't think it was marketed as such. The world isn't built out beyond the cities and surrounding forests and mountains.

As it starts, the hero is the son of a noble / wealthy merchant / some-sort-of-leader in a city with a puritanical anti-magic sentiment. When the character starts developing magic he has to flee and finds that the magical folk (elves?) in the surrounding forests are not the demons the propaganda says they are.

I think there are two other primary protagonists, with more traditional magic (rather than video gamey combat), one male and one female.

The trio end up defending the city that had rejected them from a greater threat.

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Another pass through the catalogues of authors with other major series turned up The Outstretched Shadow in the Obsidian Mountain trilogy by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory.

Cover of The Outstretched Shadow with an armoured man on foot between a unicorn and a man on horseback

The library finally delivered and this is it. The video-game imagery is as follows:

This time, instead of a blue ghost that moved before Jermayan moved, Kellen saw Jermayan overlaid with a web of red. One spot burned more brightly than the rest. Without thinking, Kellen struck at it.

Jermayan blocked him, of course, but Kellen had already broken off that attack before he completed it, striking at his next red-flaring target. Once Jermayan was in motion, Kellen was always ahead of him, and no matter how many times he was blocked, he kept moving on to the next target.

The Goodreads description doesn't mention the video-game-like mechanic I was looking for, but it sparked more memories and solidified much of the rest I was thinking of.

Main character is the son of a city (The City) leader with puritanical views of magic:

Kellen Tavadon, son of the Arch-Mage Lycaelon, thought he knew the way the world worked. His father, leading the wise and benevolent Council of Mages, protected and guided the citizens of the Golden City of the Bells.

Who discovers the wrong magic:

Then he found the forbidden Books of Wild Magic-or did they find him? The three slim volumes woke Kellen to the wide world outside the City's isolating walls. Their Magic was not dead, strangled by rules and regulations. It felt like a living thing, guided by the hearts and minds of those who practiced it and benefited from it. Questioning everything he has known, Kellen discovers too many of the City's dark secrets.

And has to flee:

Banished, with the Outlaw Hunt on his heels, Kellen invokes Wild Magic-and finds himself running for his life with a unicorn at his side.

Books two (To Light a Candle and When Darkness Falls) have more focus on the other protagonists (male & female)

Kellen's sister Idalia, a Wild Mage with great healing ability, has pledged her heart to Jermayan, a proud Elven warrior. Someday Idalia will pay a tragic Price for a world-saving work of Wild Magic, but until then, she will claim any joy life can offer her. Jermayan, who has learned much fighting at Kellen's side and loving the human Idalia, finds that everything changes when he Bonds with a dragon while rescuing the Elf Prince and becomes the first Elven Mage in a thousand years.

To Light a Candle cover with a womanWhen Darkness Falls cover with a man riding a dragon in a burst of flame

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  • And this would make it a duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/221032/… , which describes the video-game effect: "a combat magic where the user had time slow down for them, and their vision was altered to show where they should move next. "
    – Arcy
    Jun 30, 2022 at 20:36

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