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The Heavy Cost for Magic

In this guest post, debut author J.G. Gardner tells us about the cost of magic in his fantastical world.

Without further ado…


Every job has occupational hazards, but I’m hard pressed to think of one where your death is a guaranteed outcome. And even if such a career existed, what type of benefits would you have to receive in order to even consider working in such a profession? This idea of a “killer job” is woven into my debut fantasy novel, The Path From Regret. In the world that I’ve created, being a wizard is not awesome.

I wanted to create a magic system where there were real stakes and consequences to being able to manipulate the world at will. I’d read too many stories where the major consequence of using magic was the practitioner got tired, or was required to study for long periods of time. Thinking those ideas were both kind of dull, I wanted the wizards in my world to be a strange mix of powerful but broken. So what I did was make magic a chronic disease.

The use of magic in The Path From Regret is known as Awareness, and it results in a condition called the Iron Bane. The general idea is that the iron in a wizard’s blood reacts negatively with the arcane energy in their body and it slowly erodes their nervous system. It doesn’t matter if a wizard practices magic or not, just the presence of the energy makes them sick. The damage manifests itself by the destruction of the five senses, so wizards lose their ability to interact with the outside world as their sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing all decay. Finally, the nerve damage becomes so great and ultimately results in a fatal outcome. If you are a wizard, your magic will kill you. There are two classes of wizards in The Path From Regret. The first are those that are born into magic and can use it innately. I would argue this is the tragic class of wizard because they had no choice in the matter; their fate is already sealed. The second class consists of people who choose to use magic. There are no special chosen few, anyone can have their mind unlocked to magic, but very few do because of the terrible cost. What type of person would willingly decide to become a wizard, knowing full well that it will cripple and then kill them? What problems would you need to have in your life that being a wizard seems like a good idea?

The main character in The Path From Regret, a man named Thorne, is one such person who chose to become a wizard. Very early on in the story you learn that Thorne is trying to erase his memories. He had a painful past and thought that with a wizard’s power he might find a way to unburden himself of his mistakes and ease his conscience. As the book’s title suggests, themes of memory, regret, and time are explored. For Thorne, who has already permanently lost his sense of taste and smell, his desire to erase his painful memories was a critical factor in his decision to become a wizard.

Back cover blurb of The Path From Regret

Thorne is a Paragon, a mage with the rare ability to wield his mana as a weapon. Despite knowing powerful magic, he lives a life of despair, continually fighting a losing battle against his inner demons and the specters of the people whose lives he could not save. Finally reaching his breaking point, Thorne decides to seek out an old lover, Celeste, who has the power to erase memories.

After a disastrous attempt to find Celeste destroys part of the mages’ guild, Thorne tries to make amends by volunteering to find an influential mage that has disappeared. During his investigation Thorne discovers that the missing mage was the victim of a conspiracy led by Reihana, a former Paragon and bitter rival. Recruiting unlikely allies including a disgraced cavalier, a farmer turned mercenary, and a corsair captain who lost his ship, Thorne chases after Reihana in an attempt to stop her plans for sowing the seeds of rebellion and war across the continent. Along the way Thorne will need to continue his search for Celeste, and perhaps more importantly, decide if wiping his mind clean of past mistakes is really his only option.

About the author

J.G. Gardner has a Ph.D. in Microbiology and is currently a researcher working on new ways to generate renewable energy using bacteria. While having published many technical papers on genetics and biochemistry, he has always wanted to write a novel about magic, wizards, and dragons. After the birth of his children, he was inspired to fulfill that dream and used spare moments on nights and weekends to write his debut high fantasy novel, The Path From Regret, published by Loyola University of Maryland's Apprentice House Press.


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