As has become tradition, here is my annual Coolest Magical Abilities list for Wyrd & Wonder!Saint Death's Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Fun, froofy and glorious: a coming-of-age story in a new trilogy from World Fantasy Award-winning author C.S.E. Cooney.
Nothing complicates life like Death.
Lanie Stones, the daughter of the Royal Assassin and Chief Executioner of Liriat, has never led a normal life. Born with a gift for necromancy and a literal allergy to violence, she was raised in isolation in the family’s crumbling mansion by her oldest friend, the ancient revenant Goody Graves.
When her parents are murdered, it falls on Lanie and her cheerfully psychotic sister Nita to settle their extensive debts or lose their ancestral home—and Goody with it. Appeals to Liriat's ruler to protect them fall on indifferent ears… until she, too, is murdered, throwing the nation's future into doubt.
Hunted by Liriat’s enemies, hounded by her family’s creditors and terrorised by the ghost of her great-grandfather, Lanie will need more than luck to get through the next few months—but when the goddess of Death is on your side, anything is possible.
As you might expect, the Fire Knights of Liriat can manipulate flame – but it’s where they get the flame that’s jaw-dropping. The Fire Knights wear beautiful, razor-sharp claw-sheathes – so when they put their hands together in what we think of as the ‘prayer’ position, those claw-sheathes draw blood. And it’s that blood that they set alight and manipulate.
That is what we at Every Book a Doorway call an Aesthetic!The Name of All Things (A Chorus of Dragons, #2) by Jenn Lyons
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
You can have everything you want if you sacrifice everything you believe.
Kihrin D'Mon is a wanted man.
Since he destroyed the Stone of Shackles and set demons free across Quur, he has been on the run from the wrath of an entire empire. His attempt to escape brings him into the path of Janel Theranon, a mysterious Joratese woman who claims to know Kihrin.
Janel's plea for help pits Kihrin against all manner of dangers: a secret rebellion, a dragon capable of destroying an entire city, and Kihrin's old enemy, the wizard Relos Var.
Janel believes that Relos Var possesses one of the most powerful artifacts in the world―the Cornerstone called the Name of All Things. And if Janel is right, then there may be nothing in the world that can stop Relos Var from getting what he wants.
And what he wants is Kihrin D'Mon.
Jenn Lyons continues the Chorus of Dragons series with The Name of All Things, the epic sequel to The Ruin of Kings.
Janel is no spellcaster, but she does have one, frankly bizarre, magical ability…every night she dies, and every morning she comes back to life. And no, it’s not because she’s any kind of vampire! It’s because – well, I can’t tell you, that would be a major spoiler. But I think we can agree that’s a pretty impressive – if not necessarily useful – magical ability?The Liar of Red Valley by Walter Goodwater
Genres: Horror, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Don’t trust the Liar.
Do not cross the King.
Never, ever go in the River.
In Red Valley, California, you follow the rules if you want to stay alive. But they won’t be enough to protect Sadie now that she’s become the Liar, the keeper of the town’s many secrets. Friendships are hard-won here, and it isn’t safe to make enemies.
And though the Liar has power — power to remake the world, with just a little blood—what Sadie really needs is answers: Why is the town’s sheriff after her? What does the King want from her? And what is the real purpose of the Liar of Red Valley?
The Liar fulfils a very…specific function in the Red Valley community. The lies she writes down in her book – with a little of the blood of the people whose lies they are – become…true.
Think about that for a sec. Because that is a pretty enormous power.
If that’s not a cool magical ability, I don’t know what is!The Chimes by Anna Smaill
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Speculative Fiction
The Chimes is set in a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.
In the absence of both memory and writing is music.
In a world where the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphemy, all appears lost. But Simon Wythern, a young man who arrives in London seeking the truth about what really happened to his parents, discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever.
A stunning literary debut by poet and violinist Anna Smaill, The Chimes is a startlingly original work that combines beautiful, inventive prose with incredible imagination.
In a world where people’s memories are anchored to objects instead of being safely inside their heads, Simon is able to access the memories of others – even the deceased – by touching their memory-objects. As you might imagine, in his world, that’s a game-changer – for one thing, it’s the only way anyone can keep track of history, and we all know the dangers of forgetting history…An Illusion of Thieves (Chimera, #1) by Cate Glass
In Cantagna, being a sorcerer is a death sentence.
Romy escapes her hardscrabble upbringing when she becomes courtesan to the Shadow Lord, a revolutionary noble who brings laws and comforts once reserved for the wealthy to all. When her brother, Neri, is caught thieving with the aid of magic, Romy's aristocratic influence is the only thing that can spare his life—and the price is her banishment.
Now back in Beggar’s Ring, she has just her wits and her own long-hidden sorcery to help her and Neri survive. But when a plot to overthrow the Shadow Lord and incite civil war is uncovered, only Romy knows how to stop it. To do so, she’ll have to rely on newfound allies—a swordmaster, a silversmith, and her own thieving brother. And they'll need the very thing that could condemn them all: magic.
The title of this one might make you think the magical ability in question is creating illusions – but nope! Or well, not in any usual sense. Romy can turn herself into anyone – including people who’ve never existed – by…becoming that person. As in, even she herself believes she is who and what she wants others to see her as. When she’s ‘in character’, she won’t respond to the name Romy not because she doesn’t want to give the game away, but because she’s lost all memory of who that is.
And if you believe yourself to be a persona you’ve created…how do you get back to your real self again?The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence, #1) by K.D. Edwards
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Court, is hired to search for Lady Judgment's missing son, Addam, on New Atlantis, the island city where the Atlanteans moved after ordinary humans destroyed their original home.
With his companion and bodyguard, Brand, he questions Addam's relatives and business contacts through the highest ranks of the nobles of New Atlantis. But as they investigate, they uncover more than a missing man: a legendary creature connected to the secret of the massacre of Rune's Court.
In looking for Addam, can Rune find the truth behind his family's death and the torments of his past?
The main characters of The Tarot Sequence are amazing, but it’s one of the secondary characters I want to feature today: Ciaran, who has the seemingly uncontrollable power to change the colour, texture and material of things around him. Black-and-white becomes rainbow neon, wood becomes stone, and inconvenient ushers even find the colours of their eyes changed when Ciaran is…well, being Ciaran.
It’s not clear what triggers Ciaran’s powers or if he has any conscious control of them at all, but it’s definitely an ability I’ve never seen anywhere else!Inda (Inda, #1) by Sherwood Smith
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Indevan Algara-Vayir was born the second son of a powerful prince, destined to stay at home and defend his family's castle. But when war threatens, Inda is sent to the Royal Academy where he learns the art of war and finds that danger and intrigue don't only come from outside the kingdom.
Although it’s called the Waste Spell, the fact that everyone can do it makes it, functionally, a world-wide magical ability in my eyes, and it is surprisingly game-changing. Whispering the Waste Spell vanishes any bodily waste, even if that waste is still inside your body – no need to take bathroom breaks while adventuring, or pause to throw up after a night carousing. But most importantly, it also works as fool-proof contraceptive, which has massive implications for the rights of those who can get pregnant, and knock-on effects on global views of sex and sexuality.
You wouldn’t think what’s basically toilet-magic would be awesome, but I assure you, it is awesome.Pennyblade by J.L. Worrad, James Worrad
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
A sharp-tongued disgraced-noble-turned-mercenary has to stop the world collapsing into chaos in this gripping, savagely funny epic fantasy packed with unforgettable characters, for fans of Joe Abercrombie.
Exile. Mercenary. Lover. Monster. Pennyblade.
Kyra Cal’Adra has spent the last four years on the Main, living in exile from her home, her people, her lover and her past. A highblood commrach—the ancient race of the Isle, dedicated to tradition and the perfection of the blood—she’s welcome among the humans of the Main only for the skill of her rapier, her preternatural bladework. They don't care which of the gleaming towers she came from, nor that her grandmother is matriarch of one of Corso’s most powerful families.
But on the main, women loving women is a sin punishable by death. Kyra is haunted by the ghost of Shen, the love of her life, a lowblood servant woman whom Kyra left behind as she fled the Isle.
When a simple contract goes awry, and her fellow pennyblades betray her, Kyra is set onto a collision course with her old life, and the age-old conflict between the Main and the Isle threatens to erupt once more.
The commrach – who are very, very fucked-up elves – have an extremely odd, passive magical ability: objects that they touch and handle a lot become imbued, heightening their natural qualities. Imbued statues (you have to stroke them) look more life-like and emotional than clumsy human carvings, imbued swords are sharper and stronger than a normal blade, and a mask carved to be frightening becomes scream-inducing once it’s been imbued. This isn’t an ability the commrach have any conscious control over (other than, you know, choosing not to pet a statue), but it’s extremely interesting – and, of course, something they hold up as evidence for their being better than humans.The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Wind: To match one's body with one's heart
Sand: To take the bearer where they wish
Song: In praise of the goddess Bird
Bone: To move unheard in the night
The Surun' do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But Uiziya now seeks her aunt Benesret in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.
Among the Khana, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.
As the past catches up to the nameless man, he must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya, and Uiziya must discover how to challenge a tyrant, and weave from deaths that matter.
Set in R. B. Lemberg's beloved Birdverse.
What would you call the ability to weave fabric out of sand – or wind – or song – or bone?
Especially when those fabrics then have pretty incredible magical abilties of their own?Monkey Around by Jadie Jang
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
The debut novel from Jadie Jang is an action-packed urban fantasy delivering a bold new take on the Monkey King in San Francisco - complete with murder and mayhem!
San Francisco has a Monkey King - and she’s kinda freaked out.
Barista, activist, and were-monkey Maya McQueen was well on her way to figuring herself out. Well, part of the way. 25% of the way. If you squint.
But now the Bay Area is being shaken up. Occupy Wall Street has come home to roost; and on the supernatural side there's disappearances, shapeshifter murders, and the city’s spirit trying to find its guardian.
Maya doesn’t have a lot of time before chaos turns up at her door, and she needs to solve all of her problems. Well, most of them. The urgent ones, anyhow.
But who says the solutions have to be neat? Because Monkey is always out for mischief.
Shapeshifters aren’t rare in fantasy, but Maya is no ordinary shapeshifter. As well as transforming into any animal she pleases, she can also turn into smoke, rubber, cement – you name it, and she can do it. That’s not a kind of shapeshifting we see often!
As a bonus: she can turn her plucked hairs into all manner of objects and gadgets. She’s pretty unstoppable, let’s put it that way!
Don’t forget to check out my first and second lists of cool magical abilities – or jump over here to start exploring interesting magic systems!
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