top 5 tuesday banner
Top 5 Tuesday

Top 5 magic systems

Hello friends!! Welcome to Top 5 Tuesday!! This week’s topic is top 5 magic systems!! Of course, if you don’t read fantasy books, then you are more than welcome to take a *freebie* this week.

Not sure about everyone else, but I find some magic systems a bit of a miss… and some are fine, but never really explained that well. And then there’s some that lay down clear ground rules, but by book two the rules have been chopped up (or forgotten about) by an unwieldy lawnmower. Like, we all know that the series-that-shall-not-be-named, you can’t do wandless magic. But then in the first movie there’s that wizard in the corner of the pub who is doing non-verbal wandless magic. Sure, he’s stirring a cup of something, but still! Someone hunt that guy down to do the big battle fight.

And then of course, there are those rare gems where the rules are set, and followed to a T. No one gets confused, things are perfect, and there are no gaping plot holes. *sigh* Those are the ones we’re here for today.

If you missed the July-September 2022 topics they are out now! Top 5 Tuesday was created by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm, and is now being hosted here @ Meeghan reads.

blog divider - picture of 5 cacti

top 5 magic systems

Villains — V. E. Schwab

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

Admittedly, I have only read Vicious in this series. (Duology? Unfinished trilogy?) BUT, it’s a book that has stayed with me, and one that I think about often. And I read it back in October 2019.

The main characters are detailed and three-dimensional. But it’s Schwab’s grip on creating interesting and complex magic systems that I really admire. The beauty of Schwab’s magic is really that for all the complexity, it’s quite simple to understand.

To be fair, I could have easily swapped Vicious out for A Darker Shade of Magic, which is just as intriguing. I just like this book more.


Victor and Eli started out as college roommates ― brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other.

In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find ― aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the arch-nemeses have set a course for revenge ― but who will be left alive at the end?

YouSpace — Tom Holt

Now, TECHNICALLY, The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice is the third book in the YouSpace series. But since you can read them as standalone books or as a series, I’m picking my favourite.

The series itself relies on the magic of physics (and as someone who studied calculus and physics at school, I can confirm both are indeed magic). Well, physics and suspended disbelief.

However, The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice also likes to throw economics and governance in the mix as well. It’s actually quite a genius story. Plus it’s genuinely hilarious. And despite my never-ending TBR, I look forward to rereading this. One day.


A happy workforce, it is said, is a productive workforce.


The Outsorcerer's Apprentice by Tom Holt

Try telling that to an army of belligerent goblins. Or the Big Bad Wolf. Or a professional dragonslayer. Who is looking after their well-being? Who gives a damn about their intolerable working conditions, lack of adequate health insurance, and terrible coffee in the canteen?

Thankfully, with access to an astonishingly diverse workforce and limitless natural resources, maximizing revenue and improving operating profit has never really been an issue for the one they call “the Wizard.” Until now.

Because now a perfectly good business model ― based on sound fiscal planning, entrepreneurial flair, and only one or two of the infinite parallel worlds that make up our universe ― is about to be disrupted by a young man not entirely aware of what’s going on.

There’s also a slight risk that the fabric of reality will be torn to shreds. You really do have to be awfully careful with these things.

Serpent & Dove — Shelby Mahurin

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

I would like to preface this by saying that I have still only read book 1 in this trilogy. So if the magic rules go to shit in book 2, I am unaware (and please don’t tell me).

On that basis, one of the things that I love most about Serpent & Dove is that magic has a cost. And, the bigger the spell, the more it costs.

Of course, depending on what kind of witch you are will depend on what it is that will cost. Life, blood, memories ― is the cost of the magic really worth it? That’s the real question.

If you’re interested in this, another really good “magic cost” series is Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.


Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union ― holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

Book of Night — Holly Black

Definitely the most recent read of this list, and the darkest as well, is Book of Night. I honestly just love the way that Black weaves ‘real life’ with the creepiest folklore / urban legends, and makes a brand new type of fairytale.

Shadow magic has a lot of rules in this (standalone?) story. But the way that Black tells the story isn’t huge information dumps. It’s quietly explained in soft moments and conversation. Anecdotes and character history show the rules easily, and the magic doesn’t break the rules even when it looks like it does.

It’s clever and very well done.


In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences ― but also to increase power and influence.

Book of Night by Holly Black

You can alter someone’s feelings ― and memories ― but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden ― a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear ― and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister ― all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

The Raven Cycle — Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Am I putting this book on my list because I missed it last week? Maybe. BUT, I do genuinely love the magic in this series.

Now, you may be wondering “Meeghan, what magic?” and you might technically be right. But there is definitely elements of magic in this series. It’s just not overt magic as spellcasting and the others listed above are. It’s quiet magic. Dream magic. But also psychic magic. Ghost magic. And maybe even a little bit of wish magic.

Like all Stiefvater books, The Raven Boys very much plays by its own rules. But even within this very small niche of magical realism, the magic has rules it must follow.


It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them ― not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all ― family money, good looks, devoted friends ― but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him. Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair. And Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

blog divider - picture of 5 cacti

FYI, I have built an actual database of everyone who I have ever discovered that has joined in with a Top 5 Tuesday topic. Which means, I will be able to come and visit blogs every week to find your posts. So you won’t necessarily need to link your posts below (unless you want to). But, if you’re new or I’ve not found your blog, please let me know and I will add you!


Happymess Happiness
The Punk Theory
Tay’s Infinite Thoughts
My Book Throne
Your Book Friend
A Fictional Bookworm
Less Than Three D
Books Are 42
Becky Bookstore
Kerri McBookNerd
Biblio Nerd Reflections
Peat Long’s Blog
DB’s Guide to the Galaxy

What are your top 5 magic systems?

until next time, happy reading! Meeghan xo


Let's chat!