Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net
Holly Lisle's Vision

Modern Magic in Books: 

A short overview of Modern Magic novels

By Cindy M. Clark

2001, Cindy M. Clark 

Editor's note:  This is a short list of novels that deal with magic in the 'real' world, a subgenre that is often referred to as Urban Fantasy.  If you are considering writing this type story, this list will give you a starting point to study some of the best selling material of this type.


Like all writers, I  tend to read a lot. For this article I decided to go through the books I’ve read and find ones that relate to modern magic. If you are interested in writing in this subgenre,  these books might  spark your imagination with modern magic ideas for your own material.

The first author up is L. J. Smith, or Lisa Jane Smith. Almost of all her novels revolve around modern magic, but I'll only discuss two. Dark Visions is about a girl who is elected to be part of a teenage group. They all soon find out that they have psychic abilities, which is in its own way, magic. I won’t give away the plots for all three books; however, I found these three books fast-paced, easy to read and enjoyable.  

L. J. Smith's other series, Secret Circle, starts with another teenage girl who, with her mother, suddenly moves away from her familiar settings. At the new school she becomes involved in a club, and soon learns that it centers on magic and witchcraft.  Like the other series, the three books are fast-paced and keep you interested until the last page. 

I think it’s a safe bet to say that nearly everyone who reads fantasy has read some of Mercedes Lackey’s books. The books that deal most with modern magic are her Serrated Edge ones. These books feature elves who drive racecars that are really elven steeds, and humans who are tangled up with them in mysterious ways. Each book features different characters and the different evils they have to overcome. Larry Dixon, Mark Shepherd, Rosemary Edghill, and even Holly Lisle have coauthored Serrated Edge books.

Mercedes' other modern magic series is the Diana Tregarde Investigation trilogy.  These tell the story of a romance writer who is at the same time a powerful witch. The three books show her helping a policeman solve a mass murder, finding out how to stop psi-vampries, and helping a teenage boy find his own magic power. These are books you can’t put down until you’ve read the last paragraph.

A lot of people have also read Terry Brooks' work. His Running With the Demon, A Knight of the Word, and Angel Fire East books all fit the category of modern magic. In the first book we find a girl who has a friend that is a spirit from the forest. We also find a man who is a Knight of the Word and hunts evil. The Knight of the Word is shown dreams of what the world will become if he doesn’t help change things, and this is done using magic; and the young girl's parents also show the use of magic. These books were interesting: a change of pace from the normal fantasy books.

I’m not sure if anyone has read Mark Anthony’s The Last Rune series. I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t run across the first two books at a discount store. The first one is about a man and a young woman doctor who are is taken from the modern realm and pushed into a medieval one. She soon finds out that she has magic and must learn how to use it, while the man also finds he has what is called rune magic. I have yet to read book three, but you can find more about his books at Mark Anthony's web page: www.thelastrune.com

The last author I'll discuss is K. A. Applegate and her Everworld books. I just learned that the series is going to be twelve books long. This one starts out with a teenage girl being sucked into another world and her four friends following her. The four friends land in a world that is inhabited by all the old gods and other things that have been forced from Earth. The friends find themselves barely surviving, and their only hope is in their dreams where they find themselves back in their bodies that are still in Earth. This is an interesting series, each book is in first person with a different person telling the story.

I hope everyone gets a chance to look at these books.  If you love tales of modern magic, these books are some of the best.