Tough Travels: Adepts

I’m on the road doing a little real-world travelling at the moment, so I’m glad to still be able to join in for a little fantasy travelling too. This feature was originally created and run by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction. Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s humorous classic The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, every month it puts the spotlight on a particular fantasy trope, theme or cliché, and invites bloggers to list stand-out books related to that week’s theme.

This month’s theme is adepts:

The Tough Guide defines an Adept as ‘one who has taken what amounts to a post-graduate course in Magic. If a Magic User is given this title, you can be sure he/she is fairly hot stuff. However, the title is neutral and does not imply that the Adept is either Good or Evil.’

Ah, the study of magic – who doesn’t secretly want to be trained as a witch or wizard? Sadly I don’t have that option, so here are three well-trained fictional magic-wielders through whom I’ve enjoyed the vicarious experience of magical excellence:

The Broken Eye (Lightbringer #3)

Image: The Broken EyeI already mentioned this series for Beginnings, but I have to mention it again for adepts, not just because the words ‘hot stuff’ make me think of the arrogant, all-powerful protagonist Gavin Guile, but simply because the book is full of adepts who really had to study, practice, research and experiment to learn how to use their magical skills. Most of this story takes place at the ‘Chromeria’ (very much like a university) which teaches people how to ‘draft’ different colours of light. Given the number of colours and the ways they can be used and combined, adepts both good and evil are always discovering new methods to get an edge on each other, even in this third instalment in the series.

The Emperor’s Blades

Book Cover: The Emperor's BladesKaden is heir to the throne, and although he is far from your typical magic-wielding wizard, I think he still counts as an adept, because he has spent years training in a remote monastery to develop special skills. These skills are so subtle they almost don’t seem like magic – things like committing detailed images to memory and controlling his heart rate. However, there is one particular, crucial kind of skill that he is there to learn – one on which the fate of his kingdom might rest – and it is not at all what you’d expect (I won’t reveal what it is to avoid spoilers!). This was a suspenseful, refreshing high fantasy, and I particularly enjoyed the mysterious, unusual purpose behind Kaden’s training.

Shadow & Bone

Book Cover: Shadow and BoneAlina Starkov might start out as an orphaned, overlooked refugee, but when she reveals her unique talent – one that has the potential to save her country from the darkness that has torn it in two – she is taken in and trained as a member of the magical elite ‘Grisha’. Despite being on a path to becoming an adept (she still has some learning to do), she is soon forced to go up against a much older, more powerful, highly-trained adept – and the scales don’t seem tipped in her favour. This was a compelling YA fantasy, and it also drew inspiration from Russian language, so when I listened to the audiobook I really enjoyed hearing all the words and names.


For links to more Tough Travelling posts, or to join in yourself and see next month’s theme, check out the host page on Fantasy Faction!

< Last Month’s Tough Travels: ‘Non-Human Heroes’

Next Month’s Tough Travels: ‘Strongholds’>

17 thoughts on “Tough Travels: Adepts

  1. I would classify an adept more as graduate-level. Post-graduate would be a master. Adepts are still learning, like grad students. Post-grads are either leaders or researchers, using what they have already learned. The Magic University is such a common trope, I wonder if there is a book out there that uses real world equivalents for their magic students (Discworld gets close). “My name is Spark McBolts and I’m doing my master’s in Arcane Conductivity, then I will start my Ma.D in AOE Studies.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes that’s probably a good way to divide it up further, ‘master’ does sound more accomplished and suggests researcher/leader-level. And that’s true, you rarely see real world degree equivalents at Magic universities… though there’s often a ranking system of some kind, if a loose one. I love Spark McBolts and his master’s in Arcane Conductivity!! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Adept” does have a particular ring to it. Seems like Andre Norton used that in her Witch World novels, to indicate a highly skilled practitioner of magic.

    My Seven Exalted Orders has novice, initiate and master as the ranks. If I ever go back for a revision, I’ll have to consider adept instead of master.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. haha I think *everyone* secretly dreams of being a magician/witch/wizard!! I still need to read Brent Weeks- I feel like I’ve been meaning to forever! And I like the sound of Emperor’s Blades 🙂 Shadow and Bone was a great choice too!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved the Grisha trilogy and I’m really hoping I’ll enjoy the other two recs as well 🙂 They all sound amazing!
    And I agree, the Russian folklore aspect was incredibly interesting, even if some people (who are Russian) have said it’s not totally accurate, especially when it comes to the language. But thankfully, I was none the wiser and totally missed it hahaha

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh great, I hope you enjoy them too! And yeah I heard someone mention it was not totally accurate, but I also didn’t notice it because I have zero experience with Russian! 😀 Plus since it wasn’t actually supposed to be Russian, just loosely based on it, I figured it didn’t matter so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This one really got me thinking about the Adepts I have read about. Surprisingly few, actually! I haven’t read the Grisha trilogy yet, but I loved the Six of Crows duology and I’d love to learn more about that world. I might take a page from your book and listen to the audiobook, as well. I find it’s easier to remember character names in fantasy when I listen to the audiobooks.

    Keep these coming! I love these posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I hope you enjoy the Grisha trilogy if you read it – I don’t think it’s quite as good as the Six of Crows duology (which does set a high bar!) but it’s still a great read, and the audiobooks are very well done.

      I also find it easier to remember character names from audiobooks – the only problem is when I mention them in a post I have to look up how they’re spelled because I have no idea! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Six of Crows does set a high bar– but that’s what happens when you don’t read an author’s debut works. Oops! I love audiobooks, so I’ll definitely check out these in that format.

        I agree with you! I love listening to fantasy via audiobook because of this. I recently listened to the Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie via audiobook. First of all, the narrator is AMAZING. Second, I would never have pronounced those character names like that ever. And finally, it allows me to remember the character names and speak about them more easily. I really love the fantasy-audiobook experience.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Tough Travels #4: Adepts | Zezee with Books

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