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Literature / The Charmed Sphere

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Making shapely magic...

The first book in author Catherine Asaro's "The Lost Continent" series, "The Charmed Sphere" introduces readers to the realm of Aronsdale, a peaceful medieval-esque country under threat from Harsdown, their much larger and more aggressive neighbor to the west. Though small, Aronsdale commands the power of the shape-mages, individuals who can weave spells by focusing their magic through geometric shapes, casting spells to bolster the army and provide better governance. But idyllic Aronsdale is on the brink of political turmoil: aged King Daron's only son and grandson have been missing and presumed dead for over a decade. The king's nephew Muller Dawnsfield is reluctant to take the crown, fearing that his hidden, imperfect mage-gifts could bring ruin even as King Varqelle of Harsdown clamors for war.


Into this muddle enters Chime Headwind, a powerful but untrained mage from the countryside whose talents are discovered by the court. Brought to the royal castle as a student of magecraft and the intended bride of the future king, Chime struggles to adjust to her new life and the new expectations placed on her. Though her first meeting with Muller is an uneasy one, she eventually grows to cherish his companionship and eagerly awaits the day she will be his queen. Muller, bolstered by Chime's support, steels himself to accept the crown. But both of their expectations are upended when Chime's fellow student, the shy and demure Iris, makes an incredible breakthrough in her studies that leads to the discovery of Jarid Dawnsfield, the lost heir to the throne of Aronsdale.

Though Jarid is injured and half feral, he is made the king of Aronsdale with Iris as his mage queen. Like his cousin Muller, Jarid is a mage, one whose rare powers might just save Aronsdale from the threat posed by Harsdown... if only he can first learn to harness those gifts. And more than Harsdown's armies threaten Aronsdale: a dark mage has made it his mission to destroy Aronsdale through whatever means necessary, allying his twisted gifts with King Varqelle's forces. Chime, Muller, Iris, and Jarid will have to work together to protect their kingdom, blending their strange magics in a way the world has never seen before.


Tropes Appearing in "The Charmed Sphere":

  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Anvil the Forged has no empathy and no capacity to cast green magic, which deals with the emotions of others. As such, he's immune to the normal limitations of spell-casting that causes mages to suffer when they cast use magic to inflict harm. So there's nothing stopping the incredibly powerful Anvil from inflicting the worst type of torment on others, from sending them nightmares to causing them debilitating physical pain, even assaulting them from a distance.
  • Emotion Bomb: Chime is an emerald mage, capable of casting powerful mood-detecting spells found in the green spectrum, as well as the pain soothing and emotional soothing spells of orange and yellow. When she uses her powers to bolster Aronsdale's army, she does so by boosting the morale and confidence of Aronsdale's troops.
  • Fantastic Recruitment Drive: Della No Cozen, Mage Mistress of Castle Suncroft, is always on the lookout for young girls who display any shred of mage power — this is how Chime's powers were detected. Della chases rumors up and down the country and takes personal responsibility for the instruction of Aronsdale's next generation of shape mages.
  • Geometric Magic: Mages call on shapes to focus their spells, starting with simple two dimensional shapes like bars, triangles, squares, and moving up in complexity to pentagons, octagons, and eventually circles (which have an infinite number of sides). Higher-power mages can draw on three-dimensional shapes to focus their spells, from pyramids to cubes to polyhedrons. The most powerful mages can focus their spell through perfect spheres. A mage who can draw on three dimensional shapes can draw on any two-dimensional shape.
  • Healing Hands: Higher colors of magic can soothe or heal physical and emotional wounds.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: Only higher colors of magic heal physical and emotional wounds - orange spells soothe physical pain, yellow spells soothe emotions. Blue spells can heal physical wounds. (Indigo and violet are even more powerful, but mages of that caliber were exceedingly rare to the point of being thought apocryphal, at least until Muller and Jarid's generation.) Della No Cozen, Mage Mistress of the realm and Royal Advisor, is only a jade mage. Healer Skylark is a blue mage, and the only trained mage healer in the realm.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: An indigo mage can save a life, but only one - they only have one life to give. Jarid's mother sacrificed her own life to cast a spell that would protect him as their carriage careened over a cliff.
  • Intimate Healing: After Iris and Jarid's wedding night, Jarid's blindness and deafness are magically cured. The idea that Iris' love "cured" him is floated as a possible explanation.
  • Lost Orphaned Royalty: Jarid Dawnsfield. His parents were killed when highwaymen caused their carriage to go over a cliff, and he only survived because his mother sacrificed herself to cast a spell that could save his life. The bandits nearly killed Jarid when they learned he survived the fall, and he only lived because his magic killed the bandit leader (leaving the young Jarid blind, deaf, and mute in retaliation for using his magic offensively). He was taken in by the soft-hearted rogue Unbent, and they two spent the next decade eking out an existence high up in the mountains, very much lost from society.
  • Magic Misfire: Muller's powers can strike out inadvertently when he encounters imperfect geometric shapes, often creating spells that do the opposite of what he would command them to. This caused him to have a clumsy, accident-prone childhood. As an adult, he became hyper-aware of his surroundings and clothing; most of his advisors and friends believe it's because he's vain and foppish, but Muller is terrified that he might accidentally focus his magic through an imperfect circle embroidered on one of his tunics, or cast a harmful spell through a lopsided doorway. Muller has good reason to be wary, as Chime discovers when she crashes into him in a hallway. Muller was distracted while looking out a window and thinking how he'd like to keep the drafts out in winter — a broken mosaic on the wall channeled his powers, shattering the windows explosively while creating a magical barrier that kept out the wind.
  • Marriage of Convenience: The male heir to the throne must marry the most powerful, unwed female mage available. At the beginning of the book Chime finds herself stuck in this position, forced into an engagement with Muller the moment her powers are discovered by the court. Both Muller and Chime initially balk at this, but they warm up to each other after a while and even look forwards to their marriage.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: Aronsdale is an idyllic fantasy country full of castles, orchards, quaint little towns and magical forests, surrounded by high mountains.
  • Military Mage: The reason tiny Aronsdale is able to deter the larger forces from Harsdown is because they have mages to support their forces. Mages can't turn their gifts "against" another human to cause pain or suffering, but they can heal Aronsdale's wounded soldiers and bolster their morale & confidence in battle. Aronsdale's soldiers are even trained to fight in tight geometric formations, allowing mages to utilize those shapes on the battlefield. When Chime goes into battle supporting Aronsdale's forces, she describes her magic as "pouring into" the polygons that the soldiers form.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Because Anvil has no empathy or green-spell capacity, there's nothing to stop him from using his mage powers to inflict pain on others; and in one case, to attack Chime personally while she rode with Aronsdale's army. While Chime used mood spells to search for traces of Harsdown's forces, her use of magic alerted Anvil to her presence through their inadvertent Psychic Link — he tracked her spell back to her physical body and used his magic to pinch and grope her from a distance. Chime was incredibly upset by the experience, needing Iris to shield her next attempts at green-spells from detection so as to avoid Anvil finding her and forcing her to relive that trespass.
  • Psychic Link: Chime creates a link between herself and "the Wareman" when she searches out the source of a malevolent magic in the town nearest to Castle Suncroft. Unfortunately, this link makes it easy for him to target her whenever she uses magic. It also makes her a target after Anvil is killed in battle with Jarid and Muller — his spirit makes a beeline for Chime, hoping to feed off her strong emerald powers and possess her.
  • Purple Eyes: Jarid's eyes are a rare shade of purple. This mirrors the rarity of his mage-gifts, which cover the entire spectrum of magic from red through violet (the use of which had only been theoretical previous to his discovery).
  • Royalty Super Power: The Dawnfields, who have ruled Aronsdale for generations, have always married into magic: traditionally the male heir of the Dawnsfield line married the most powerful unwed female shapemage of suitable age. This lead to the appearance of two "rare" male mages (cousins (once removed) Muller and Jarid) popping up in the same generation. At the end of the book, Jarid notices that Chime and Muller's unborn daughter will become a mage.
  • The Mourning After: King Daron never remarried after his wife died, and refused to do so even to produce an heir after his son and grandson were reportedly killed in a carriage accident.
  • Royal Blood: Aronsdale doesn't have to be ruled by a member of the Dawnsfield family — Muller even suggests that if he abdicates, one of his advisors could rule the country or begin a new monarchical dynasty — but the people of Aronsdale love the Dawnsfields, and losing their beloved ruling family would upset moral in a politically tumultuous time. When Jarid is rediscovered, Muller is more than ready to step aside and let his cousin, the "rightful ruler" and "true heir" take the throne. This, despite his cousin being drugged and dragged back to the family castle a blind, deaf, mute, and half feral man-child, having lost contact with the outside world at the age of six years old after bandits caused his family's carriage to go over a cliff. As long as Jarid is the symbolic head of the country, his wife could do the actual work of ruling.
  • Sdrawkcab Speech: How Chime defeats Anvil the Forged, when his spirit attacks her after his death. Anvil had planted the phrase ancient magecraft incantation "Allar nellari remalla," meaning "sphere inside out," in Chime's mind some months earlier. The incantation is meant to reverse spells in much the same way Anvil's magic could bend a mage's own spell against them. He had hoped she would use it to push his magic away and inadvertently give his spirit access to her mind. When Chime speaks the incantation backwards as "allamer irallen ralla," it drives off his harmful spirit and allows her to guide him to the afterlife.
  • Spell Levels: Magic is tiered according to the color spectrum, with a mage able to cast any spell at or below their color rank.
    • Red spells are the easiest to cast/ the most common type of mage. These spells create light and heat.
    • Orange spells soothe physical pain.
    • Yellow spells soothe emotions.
    • Green spells can detect emotions and intent, even shape them in some ways.
    • Blue spells heal physical injuries.
    • Indigo spells heal emotional injuries, though Della No Cozen indicates her disbelief in the existence of indigo mages since there are no records of them in Aronsdale's history. Jarid's mother was an indigo mage, but she kept the extent of her powers a secret. Anvil the Forged and Muller are both indigo mages.
    • Violet mages were only theoretical before the discovery that Jarid was still alive, and a "Rainbow Mage" like Iris who uses all the colors of the spectrum in her spellcasting had never been recorded in Aronsdale's history.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Though Jarid was blind, deaf, and mute for over a decade after the attack on his parents and himself, Iris cured him on the night of their wedding. It is mentioned that being at Suncroft Castle is something of a sensory overload for Jarid, and he frequently isolates (either through meditation or long walks in the woods) to get a degree of respite from the noise and light and demands of being king. That being said, within hours of gaining back his senses he's up and about in the castle, talking and glaring and conducting meetings with his family and advisors.
  • Title Drop:
    • Happens a third of the way into the book, when the blind and deaf Jarid senses the magical power collected in Iris' clearing during their wedding night and describes the location as "a charmed sphere."
    • Again in Chapter 27, when Chime creates an incredibly stable, long-lasting emotion spell that she sends across the country to soothe Muller. Though she casts it through a twenty-sided "faceted ball," she refers to it a "charmed sphere."


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