I was that kid who, every night before I went to bed, would check my closet for a way into Narnia. Every year, I put “magic wand” on my birthday wish list—and I didn’t mean a toy wand. I wanted the real deal. At age eleven, I was crushed when Merriman Lyon didn’t drop by to tell me I’m the Seeker, and I’m still waiting for my late-admissions letter to Hogwarts. So pretty much, I was destined to be a fantasy writer from a very early age.
My upcoming book The Queen of Blood, the first in a new epic fantasy series called The Queen of Renthia, is set in a world where it’s dangerous to not have magic—and even more dangerous to have it. It’s a world filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits, and only certain women have the power to control them and keep them from killing all humans. Daleina desperately wants to be one of those women—a queen—but she wasn’t born with much magic in her. She’s the opposite of the Chosen One; it’s not supposed to be her destiny to save the world, but she’s determined to work hard to change her fate. So she teams up with a banished warrior to try to become powerful enough to protect her people.
Here are five books that make me—like Daleina—wish I had magic:
Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane
See also Harry Potter and The Dark is Rising. Ordinary kid suddenly discovers he or she has magic. This is the kind of book that makes you believe you can have magic too. In the first book of the Young Wizards series, Nita finds a book in the library called So You Want to Be a Wizard, and by taking the oath she reads inside it, she becomes a wizard. I’m listing the second book in the series because it’s my favorite—it has talking whales and the best shark ever written.
Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
One of the things that makes Tamora Pierce’s books so fantastic is that you turn a page and—whoa, there’s the best thing that could have happened to those characters at that particular moment! She’s my inspiration whenever I’m plotting a novel. Wild Magic centers on Daine, a girl with a very powerful magical gift of talking to (and becoming) animals, and it will make you want to talk to animals (if you didn’t want to already).
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
I love training montages, and this book has my favorite training montage of all time, wherein Harry transforms from an ordinary young woman into a swordswoman who can single-handedly face a demon army. The magic in this book is less in-your-face-powerful than others on this list, but it’s there. Plus there’s a kind of magic inherent in the experience of reading this book—this is the kind of book that makes you feel like you too can be better and greater than you dared dream you could be. Also, it has a nice horse.
The Belgariad by David Eddings
This series will always have a special place in my heart. These books—along with Terry Brooks’s Shannara, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, and Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series—shaped my early love of epic fantasy. (And yes, I know the Pern books are technically SF, but they have a similar take-you-away-to-a-faraway-land feel.) But I’m singling out The Belgariad because the Will and the Word is such a beautifully clear and powerful magic system. Definitely the type of magic I’d want if I were stuck in a fantasy landscape.
The Libriomancer by Jim Hines
As to magic I want to have here in the real world… I’d love to have the magic power from The Libriomancer. It’s a unique and brilliant power that has endless uses. Isaac Vainio can “reach” into any book and pull out items from it, bringing them into the real world. His fire-spider Smudge is one of the only spiders (aside from Charlotte) that I don’t want to smush.
How about you? What books make you wish you had magic?
Top image: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
Sarah Beth Durst is the author of ten fantasy novels for adults, teens, and children, including The Lost, Vessel, The Girl Who Could Not Dream, and her latest book, The Queen of Blood. She was awarded the 2013 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband and children.