Please enjoy this encore post on weather magic, originally published January 13.
Red sky at night, readers’ delight. Red sky at morning, readers take warning…
The instability of the weather makes for a great metaphor in fantasy stories about characters learning to harness their own emotions and inborn magical powers. But just as no two storms are exactly alike, these tales of whispering winds and ravaging storms approach the subject in a variety of ways! Weather magic is channeled through glass orbs, wine, and even braids. Magical storms topple pirate ships, protect island countries, and sometimes accidentally trigger planet-wide climate changes. We took to Twitter to find out your favorites, so get out your galoshes as we unleash a torrent of weather magic tales!
Stormwarden by Janny Wurts
While the eponymous title would imply a sorcerer who protects against the weather, at the start of this book Stormwarden Anskiere is on trial for using his control over wind and water to destroy the town of Tierl Enneth and murder its inhabitants. In the first book of Wurts’ Cycle of Fire trilogy, several young people are caught up in Stormwarden Anskiere’s trial like leaves in the wind: siblings who clash in their beliefs over his innocence versus guilt, and an orphan named Jaric, who finds himself inexplicably drawn to come to Anskiere’s aid. Though one wonders why he would need to call for help, as this is a man who can melt rock and freeze living creatures in ice.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Magic is a central part of life in Earthsea; and, it being a vast archipelago of islands surrounded by a mostly uncharted ocean, Earthsea’s residents are grateful for any mages who have particular control over the wind and weather. The son of a bronzesmith, Ged discovers that he possesses weather magic when he conjures up a fog (plus some delusion) to scare off threatening sea-raiders. But while Ged’s mentor, the old mage Ogion, is famous for taming an earthquake, he cautions his young charge against letting his emotions funnel into and direct the course of his magic. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that Ged has to learn for himself.
The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan
A powerful ter’angreal that has been missing for over two thousand years, the Bowl of Winds shows up in several Wheel of Time books: Lord of Chaos and A Crown of Swords, before being harnessed by Elayne, Aviendha, and Nynaeve in The Path of Daggers. With the Dark One having brought about an unnatural heat, only one ter’angreal could stand up to reversing this magical climate change.
The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster
The Windspeakers, with their eyes of stone, act as almost reverse-sirens, drawing wind from the sails of pirating Dragon Ships and protecting island towns from their pillaging. But when the Dragon Ships attack the Windspeaker temple at Tash and steal the magical icon that is the source of their powers, suddenly control of the weather transforms from a safeguard into an ominous threat. Windspeaker apprentice Shina jumps aboard the Giggling Goat to recover the icon, but she may be just as dangerous, as her nightmares—and the accompanying storms—prove. Read an excerpt from The Drowning Eyes, available now from Tor.com Publishing.
Circle of Magic: Tris’ Book by Tamora Pierce
Some dabble in weather magic, but Trisana Chandler has had her life shaped by winds and lightning. Abandoned by her merchant family for not having “real” magic and for the strange climate phenomena that happened around her, Tris came to learn that she in fact has ambient magic, which manifests quite stunningly when she’s, you know, cut off from her supposed loved ones. Over the course of Pierce’s Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens series, Tris has had to learn to manage this baggage: Her foster-sister Sandry teaches her to rein in her emotions by braiding wind and lightning into her hair (no rain, though, because it makes her hair friz). However, she’s also murdered pirate fleets by calling up terrifying waterspouts, so hopefully people have learned by now not to cross her.
The Towers of the Sunset by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
A later book in Modesitt’s The Saga of Recluce sums up the simplicity of weather magic: “[A]ll weather is created by just two things—the heat and light of the sun and the water in the oceans and the air.” But there’s more to it than that; in order to be a truly great weather mage, you’ve got to have the genetics, like the great Creslin. Of course, he’s not perfect, either; trying to make the titular island of Recluce habitable creates chaos magic elsewhere, in the form of—you guessed it—violent storms.
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
As in Pierce’s Circle of Magic, the magic-users of the Witchlands series manifest their power in different ways: Truthwitches can tell when you’re lying, Threadwitches can see the invisible bonds that unite us, Bloodwitches can sniff out a magic trail like a bloodhound, and Windwitches funnel the weather through their emotions.
Merik Nihar is prince of Nubrevna, (temporary) admiral of the Royal Nubrevnan navy, and (thanks to his already short-tempered nature) prone to making the winds rather unbearable when he’s upset.
Ill Wind by Rachel Caine
While most weather magic stories take place in fantastical settings, Caine’s Weather Warden series is urban fantasy, grounding the concept in a modern context: The eponymous wardens control air, water, and fire, diverting what could be devastating storms and keeping unsuspecting humans safe. Another factor that makes this series stand out is that the wardens have help, in the form of imprisoned djinn who “assist” them in their weather magic. When warden Joanne is accused of murdering her boss, she must go on the run with a free djinn to clear her name with the help of the most powerful warden, her old friend Lewis.
Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman
In Gilman’s Vineart War Trilogy, magic resides in neither bodies nor the elements: Vinearts cultivate magic through spellwines, which give the recipient the ability to perform different types of magic. For instance, the port city of Atakus relies heavily on spellwines to ensure fair weather. But when several ships carrying spellwines go missing and sea serpents begin stalking the waves around Atakus, a Vineart and his slave-turned-apprentice begin to suspect that someone is trying to bring spellwines back to their full potency, with disastrous implications.
Guardians of the West by David Eddings
The Malloreon is Eddings’ five-book series sequel to The Belgariad, set in the same world but expanding on certain aspects. One of these is sorcery and chaos theory: While sorcerers like Belgarion have the power to summon storms as weapons, they fail to take into account the unintentional and unpredictable consequences. For instance, one storm triggers a number of other blizzards, tornados, and droughts the world over, even ushering in a second Ice Age. As a result, Belgarion’s weather privileges are revoked for many centuries.
Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder
Is there anything more ominous than a barely constrained storm? As a glassmaker and magician-in-training, Opal is called upon when the Stormdancers’ glass orbs—into which they siphon the power of storms—shatter, killing the Stormdancers. Tasked with repairing the glass orbs thanks to her particular brand of magic, Opal gets caught up in the mystery behind the sabotage. Glassmaking fits well with weather magic, as let’s not forget what happens when lightning meets sand…
The Wizard’s Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke
If you’ve learned anything about this list, it’s that when there are pirates and ships blown off-course by a mysterious storm, there’s usually some magic behind those stormclouds. In the case of Clarke’s duology, young Hanna, eager to learn about her lady pirate namesake Ananna, apprentices herself to a fisherman when—you guessed it—rain and winds appear to steer them into their destinies.
The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller
Weather magic intertwines with royal birthright in Miller’s Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series. When the Doranen fled their homeland and established a new culture in Lur, they forbid the Olken (Lur’s original inhabitants) to use magic, restricting it to the upper classes and the royal family. But when firstborn Prince Gar shows no aptitude for magic, he finds himself competing with his younger sister Princess Fane, who has more than enough weather magic but exactly the wrong temperament (read: a nasty temper) to go with it. While Fane trains to be a Weather Worker, Gar may have stumbled upon the mythical Innocent Mage who could bring the magic back to the Olken.
The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones
Jones’ book is one of the rare instances where a weather magician follows the weather: The King’s Progress is a mobile Court that travels through Blest (this magical world’s version of England) to monitor and control natural magic, often through the form of weather. Arianrhod (a.k.a. Roddy) has traveled with the King’s Progress for most of her young life, watching her weather magician father at work with his mobile weather table (made of copper and gold, folded up into a wooden box). As Roddy recalls, “It always looked as if he was nerving himself up for something. Actually, he was just working the preliminary magics, but when I was small I always thought that weather-working took great courage, and I used to worry about him.”
The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
Magic is all around the characters in Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series, suffusing the very air, so when a storm hits, it really hits. The Stormlight wiki explains “highstorms”: “The life of a highstorm can be broken down into two stages. The first stage is the most dangerous part of a highstorm: the stormwall. A massive wave of water, reaching several hundred feet in height, casts dirt and debris high into the air; occasional gusts can pick up and toss large objects (such as boulders), hurling them hundreds of feet. As the storm passes by, it gradually grows weaker. The trailing end, or second stage, called the riddens, is simply a light, quiet rainfall.” The existence of the highstorm is a mystery in the series, one that has only begun to be unraveled in Words of Radiance.
The Thief’s Gamble by Juliet E. McKenna
Unlike many of these other entries, weather magic in McKenna’s The Tales of Einarinn series cannot be performed by one person alone: “It requires a whole nexus of power and at least four mages,” minor mage Shiv explains to thief Livak. But while on a ship headed to the fabled city of the Archmage, they discover the possibility that a single mage could be controlling the gathering clouds and increasing winds… While Larasion is worshipped as goddess of the weather, The Tales of Einarinn explores what happens when Cloud Masters are Flood Mistresses are able to battle deities for the same powers they once held exclusively.
Which weather magic stories did we miss? Share your favorites in the comments!
Top image from The Way of Kings, illustrated by Michael Whelan