23 Nov 2016

Promotions & Christmas

Hello readers!

It has been awhile since Alex updated the Magical Realm—and for this Alex is sorry. You see, yours truly has been rather busy as of late: with the release of the new Necromancer, he has been highly preoccupied obtaining reviews (he is still looking for more!), promoting the book, and of course he still has academic commitments to assuage.

In any case: the topic of this post will, alas, be relatively brief—but I hope informative. I will speak primarily of my efforts in promoting the Necromancer, and some remarks about the process as a whole. I will also touch on the Ark—for some progress has been made there as well—and on other, more miscellaneous matters.

So without further ado...

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion...

Promoting a book is no easy task. There is a reason why many an author is keen to attract the attention of a publisher—and why professional markets can charge significant sums of money for their services. Alas, Alex does not at present have the resources on hand to buy full-page ads in the New York Times, or to hire high-end professionals. Therefore: Alex employs his creativity in other guises.

An important part of promotion is reviews; they are taken into account by retailer algorithms (such as Amazon), they’re used as a measuring stick by promotion companies, and they help the reader decide whether a book is worth their time. It is no surprise, then, that a book needs reviews—and while those reviews should be mostly positive, even less positive reviews can sometimes be to a writer’s benefit.

Alex therefore re-iterates: if you are interested in helping him promote the Necromancer, then please do review his books! Every little helps.

Another key part of marketing is exposure. Now: exposure is a complicated thing, with many different elements. Alex will address two here. The first is categorisation; this helps readers discover your book when they seek out particular kinds of books.

On Amazon, the Necromancer is filed under Dark Fantasy and High Fantasy, and has several pertinent keywords (e.g. ‘Elves,’ ‘Thrones’ and ‘Magicians’); on Goodreads, the book appears in lists like Schools of Magic and Necromancers (duh).

Speaking of which: Alex would appreciate it if you could vote for the Necromancer on the following Goodreads lists: Schools of Magic; Fantasy & Scifi Books with Strong Female Characters; Necromancers; and YA Epic Fantasy 2016.

Another important part of exposure is Amazon rankings. The mechanics of this are a whole technical topic in themselves; the abridged version is that Alex benefits from you reading and reviewing his book on Amazon, and that he benefits increasingly more the more his book is read & reviewed.

I must therefore ask one more favour of you: if you know friends who are interested in fantasy—then please do direct them towards the Necromancer!

What About the Ark?

Although very busy, I have not been entirely inactive with regards to the Ark. For one, I have found another beta reader: she has read the book and is extremely supportive so far.

I have also been thinking, in great depth, about where I want the Ark to go—and what kind of story it is that I’m trying to tell. You may remember that this is a topic that I discussed with the editor; indeed this is a topic that has troubled me since the inception of the book.

I will reveal the results of my thinking at a later date.

Final Thoughts

It has not escaped me that Christmas is approaching. So, I’ve made two plans for the future. Firstly—the Necromancer will be featured on another blog! (Likewise, I shall be hosting other Indie authors here on the Magical Realm.) The event will run from the 1st–24th December; do keep an eye out!

And of course, I will be heading home to my parents. We have not seen each other in, I believe, four months; you can imagine that this is somewhat overdue. There I shall discover Glasgow, our new house, and perhaps I shall also have the opportunity to questions some Yes voters.

Until then—keep following. Much is will be going on...

13 Nov 2016

The Necromancer—Out Now!

Hello readers!

As promised, Alex will stop talking about the American elections, and talk instead about the promise he made to you back in October: to release a new version of the Necromancer!

As of now, it is available on Amazon to pre-order (and very soon, to buy). It’s out folks! Presently it has no reviews: Alex has contacted a number of reviewers, but they are yet to respond. No matter. Alex is sure you will enjoy the book—and he is also quite sure that you’ll be posting a review. (Right?)

Below is the new cover complete with a new blurb, as well as an excerpt. Just in case you needed tantalising ;)

In the frozen heartlands of the north, a dark force is reborn; his power is great, and his army swells with every monstrous recruit. In the Arachadian capital, Dresh, a string of mysterious kidnappings leaves the Great Mage puzzled. And in the mage academy of small town Renas, an unwitting apprentice is plunged into a quest: it will prove a fight for her life, a fight for the man she loves, and – ultimately – a fight for the future of the land.

Delve into this dark world of mystery and magic; of beings that walk the great forests and haunt the alcoves of the night. The necromancer awaits you...


Deep in the frozen north, a fortress stands tall.

It is a huge, magnificent thing: a towering construction of granite. The mountain on which it rests makes it no less humble; indeed, it seems the mountain is the subject, and the fortress the king.

Though magnificent, no ordinary human would observe it. Strong magics concealed it from mundane eyes – and stronger magics still guarded it from those with power.

In the midst of this fortress lies Neshvetal. He is the necromancer; the king of this forgotten realm. He is in the throne room. The floor is black marble, polished by the blood of the fallen: it reflects the necromancer’s face, emblazoning it in horror. The windows are tall, and shine a pale grey light – the light of approaching winter.

At the centre, lies the throne.

Carved from trees long extinct, adorned by gargoyles in vicious form, the throne is pale compared to the being that rests on top.

His black robes absorb the light, like an infinite void of darkness. His cobalt blue eyes scan what is around him.

His guards – skeletons, devoid of eyes, and armoured by growths of bone – raise their axes. Leira walks past them. She is his apprentice; and she is beautiful. Her eyes are ruby red, and her hair black as the silk of mourning. Her dark robes do not conceal the figure within.

Yet Neshvetal feels nothing. He did not live; his elixir was death. Sexual pursuits scarcely troubled him. No: he had chosen her because she was powerful. A little young in the dark arts, perhaps, but that was a deficiency he could more than rectify.

“Hello, apprentice Leira. Why do you seek my presence?”

““Apprentice Leira’ – really, Neshvetal?”

The necromancer smiled.

“You never did care for formality, Leira; an admirable trait, in truth. So let me put it to you more simply: you’re supposed to be busy spying on our enemies and commandeering our army. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I was wondering about that Silver Mage you killed.”

“Her? She was an arrogant fool – she deserved her death,” Neshvetal replied, his voice gaining the passion that all zealots possess.

“But Neshvetal... don’t you believe whomever sent her would come looking if she doesn’t return?”

“I doubt it. Silver Mage or not, she is still just one mage.”

“Perhaps it is as you say. But I am your spy, and I know many things. Our Wraiths have reported activity.”

“What kind of activity?” Neshvetal enquired.

“Vague unrest so far – a mage knows of her death, and news has spread to the student body. I shall need to find more informative spies to discover more. You know how the limitations of our undead.”

Indeed he did. Wraiths were powerful beings, immune to physical harm and capable of traversing great distances. At night they could hide among the shadows; and no physical barrier could contain them. But Wraiths could not blend among the living; they could not discover their inner secrets. And mages were particularly difficult to spy on.

“In that case, I suggest you persuade a man to work for our cause.”

“I thought as much. Thank you for the advice, master.”

“Whose the one being formal now, Leira?”

She only smiled at that.

Neshvetal waved his hand. “Very well; is there anything else you wish to discuss?”

“There is still the question of our undead army.”

Neshvetal permitted himself a small smile. It was not a pleasant one: it revealed teeth that were inhumanly white, and a twinkle of madness within those cold orbs of sight.

“Do not worry, Leira. I have many plans in motion.”

As if on cue, a screech penetrated the air. It was not the cry of a bird: it was too deep, too unnatural for that. It was followed by a terrible scraping sound, like metal on stone. Then the creature entered the throne room.

It was difficult to believe it had once been human. Its eyes glowed red, like coals; its skin was deathly white. Its claws still held blood. It smiled: its mouth was filled with canines, like those of an airborne shark.

“Master,” it said. Its voice was as inhuman as its body. It bowed, respectfully though clumsily.

“Rise, Dragethir, and tell me what brings you here.”

“Master, I am bored. And we are still too weak. Shall we kill more?” It licked its lips, savouring the blood that still dripped from its teeth.

Neshvetal pondered the Dragethir’s words, stroking smooth stubble. (It was one of the few parts of his undead body that continued to live.) He had ordered the death of a few elves, more out of curiosity than necessity – he wished to see what beings could be created from their bodies. Now he considered whether to extend his efforts.

“Dragethir, I give you permission. Find the elves, and kill them.”

The thing smiled gleefully. Then it unfurled its wings: they resembled the wings of a bat, though they were immense, and the skin was like no living creature. With a single stroke, it was out of the throne room and into the sky.

“Do you think that was wise, Neshvetal? Killing elves would give them a reason to attack us.”

“I doubt it – the elves’ power is bound to the forest, and they dare not leave it. And even if they do attack us, they are few; they can be no more than a nuisance. No, let us take this opportunity. I am pleased with their undead forms.”

“If you say so. We shall see what they can do, when battle comes.” Leira did not sound particularly convinced.

“You will not have to wait much longer, my apprentice.”

Leira rolled her eyes, and turned to leave. “See to your business, master. I have my own to deal with.”

“I trust your spies will prove reliable.”

“You have put faith in me, Neshvetal, and I will not betray it.”

She left. Neshvetal smiled faintly, in the cold light of that room. He had put much faith in her: he had entrusted his spies, part of his army, and many of his secrets to her. She, too, had been betrayed. She, too, would be there when he crowned himself ruler of Arachadia.

It was a pleasing thought. Neshvetal laughed; the castle trembled from his madness.

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9 Nov 2016

Good Morning America! (And Hello from Europe!)

Good morning America!

The phrase seems altogether appropriate on this particular morning. We have discovered—to our shock, thought not to my surprise—that a man who sexually assaults women, plans to have millions of people deported, wants to build a 3000km wall with Mexico, and intends to use nuclear weapons... has been elected President of the United States.

Several reactions are in order. I, being a citizen of an EU Member State, can open a bottle of wine and watch the fireworks. The worst that can happen to us is that we’ll need to spend a bit more money on the military (to keep the Russians under control and divorce ourselves from the Americans). The citizens of the US should be shocked today, but not for too long: Trump’s victory is not such a big surprise, and taking him down will require a cool head and a smart electoral strategy.

In this regard, I wish to propose some courses of action for the American left.

What should the Americans do now?

To begin curing a disease, one must first ascertain its causes. So: why did Donald Trump win? The following is not a entirely comprehensive or fully detailed account, but it underlies the main reasons:


Sorry folks, but this one cannot be ignored. An important reason why Trump won was because he gave voice to the prejudices of millions of Americans. White people saw him talk about Muslims, Mexicans and Blacks, and they thought ‘Hey! That’s what I always thought! Finally, a president who gets it—Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are bad hombres, and who wants their little white girl to sit next to some big, overgrown Negro?’ (Yes, I’m quoting Eisenhower.)

Personality politics

I always thought that the Americans’ penchance for personality politics would prove their undoing; and here I am, proven right. Sure: Trump is a ‘pussy-grabber’ and a morally bankrupt businessman (hehe) but he also has a personality that many Americans find appealing. When he does funny caricatures of disabled people (they’re deeply offensive but they are funny), or comes out with some big, beautiful, nationalist jingoism—Americans love that. (One could draw an analogy between Hitler’s cult of personality.)


This is not the dominant reason here—Trump’s election is about politics, not about men being better than women—but I think it did play a part. If Clinton had been a man, I doubt the Republican smears on her would have been as effective. But something about her personality grated on people: she reminded men of the ‘nagging wife,’ and women of a heartless, childless bitch. It was easier to paint her as dishonest because she was a woman.


The Marxists were wrong when they said that politics, and history, is the endgame of class; prejudice and personality are just as important. But economics did a play a role here—and it is sometimes overlooked. Most white people are not privileged (as so many theorists misleadingly claim). This is for the simple fact that most white people aren’t rich, and in America, money talks. Americans were angry—angry that jobs went to China and Mexico, and that their standard of living had been eroded by financial crises.

Courses of Action

There are several things the American left should do after this calamity. Let’s begin with the first: concerted opposition. This will unfortunately be difficult as the Republicans control both the executive branch of the US government, and both houses of the legislative. Moreover it is possible that some Supreme Court justices will bugger off and die; Trump will then appoint new ones (and you can be sure they won’t be good judges).

The only options in the immediate term, therefore, are the following:

  1. Legal battles. Trump has plenty to be held to account for—he was accused of raping a 13-year old girl, sexually molesting several women, and he bragged about not paying taxes. A lawsuit on one or more of those issues might get him impeached.
  2. Protest. Put Trump under pressure: organise large scale protests. See how he reacts.
  3. Work with ‘moderate’ Republicans (let’s say ‘Trump-hostile’ since there there’s no such thing as a moderate Republican). Block Trump’s Bills in the Senate and in the HoR.

In the longer-term, the American left needs to do the following:

  1. Get people to register as Democrats so they can vote in the next Democratic nominations. Remember, the Democratic party blocked non-registered voters from voting because polling showed they would have preferred Bernie Sanders; let’s remember that lesson.
  2. Kill the pundits. Okay, I’m speaking metaphorically here. The pundits have been preaching from the same hymn sheet for decades now: American politics is all about appealing to the centre, they say. Trump wouldn’t win the Republican nomination, and certainly not the election. And Clinton could appeal to centrist voters—Sanders was too radical. Well, all that turned out to be disastrously wrong.
  3. Nominate Bernie Sanders? Or at least some other likable left-wing politician.
  4. Campaign hard. Trump has shown to the world that Americans are thick racists (as has Brexit for the UK). This needs to change. The left needs to persuade people that Mexicans are people just like us, that Blacks are not a bunch of criminals, and that the kind of chauvinistic misogyny which Trump displayed is badly out of date.

What about the EU?

Finally, I shall briefly address what we in Europe need to do. I see three key areas where we need to rethink our policies:

The military

This is the big one. Trump thinks NATO is America paying for Europe’s defence (and not entirely untruthfully, might I add) and he seems to have a liking for Vladimir Putin; this is bad news.

The EU can entertain diplomatic talks at the emergency summit they’ve invited Trump to: but let’s face reality here. Trump has stated his intentions clearly, and there’s not much diplomacy can do. The EU needs to spend more on the military, go forward with plans to e.g. have a common EU R&D fund for defence research, and we may even have to contemplate the extreme option of scrapping NATO and getting our own EU army.

Foreign policy.

There’s no telling what diplomatic gaffe Trump will perform, or what he’ll do in Syria; the EU needs to consider any and all possibilities.

Oh, and Federica Mogherini (the EU foreign policy head) needs a security detail—in case Trump tries to grab her pussy...

Internal politics

This is another big one—it’s possible that Trump’s victory will translate to electoral success for our own fascist parties (namely FN, AfD, etc.)

I am actually rather doubtful of this claim; Brexit was said to increase anti-EU sentiment on the Continent, but it actually did the opposite. We need to wait and see how Trump will really affect domestic EU politics.

I suspect he won’t—Europeans don’t really care that much about American politics. Europhobia has roots in migration (both intra-EU but mainly outside of EU), economic vicissitudes, the refugee crisis, and a host of other complex internal issues. Trump might make Farage, Wilders and Le Pen feel good, but he will not suddenly drive Europeans to insanity.


Okay, that’s it for today folks. I will at a later date address Brexit and Trump—together, for there will be some inter-relation. In the following weeks I suggest you pour yourselves some wine (or whiskey if you’re American) and entertain yourselves with my upcoming new edition of the Necromancer. That will be out over the weekend, more likely, since Trump will be hogging up the airwaves and make it difficult to promote.

Until then, may the stars watch over you.

5 Nov 2016

Vote Hillary Clinton

Hello readers!

You may be wondering what Alex is up to. How goes the new edition of the Necromancer? Will it be out this November? Has Alex contacted reviewers and built up an audience?

The answer to all those questions is of course yes: I have been most occupied with republishing the new edition of the Necromancer. However, as you may be able to guess, that is not the topic of this post. Rather, it is indeed—as the title alludes—to that most vexing of political questions: American presidential elections.

Alex’s reasons for entertaining this topic are relatively straightforward: American elections are more important than, say, Icelandic elections; and this particular election has some particularly interesting politics involved. Being a student of political science, I am inevitably drawn to it.

Anyway, let’s proceed to the introduction.


Ordinarily, I do not partake in American politics. I don’t write about it; I scarcely even follow it; and I don’t waste time thinking about it. The reasons are multifold—the most compelling is that I live 5000 kilometres away. And directly inline with that, I don’t consider them relevant to my life.

Oh sure: American politics is Trumped up (yes, I know) to no end. But in reality, the French, German, Spanish and Italian elections—while rather less glamorous—are far more important in the scope of European politics. They will determine the deal that Britain gets after Brexit, or the EU funds available to construct infrastructure projects in Romania, or the specifics of monetary policy that affect Dutch exporters.

This leads me to my third gripe with American politics: it is excessively sensationalised. In fact it resembles not so much an election as a national popularity contest (intermixed with a healthy dose of showbiz, naturally). It’s hard to take seriously—the unseriousness of it is terribly offputting.

Another explanation may be my own personal politics. I am a Socialist; I make Bernie Sanders look like a laidback moderate. Being far to the left of the American political spectrum can make the whole debate resemble a popularity contest between a billionaire whose favourite colour is red, and another who prefers blue.

I admit it does breed a certain contempt. I do not speak here of nationalism, or even the voguish Anti-Americanism of the kind espoused by critics of American foreign policy. I mean an ideological contempt; the whole of American politics seems altogether sordid to me. The eminent HL Mencken, an American strongly critical of that nation’s government, put it more eloquently than I:

In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible to any public office of trust or profit in the Republic

But, let us move on. Now that you know my background and the perspective I am approaching the issue from, allow me to elucidate on my stance.

Clinton versus Trump: Crook versus Crook?

On one side of the arena we have Donald Trump. He is a walking embodiment of every American stereotype I’ve come across: unctuously nationalist, blatantly avaricious, clearly ignorant, spectacularly sexist, and of course racist.

Opposing him, there is Hillary Clinton. Numerous criticisms have been levelled at her: she’s arrogant, hawkish, and in the pockets of Wall Street. The narrative of some among the American left—and several commentators of various political stripes here on the Continent—is that the two are virtually indistinguishable. Crook versus crook, or perhaps even Satan versus the Devil.

This narrative is plausible, but wrong.

It is, in fact, dangerously wrong. You may be surprised to hear this: after all, am I not a Socialist? How can I possibly support Hillary Clinton?

You’d be right on one level—I would have preferred a Sanders presidency. Nonetheless, we must deal with what we have. The registered Democrats chose not to elect Sanders, so now the US must face a stark choice: the presidency of a moron, bully, and megalomaniac; or the presidency of a less than ideal woman.

And that, at the end of the day, is the reality. Clinton is not the devil. I do not mean to say that she is perfect—indeed her links to Wall Street all but guarantee she won’t try anything too radical. America needs someone better than Clinton. The millions in poverty, and the grotesque face of American inequality, will not be resolved by a little centrist tinkering.

Incidentally, I am aware that Clinton’s language has become more Berniesque following her succession to the Democratic mantle. Some of it is genuine: she does strongly support the right of a woman to have an abortion, or the need for serious gun control.

I don’t believe she will usher a new era in economic thought, however—that was Bernie’s ticket. Clinton is just a centrist employing the language of the left, because it is politically expedient to do so. This is not to disparage her necessarily—sometimes it is smart to make the right noises—but merely to highlight that Clinton’s plans for a fair economy are grounded more in rhetoric than in real substance.

But for all that, the woman is still infinitely preferable to the alternative.

It’s not just that she’s less bad; that she’s not misogynistic, racist, or actively engaged in trampling over the proletariat by dodging taxes and outsourcing to Mexico. (Ironically, in the case of the latter.)

The woman is genuinely a nicer alternative. Despite some of her politics, there is a great deal to commend in her. She is highly competent, having proven herself in various roles of upper government; her grasp of public policy is strong, particularly in (for example) carbon-free energy and corporate taxation; and while not likely to shake the nest too much, she is also unlikely to bring it down.

A particularly striking example of the latter would be foreign policy. Trump’s misdeavours in this regard are almost without parallel: from building a wall with Mexico, weakening NATO, being friends with the Russian kleptocracy, and—worst of all—threatening to use nuclear weapons render him temperamentally unfit to be president.

Some of us here in the Continent are sadly naive about Trump’s foreign policy regime. Typically, these are young, naive, left-leaning students who are angry with Clinton’s interventions in Iraq and Libya.

Even setting aside the complexities of those cases—and they are complex, far beyond the narrow-minded narratives of the Anti-American psyche—believing that Donald Trump will be better in this regard is foolish, to put it mildly. It’s not just that the man is foolhardy, ignorant, and has a towering vanity matched only by his nationalist fervour; it’s that Trump is fundamentally more inclined to war than even Hillary Clinton.

One should not confuse Trump’s professed trade isolationism with military isolationism. Throughout history, the two have been rather distinct. Trump may want to build a wall and impose tariffs—but he also wants to spend money in the military, and put it to use fighting Isis. He does, after all, regularly attack Clinton for being too soft on terrorists. Is that really what you want, Stop the War advocates?

The Third Party Question

The final question I wish to address is that of the alternative: why not vote for a third party?

There are two very good reasons for why you shouldn’t. The first is often repeated: in the American electoral system, a vote for Jill Stein is de facto a vote for Trump, and a vote for Johnson is de facto a vote for Clinton.

The other reason—which is perhaps even better—is that the other two candidates are piss-poor. Johnson, a libertarian, is no better than Trump: his socioeconomic policy will prove a disaster so profound even Trump won’t be able to match it. People will literally die of cold, hunger, and disease on America’s streets. (And let’s not even touch on the man’s ignorance of Aleppo, documented live on television.)

As for Jill Stein? She lives in cloud cuckoo land. 100% renewable energy by 2030? Impossible: there is nowhere near enough storage capacity in the grid to allow it. Creating 20 million jobs by doing it? Pure fantasy. A return to 18th century agriculture? The world will starve.


My conclusion mirrors my title: vote Hillary Clinton. Of course I do not hand out my recommendation without caveats (you should know that I always caveat). The woman isn’t perfect: her economic policy will not be sufficient to deal with that country’s problems; her record on LGBT rights is complex; and there is reason to be weary of her links with Wall Street. America is a corrupt country. (Yes, it’s true.)

But if the worst that can be said about Hillary is that she’s not ideal, than far worse can be leveled against Trump: diplomatically, he would be a disaster; in foreign policy there’s no telling what he would do; and his economic policy will be worse than Hillary’s. Clinton just won’t make things much better than they are; Trump will make sure they worsen.

Aside from being unfit to lead, the man himself is odious. He’s a corrupt businessman who bankrupted himself 70 times and doesn’t pay taxes; he believes Mexicans are rapists; he thinks all Muslims are unconditionally evil; and he likes to grope women. The only good thing I can say about him is that he’s not homophobic.

And for all of Hillary’s problems, I like her. She’s competent—and I deeply admire competence. Her position on renewable energy, climate change, and fracking is one I find particularly well-informed. One need not vote for her with an upturned nose; in fact she will make a decent President, no worse than the others that have gone before her.

Anyway, that’s it for today. I will conclude with a warming, handed out by HL Mencken eighty years ago, but still all too relevant today:

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

2 Nov 2016

The Pierian Spring...

Hello readers!

Previously, I released the new cover of the republished edition of the Necromancer, along with a blurb and prologue—to tease you. I did not give a firm publication date; I said it would be soon, very soon.

You see, I have sent out a review request to several reviewers, and will be sending out several more over the coming days. I hope to gain a fair number of reviews, and high star reviews if possible; these are important for the success of the book. I am therefore hoping to have the new Necromancer out by the 10th November, possibly later—it depends on the reviewers. (Reviewers, as you can imagine, are as fickle as writers.)

In any case, while you are still waiting for the book, you can still follow the many intriguing writings here on the Magical Realm. Up today is a piece I consider particularly interesting: it is about the rules of magic in fantasy, and the important consequences that it brings for plot.

Too Much Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Going back over the Necromancer—by editing it, rewriting it, and thinking how I might remarket it—it occurred to me that the greatest strength of the book was that... one could never really tell where it would go. Every encounter was a mystery; it was always possible for something to go wrong unexpectedly.

Indeed, ‘things going wrong unexpectedly’ are perhaps the most compelling element of any plot. It’s what keeps your reader in suspense—it’s what surprises them and makes them want to read more. If the reader knew the outcome of 90% of encounters... well: what would be the point? No one would care to read the book.

And this is where the rules of magic systems become important. In a system where the rules of magic are clearly defined and unbreakable—then the outcomes of magic battles are clearly defined and unbreakable. And thus, as above, such battles become boring.

So what can the intrepid writer do? There are a few options:

  1. Keep the magic system deliberately vague.
  2. Make the magic system inherently uncertain. For example: the principles of quantum physics are immutable, but at the same time, uncertainty is inseparably part of quantum physics. A similar thing can be done with the principles of magic systems.
  3. Let the magic system have clear principles, but don’t reveal them all to your readers—leave them with just enough to try and puzzle it out.

There are some problems associated with all of these approaches, but (2) and (3) are—in my experience—superior to (1). The issue with the first option is that, by making your magic system vague, you end up with a world that doesn’t have any rhyme or reason to it. Why did x lose a battle to y? How does the magic system work? (Your readers will be wondering about this, trust me.) And most of all: what are the limitations of magic? Can mages move mountains or just pen knives?

The second and third options are superior, though not entirely perfect. The second option is attractive if you can pull it off—but it requires some quite complex magical principles, and may be difficult to visualise and implement.

The third option is what I took with the Necromancer. I was able to create a world with clearly delineated roles of magic, limitations, and relative power levels. At the same time the reader was always left in suspense—because the magic system was complex and never explained in full detail.

The take-away point here is that, as is often the case with fiction, you need not tell the reader everything. Sometimes, too much knowledge is a dangerous thing. Sometimes—a little ignorance can go a long way.