Literature / Schooled In Magic

Schooled in Magic is the title of both a 2014 crossover fantasy novel by Christopher Nuttall and the series overall, which includes Lessons in Etiquette, Study in Slaughter, Work Experience, School of Hard Knocks, Love's Labor's Won, Trial By Fire, Wedding Hells, Infinite Regress and Past Tense.

Emily is a teenage girl pulled from our world into a world of magic and mystery by a necromancer who intends to sacrifice her to the dark gods. Rescued in the nick of time by an enigmatic sorcerer, she discovers that she possesses strange magical powers and must go to Whitehall School to learn how to master them. There, she discovers that the locals believe that she is a Child of Destiny, someone whose choices might save or damn their world ... a title that earns her both friends and enemies. She may never fit into her new world ...

...And the necromancer is still hunting her. If Emily can't stop him, he might bring about the end of days.

She knows all sorts of ideas and innovations that can be introduced to improve her new world, but will she have the time to teach her new friends how to make them?

Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Emily's stepfather is a leering man who, while never having touched her, left mental scars by the way he spoke to and looked at her.
  • The Archmage: Void is a Lone Power who first discovered and rescued Emily. It is implied that there are other archmage type people out there, but we haven't met them yet in the books.
  • Aerith and Bob: Completely unique names are freely mixed with ones from our world.
  • And I Must Scream: People can be turned into stone or paralyzed by magic, while still being entirely aware of their surroundings but unable to move or do anything about it.
  • Animal Eye Spy: It's mentioned that sorcerers can form a bond with birds to use them this way.
  • Attempted Rape: Emily fends off one by a drunken villager, turning him into a pig. He had to be very drunk for trying this on a sorceress. This brings up bad memories about her creepy stepfather. It's stated he probably had done this many times before, and Lady Barb puts a curse on him that well turn him into a pig for good if he ever does again.
  • Badass Bookworm: Emily was a bookworm even before she was brought to this new world. Lucky for her, greater learning equals greater power.
  • Bag of Holding: Trunks which can hold far more than their appearance would suggest exist, due to a pocket dimension. Emily traps a huge cockatrice in hers, although this wrecks it.
  • The Bait: Lady Barb was used as this by Void once while they were investigating a sorcerer suspected of necromancy, resulting in her grudge against him.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Changing someone into an animal is commonly used as a prank by the Whitehall students. Later Emily encounters a much nastier version, in which a murderer is turned into a boar as punishment and hunted to his death.
  • Biggus Dickus: A grotesque example. Emily reads about a boy who tried to "improve" his genitals, and apparently the result was quite horrifying.
  • Black Magic: There is some suggestion that the elves long ago used magic to twist and shape humanity to create the other races. This is just one example of black magic in the books. Black magic is not necessarily forbidden, but it is not taught lightly.
  • Blood Magic: Blood can be used for various kinds of magic and therefore all people carefully try to protect it from being used against them.
  • Cessation of Existence: This is pondered by Emily in the first book, after she hears the elves can destroy souls. She fears that without an afterlife, people would just do whatever they wanted.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Emily sees a group of women wearing them outside Whitehall, protectors of their virginal sisters. She speculates it's merely to make a statement of their femininity, rather than offer actual protection.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Emily is stated to come across like this to people because she is not from the Nameless world. Also she is repeatedly mentioned to be not observant and unaware off peoples feelings. Also the author states Emily has high-functioning autism.
  • Compelling Voice: Lady Barb casts a compulsion spell whose effect is through sound, making an angry mob disperse when she finds that the man they accused of child murder was innocent.
  • Corporal Punishment: Punishment in the Nameless World can be quite severe, from simply spankings (with a paddle) to being turned to stone permanently.
  • The Coup: One is made against Alassa's father in book two by nobles upset at the changes he's wrought with Emily's help, making them hide and work to undo it.
  • Court Mage: Emily comes across several court wizards as she is traveling with Princess Alassa. In Zangaria (Alassa's kingdom) the court wizard Zed, a talented alchemist, greatly resents Emily, seeing her as a rival.
  • Cure Your Gays: Discussed by Emily and Rudolf, who wants to know if his sexual orientation can be changed by magic so he won't face discrimination and prejudice. However, while spells can stop people from acting on desire, Emily still doubts sexual orientation is completely changeable.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Any form of necromantic rite is absolutely forbidden, for the power that it gives a person will, with all certainty, drive them insane. It also requires the death of another person with magic.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Emily finds it very hard to deal with the society of the Nameless World, whose ways (ranging from treating commoners and women as second-class citizen to brutal punishments of criminals) baffle or horrify her at times. Many of the inhabitants find her opinions very odd as well.
  • Disappeared Dad: Emily's father departed from her life when she was very young.
  • Don't Look at Me!: Emily is extremely self-conscious of her sexual self at first and is afraid of being looked at in that way. She slowly gets better about this, sharing her first kiss with Jade, a fellow Whitehall student.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Necromancers play a big role in the story as they have taken over fully two-thirds of the world and are far too powerful to fight alone.
  • Familiar: Emily makes a Death Viper one to stop it from killing her.
  • Fantasy Contraception: Study In Slaughter mentions that contraception spells and parental tests exist, though the Allied Lands' culture is still conservative about sex (e.g. women are expected to remain virgins if unmarried in most cases).
  • Fantastic Racism: While Emily only experiences this second hand, there is a superior, almost racist attitude from those with magical powers over those without. There are also intelligent magical creatures in the Nameless World who receive varying degrees of racism.
  • Fish out of Water: Emily is completely out of place in the medieval-like Nameless World, and frequently finds it difficult to adjust.
  • Friendless Background: Emily left no ties behind in the real world that make her long for home. She is only now making friends for the first time in this new world.
  • Functional Magic: For those who possess magic, it is an indispensable part of life and is used for even mundane tasks.
  • Geas: There are many spells of this sort mentioned or shown. People are compelled to be loyal, obedient and tell the truth with them, etc.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: Emily has long-term plans for the Nameless World she finds herself in. She is not naive to the fact that there will be upheaval and revolt during the process of change, but she will not simply stand by and watch the serfs suffer under their lords and ladies forever. Therefore she is always sharing her technological knowledge with the lower classes first. Even so, she does not share everything she knows for fear that it will be abused.
  • Hates Being Touched: There are times in the first book where Emily is described as being very uncomfortable and self-conscious with someone's non-sexual touch (i.e. brushing past her). She gets over this with time.
  • Heroic Suicide: Sergeant Harkin willingly offers himself up for death when Shadye forces Emily to choose one of the prisoners to kill to take his mana. Except Harkin had no mana, since he's not a sorcerer, and this surprise distracts Shadye long enough for Emily to get the vial of her blood that he's using to control her from him, saving the school. It also doubles as a Batman Gambit.
  • Human Sacrifice: This is how the necromancers gain their power.
  • I Know Your True Name: Knowledge of a person's true, full name can be used to work magic against them, so mages use just their forenames or an adopted one.
  • Interrogating the Dead: Emily suggests this to discover if two dead criminals had any accomplices, but finds out it's completely taboo after people react with outrage at the very idea.
  • Just Between You and Me: The villain in the second novel obligingly reveals the entire plan to Emily while Alassa is being held at swordpoint. Naturally, Alassa and Emily turn the tables after this has happened, resulting in the villain's death.
  • Love Potion: They're available outside Whitehall, but banned inside. A love potion's effect can be permanent, and lessened only if redirected onto something else. It's stated any student caught with them will wish they were merely expelled. The ones outside Whitehall apparently don't really work, just give people confidence, and true love potions are much rarer. Later some are shown to be sold which only work if people drink them willingly, to insure a married couple stays in love to conceive a child.
  • Made a Slave: Slavery is a common institution in the Nameless World. While not a large part of the story, it is mentioned that magic (as well as political power) is used to enslave people for various reasons. The Allied Lands have slaves to some extent, though the necromancers' lands are outright slave societies with slaves used as human sacrifices.
  • Magical Library: There is a library of magical books at the school which are rare because they have to be hand-written (there is no printing press before Emily introduces it).
  • Magically Binding Contract: A person who swears a magical oath but refuses to fulfill it, or deliberately puts themselves in a situation so they cannot, will die. If they're unable to fulfill it because of something beyond their control, though, it won't kill them. It's discussed by name at greater length in book 3, when Emily starts taking a class in Law.
  • Magic Is Mental: Magic is a mental exercise often described as being similar to programming in the mind.
  • Magic Wand: Wands are used to store spells which have been prepared ahead of time, and are thus the sign of a weak sorcerer who can't cast things on the fly, or muggles.
  • Mana: Most magic is powered by this, and it's a pervasive part of the Nameless World.
  • Medieval Stasis: Despite having magic that could easily create most technology in our world, no one thought of doing so before Emily, and they still remain at a medieval-level society, though this is rapidly changing due to her innovations.
  • Mind Rape: Emily is constantly appalled at the use of magic that endangers or attacks a person's mind. Many spells, which are viewed as mere pranks by most, could permanently alter a person's mind (we hear of one girl who was made into a broom that still partly thinks she is one after being changed back, for example).
  • No Name Given: The Grandmaster, who is only ever referred to this way.
  • Odd Friendship: Imaiqah starts off as a friend who is also bullied by Alassa and her lot. When Alassa becomes friends with Emily she also becomes friends with Imaiqah despite the vast difference between their stations in life (Emily is an exception because of her celebrity status and supposedly being the daughter of a powerful wizard).
  • One-Man Industrial Revolution: Emily seems to know a great deal about history and the way things work. This is often attributed to "memory spells" which allow her to recall past learned facts perfectly. While she's no Renaissance Man, she knows enough to bring about inventions that turn her new world upside down.
  • Parental Neglect: Emily's mother is depicted as a neglectful alcoholic.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Emily, by the end of book four. Indeed, many of her problems later in the series can be partially blamed on the fact that her spell repertoire goes from the kind of magics expected of a student directly to those that... well, aren't. Although she is extremely clever in the application of her lower-level spells, the end result is that she lacks a proper level of response for adult sorcerers, who aren't as scared of her as perhaps they should be.
  • Pocket Dimension: Pocket dimensions are described by name, and used for containers which serve as Bags Of Holding. Emily uses one to destroy Shadye and then store excess magic (although this gets her in trouble, partly because it's just dangerous, also as it would make necromancy feasible-i.e. not drive its practitioners insane).
  • The Power of Love: Discussed and mocked in Work Experience. Some of the ballads about Emily claim she defeated Shadye by using this, to her embarrassment, finding the idea it could work on a monster like him absurd.
  • Prophecy Twist: Emily thinks Shadye made a mistake kidnapping her thinking she's a "Child of Destiny" due to her literally being one, as Destiny is her mother's name. However, it turns out that she really is a Child of Destiny in every sense.
  • Sex Slave: Female slaves used for sexual service appear to be fairly common in the Allied Lands.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: In the first book Emily wonders where the rest of a person's mass goes when they're turned into a frog.
  • Shout-Out: The plot has a strong similarity with Harry Potter, particularly in the wizarding school Whitehall. One part even seems like a direct reference to something from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where Emily reads about different magical accidents in a book and there's a story of a girl who brewed a potion to look like someone else but accidentally used cat hair instead of the other person's, which turned her into a cat girl. This is exactly what Hermione does, except here it cannot be reversed and the girl is stuck that way forever. It could also be a mild Take That!. Later after learning about the world's magically binding contracts, Emily wonders whether being entered into a contest like Harry Potter is in Goblet of Fire with no knowledge of it would still bind you. It turns out no, you have to be aware of it. Emily notes that putting "unscrupulous creatures" in charge of your prison isn't a good idea (a reference to the Dementors of Azkaban). Plus the entire plot of Study In Slaughter is very similar to Chamber of Secrets, though the author stated this was unintentional. Even so, Emily thinks how a basilisk would be easier to kill than what they face in the book. She also uses the blood test for Changelings idea from Deep Space Nine.
  • Spoiled Brat: Princess Alassa starts out as a complete brat who believes that she is entitled to be worshiped by others. She gets better over time though.
  • Straight Gay: Rudolf, in Work Experience. It turns out to be why runes intended for compelling him into a marriage didn't work, since he lacked any desire toward women this could exploit.
  • Sympathetic Magic: Things connected to a person (their blood, name, etc.) can be used in magic against them. In the finale of the first book, Emily's mind is taken over remotely by Shadye using some of her blood that he stole, allowing him to destroy Whitehall's wards from the inside and invade with an army.
  • Taken for Granite: Being turned to stone is pretty common, even as a punishment for breaking rules in the library. More serious offenses are said to be punished with this permanently. At one point Emily's petrified by an enemy and she only narrowly escapes.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: There is a teleportation spell which is too complicated and powerful for any lowly wizard to use. Also large teleportation gates which are used by all others.
  • Trapped in Another World: Emily is a modern girl in every way. For example, she is used to having access to the internet and YouTube, while the world she finds herself in is very medieval in its mindset and technology. She starts to introduce modern technology shortly after arriving, partly to rectify that.
  • Truth Serum: Spells which force people to tell the truth exist, and they're used in court cases, ensuring that innocents are not convicted.
  • Virgin Power: Some spells must be performed by a virginal women, and so there's an entire group of them called the Virgin Sisterhood, protected by their armed, intimidating sisters.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Void, Emily's mentor, likes to take animal shape. So does enemy sorcerer Crow, who turns into a group of them (and this is likely the source of his name). It's stated this is a very difficult form of magic, as keeping one's mind intact in another form can be quite hard. Crow spreads his out for that purpose.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Much is made from the fact that the Allied Lands are constantly bickering and fighting with each other, instead of the necromancers. It's stated all of them would have been conquered long ago if the necromancers had not been doing the same thing.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Necromancers all eventually go mad with the amount of power they acquire from human sacrifice. It's not clear why this is (several theories are offered) but it's apparently a universal result.
  • Wizarding School: The entire series of books involves Emily learning magic in school or from teachers outside of school, although the story is not entirely focused on school life like the Harry Potter books.
  • Wizards and Witches: Obviously a great deal of the book is exploring the world of magical and medieval society.
  • Wizards Live Longer: While we aren't given any exact ages, it is implied that powerful mages can keep themselves alive and looking young for much longer than is natural.
  • The World Is Not Ready: While Emily introduced several innovating ideas from Earth which dramatically change the Nameless World, she does not share all that she knows for fear that it will be more dangerous than it is worth. For example, she invents a nuclear bomb spell which requires comparatively little power or talent to cast.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Princess Alassa is described as being the vision of perfect beauty. Completely flawless. Unnaturally so, as her beauty is due to magic.
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