After reading a stellar exploration of magic systems and what makes them work from author J.S. Morin, I decided to stop kicking around the idea of blogging about a few of my favorites and actually do it. While I obviously love me some good ol' Wingardium Leviosa, these are magic systems that appealed to me for sheer imagination and oddity, and went far beyond the wand and the incantation and into some truly unique territory. An early and easy favorite when I first started thinking of writing this was Garth Nix's spectacularly grim and lovely take on necromancy in The Abhorsen Trilogy, and, most recently, Clariel. Not only do the Abhorsens channel their magic through eight bells, the mythology of how it's done, the ancient history behind the efficacy of the magic, even the meticulous descriptions of Death itself and the spell-worked perils therein - it's all truly mesmerizing stuff. Dive just a single chapter into Sabriel and I expect you'll be as deeply under Saraneth's control as I am.
Most recently I was seduced by Naomi Novik's Uprooted. Her descriptions of magical workings from the perspective of someone who isn't native to it are positively enchanting. She captures the essence of the magic through a narrative lens, and each spell is almost like a little story within the story. It's also interesting to see how she pairs a novice caster with a seasoned one, providing the reader space to appreciate how the same magic in one world can still be very different. Did I mention there's singing? Because there's totally singing.
Lastly is a little known folksy steam punk gem, The Native Star, by M.K. Hobson, whose magics are as organic, physical, and irresistable. Credomancy depends upon belief, such that the stronger one believes a spell to be, it will be, and seeing the sangrimancers at work in blood... well. It's grim and glorious and honestly I don't even know why this book isn't a movie yet. One of the best steam punk books I've read, ever, and far worthier of your attention than some others that have gotten a whole lot more press.
There's a special place in my heart for the world-building that goes into magic systems, especially when those systems seem to underpin the world, when they can be appreciated both for what they are and for the incredible and terrible things a good character can do with them.