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Literature / The Flaw In All Magic

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Tane Carver is a man without magic in a country built on it. In order to prove a point, he pretended to be a mage and enrolled in the most prestigious magical academy in the land, then wrote his thesis on how he did it. He was expelled despite his achievements.

Years later, when Tane is penniless, there is a murder at his old school. He is called in the examine the scene in an attempt to discover who could have killed someone in one of the most secure locations in the world. Along the way, he meets Kadka, a half-orc guard who Tane gets fired, and who then insists that she is his partner whether he likes it or not.

What initially appears to be a relatively simple murder quickly turns into a conspiracy of mages and technology, and Tane is caught between different factions, all of which want his head.


The Flaw in All Magic is the first book in the Magebreakers series by Ben S. Dobson.

This book provides examples of:

  • Fantastic Racism:
    • The Mage Emperor once conquered much of the world and used non-magical people as slaves. When he was cast down, the mundanes turned against mages and magical creatures; many fled to the Audland Protectorate, which had a much more open policy regarding magic.
    • Mages often look down on those without magic. This is the titular flaw in all magic; since the only one to look over a mage's spellwork is the mage himself, simple mistakes are easily missed.
    • The disciples of the new Mage Emperor not only continue the prosecution of the magicless, but they really hate orcs for having almost no magic at all. Several of them treat Kadka as an insect who should be exterminated as soon as possible.
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  • Fatal Flaw: As mentioned above, mages looking down on non-mages and only looking over their own spellwork allows easy mistakes to go unnoticed is the titular flaw of the first book.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The elvish dean of the academy likes to put on airs of being a polite if somewhat haughty individual, but come the climax, the mask is gone and the raving madman comes out.
  • Language of Magic: The lingua magica is an artificial language designed to have each word have one meaning, and each word have a single rune representing it. Tane explains that you could technically use any language for magic, but it's a terrible idea due to connotative meanings, synonyms, and all sorts of other ridiculousness that comes from a language that has arisen naturally.
  • Magitek: Most technology uses ancryst, crystals which move away from any magical field. This is much more energy-efficient and cheaper than using single-purpose magic; a levitation spell, for example, would cost far more than lining a tunnel with generic magical fields and letting the natural reaction of the ancryst crystals propel a platform.
  • No Man of Woman Born: Tane uses this trope as an example of the titular flaw in all magic; a sexist mage might completely forget to consider a woman when designing his wards.
  • Patriotic Fervor: The crime lord Bastian, of all people, is a very proud supporter of the Lady Protector, and bends over backward to help when Tane drops her name.
  • Sherlock Scan: Tane managed to fake being a diviner for years by being very attentive and good at reading people. Even his magical teachers grudgingly admit that he has the best understanding of runes in the world.
  • Shipper on Deck: Kadka is very enthusiastic about getting Tane back together with his old flame.
  • Title Drop:
    • Tane says that the flaw in all magic is the mage, or more specifically the mistakes in their writing that they didn't catch.
    • At the end of the book, a gnome woman calls Tane and Kadka the Magebreakers. Even with the official story (which barely mentions them), rumors are spreading and they are gaining quite a reputation.