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Literature / Arcane Ascension

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A fantasy series by Andrew Rowe. Set in the fictional continent of Kaldwyn, the story is told from the perspective of Corin Cadence, the 17 year old son of a minor noble setting out to take his Judgment, a test at one of the magical Shifting Spires that exist across the land. Taking a Judgement (and more importantly, surviving one) unlocks a person's magical potential, earning them a special mark on their body known as an "attunement." Each attunement has a different specialty, with variations depending on where the mark appears on the body.

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There are three books in the series so far:

  • Sufficiently Advanced Magic (2017)
  • On the Shoulders of Titans (2018)
  • The Torch That Ignites The Stars (2020)
  • Six Sacred Swords (2019) - Prequel told from the perspective of another character, Keras Selyrian, a mysterious swordsman from a foreign continent.


This series provides examples of:

  • Adventure-Friendly World: The Shifting Spires are tests that provide magic and power to all those who enter. Once someone has been marked (called an attunement), they gain magical talents and the ability to improve upon them with training and practice. Gaining extra attunements is possible and results in more power, but it is rare.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Sexual orientation as a concept never really comes up, and people treat couples of any kind of combination as entirely unremarkable.
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  • Genre Savvy: Corin as well as several other characters like Marissa display a sophisticated understanding of tropes and deliberately will subvert them to their advantage when they can.
  • Mana: What is used to power magic items and activate attunements. There are many different types of mana, generated from seven different places on the human body: The left hand, the right hand, the left leg, the right leg, the mind, the heart, and the lungs. An attunement mark will appear on one of these points and indicates which part of the body is best at producing mana for improving that attunement. Corin is terrified of overusing his mind mana because it can cause brain damage, but everyone tells him he is being overly cautious. He invents a watch that can identify how much mana someone can use before it starts becoming dangerous, and discovers that everyone was right, he really was being too careful with his mental mana.
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  • Magitech: How Enchanting works. Through the use of different rune/mana configurations, enchanters could theoretically make magical items for every situation. Enchanters are even treated mostly like engineers and inventors and are responsible for most of the technological advancements in this world. Even the few cars we see are enchanted items powered by mana.
  • Physical Gods: The Visages are unspeakably powerful, to the point that the mere idea of fighting one is unheard of. Seeing a mortal with two or three attunements is rare; there are estimated to be fifty or more, and the Visages have all of them.
  • Pieces of God: Corin's country teaches that the Visages are all shadows of the single divine goddess. Other countries believe that they are a family of lesser gods, or that they are mortals who reached the tops of the towers and gained incredible power.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Part of the reason that Corin refuses to work with Professor Orden (besides the moral objections) is because the organization keeps taking massive risks in order to advance their country's place in the world, but if they make any mistake along the way, their entire nation could be wiped out. Corin just isn't willing to work with people so reckless.
  • Worldof Snark: Corin himself is a deadpan snarker, but Sera, Keris, Derek, Vanniv, Vellum, Mara and pretty much every character that gets more than three sentences will probably have a snarky wise-crack in there somewhere.
  • The Un-Favourite: Corin lives in the shadow of his missing older brother Tristan, whom both he and his parents held in high esteem. Compounding this is Corin's attunement, Enchanter, which attracts scorn from his family and several teachers for not being combat-focused. Even worse. After getting his attunement, his father shows blatent favoritism for Sera, Corin's bastard sister who happened to get a more useful attunement for battle. (bastard as in born out of wed-lock, she's actually quite caring.)
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