Ask Luna #53

From: Annie

I have a quick question about mage culture, for lack of a better term. I noticed that in Taken, during the apprentice tournament, every single duel was between either two men or two women – and it seemed like too many in a row to put down to luck of the draw. Elsewhere in the books no one seems to have any wierd hang-ups about hitting girls, so it struck me as a little strange. Is it some kind of mage custom to keep formal duels segregated by sex? Or was it a coincidence? It’s just something I was wondering about. Thanks a lot for your time!

They’re not actually segregated. The way they do it is that the boys and girls are seeded separately, then the boys are grouped together at the top of the tree and the girls are grouped together at the bottom. So if you have 9 boys and 7 girls entering, then the first round will be four male vs male, three female vs female, and one mixed-gender fight in the middle. After that everyone moves up as you’d expect, but because of the way they’re placed there’s never more than one mixed-gender bout per round. Obviously this only applies if it’s knockout format, but most of the other formats seem to have been designed to minimise it, too.

As for why the Council still do it that way, well, it’s tradition, but it’s probably something to do with the fact that most men don’t seem to like fighting women if they can avoid it. I found that one a bit weird at first, but once it was explained to me I could see where they were coming from. Of course that only applies for Lights and independents. Dark mages don’t seem to have any hang-ups about hitting girls, or anyone else for that matter.

From: drizztmajere

Hello Luna, I am glad to see another story with you and our favorite divinator, if that is even a word. lol. My question to you is how would you feel about living with Landis so that you can experience the rush you are looking for with following Alex into battle? It might be fun. :) You seem to have found a new teacher and you are already making progress in your using your chance magic congratulations. My next question is about an individuals use of magic. Alex has made it clear that you have to have a certain personality to use a certain type of magic. Can you become more of a hybrid with a deeper understanding of your own individual power with a power closer to yours?

Living with Landis? Seriously? Sure, he’s fun, but the guy’s supposed to have blown up three different houses. I know I’m lucky, but there’s being lucky and then there’s just asking for it.

Not sure what you’re asking with the second one. If you’re a hybrid, then you’re going to have an understanding of both magic types, yeah. If you mean, can you ‘branch out’ into another magic type, then yeah, kind of. It takes a LOT of work, though, and you’re really going to be struggling uphill compared to a natural mage of that type.

From: Jim

Just wondering what happened to the woman who tried to help Alex at the train station.

You mean the fight at Stratford? She got smashed up pretty bad. Didn’t die, which was pretty lucky on her part. It was a stupid bloody thing to do.

From: Araris

Hi Luna,
So now that you’ve seen two adult fire mages, who would you put your money on, Cinder or Landis?
Which magic types do you find the most difficult to duel? Which are the most fun? Do you ever get to duel teachers?
What are you most hoping to learn to do as your training progresses?
How often does Hermes come to visit?

Cinder or Landis . . . It’s close, but I think I’d say Landis. Cinder is very good, but Landis has one of the best defences I’ve ever seen. Wouldn’t have a clue how to get a spell through it.

Hardest type to duel is probably force. Most annoying is probably ice, with illusion as a close second. I actually find fire the easiest, though maybe that’s just because I’ve had so much practice. Never tried a fire teacher, though.

Nowadays, the thing I’d really like to do training-wise is graduate. It’d open up so much.

And Hermes drops around about twice a week, on average.

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Ask Luna #52

From: Beagle

Hi Luna, long time reader, first time caller (or typer?). Just a few questions on clearing up a few things I have heard about:
I’ve heard stories about their being ‘creatures’ inhabiting the waterways of the UK, ranging from goddesses to even a dragon living in the Thames. Is that a bit too preposterous?
I have also heard tales of a ‘wizard’ or two within the Met, would you happen to know anything about that at all?
Would drug use affect the use of magic? Say, would taking a hallucinogenic change the effect of something like Alex’s magic, or a stimulant amplify the power/accuracy?
Finally, have you ever considered expanding your magical studies? I hear there is a fairly big magic ‘college’ somewhere in New York state….

There are definitely creatures in the UK waterways. As far as I know, none are dragons. As for goddesses, well, that depends on your point of view.

The Met Police doesn’t hold any officially recognised Light mages as far as I know, but they’ve got a special unit that deals with magic-related cases. I’m pretty sure most of the members are adepts or sensitives. Suppose there could be a mage in there too, it’s not like there’s a hard-and-fast dividing line.

Drug use is fairly popular with sensitives, and there are a few adepts who go in for it too, but it’s rare among mages. The Keepers come down pretty hard on mages who break laws while ‘under the influence’.

And I suppose I could go to a US college, but honestly, I’m not sure how much they’d have to teach me. I’d rather graduate and do my own thing.

From: Wodden

Dear Luna,

As always you have my profound thanks for responding to my question and I appreciate the detail provided. I feel much clearer on “spell lists” now.

Another question(s), if you would indulge me…

I was wondering about wards. There are evidently a number of types described in the stories thus far – gate wards, shrouding of various types, alarm wards etc.

My questions this time are about wards. What sort of wards can be cast by a given mage? For example, if a mage does not have access to gates can they create a gate ward or must they contract with another mage who does have the ability? If so, would this not leave the contracting mage vulnerable should the hired caster choose to circumvent the ward? How would Dark mages accomplish a comprehensive multi-layering of wards given the distrust inherent in that affiliation?

I could go into more nuance and specific, but I think you will see where my curiosity is aimed – any enlightenment on the whole ward question would be most welcome and greatly appreciated.

As ever, gratefully yours, Wodden.

The basic ward spell is a general spell, meaning that it can be learnt by pretty much all mages (though not adepts – sucks to be me). However, the ward spell is only a carrier. You still have to tie in a ‘payload’ spell if you want the ward to do anything, and that spell has to be supplied the regular way. So if you want a gate ward, you’ll need a space mage to supply that part of it. And yes, this means you have to trust the guy who’s casting the payload spell, and yes, that brings all the problems you’d expect. Light mages have a bunch of certified ward experts who’ll do the whole thing as a package deal (both the carrier framework and the payload to go with it) – the standard setup is some combination of a gate ward, a shroud, and an alarm. They don’t come cheap, though. As for how Dark mages do it, god knows. That’s their problem, thankfully.

From: Fade

What, if any, repercussions did Natasha face after what she pulled during your duel at Fountain Reach? Have you all determined the magic types of Talisid or Levistus? Have you gotten enough control over your curse that you can touch someone without assistance from an item?

Natasha got away with a slap on the wrist. Alex went and had a talk with her mistress afterwards, and the outcome was that Natasha got pulled out of all my classes and hasn’t shared one with me since. For a while I wanted to get my own back, but I guess Anne kind of took care of that.

Levistus is a mind mage, as well as probably having some other tricks. Think Talisid might be too.

And yes, I have. Takes work, but I’m getting there.

From: Jason

Hey, Luna!

First, I want to congratulate you on the amazing progress you’ve made in controlling your curse. Us non-magic users really appreciate it.

I do have a question. I came across an accounting of an experience you had after a duel with some girl named Natasha. You beat her soundly in the duel, but then she struck you while your back was turned. The report said that Anne healed you, but had to get close. I was under the impression that your curse at that range was fatal, yet the account I read wasn’t very clear on how the curses affect took hold of Anne.

I know you were kind of out of it when this went down, but I’m sure you, Alex, and Anne must have talked about it at some point.

Can you shed some light on the subject?

PS I might be a non-magic user, but I have my sources of information.

The thing about my curse is that it works with what’s in the environment. If you’re up on a rooftop, it’ll try and make you go over the edge. If you’re in a car, it’ll crash the car. If there’s someone in the area with a loaded gun, it’ll make him take a shot at you (and you can guess how lucky that shot’ll be).

Now, I don’t know exactly what happened with my curse in Fountain Reach, but within an hour of Anne touching me, she got snatched by Vitus. My best guess – and this is only a guess – is that the curse somehow managed to set things up so as to convince Crystal and Vitus that Anne was the missing link for their immortality formula. How it did that, I don’t know. But Crystal’s been after Anne ever since, and I think she still thinks that she can drain Anne to make her life forever. Which means that there’s a good chance that as a result of healing me, Anne’s going to have that psycho after her for the rest of her life.

. . . Christ. When I write it down like that, it’s really depressing. I wonder if there’s some way we can stop her?

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Ask Luna #51

From: Manila

luna, do you like any video games? do you play them with everyone?

Oh, yeah. I had consoles growing up, then after I left school I started getting into MMORPGs. There was a couple of years where I wasn’t doing much else – Second Life, Gaia Online, and especially WoW. For a while I pretty much lived in WoW and the only thing that pulled me out was working enough hours to pay the bills. After I met Alex I went cold turkey, though. Funny thing – after I quit, I lost all desire to go back, and it just got stronger and stronger until just the idea of logging in actually made me feel sick. Still can’t face it. I think I associate it with everything else back then.

On the plus side, I started playing Smash Bros a year or two back with Vari and the others and now I love it. Still don’t think I ever want to go back to MMORPGs, but Smash is fun.

From: Beth

Hi Luna,

I was wondering if you had any idea when the next Encyclopaedia Arcana will be available? I love reading them and would hopefully like to see more soon.

Haven’t got any lined up at the moment. If enough people ask for the same article, I could go dig one up.

From: Anton

Hey Luna,
A question about Alex’s armor. I’m having trouble picturing it my head. Is it thin enough to wear under regular clothing like other forms of body armor or is it too bulky? Alex has been wearing a large coat to cover it up which indicates bulk, yet Arachne seemed surprised to see that he wasn’t wearing it underneath his clothing. Also, has Alex started using the mistcloak again?

It looks like a combo of plates and mesh. Not super bulky, but it’s not thin, either. It fits under regular clothing, but you can see the outline if you look, unless he’s wearing something very baggy or one of his long coats.

And yes, he’s gone back to using the mist cloak lately. Kind of dangerous, but I guess he knows what he’s doing.

From: Locnil

Glad to see you’re back and answering questions! Got a couple I’d been wondering for a while, actually.

About foci – how much use can a given mage get out of them? As I understand, they’re a way to use magic you can’t normally – so a dispelling focus would let you dispel something even if you couldn’t normally dispel. So the question is, does your own type of magic limit the kind of foci you could use? Say, could Alex use an air magic focus to fly? Or a shielding focus to create shields, a force magic focus to use attack spells, life magic foci to heal, etc. If so, do most mages eventually build up a collection of foci for all the kinds of magic they can’t use? Or are foci too hard/expensive to create for there to be that many?

Secondly, did Alex learn more about divination from Richard, or Helikaon? Or is most of his knowledge from self-learning?

Lastly, could Richard be a diviner? Looking thought the questions about his magic type, I thought he might be a Dark diviner, like a older, more ruthless version of Alex, which would explain his interest in Alex and his desire (and ability now I think about it) to keep his magic hidden. And also Morden’s interest in recruiting Alex, now apparently passed on to Richard now that he’s back. But I then thought it would be likely diviners could easily recognise each other, due to the results their magic would get when used on each other, so now I’m uncertain. Could Richard be a diviner?

With a focus, the amount of use you can get out of it is based off four things: (a) your strength, (b) the focus’ strength, (c) your skill with focuses in general and (d) your compatibility with the focus.

The last one is the most complicated, and it varies from mage to mage. General rule is that the closer the focus spell is to your own magic, the easier a time you’ll have using it. So from that point of view, the best focus is one that uses a spell that’s from your own magic type (like a fire mage using a focus with a fire spell). Next best is a type that’s different, but related (like ice to snow). Next best after that is a focus from a magic type that’s not related, but within your own family (elemental, living, universal). And a focus from a different family is worst of all.

Then on top of that, there’s the complexity issue. Focuses don’t have the flexibility of a natural spell, too many of the parameters get set in creation. So you REALLY would not want to use a healing magic focus, except for super-basic emergency first aid (and even that’s dangerous). And . . .

Yeah, this could go on forever. I’ll stop or we’ll be here all day.

Other questions: Alex learnt the basics of magic from Richard, but it was mostly universal stuff, I think. I don’t think Richard taught him any divination spells, or if he did, Alex doesn’t talk about it. Helikaon was the one who taught him actual divination.

And yeah, that’s one of the possibilities that we’ve talked about. Divination’s one of the ‘ghost’ types, so it would fit with Alex never having been able to tell. But figuring it out for sure would involve someone getting really close to Richard, which is on our to-do list somewhere between “not unless we absolutely have to” and “never”, so I’d rather keep that theoretical.

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Gone Away

Just a reminder that I’ll be out of the country for a fortnight starting this Saturday.  Any email, etc will be put on hold until I get back.  In the meantime, I’ve got three weeks worth of Ask Luna posts going up tomorrow and the next two Fridays after that.

Oh, and here’s another review of Veiled, this one from The Bookbag!

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Veiled Reviews

Various bits and pieces today!

First, some reviews for Veiled:  Whatchamacallit ReviewsI Smell Sheep, and RT Book Reviews all have good pieces up:  Whatchamacallit is probably my favourite, while RT is the most succinct.  This one from Amazon was the most entertaining, though.

I haven’t checked Veiled‘s sales – I won’t get the full data on that for a few months yet – but I did notice that I’ve just hit my highest ever Amazon author rank, which was nice.

Katherine Brown from A Young Writer’s Notebook has put up some interesting pieces, too, starting from the beginning of the series:  so far she’s gone through Fated and Cursed.

I’m going to be away from next week through to the end of August – I’ll try to set up some posts before I go.  I’ve got a fair-sized stack of Ask Luna questions in the queue, so the current plan is to clear those out first.

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Veiled UK Release!

And finally (for you non-North-Americans) the British and world edition of Alex Verus #6 is here too!

VeiledUK300

As usual, it’s available in paper or electronic format – oh, and you can also get it in audio.  (That goes for the US version as well, since I forgot to put that up on Tuesday.)

Some more reviews have been coming in, so I’ll post some up tomorrow!

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Veiled US Release!

The sixth Alex Verus novel, Veiled, is available in the US and Canada as of today!

veiled_front mech.indd

If you want to buy a copy, you can get it in paper or electronic format.

If you’d like to read the review in Publisher’s Weekly, click here.

And you can read the first chapter online for free right here.

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Veiled Release Week

veiled_front mech.inddAnd we’re almost there!  Veiled is coming out in just a few days, on Tuesday the 4th for the US edition and Thursday the 6th for the UK one.

Release days are always a little strange for me, as I’m usually so wrapped up in the next book that it comes as a bit of a surprise to be reminded that I’ve got a release of the last one.  This one’s no exception – I’m just finishing up the edits for Burned, which should be done by this weekend.   After which it’s on to planning Alex Verus #8!

In other news, there’s another early review of Veiled on Fantasy Book Review, and I’ve got an interview up on Writing Forums.  I’ll put up some more as they come in.

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Ask Luna #50

From: Ivar

Hi Luna,

I hope you are doing well and progressing nicely with your training! I’ve read through all of the previous questions and I see that most people treat you like a knowledge repository for the magic world, but few ever ask about you and everyone else. So, I’d like to ask a bunch of those types of questions!

What genres of music do you like? Tv Shows? Movies? Books?

Music – pretty much the usual stuff. TV and movie-wise, I used to watch anime and stuff like Game of Thrones, but these days I just don’t have the time. As for reading, I used to do it a lot at school, stopped for a while, then recently I’ve gotten into it again, but now it’s mostly programme-related, books on spells and magic theory and things like that.

Has your curse ever given any inanimate objects “bad luck?” Ex. You need a new mobile phone every couple months because your curse shorts it out.

Yes, and it was INCREDIBLY annoying. For the longest time I had to only have the cheapest, crappiest brick-type mobiles because the damn things never lasted more than a month or two.

Now that your curse is more in control can you do things like go to amusement parks or go to the movies? I hope you guys do more than play board games in Alex’s flat!

Amusement parks – oh god no. With what I can do, you really think I want to be around something like a roller-coaster?

We do go to the movies sometimes though. Usually it’s me, Vari, and Anne, and sometimes Alex as well.

Why doesn’t Alex use his divination to win the lottery a little while before it’s drawn and become super rich?

Because his divination wouldn’t work on lotteries that far in advance, and he’s got enough money already.

Do you or any of the others have middle names?

Sure.

Are you a fan of puns?

No, they’re annoying.

Finally, and I apologize for this, but I couldn’t resist asking one of those knowledge repository questions out of curiosity. (Feel free to ignore it)

Do gravity mages have enough control over objects affected by their power to do something crazy like rip a satellite out of orbit to strike their foes? I would think you’d need a lot of control to make sure it landed in the place you wanted it to be.

In theory, yeah. But I’m almost sure it’d be well outside their range, so unless they had some way of getting up into orbit too . . .

Thank you very much for doing this and I hope I didn’t cause you too much trouble.

All the best,
Ivar

That was kind of fun, actually. Makes a change from all the technical stuff.

P.S. I envy your patience and ability to deal with all the truly horrendous grammar in the past.

Appreciate it.

From: Wodden

Dear Luna,

I hope you have been well in the months since I last communicated with you. I have recently readdressed the stories and am once more enthralled – I await the next volume with a great deal of anticipation.

Only the one question (or questions on a single theme) for now:

You have mentioned “spell lists” a number of times. The impression that I get is that, when it comes to the number of spells known, the “list” would actually be quite short for the vast majority of mages, certainly so for elementalists or elementalist hybrids. Clearly the “spell list” for a diviner like Alex is very short (2-3 “spells) whereas for a mage of a type with lots of possible nuance (Life or Mind for example) it may be far longer. Are “spell lists” as much a reflection of mage rank/title as raw power?

From my position as a non-mage outsider, I have thrown together a theoretical “spell list” that I imagine might be reflective of a theoretical “storm mage” (a type of hybrid that you have previously dealt with briefly).

With my best guesswork, I thought a “blade” spell (lightning bolt), a defensive shield (electricity/air combo, about as effective as a fire shield against physical attacks), flight (air movement spell, limitation outside only), a couple of “wind rush/whirwind” type utility spells, the ability to influence storms (weather magic – size, duration, ferocity, direction of travel etc) and possibly a “weather prediction” sense. Does that sound about right as an example of a “spell list” or am I being reductionist?

Sorry for the long winded enquiry and once again you have my eternal gratitude for answering not only my own questions but those of us all.

Spell lists are kind of complicated, and mostly they come down to experience more than power. New mages don’t know much about how to manipulate their magic, so they use it in really crude ways – dump a lot of energy somewhere and call it a day, that kind of thing. The more time and practice they put in, the more they refine it and the more different uses they come up with.

But it also depends on what you consider a different spell (which mages don’t agree on, by the way). Take divination – Alex can protect himself by looking ahead into the short-term futures to dodge attacks, and he can also guarantee he hits a target by picking out the futures in which a shot lands. So are those two different spells, or not? Some people would say they’re both precognition, it’s just that one’s defensive and one’s offensive. But according to Alex they’re pretty different skills: you can be good at one without being good at the other. The type of magic they’re drawing on is the same, but you get a really different result. Then you get the opposite, where the type of magic is different, but the end result is really similar, like a fireball as opposed to an incineration burst. Are those different spells? Most mages would say they are, but maybe not.

So the example spell list you came up with for storm magic could work, and if someone told me they could do that, I’d buy it. But other mages might structure those spells totally differently – they might think of the blade spell as being totally different from a lightning bolt spell, but consider their flight and wind blast effects to be basically the same thing.

Anyway, hope that made some kind of sense. Like I said, it’s complicated.

From: Jeffrey

Dear Ms. Mancuso,

Have you ever visited Italy?

-Jeff

I used to go for holidays as a kid. Went again on my own one last time after I left school. Haven’t gone back.

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Veiled First Review from Publishers Weekly

With the release date of Veiled drawing swiftly closer (that’s August 4th in the US, or August 6th on this side of the pond) here’s the first review, a nice one from Publishers Weekly:

Jacka continues his consistently smart and exciting urban fantasy series, set in present-day London, with this finely crafted sixth installment (after Hidden). Series protagonist Alex Verus, a diviner who can see multiple futures, is grappling with long- and short-term problems . . . As usual, Jacka’s intelligent extrapolations of magic form the basis for a convincing story that features Alex’s prickly relations with his friends and allies—and that shows how magical powers complicate moral choices rather than simplifying them. Fortunately, Alex is as clever as he is cheeky, a sympathetic and daring grappler with ethical dilemmas.

Full link can be found here, but be warned, it contains spoilers!

In other news, I’ve just started work on the edits for Burned.  Luckily they’re nice and short, so I should be able to wrap them up and start planning work on Alex Verus #8 shortly.

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