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Literature / The Young Ancients

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Pictured: magic devices of terrifying power. A flyer and a shield.

A series of books by PS Powers.

Torrence Baker (or Tor) is a Builder, a person who creates the magic that the Kingdom of Noram runs off of. Or he will be, someday if he can keep to his studies and doesn't get expelled for missing classes when his latest project takes up too much of his time. He is a backwoods baker's son on a scholarship. However, Tor's little projects soon catch the eye of some very powerful people, propelling him to the rarest heights of the kingdom's political and business elite and eventually exposing many of the lies behind his life. Tor may well be the greatest wizard of the age... assuming he can survive.

The Young Ancients contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: A cutter is essentially an invisible blade of zero thickness that cuts through anything, technically an atomic-scale field that make everything on either side move away from it. These are commonly used as both tools and weapons.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Tor does this all the time but especially in his first shield and the flying devices.
  • Action Girl: Sara and Trice, who handily beat up Tor in several sparring matches the day after meeting him.
  • Actually, I Am Him: Tor is a nickname, but also the name he becomes famous under, leading to numerous situations where he gives his full name, Torrence Green Baker, and is dismissed. And at least situation where he says he's Tor and the other party says "like the Wizard? Well, it's easy to remember." Usually leads to an uncomfortable reveal.
  • Aerith and Bob: Common Twentieth-Century names abound in Noram, like Laura, Connie, Patricia, Sandy, etc. But there are also names like Torrence, Timon, and Burkes. One character, Kolb straddles the line as it is eventually revealed this is short for Martin Kolbrin. Partially justified in that Noram is North America, thousands of years After the End.
  • Battle Aura: Called "Combat Aura" the nobles of Noram tend to get one while in a Berseker Rage.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Tor is humble, meek and endlessly accommodating to his friends. Never, ever threaten his friends or betray his trust.
  • Bullying the Dragon: Being a scrawny, penniless and socially-awkward kid, Tor gets his fair share of abuse. Given how quickly he becomes one of the most famous and powerful wizards in the known world, it's a good thing he rarely holds grudges...
  • Colourful Theme Naming: The Ancients all picked their favorite color as their name, except Cordes. Each continues this to the present day, though some have added to it like Burkes Lairdgren, Derren Brown, and Laura Grey. After Tor wins the respect of most of the Ancients, they take to calling him Purple, after his favorite color.
  • Crazy-Prepared: More and more as the series progresses, Tor is attacked once and so keeps his shield on nearly constantly, and carries more and more devices on him at all times to be ready for any situation from combat to building a house.
  • Culture Clash: Between Tor's backwoods humble and prudish background, and the cosmopolitan, aggressive and sexually libertine culture of his noble friends. This also manifests in subtle ways, when Tor first meets Rolph's mother, Connie, they spend a while standing around the dinner-table. She expects the guest to seat himself first, and he won't sit while a lady stands.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The nobility of Noram revile one sin above all others, breaking a heart or being cruel in love. As such, there are a number of socially acceptable dodges, like offering up a friend, but a sufficiently tenacious suitor can usually have his way, because it is more acceptable to have sex with someone you despise, or marry someone three times your age, then give a flat 'no.' Of course, to escape an unwanted marriage there is a simple answer: marry someone else first! But as there is no expectation of sexual exclusivity between spouses, putting off sex is much harder.
  • Famed In-Story: Tor, from the end of the first book on. Making flying rivers will do that.
  • Functional Magic: Building is a mix of rules and device magic. Builders create fields where the rules of physics work differently in carefully selected ways. Mostly they embed these fields in magic devices (mostly metal plates, sometimes wood or small flat rocks) with a sigil that works as an on/off switch. With a template, these can be mass-produced to an extent, with even amateur Builders can copy ten an hour. Designing novel devices is the major distinguishing mark between an apprentice and a master builder.
  • Magic Ais Magic A: For the most, Building seems to follow consistent rules, though Tor learns a few (like making devices in batches of no more than ten) are more of a generally accepted saw than binding. After discovering he can tap geothermal energy for power, any fussing about powering fields abruptly vanishes.
  • Mistaken for Servant: When traveling with all his friends, obvious members of the nobility, and a few times carrying the luggage because he's obliging that way, Tor is mistaken for their servant. Burkes Lairdgren is also introduced as a butler, before it's revealed he is himself an immortal wizard and a high-ranking noble, because he has a very deferential and helpful character, much like Tor.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The River Tor, a flying river to relieve a drought-stricken county certainly is impressive and justly makes Tor a household name. But it's also just a scaling up of his existing water-pump designs.
  • Mundane Utility: Tor's first device is an instant clothes dryer. When one student mocks him for it, others are quick to point out how profitable it could be. He later expands his experience with moving water into magical pumps, plumbing, and a drying system for removing mold, as well as a flying river. In a much more straightforward example of this, Tor creates personal forcefields for combat, then later realizes he can make the fields opaque and creates devices that instantly conjure magic boats, buildings, aircraft and even spaceships made entirely of the same magic forcefields.
  • One-Man Industrial Revolution: Tor causes a Magitek version of this, leading a Renaissance-esque kingdom without even firearms to permanent space colonies and mass-produced magic devices.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Tor, only he and his immediate family ever use his full name.
  • Our Mages Are Different: Mostly Gadget-based, with shades of Monk, Chemist and Programmer, the magic system is certainly different here. See the Functional Magic note above.
  • Royalty Superpower: The Kingdom of Noram was founded by Cordes, a Super-Soldier and One-Man Army. Most of his royal/noble descendants inherited his powers, to a greater or lesser degree, though most can only use them in a combat rage.
  • Shrouded in Myth: To the nobles, the Ancients are a bedtime story for children. Tor never even heard of them until he'd met one.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Tor is a descendant and sort of clone of the Ancient called the Green Man, or Burkes Lairdgren. This has a number of effects both good and bad, Tor inherited Green's genius and immortality, and a personality program that gave him an astonishing work ethic, but also crippling self-esteem issues. His affinity for magic seems to be his own, though having had centuries to study Green is no slouch himself.
    • Also, Cordes, founder king of Noram whose descendants mostly inherited his powers and became the new nobility.
  • Super-Soldier: Cordes, and all his descendants, the Noram nobility.
  • Tranquil Fury: Many Noram nobles enter berserker rages in which they manifest a Battle Aura and gain two to three other powers, like super-strength, floating or telekinesis. Usually there's a lot of screaming and breaking things involved. Tor, by contrast, becomes very quiet and icily calm while presenting all the other visible signs of a combat rage. This is universally regarded as terrifying.
  • Wizarding School: The Lairdgren School is actually not this, being formed primarily to teach the children of nobles and rich merchants how to defend themselves and manage their holdings. However, they do offer a program in magic, and as one of the only places in the world to do so in an academic rather than master-apprentice setting, it is highly respected.