Encyclopaedia Arcana #62: Ice Magic

One of the more common elemental types, ice magic is well known as a battle-magic style. While ice mages aren’t quite as common as fire mages, they’re still numerous, much more so than any of the universalist types.

Fire and Ice

Like fire mages, ice mages start off by learning to control temperature, though they control it in the opposite direction. Ice mages are completely unable to generate heat, but they’re great at neutralising it, freezing liquids, objects, or areas. (Luckily for them, they generally also develop a high degree of cold tolerance at the same time – if they didn’t, they’d have a good chance of killing themselves through hypothermia before ever making initiate.) Ice magic tends to focus on locking down and controlling, rather than the wild destructiveness of fire magic, and unlike fire, ice doesn’t spread, meaning that new ice mages tend to cause fewer and less spectacular accidents than novice fire mages do.

Once they’ve mastered basic temperature control, ice mages start working with ice itself. Like most mages, ice mages are unable to actually create material out of nothingness without expending an enormous amount of energy, so the easiest way for them to produce ice to work with is to form it out of nearby bodies of water, or out of atmospheric moisture. With a ready supply of water, an ice mage can shape it into almost anything he likes: walls, platforms, ladders, handheld items, and tools of all descriptions. The volume of material is limited by the amount of water an ice mage has at his disposal, but ice magic has an advantage over types such as fire and force in that ice spells last. A wall of force vanishes as soon as the force mage stops concentrating, but a wall of ice lasts until it melts (which can be quite a while).

Kill It With Ice

Ice magic is well-suited to combat. Even relatively inexperienced ice mages can usually manage some sort of destructive spell: the most common one is a stream of ice shards and super-chilled air, the temperature freezing a target into immobility as the shards rip it apart. More skilled ice mages can simply freeze a target directly, dropping the temperature around it to the degree that it becomes a brittle, lifeless statue. While ice attacks lack the direct destructive power of fire magic, ice mages make up for it by being much better at defence. Ice shields can not only act as a physical barrier, but can slow and freeze attacks as they come in, draining away their energy.

Unusually for a battle-magic type, ice magic has the ability to be quite precise in its effects. While freezing an area or sending a blast of sub-zero air might sound pretty indiscriminate, ice mages can focus their spells to a degree that makes them surprisingly accurate. For this reason, they have a reputation for being good choices if you want to defend or protect something – they’re much less likely to cause collateral damage than a fire or force mages. If an ice mage hits something, it’s generally because he meant to.

Ice Age

Ice mages tend to be rational, organised, and reactive. Often they’re stereotyped as emotionless and cold, but this is inaccurate – ice mages have emotions the same as anyone else, they just tend to be self-controlled about them. Although not inherently destructive, they do have an aggressive streak, and it’s quite possible to make them lose their temper. Doing so is rarely a good idea. A personality quirk of ice mages is that they can be furiously angry, and yet at the same time control and channel their anger in a highly disciplined way. They’re also patient, and have a tendency to hold grudges.

Ice mages tend Light, rather than Dark. They’re disproportionately common in the Council in general and in the more militaristic branches of the Light Council in particular. Relatively few are independents, and those that are usually gravitate towards the more dangerous jobs. Ice mages might prefer order to chaos, but they’re quite happy with conflict.

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Ask Luna #26

From: Cyberjaeger

Hey luna I liked the way you took out the night stalkers in the casino very fine work 

I have some more questions

1. what other worlds were accessible back in the precursor society you mention alata as one

2. What ever happened to syriathis

3. and finally what has your teachers told you about dragons are there any othe breeds of them like sea dragons

Thanks.  Feels like a while ago now. 

Answers for your questions: 

1. Alata’s the only one I can remember.  Well, I guess there were the usual bubbles and shadow realms and stuff.  And I think there might have been other ones accessible from Alata, but I’m not sure.  

2. Got destroyed, I think.  Or abandoned, or something . . . look, this is really old stuff we’re talking here, and I might not have been paying that much attention when we covered it.  I mean, it’s not like you guys are expected to know what happened to every ancient city from thousands of years back, right?

3. I think there’s supposed to be this big split between dracoforms and true dragons.  The lesser ones are just ordinary magical creatures, fairly strong but nothing all that special.  The true dragons are something else and no-one seems to know much about them.  All we get taught in the classes is variants on ‘stay away’.  I’d kind of like to see one one day – Alex and Vari both have, but when they try to describe what they saw it never makes much sense.  

From: Jack.

Could we get an Encyclopaedia article on Ice magic? Thanks, Luna. 

Yeah, I think there’s one around.  I’ll go dig it up.  

From: Nightsbridge

Do you know if there are any methods of longevity that do not involve regular appointments with life mages or horrid ritual magic?

Not that I know about, nope.  It’s one of those subjects that our programme teachers won’t tell us much about.  Well, okay, they’ll tell us SOME things, but they don’t seem all that useful.  You don’t have to listen that long to figure out that it’s not something that mages like spreading around.  

From what Alex has told me low-level life extension isn’t that hard, you just need a life mage.  It’s when you get into the long-term stuff that it gets serious.  There are a bunch of different ways, none of them are public knowledge, and all of them are supposed to have major problems.  Apparently accidents or side effects to longevity magic are how quite a lot of mages end up dying, which seems weirdly backwards.

From: Nightsbridge

Hello again. Hope you don’t mind me sending in another question. I’d like to ask about your magic now.

During your books, we’ve seen you deflect water blasts with your curse-whip. I’m curious about how this works, since usually your curse seems to manifest as things that could have happened anyway, but the spontaneous failure of the magic it contacts makes me scratch my head a bit. Do you know how this works?

Yep, it’s something I’ve talked over with Alex.  It’s a combination of two things.  

Firstly, pretty much all magic types have some limited counterspelling ability.  Basically, if you stick a lot of your own magic into the middle of someone else’s spell, it’s likely to mess it up, even if the spells aren’t directly opposed to each other.  That’s how fire mages and air mages can block each other’s attacks, even though the products of their magic don’t really interact with each other much.  So if I focus my curse, it acts sort of like a shield.  

The second reason (and I think this is the bigger one) is that active spells are actually really fragile.  From what Vari’s told me, a spell you’re directly projecting is always right on the edge of losing cohesion and collapsing in on itself, especially if it’s a combat spell.  So if you take something that specialises in causing concentrated bad luck and pour it into an active spell, then all my curse has to do is find a tiny flaw somewhere to break the spell wide open.   

So putting those two things together, I can mess up almost any spell as long as I hit it right as it’s being cast.  Which is pretty cool.  

From: Claudia

Hi Luna! 

Maybe I’m missing something, but Alex’s power only allows him to see into the future, right? And the difference between a mage and an adept is that an adept can only do one thing with their power whereas a mage can do multiple things sort of all related to a basic power over air, heat, space, time, whatever. So why is Alex a mage and not an adept? If time mages like Sonder can actually manipulate time to some degree, why can’t Alex?

I think I did this question a way back.  

Yeah, Alex’s powers all basically come down to ‘seeing into the future’, in the same way that all Vari’s powers come down to ‘moving heat around’ and all Anne’s powers involve ‘controlling things that are alive’.  No-one calls THEM adepts, though.  I mean, my curse does two things, not one, it produces good luck AND bad luck, so that should mean I’m not an adept either, right?  Or you would have thought.  Not like anyone seems to listen, though.  Well, I suppose Alex and Anne do, but . . .

. . . what were you asking?  Oh, right, why Alex can’t manipulate time.  Beats me.  Life’s not fair, I guess.  Not that he’s got any right to complain given how useful his power is.  If anyone needs extra abilities, it’s those adepts who get something useless like “can see through magical concealment” and nothing else.

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New Reviews – I Read, Therefore I Blog

A nice set of reviews for the Alex Verus series from Caroline Hooton at her site, I Read, Therefore I Blog.  Links for each:


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Writing Patterns

The way I write has changed a lot over the years.

When I was writing my first novel, I was pretty chaotic.  I’d start at odd times and for odd durations and it’d be a complete toss-up whether I would or wouldn’t go back to the book in any given week.  Often I’d go for days or even weeks without making any progress.  Of course, a lot of that was because I didn’t really know what I was progressing to:  it took me fifty thousand words before I even figured out that I was writing a book in the first place.

My second and third books went more smoothly (which is is usually the way).  Still, I wasn’t particularly organised about it – writing wasn’t my job, just something I juggled in between all the other things I was doing in my Gap Year and at university.  After I graduated I started experimenting with different writing methods, some of which worked well and some of which worked . . . less well.  I went through a phase where I’d work from 12 to 3, AM and PM – as in, 12 noon to 3 in the afternoon, then again from midnight to 3 AM.  The fastest I’ve ever written a book was during this period – I finished a young adult novel in a little over two months.  On the other hand, to get that kind of speed I had to make some major trade-offs, and the schedule didn’t do my social life any favours, either.

It wasn’t until Taken that I started trying out a more methodical way of working (not coincidentally, this was around the point I shifted over to writing full-time).  I calculated how long I had until my deadline was up, then worked backwards to figure out how fast I’d have to write to make it.  As things turned out, I didn’t make the deadline, partly because my law finals happened to arrive just a little while before the book was due, and partly because while my arithmetic on the timing had been right, I hadn’t budgeted for any unexpected delays.  The manuscript was a couple of months late – not uncommon in the literary world, but it annoyed me all the same.

When I started Chosen, I took the lessons I’d learned and worked out a schedule.  I knew I had six months to write the book, and I also knew from past experience that my Alex Verus novels were averaging around the 90,000 word mark.  90,000 divided by six is 15,000, and 15,000 words a month comes out to 500 a day.  So, if I wrote 500 words a day for six months, that would equal one book – I just needed to make sure that when the inevitable delays happened, I’d do more on following days to make up for it. It didn’t turn out quite that neatly in practice (it never does) but it worked more than it failed, and I finished Chosen and sent it off to my publishers a few hours before the deadline.

I knew then that it was possible – to set a routine, and keep to it and compensate for any delays well enough to aim for a deadline months away and hit it.  I did the same thing with Hidden, and the same thing happened – I finished the manuscript almost exactly six months from starting it.  And that was how I started Alex Verus #6, and so far it’s working this time, too.

It’s become a routine, now.  I have the fonts and page settings on my word processing program calibrated to around 500 words a page, which means that instead of doing a word count I just need to finish each day’s writing one page on from yesterday.  Sometimes I get ahead of schedule, sometimes I get behind, but the fixed routine gives my day a level of structure that I otherwise wouldn’t have.  Maybe some day I’ll change it once again, but it’s working pretty well for now.  :)

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Ask Luna #25

From: Josh

Hi Luna,

So the Encyclopaedia says that fire magic is just the manipulation of heat. If that’s so, then why are fire and ice magic separate things?

The best way to think of it is to remember that the magic that can use is an extension of your personality.  If you can use fire magic, that says one thing about you, if you can use ice magic that says something else, and so on and so on.   

Well, a lot of personality traits are on an axis.  You can be more or less sociable, more or less logical, that kind of thing.  So a really introverted person and a really extroverted person are still on the same axis.  But does that mean they’re the same kind of person?  The answer’s obviously no, right?   

Well, magic types work the same way.  Fire mages and ice mages can both manipulate heat, but they do it in different ways and for different reasons.  For instance, fire mages are MUCH better at heating something up than cooling it down.  They can kind of cool something off a little bit by redirecting the heat somewhere else, but it’s not really what they’re good at – they’re much better at burning things.  Fire magic isn’t just ‘heat’, it’s action and passion and power.  So a fire mage couldn’t freeze a pool of water into ice – yes, technically it’s heat manipulation, but it goes completely against how their magic works.  They’re about movement and fire, not stillness and cold.  

From: Josh

Sorry for not putting these in the same message. 

How far does a light mage’s control extend? Can they shield? Can they make lasers?

Their control range is pretty similar to most mages, I think.  Long enough that it doesn’t matter unless you’re out on a prairie or a football field or something.  

And yes, they can shield, and yes, they can make lasers.  They’re better at the lasering part than the shielding part, though.  They’re kind of like fire and lightning mages that way – they’re good at frying things, not so good at stopping physical objects.  Though they can do some neat tricks with light manipulation that go a long way towards making up for that.  

From: Cyberjaeger

Hey luna I wonder what other wars have light and dark mages fought also what was the dark wars all about

Dunno which ones the ‘other wars’ are.  Other than what?  

The Dark Wars were this huge set of wars a couple of thousand years back.  Back then the links to Alata were still around, and mages were split between there and Earth.  Mages call it the Precursor society, nowadays.  I don’t know what started it, but it was something to do with this city called Syriathis and it turned into a big war between the Light mages and the Dark ones.  I don’t think there were Light and Dark mages before that, not exactly anyway – that was when they got codified.   

Anyway, the wars went on for ages and got really complicated – it wasn’t just Light and Dark mages, there were normals and nonhuman factions too.  It ended up with the Precursor society getting completely trashed, and somewhere along the line the portals to Alata got cut, too.  There are still bubbles and shadow realms, but nowadays gates on Earth mostly just link to Earth.

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Hidden Proofs and Alex Verus #6

Proof copies of Hidden have arrived!  I usually try to give the proofs of my books a read-over, but this time I doubt I’ll be able to – the new book’s taking up all my work time. Still, everything’s on schedule and Hidden ought to be coming out in September (or whenever it’s released) with no more issues.  I’m looking forward to it, since I want to see how people react when they find out what happens!

In the meantime, I’m working away on Alex Verus #6 (which still doesn’t have a title).  The story’s shaping up to be fairly different from the previous ones, enough so that it’s been tricky to write – I wasn’t able to structure it out in advance, so I’ve had to spend my planning time each week working out what I’m going to be writing the next week.  On the plus side, the story’s going fairly well, and those who’ve read it so far seem to be happy with it.  I still don’t know how it’s going to end, though I’m getting a good idea of what the state of play will be by that point.

In terms of pace I’m on schedule, but only just.  The manuscript’s at 40,000 words so far, my average length for an Alex Verus novel is around 90,000 words give-or-take, and my deadline is the end of June, so assuming I can keep up this pace I’ll finish at the deadline almost exactly.  Now I just have to hope that this one won’t require a rewrite of the same length that Hidden did . . .

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Ask Luna #24

From: Thomas

I would really love to be a Mage but unfortunately I’m not but could you tell me the different types of Mage anyway?

The most common magic types are:

Elemental mages:  Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Force, Ice
Living mages:  Life, Death, Mind, Charm
Universal mages:  Divination, Chance, Time, Space

Oh, and don’t worry too much about not being a mage.  You’ll probably live longer not being one.

From: Anton

Hey Luna,

Can you go over some of the things Alex can do magical that don’t involve his divination? All he seems to talk about is how mages are can ONLY do whatever is in there particular wheelhouse, but if that is the case how are they any different than adepts? Can he/does he make ANY of the items he uses (ie gatestones) or does he just get it all second hand? If he does make some does he he use and Envelopment Focus?

Ugh, this is going to take a while . . .

Okay, first off, yes, basically everything Alex does is divination.  That doesn’t make him an adept.  Adepts can do one spell, mages can do one type.  Just because every fire magic spell involves heat or fire in some way doesn’t mean that they’re all the SAME spell.  They channel it in different ways for different results.  What you’re saying is like saying that a dog and a gorilla and a bird are all basically the same thing, because they’ve all got warm blood.

Now, that said, Alex can do some stuff that isn’t directly divination-based, like his magesight and using focus items.  Even if he didn’t, though, he’d still qualify as a mage, because ‘looking into the future’ isn’t just one spell any more than ‘moving energy about’ is just one spell.  The path-walking he does and the short-range combat sense he uses both involve divination, but they’re useful for totally different things.

Now if you’re saying that you should call someone a mage rather than an adept based on how many different EFFECTS they can produce, that I’d be on board with.

From: Anton

Hey Luna,

3 questions:

1. Alex mentioned that Council Security uses Magical Items, do you know the kind of items they generally use?

2. Alex uses One-Shots and Imbued Items, why not any Foci? and finally, he mentions “One-Shots” often, but are there such a thing as “Multi-Shots” (one off spells that can be used multiple times, like a roman candle)?


1. The Keepers use much everything as far as I know.  Binding items, gate stones, protective wards, the lot.  They also have communicator focuses that they use for sharing info.  Or did you mean the mercenary guys?

2. Alex uses foci all the time.  What do you think gate stones are?

3. Yeah, there are multi-shot items as well as one-shot ones, but they’re not very common.  It’s kind of difficult to get them to stay stable, because once the first spell goes off it tends to make a mess of the housing.  Main reason mages don’t use them is, what’s the point?  Sure you could go to the extra effort to make the same item work two or three times . . . or you could just make two or three copies instead, which is less effort.  It’s the same reason you don’t try to make a bomb that explodes more than once.

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Second Anniversary

FatedUSCover100As of this week, we’ve just passed the two-year mark for the release of Fated!  Last year I did a ‘First Anniversary’ post, where I looked back on everything that had happened since Fated’s publication.  Now it’s the second anniversary instead of the first – what’s happened since then?

In a lot of ways my second year of being a published (non-children’s) writer has been less eventful than the first.  In 2012, I had three books come out at three-month intervals – Fated, Cursed, Taken.  It would be nice to be able to keep releasing books at that pace, but unfortunately I write MUCH slower than that – the only reason Orbit and Ace were able to publish so many of my books so fast in 2012 was that I had Fated and Cursed written and edited well before 2012 arrived.  In 2013, I had only one book published, Chosen.

One book a year is, unfortunately, a lot closer to my actual writing rate, as borne out by this year’s work – the main writing I did in 2013 was Book #5 of the Alex Verus series, Hidden.  That said, I’m hoping to go a little bit faster than that in future.  Hidden wound up taking twelve months total – three months planning, six months writing, and another three months editing and rewriting until I got something me and my editors were all happy with.  For book #6, I’m shooting for nine months rather than twelve, and I’ve got a deadline to motivate me – the first draft of book #6 is due in by the end of June.

On that topic, the big news for this last year for me has been the contract for books #6 and #7 of the Alex Verus series.  It’s always a huge relief as an author when deals like this get settled – no matter how well sales seem to be going, you’re never quite sure how the publishers see it.  Now that the contracts are done and signed, there are going to be Alex Verus books coming out all the way into 2016, which feels weird to write (very far ahead, isn’t it?) but which is good.  Means I can focus on the writing without having to worry about the series being suddenly cut off!

The second piece of news publishing-wise for 2013 was the release of the Tantor audiobooks for the Alex Verus series.  I’ve been getting “when are the audiobooks coming out?” questions for what feels like forever, so it was nice to be able to finally answer that with a positive.  There are some tentative plans for UK audiobooks in the works, too, but nothing definite yet – I’ll post when I have more news.

So while there hasn’t been a huge amount of news for the past year, there’s still been a fair bit, and all of the news has been good.  The Alex Verus novels are still going and still selling, the work on writing more of them is going well, and my publishers are happy enough with them that they’re contracting for more.  Enough to give me reason to be optimistic about the next year!

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Delay Day

Had been planning to do an Ask Luna column for today, but got distracted – the current book’s going slower than usual and it’s taking up all of my time.

I hit these blocks from time to time.  Usually it happens either when I haven’t planned out the story in enough detail, and need to stop and work it out, or when I have planned out the story in detail and realise that it needs changing.  (The second one’s much worse.  This delay is the first kind, luckily.)

It’s not really an emergency though – it’s happened before, it’ll happen again, and I’ve gone through it enough times to be used to it (and I doubt it’ll stop me hitting my deadline).  Still tends to make it hard to focus on anything else, though!

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Review Day

A long time since I’ve done one of these, so I thought I’d put up some of the more interesting reviews the Alex Verus series has had over the past few months.  (It’s funny how blase you get about reviews.  I used to read every one I’d get and pay really close attention to each.  But the more of them that get put out there, the more they blend together.)

Chosen reviewed by Felicia Day
Another review of Chosen, this one by Charlaine Harris
Chosen a third time, from Natassia at Literary Escapism
And one of Taken, this one from Jenn at Tynga’s Reviews.

In the meanwhile, work on Hidden is all done and Alex Verus #6 is coming along nicely (no, no title yet).  Delivery date for the first draft is July 1st, and at the moment it’s looking as though I should be able to meet it.  The backlog of Ask Luna questions is all cleared, so if you’ve got any you’ve been thinking of sending in, now’s a good time!

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