Constraints on magic

mistbornI’m blitzing my way through Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Mistborn’ trilogy and enjoying it profoundly. He has an effortless way with world-building that’s wondrous without being painstakingly expository.

One of the things I particularly like about the books is that he’s given himself a clearly defined set of constraints within which his heroes operate. "Magic" in the world of Mistborn consists of a set of powers derived from consuming and draining metals (and some variants on that I won’t go into here).

The nice thing about this mode of storytelling is that you’re never confronted with the dread Deus Ex Machina – that scenario where the odds are stacked against our hero, but he says some random spell in pig-Latin that no-one knew he knew, or that has the exact power needed to snuff the baddies’ ambitions (I’m looking at you, Potter).

It means that the world is internally consistent and whilst there are surprises, you never feel cheated by cheap storytelling. I think its an awesome thing and am fast becoming a Sanderson fan.