I read this book between 1989 and 1998, I can't remember its title, book cover, or author. The only thing I can remember is a loose idea on how the magic system worked.

In this book the main character could see strands/threads of various lengths and colors in the environment. The character could pull on one of these threads to tap into the power. The color represented a specific element while the length represented the amount of power that could be pulled from the thread.

  • Hmm, I wonder if this was an inspiration for Lucy
    – Möoz
    Jun 18, 2015 at 5:17
  • Was the main character male or female? Another possibility is the Night-Threads series by Ru Emerson. Three people from our world--Jennifer, Robyn, and Robyn's son Chris--are pulled into an alternative world.
    – mkennedy
    Jun 21, 2015 at 0:08
  • I believe the main character was male. I'm looking into the three series right now. Ru Emerson definitely fits the style of books I was reading at the time and roger zelazny's title changeling sounds close to. Jun 22, 2015 at 0:40
  • possibly the same as scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/233710/… (which is newer but has an accepted answer)
    – Otis
    Aug 14, 2020 at 7:07

5 Answers 5


This was the magic system in Changeling, by Roger Zelazny, and its sequel Madwand. From the Wikipedia article:

The strands he can use to perform magic are everywhere around him

  • Changeling/Madwand were my first thought, too. The main character does eventually learn to shift his perception to manipulate magic in other ways. Sadly, RZ never finished that series.
    – LAK
    Jun 18, 2015 at 13:56
  • 2
    "Finally, when he had finished eating, he rose and moved to inspect the shadowy section of shelving. As he did, three faint, red threads seemed to be fluttering at its rear. They were possessed of the same insubstantial quality as the blue ones in the pantry... He began to reach and recoiled instantly. There lay another spell, hidden, coiled like a smokey snake, an interesting knot at its tail, designed to trap the unwary."
    – Beta
    Jun 19, 2015 at 4:19
  • 1
    As it looks like we won't see the OP again, I'll just post this as a comment. Seems like Richard Knaak's Dragonrealm books have a lot of similarities with RZs books (haven't read Changeling). I know in Knaak's some people see magic as threads, too.
    – eshier
    May 31, 2017 at 14:05

In Knights of Dark Renown by David Gemmell (1989), magic is tapped from "threads" of different colours accessible, with training, only by the "gifted". The main character spies on a craftman-magician and eventually becomes his apprentice.

Green thread is nature-related and used for healing, black for Earth and for example used to make a sort of "boots of speed", and so on.


I was googling the same terms looking for a specific book, which I eventually found! The Homecoming Saga by Orson Scott Card. I highly recommend this book.

Quote from Wikipedia:

Luet's older sister, she is a raveler: able to see the relationships between people manifested as threads in her vision. This gives her remarkable insight into what people are thinking, as well as the ability to know what well-chosen words will break weak threads.

  • I would never have classified The Homecoming Saga as fantasy, though. Not sure the threads match the description, either.
    – eshier
    May 31, 2017 at 13:57

That sounds like the magic system in the Chapel Hollow series by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. The Thread That Binds the Bones is probably the one in question, it was published in 1993 and had a male protagonist. He can shift his vision to see colored threads that he can manipulate and pull or weave to perform the equivalent of magic in the setting.


Could this be Bad Magic by Stephan Zielinski (2004)?

Magic is real. Strange forces and uncanny creatures abound. Cosmic evil is loose in the world--especially around San Diego--along with transcendent evil, primordial evil, simmering evil, objective evil, and specific evil.

The main character created a cloak of invisibility by pulling threads of invisibility from the homeless. (Not so much being invisible but, unnoticeable like people couldn't focus on you.) Also, he would go to the hospital burn wards and pull out red threads of pain from the patients. One to help ease their pain but, He would also use them for offensive means.

I think he ran a shop and ended up getting pulled into some war between light and dark forces.

  • 3
    Is this intended as an answer to the question or are you looking for a similar book?
    – Valorum
    May 17, 2019 at 22:26
  • None of the books I can see on ISFDB called "Bad Magic" or "Strange Magic" seem to fit your description
    – Valorum
    May 17, 2019 at 22:30
  • Offered as a poor answer at first due to not remembering the author but, found it does not fall in the timeline they stated after I found it. I added a edit with title, author, and a link to the book cover. May 17, 2019 at 22:40

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