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Literature: New Arcana

New Arcana, by Jean Townsend, is a series of fantasy novels set in a post-scientific world with cultural parallels to present-day America. The main characters enlist in the mildly military Collitional Order of Neomages, where they are placed in small cohorts that imitate the composition of sword-and-sorcery rpg adventuring parties. The first two books of the series describe the training and first missions of Cohort 801.


These books provide examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: The setting is inspired by fantasy rpgs, and the characters use swords, armor, and other medieval-style equipment. Their world, however, has trains, skyscrapers, electric lights, and factories; technology seems to have been developed to about the point of the early 20th century. The characters themselves have early 21st-century attitudes and speech patterns.
  • Death Is Cheap: Members of Neomage cohorts can resurrect each other when they die.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Roland likes Kiri but hooks up with Miranda, who has a crush on Luke, who has a crush on Corryn, who used to be involved with Kurt but also seems occasionally to hook up with Elmin, who hooks up with anyone, including Kiri and Miranda, who ends up in a relationship with Wynne, who is an “old friend” of Elmin’s.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Magic follows rules. One of the big ones is that female mages can cast spells only on themselves, and male mages can cast spells only on things other than themselves.
  • Mana: Called tensia. A mage who runs out of tensia can't cast any more spells until the tensia is built back up with time and rest.
  • Mildly Military: Justified, because the Order deliberately tries to distance itself from the traditional military.
  • The Power of Blood: Only people with mageblood can use arcane magic. Mageblood is a street drug. The Order's soul-binding ritual involves mingling the blood of the cohort members.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: ONM has research facilities and an entire research council.
NeverwhereFantasy LiteratureThe Night Angel Trilogy

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