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This is a book that I read somewhen during high school, approximately 13 years ago at the very least. I only have fragments and remembered impressions and theory-crafting, so apologies for the sparse-ness.

The book is centred around a boy trekking through a world, the entire story is shrouded in a vibe of early-ish medieval times. However, the artefacts and things he encounters on the way are modern-day technology, though "alien". Descriptions include (non verbatim) "polished black bricks of glass, where patterns were displayed on the surface" (tablets or phones). Other times, overgrown power poles are encountered. There's also a scene which contains a bunker of a server lab of sorts, where they encounter an AI managing the thing.

Through this story, however, there are descriptions of "tales", of how the new world came to be. These detail a king and his artificer, and most likely is a medieval-retrospective idea of how modern power balances would work, but I'm not sure.

The story contains a semblance of magic, but this is not made clear until seemingly the very end. It's a primal sort of magic, only seeming to unleash in the MC's body after encountering some dangerous enemies. IIRC it overtakes him, and then he wakes up unscathed, while his magic has wrecked havoc on the enemies around him.

I should mention that the fact that the world was set in a post-apocalyptic world, after modern times, was not at all obvious to me until I saw recognisably modern items show up, and even then, it was very subdued and mysterious.

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    There is some semblence to Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun quartet (beginning with The Shadow of the Torturer), where we follow the hero Severian wandering through a medieval-ish far future world with remains of modern and high-tech artefacts. On the way, he picks up a book of tales, which take up some chapters. He also picks up a powerful item, The Claw of the Concilliator, which grants him special abiliies. The details, however, differ soemwhat. Aug 12, 2023 at 12:29
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    Why do I not have more people around me who use the word "Somewhen"?
    – JohnHunt
    Aug 12, 2023 at 19:09

5 Answers 5

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Possibly one or more of the stories from Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East series, in particular the short story "The Broken Lands". Excepts from the Wikipedia synopsis:

Some time in the future, a nuclear holocaust is averted by a computer named ARDNEH (Automatic Restoration Director – National Executive Headquarters), which initiates what is intended to be a temporary modification (later called "The Change") to the laws of physics to make nuclear explosions impossible.

Following The Change, most technology ceases to function, while magic now works. Magical beings are also created. Demons are born from acts of violence at the time of The Change; the most powerful is Orcus, born of a nuclear bomb caught by a wavefront at the exact moment of exploding.

... time passes ...

Rolf, a peasant farmer with an untapped knack for technology, joins the resistance after his parents are killed and his sister kidnapped by soldiers of the Empire. He is contacted by Ardneh (made sentient by The Change and the actual leader of the West), who uses Rolf's technological talents to effect repairs to and enhancements of itself. Rolf obtains a power unit that makes Ardneh much stronger. Ultimately, he becomes the conduit for Ardneh's plans to bring about the West's salvation.

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    That's one powerful computer. Aug 12, 2023 at 20:34
  • I'm sorry, but I don't think this is it. I very distinctly remember there being mobile phones, "black sheet of glass that activated with a touch". I may be misremembering, but the creation date of 1968 predates a lot of the technology I saw in that book, or so I seem to remember. Aug 13, 2023 at 8:45
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    @Shadowjonathan Damn good batteries on those phones. XD
    – Vilx-
    Aug 13, 2023 at 12:00
  • @Vilx- Nokia 3310 Aug 13, 2023 at 15:19
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This sounds very similar to my recollection of the Relic Master series by Catherine Fisher. This series definitely has:

  • A medieval world with artefacts of modern technology
  • Tales of the world's origins told as legends of mythic figures
  • A main character with some kind of magic (an apprentice called Raffi, following his master Galen)

I also have not read these books for a very long time (15-20 years?), but the general feel matches.

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Sounds a little like John Christopher Sword of the Spirits, which has a cast out protagonist wandering and discovering that the medieval world is really post apocalyptic (so were his Tripod series, but that seems like a worse fit).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_of_the_Spirits

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It's not the same, but you would probably also enjoy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Canticle_for_Leibowitz

a post-apocalyptic social science fiction novel by American writer Walter M. Miller Jr., first published in 1959

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Only parts of this fit with your description, but the one that comes to my mind (which you may well also find a good read) is Eternity Road (1998), by Jack McDevitt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternity_Road_(novel).

What fits:

  • People wandering through a future medieval world, where the past is myth
  • Occasionally coming into contact with ancient (modern/future) technology, which does include both a computer server room-type encounter, at what seems to be a former nuclear research institution (possibly Fermilab?) and a run-in with an AI (which is inhabiting Chicago's Union Station).

What does not:

  • Actual magic. One of the characters is / was a sort of spiritual leader, and we see things somewhat as the characters do, which includes their lack of understanding of mysteries and powers beyond their comprehension, but this is more a science fiction book than a fantasy one.
  • "King and his artificer"-based legends about how the present world came to be.

So this may only be a sort of tangent / long shot answer / additional reading suggestion, but it was a good story and worth mentioning in this context.

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