Ask Luna #35

From: Regulas1


First off I am a major fan of yours and how far you’ve come as an apprentice.

I want to ask your thoughts on Alex as a Mage. He seems guided by self preservation, but if you had to classify him based on his actions would you say he is light or dark?


Always nice to meet a fan.

I’d say he’s independent. Remember, just because the Light and Dark mages get all the press doesn’t mean they’re the only ones out there. Loads of mages just go about their lives without aligning with any of the factions. Though it’s true that that’s getting harder and harder these days . . . don’t know how much longer it’s going to last.

From: Geli

Hi Luna,

great to read that all of you are alright.
I’ve read that magic is a reflection of the personality of the mage.
Easy enough to understand.

But then I started to think about Alex. He’s a diviner. Here is what I know so far abour the personality of divners:
– They’re curious.
Now Alex is that, no doubt.
But also:
– Most diviners are hiding themselves away from fights.
Now, that is a sensible choice when you have no real raw power. But that’s on the first glance, the second is: Diviners are great at runnind and avoiding conflict – terrible at fighting. Maybe the diviners are not just hiding away, because they are “weak”, but because they genuinely do not want to play the games for power. So far there has not even been hinted at a “dark” diviner besides Alex. In short, they all seem to be pacifists and their magic supports this.

Now, Alex is on the first glance no pacifist at all. Second glance: he does not want power, takes no joy in politics too. He never attacks. He is essentially a very peaceful person – who just becomes were deadly when attacked. Also, there is this hint that Alex’ father his a pacifist… difficult to bury such things if you grew up with them.

So here is my question: Did Richard “change” Alex a lot more than Alex himself realises? So much, that he became different from the person his magic says he is?

Wish you a great day!

I had to think about this one. I guess the truth is I never really thought about Alex changing. Okay, he’s gotten a bit different since I met him, but I kind of assumed that before I did, he was always the way he was when we first met.

One thing you’re right about – Alex is WAY more of a fighter than most diviners. There are supposed to be some Dark diviners (though I’ve never met one) but there aren’t many, and apart from Alex, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a diviner getting into a fight at all. They’re researchers and investigators. I hadn’t really considered that that might have been from Richard, but . . . I guess you might be right. Kind of a worrying thought, to be honest.

From: Waddon

Hi Luna,

Just getting into the stories and loving them so far. Some linked/related questions for now about Earth magic. Doubtless more questions will be forthcoming, but I promise not to be as prolific as Orion.

The Encyclopaedia entry on Earth Magic mentions that Earth Mages tend to short-range solutions in combat, such as supernatural strength. However, Griff Blackstone uses “hammers of Earth magic” against Sonder and Yourself. Is this something unusual?

I also assumed that a connection to the elemental source of power was necessary, such as “touching” the element in someway or investing a high amount of personal energy in creating it. Griff seems to do neither.

In fact, the manifestations Griff uses seem more like they would rationally fit in with use of hard-Air magic – slamming attacks, suffocation etc.

So, please can you elaborate on Earth magic a bit more? The Encyclopaedia entry is a bit obscure and as portrayed thus far the manifestations of Earth are less intuitive than I assumed they would be (supernatural strength drawn from the earth, stone-like skin as a protective measure etc).

Your elaboration/explanation would be most gratefully received.

Earth magic tends towards short-range strength and reinforcement, but it doesn’t have to directly involve the ground. While I’ve seen a few earth users who do the Incredible Hulk thing of tearing up the floor and chucking it at people, most of them don’t – they just channel earth energy through whatever they’re holding or using. Also, remember there’s a lot of variation in each magic type. So while all earth spells are in a circle labelled ‘earth magic’, there might not be any overlap between the spells one earth mage can use and the ones another earth mage can use.

In Griff’s case, he was an earth mage with some tendencies towards force magic. He was still an earth mage, so he had the same short-range focus, but he used a traditional shield instead of skin reinforcement and conjured up an elemental melee weapon and similar effects. All of the elemental types have a ‘blade’ spell – usually earth hammers are made out of something physical, but in Griff’s case it was just pure energy. Bit unusual, but nothing you won’t see if you spend a while duelling. The flip side is that he probably couldn’t use stone skin or stone shaping the way that someone like Caldera can. Or maybe he had some sort of substitute. I didn’t exactly have the chance to ask him about his spell list, and it’s not like it matters much now.

From: Katy

How does someone actually become a dark mage? Presumably it doesn’t depend on council recognition like light mages do. Is it a case of if you say you’re one and no-one can stop you, it counts, or a dead man’s shoes thing? The apprentices have to go somewhere. And in the same veins what about independent mages? Thanks

For Dark mages, it’s pretty much a case of whatever you can pull off. If you say you’re a Dark mage, and enough people take you seriously, then you’re a Dark mage. Simple as that. No tests. (Or the test comes afterwards, depending how you look at it.)

As for independents, being an independent isn’t some sort of special club, it’s just the default. If you’re not Light and not Dark, then you’re an independent. They tend to get less respect than Lights and Darks do, so it’s more likely that they’d treat you like an overgrown apprentice until you’d been around a while.

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Kings River Life Review & Giveaway

A nice review of Hidden by Terrance Mc Arthur from Kings River Life magazine.  They’re also doing a giveaway of the book, so check it out if you want a free copy!

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Ask Luna #34

From: Rayne

Hey I was wondering if you know what Arachne Had to say about Verus declining the offer to go work for Richard (in his capacity of a spy for the white counsel) and Don’t you think Thalisid had a point that Alex could do more damage than any mage if he would?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Alex isn’t a hundred percent rational when it comes to Richard. So even if Arachne told him to do it, I don’t think he would have. He’s just flat-out scared of the guy.

That said, I’m kind of Alex’s side on this one. It sounds like crazy dangerous work for no good reason. If Richard found out, Alex would be dead within the hour.

From: Fade

Is there any efficient way of telling just how powerful a particular mage is? Beyond simply witnessing them performing magic. For example, if Veri and Cinder were to simply blast fire at each other, could you estimate who would outlast or overpower the other? Or is that something that only trial can tell? Also, the more I hear the more it sounds like the most dangerous thing about Richard is how much he knows. Have you given any thought to the idea that perhaps, like Alex, his brand of magic has more to do with information gathering than physical prowess? Finally, are there any particular new tricks you’ve managed to perform with your unique brand of magic? Or is most of your training with Alex more to do with situational awareness and preparedness?

Mages can sense the strength of someone else’s magic, but only if they’re actually using it. So Vari and Cinder would be able to measure each other’s power if they saw each other casting, but not while they’re just standing around. Well, there are some obscure techniques that are supposed to tell a mage’s strength, but I don’t know if they actually work.

We’ve talked about Richard’s abilities, and yeah, that’s one of the theories. The Council think he’s an elementalist, but that might just be prejudice talking. He’s supposed to have defeated some powerful battle-mages in one-on-one combat, so whatever he can do, it’s obviously pretty well-suited to fights, but beyond that, it’s hard to tell.

And yeah, I’ve learnt a few new tricks. More since I got a second teacher.

From: Fade

A few questions I forgot, all having to do with “where are they now?” Do you know what happened between Onyx and Avis? Who won? I got the impression that Avis was small-fry, and Onyx was the Chosen of a particularly powerful Mage. Did any of you hear who won? Same question about Kyle and Lee. Lee seemed to get away fine on his own,but did any of you ever find out what happened to Kyle? Does it bother Alex?

Onyx and Avis drew, I think. Jagadev’s guards got involved and both of them broke it off rather than keep pursuing. I’d have given it to Onyx if they’d kept fighting long enough, but I doubt Onyx could have held Avis down once he got the advantage. Air mages are pretty slippery.

Don’t know what happened to Kyle. He never got a funeral. We did hear a rumour of someone who sounded really like him, but it didn’t mention him by name and that was a year ago. Could just have been someone with the same talent.

From: bedragon

hey luna i was wondering are if if there are other types of magic other than the mage disciplines also why do mages live by the rule of taking things that belong to others by force

Because they’re dicks.

I have no idea what your first question means.

From: Tom

Are there any nice Dark mages? Not nice as in civil, like Morden, but nice as in that they try to help people, and not for any personal gain. Because it’s not like all Light mages are good, so I was wondering if the vice versa was true. Thanks, Tom.

Kind of, yeah. They get a bad rep, but I’ve met a few Dark mages that I actually quite like hanging out with. They’re not going to act like superheroes who go around sacrificing themselves to try and save everyone else, but if you treat them okay, they’ll treat you okay. Besides, if you go around expecting other people to save you all the time, you’re going to have a pretty disappointing life anyway.

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Hidden Reviews

hidden_front mech.inddLots of reviews in for Hidden.  Here’s a selection of them!

Whatchamacallit Reviews
The Bookbag
Mike the Paladin
Ami’s Hoard
Gareth Otton
H. Bala

In the meantime, I’ve been at work on the edits for Alex Verus #6 (which has finally got a title!)  Plan is to get the second draft done by the end of this month, so that I can get on to book #7.  We’ll see how that goes . . .


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Ask Luna #33

From: Tom

Can life magic cure diseases and illnesses?

Yup. Not all, but a lot. From what Anne tells me, it depends a lot on how built-in the problem is. Newly developed diseases are pretty easy to cure, and so are ones that basically boil down to “this part of the body needs repair” or “this bit of your biochemistry needs adjusting”. The ones she has trouble with are cases where the body’s actually growing or developing in the wrong way – most life magic healing works by taking the “blueprint” that your body’s trying to use and giving it a boost. If the body’s working to a bad blueprint, then basic healing actually makes it worse.

From: John D.

Hey Luna, back again!

What’s the age range on a mage (or adept, for that matter) discovering his or her power? Does it happen really you, or is it one of those things that happens at adulthood? And is it possible for a type of magic to be so subtle/subconscious that a mage/adept with it doesn’t realize that he/she has magical powers beyond the usual age of discovery?

Also, how much do mages rely upon gestures and other such trappings? Obviously focus items can help a mage/adept channel their power better/more efficiently, and some mages (like Alex) don’t seem to need more than thought to use their powers (which are mostly internalized), but assuming that they didn’t have a focus, would someone such as, say, Cinder have to use gestures to control his fire, or is it something that depends on the person’s belief system (i.e. Cinder doesn’t physically need to use gestures to control fire, but because he was taught to, he believes he has to)?

Thank you again!

Age range on mage/adept awakenings is one of those things that Light mages like to argue about. It’s been studied a lot, so they’ve got plenty data to argue over. General agreement is that it usually happens between 13 and 17, but you get outliers that start using their magic a good few years earlier or younger. (Apparently it’s actually later now than it used to be – we had one teacher telling us that back in the old days it was more like 10-15. Don’t know why that changed.)

You also get isolated cases where a kid uses magic a handful of times when they’re really young, even though they can’t use magic regularly yet. It’s one of the ways that mages track down potential apprentices early.

Subtle magic where you don’t even know that you’ve got it . . . yeah, it’s really common, actually, though as far as I know you only get it with adepts. We got told once that the Light mages think that the majority of universal and adepts are like that. They just think they’re ‘lucky’ or something like that.

Gestures and sometimes words are really common for spells, but as far as I know you don’t actually HAVE to use them. I asked Alex, and he said that most mages find it easier that way – you tie the spell to the muscle memory. Some mages learn to do it either way, but sometimes they get so dependent on doing it with the gestures that they literally can’t do it otherwise. It’s a mental block thing.

From: Jad Hoven

I read a webcomic called Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire. It features a diviner and a character named Luna. I was curious if you or Alex had ever read it, or met the author, or had any familiarity with it.

Never met the author, but someone told me about it a while ago, and I went and looked it up out of curiosity. It was okay, I guess. Not sure I liked the comic’s Luna all that much.

From: Steve

So when will Alex & Anne realize they’re falling in live?

If they didn’t both know that they were living, I’d be a bit worried.

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Hidden Release Day

hidden_front mech.inddHidden is out as of today!  Which means everyone finally gets to catch up to where the story of the Alex Verus series was as of, oh, about a year ago.  You can get it from Amazon here if you’re in the US and here if you’re in the UK.

Fated is also finally getting its UK audio release!  You can listen to a clip here.

It’s nice to see Hidden out at last – it had an unusually long road to publication, and the rewrites were a headache.  Still, they were most definitely worth it, and the book’s a far better one now than it was in its first draft.  I’m glad to see it finally released into the wild.

Now, back to the edits for Alex Verus #6 . . .

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Hidden Release Week

And it’s finally here!  Hidden will be out this coming Tuesday, September 2nd.  Here are the Amazon links for the UK release and for the US release.

Feels like a very long time ago now that I finished writing Hidden.  Right now I’m spending all my time on books #6 and #7, so the actual publication seems weirdly out of date.  I’ll link to reviews, etc when I have the time to collect them.

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Back To St. John’s

A nice piece from the website of my old Cambridge college: Magic and mystery awaits in Johnian fantasy author’s new novel.  (In case you’re wondering, yes, anyone who graduated from St. John’s College is a “Johnian”.)

Long time since I’ve been back to my university.  Brings back memories!

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Early Prep

While the countdown to Hidden ticks away (only a week and a half now) I’m spending nearly all my time thinking about Alex Verus #7.  For this book, I’m intending to go back to the model I used for Chosen – planning things out from the beginning (at least the first third or so).  For Alex Verus #6, I just made the whole thing up as I went along.  While it was kind of fun to do – it was pretty much the same way I wrote Fated and Cursed, which made it feel like a bit of a blast from the past – it was also really stressful.  I’d like to have a slightly more relaxed time of it this turn around.

Structurally, I think AV #7 will end up being most like Chosen, in that it’ll be a shake-up book that changes things.  Hidden and #6 have been a bit quieter in terms of major developments – while there’s been a lot going on, it hasn’t changed the landscape of the series in any obvious way.  I think I’ve done enough long-term preparation now that I can start messing with things.  Which should be fun!

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More Bits and Pieces

Some odds and ends for today:

  • Nine Worlds was fun!  Did a panel, signed quite a few books, had some entertaining conversations with readers, saw a couple of really cool cosplays, and got to practice my fencing.
  • Hidden’s release date is drawing closer – only two and a half weeks to go now until it comes out on 2nd September in the UK and US.  The author copies were delivered this week and now my room’s filled with UK (green) and US (red) Alex Verus books.
  • On Wednesday, Orbit (my UK publisher) held their 40th birthday party, which I was invited along to.  It coincided with Worldcon, meaning that loads of authors were in town who might otherwise not have been.  These conventions and parties are pretty much the only time I ever meet other people in my business – it’s nice to get to talk shop!
  • And finally, I’ve started at last to get some solid ideas for what I’m going to be doing for Alex Verus #7.  It’s still a long way off being started, but it’s a lot closer than it was a week ago and I’m looking forward to getting going on it.

Meanwhile there are the Alex Verus #6 edits, Hidden publicity thingies . . . business as usual, really.  Holiday month’s over, time to get back to work!

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