Let’s talk about one of the coolest aspects of young adult (YA) urban fantasy novels: magic systems. There’s just something so incredibly fascinating about supernatural shenanigans taking place in our own modern world. Some of these books have really well-defined magic systems, while others keep things a bit more mysterious. Let’s dive into a few wicked examples of how authors bring enchantment to our everyday lives. Trust us, these books will put a spell on you!
Structured Magic: The Mortal Instruments and The Grisha Trilogy
When it comes to magic systems with rules and limitations, you can’t go wrong with Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. Clary Fray is just your average teen until she finds out she’s actually a Shadowhunter, part-angel, part-human warriors fighting off demons. This magic system revolves around runes—ancient symbols that Shadowhunters draw on their skin to gain power. With runes for everything from strength to invisibility, it’s like a supernatural tattoo parlor!
Another amazing example of a structured magic system is Leigh Bardugo’s The Grisha Trilogy. This series takes place in a world where people called Grisha can manipulate matter in various ways, like creating fire or stopping hearts. Grisha are divided into three orders—Corporalki, Etherealki, and Materialki—each with their own unique abilities. It’s like a magical hierarchy, and Bardugo’s world-building is seriously on point.
Loosey-Goosey Magic: The Raven Cycle and The Night Circus
Now, let’s get into those magic systems that are a bit more free-spirited, shall we? Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series serves up some seriously mystical vibes. The story revolves around Blue Sargent, a girl from a psychic family (though she’s not psychic herself), and her quest with a group of prep school boys to find the tomb of an ancient Welsh king. The magic here is tied to ley lines—mysterious energy channels—and the supernatural elements are unpredictable and deeply emotional. Talk about atmospheric!
Another fantastic example of a more intuitive magic system can be found in Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (not strictly YA, but a great crossover). In this mesmerizing tale, two young magicians, Celia and Marco, are pitted against each other in a magical duel that takes place within the enchanting, black-and-white-striped tents of a traveling circus. The magic in this book is whimsical, intuitive, and often breathtaking, making the reader feel as though they’re walking through the circus gates themselves.
Magic systems in YA urban fantasy can be just as diverse as the worlds they bring to life. Whether you’re into the structured, rule-based systems like those in The Mortal Instruments and The Grisha Trilogy, or prefer the more mysterious, intuitive magic found in The Raven Cycle and The Night Circus, there’s a magical adventure out there just waiting for you. Now, go forth and let these stories cast their spell on you!