Brandon Sanderson is one of my favourite fantasy writers, hands down.

His stories are often fast-paced, action-packed with wonderful worlds and superb magic systems. I remember when I first finished reading Mistborn (later subtitled ‘The Final Empire’), I wanted to pick it up and read it again. Right there. At 2 am on a work night.

I didn’t, but I was damn close.

Back to the topic – magic. In fantasy fiction, and any fiction that messes with reality, the way a writer uses magic is vital to a sense of wonder and (partly) suspension of disbelief. If we as readers don’t come to believe that whatever magic the writer uses is within the realms of possibility (for that world) in some way, we can have trouble buying into the story.

Over the years Brandon has written a few essays on what he feels make up a great magic system. They’re incredibly useful – if you’re in the joyous stage of creating a world, have a read right away. I not only found the essays useful in establishing complex magic systems, but the first law especially, assisted me in realising that I wanted my magic in City of Masks to be more of a ‘Soft’ system as Brandon terms it in the First Law essay.

Check em out – I’ve posted a quote from each, but it’s forty-hundred thousand times better to read the whole thing.

The Laws

The First Law

  • An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.

The Second Law

  • Limitations > Powers


  • Superman is not his powers. Superman is his weaknesses.

The Third Law

  • Expand what you already have before you add something new.