Magic is fun. Magic is dangerous. It can be used to create or to destroy, to provide solutions, or to thwart your enemies. It represents power, but that’s often less important than what one plans to do with it.
In today’s Wyrd and Wonder post, I’m talking about some of my favourite practitioners of that old arcane art, in all of its terrible glory. Behold…
Raistlin Majere (The Dragonlance Chronicles)
I tweeted some of my favourite wizards back near the beginning of the month, in answer to one of the challenge prompts from imyril, and Raistlin was the first name out of the bag, being the first wizard to ever really catch my interest. And he’s a pretty legendary one.
Raistlin is an intriguing combination of ‘powerful wizard’ and ‘antihero’ – he has friends, even if he generally seems to disdain or resent them, and he is capable of showing kindness, particularly to others who suffer hardship in life through no fault of their own (a lot like he does). Raistlin’s ill health and subsequent, deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy (and aforementioned resentment) result in an intense drive to be the most powerful mage he can possibly become, and silly things like morality don’t stand in his way. He’s a wonderfully complicated and surprisingly sympathetic character, and he opened the doors to me for an appreciation of arcane arts that’s only gotten stronger.
Caleb Widogast (Critical Role, Campaign 2: The Mighty Nein)
Cut to today, and it seems I’m still getting my fix of D&D magic users by way of The Saddest Hobo Wizard, thanks to Critical Role. Caleb (played so amazingly well by Liam O’Brien) is capable of being quite charming when needs must, and when he isn’t being crushed by his own self-loathing or hobbled by social anxiety (for spoilery reasons I won’t go into here). He can be delightfully funny in a nerdy sort of way, when the weight of his world gives him a break. But it’s impossible to forget that there’s an end goal in mind for him, even if it’s only within his own mind, and that whatever ends up happening, it is going to be – dare I say it? – great and terrible.
Holland Vosijk (Shades of Magic)
Another powerful mage struggling with internal and moral conflicts – I certainly do like them dark and often moody, if it’s for a good cause! Sort of.
The morally grey ‘villain’ of V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy had me spending a lot of my time whilst reading these books wanting to yell at him, but on the other hand I spent an equal amount of time wishing I could give him a hug and a cup of tea and tell him everything would be all right if he’d just STOP MAKING TERRIBLE DECISIONS. Oh, Holland.
Kathe, The Crow Lord of Let (Swords and Fire)
Melissa Caruso’s debut fantasy trilogy is firmly ensconced among the books that have blown my mind this year, and a standout reason (among many reasons) is how gleefully and completely I fell for Kathe. Like his avian namesake, Kathe is clever, mischievous and often portends death or bad luck. Oh, and he’s one of the Witch Lords of Vaskandar (AKA The Sworn Enemies). It’s no wonder Amalia spends so much of her time torn about whether or not she can trust him – but there’s more to this Witch Lord than there seems… I won’t spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read these books yet but let’s just say there are some excellent reasons why I love him so much!
Diago Alvarez (Los Nefilim)
I love a good heaven vs. hell/conflict born of duality situation, and Diago Alvarez exemplifies this in T. Frohock’s Los Nefilim stories. Diago is half angel, half demon, and struggles to find peace with his own nature while fighting to prove himself to Los Nefilim, the band of supernatural spies and rebels operating in Spain during the Civil War of the 1930s. Thanks to their nature, Nefilim are capable of using music or song to literally magical effect, and this approach to magic is rare enough in my experience to be memorable. I have plenty of other reasons to love Diago and these stories, but this particular use of magic, and Diago’s skill with it, earn him a solid place on this list.
Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter Series)
Come on, now. There was no way I was going to compile a list like this and forget to mention one of the smartest, fiercest witches ever written/portrayed.
I will confess to having watched all of the Harry Potter film adaptations while still not having read the books, but I posit that this does not matter so much because HERMIONE BLOODY GRANGER.
She’s the embodiment of a confident girl who grows up to be a confident young woman, and while she may not technically be the star of the show, this doesn’t matter because Hermione knows what she can do, and she does it regardless of what anyone thinks or says about her. She might try a little too hard to put herself forward and be the one with the answer sometimes, but when you actually do know the answer, why shouldn’t you provide it? Hermione owns her capabilities. She just plain owns.
Esmerelda “Granny” Weatherwax (The Discworld Series)
As with Hermione, there was always, always going to be a place on this list for the wisest, cleverest, crankiest old witch I’ve ever encountered on the page. It was always going to be fitting for Sir Terry’s epic series to end with her, and while there’s only so much I can say about that without spoilers, I’m pretty sure fellow fans know and understand what I mean when I say: She aten’t dead.
Jester Lavorre (Critical Role, Campaign 2: The Mighty Nein)
The absolutely antithetical answer to Caleb Widogast. The sunshine to his rain, the giant purple lollipop to the face of his cynicism, and the sweetest, most cheerful member of The Mighty Nein. Oh, and she’s their begrudging, can’t-believe-I-have-to-waste-my-spells-on-this-crap cleric, to boot.
I love a good disgruntled healer, and somehow Jester (AKA Laura Bailey) manages to be all of the above and more. It took a while for her unquenchably cheeky nature to win me over, but in the end I fell for her so fiercely I can’t even.
But something about The Traveller still isn’t right, you guys. It isn’t right.
The Luidaeg (The October Daye series)
Ten years ago I might have put Ursula on this list. But there’s an even better (and hands-down more terrifying) sea witch in my life now.
The Luidaeg starts out being very reluctantly dragged into October Daye’s life, and her misadventures, against her will. Or does she? Make no mistake, everything about the Luidaeg probably deserves to be questioned, most certainly including her motives – and her own endgame. She’s the freaking sea witch, for goodness sake. Sweetness and light, she is not. But she does have a heart, and mine belongs to her. Even though she’s most likely going to rip it out of me before the end.