We have such a treat for all of you today! Dana Swift has very kindly given us a full breakdown of the magic system in her debut, Cast in Firelight, and we are fascinated. Read on for a look at how she came up with each color’s meaning as well as some fun facts!
The Nine Types of Magic:
Red – The ability to create and manipulate fire
From the beginning I always knew I wanted my main female character to be a witch with fire magic. I think there is something inspiring about a witch who can control fire, a substance used in the past to kill women who were accused of witchcraft. Thus, I’ve always been drawn to that power for a witch character.
Orange – The ability to enhance your senses and the body’s physical capabilities
I came up with orange magic because it felt so essential to the plot and makes it more plausible for my characters to be crime fighters. I also wanted it to be believable for Adraa, my female heroine, to be just a strong and fast as any male because she’s a powerful in magic.
Yellow – The ability to create and manipulate air, especially for flying
I created yellow magic for the ability of flying and travel. In creating a world, one of the big aspects is how do people get from one place to another and how does that affect the cultures of each place. Having the nations of Wickery be able to fly meant they were more interconnected. Though, having their main communication be through letters meant they weren’t as connected as our modern world with the Internet.
Green – The ability to manipulate wood and plant life
I grappled with deciding if green should involve the earth more than vegetation, but I thought it would be more unique and important for a society to control the growth of their food over controlling rocks. Also, that way I could have stone buildings in this world that no one would possibly be able to destroy or use against the protagonists, which eliminated some plot holes.
Blue – The ability to create and manipulate water
I always wanted the main country of Belwar to be by the coast, so I thought a lot about how people fish and function near the ocean. Thus, I knew I wanted blue magic to be water based.
Purple – The ability to manifest weapons, shields, and boundaries
I created this type of magi purely for fight scenes so that even the weapons they used were made of magic and not just steel.
Black – The ability to camouflage and cast illusion spells
I added camouflaging and illusions to the world of Wickery so that Adraa hiding her identity with a mask made more sense. Once created, I loved inserting details into the world of how people combat and have certain laws again camouflage magic. For example, they use curtains and bells over doorways so people can hear and see the shift in fabric if someone was entering unannounced. It’s these details that I think brought the world a little more to life.
White – The ability to create and manipulate ice, snow, and other winter precipitation
From the beginning I wanted Adraa and Jatin’s main powers to be as opposite as possible. And what’s more opposite than fire and ice?
Pink – The ability to heal and enchant potions to fight illness
I really love potions and healing elixirs in fantasy worlds, and I wanted my own version of it. But instead of a magical plant or simple cure-all for any illness much of pink magic is brewing herbs and medicines and then adding magic to it.
Here’s a few more insights into the magic system:
- Much of the magic system was created with my desire for a very visual magic, especially for fights. I didn’t want spells to be cast and thrown like bullets. I wanted elements being used in creative ways, shields of plated color conjured through spells and glowing smoke rising off their arms. I also wanted a pantheon of Gods. So, in combining those two things the beginning of Cast in Firelight‘s magic system was born.
- The logistics of the system: At the age of nine it is determined if one will be a witch or wizard by whether they have marks on your wrists (another very visual marker for the world and for readers). At around sixteen one’s forte is determined, which means all spells are filtered through that one color, another marker for people of this world to see where a witch or wizard’s biggest magical strengths lie.
- In Cast in Firelight the magic system in many ways works like school with magic being a combination of talent and passion. I find with a lot of fantasy centered on magical powers one is born into or obtains one certain power. But I wanted a more academic studious magic that relied not just on genetics and raw talent, but the dedication and ability to choose your own passion, just like in real life. Not all scientists and mathematicians were gifted in that field at the start. Just like not all writers are gifted wordsmiths when they first starting out (I know I wasn’t). Like many professions it’s through study and developing one’s craft that one gets better. So instead of every person having only one ability, in this world with enough talent and perseverance you can be multitalented, and in many ways pick your own forte color.
- There are some stereotypes that come with each magic forte, but because fortes are determined through dedication, talent, passion, and will, many people break the mold and it isn’t based on personality like in other stories. The Gods on the other hand? Now, that’s a different story.
Fun Facts about Fencing
Directly related to the magic system is using the magic for fight scenes. But some of the other fighting techniques comes from my experience fencing in college.
- I went to the University of Texas at Austin, where I majored in both English and Advertising, met my husband, and learned how to fence.
- I fenced saber, a weapon noted for its speed and ability to slash as well as stab to gain points. One of the big reasons I chose it was because at the time the team needed more women saber fencers. (The three different fencing weapons are epee, foil, and saber.) And I’ve always picked activities I thought more unique and undervalued. For instance, out of all the band and orchestra instruments I selected the viola in grade school and kept playing all the way to senior year. In my high school they needed more girls to join Colorguard, a sport that spins flags, rifles, and sabers to bring visual interpretation to marching band music. Something in me likes the challenge and likes to support things others seem to not be drawn to.
- My husband and I fenced together, both saberist. There were many times I had to fight him before and after we started dating, but our first day back at practice after our first date we were in a bout. He won and I remember shaking his hand at the end and pulling him close and saying, “That was our first fight.”
- We actually first started dating right after a huge club tournament. And much of how we got to know each other was talking, jesting, and having fun at fencing practice. Much of the banter in Cast in Firelight comes from my husband and I’s relationship and dynamic. We like to playfully tease one another and it seems to have seeped into my writing.
- There’s a moment in Cast in Firelight where the two characters spar and though they use magic, much of the emotional drive to win in the scene came from fencing. Also, in that scene there is a moment were swords are locked together and there’s been a time or two where my saber guard has locked with an opponent and it felt like a scene out of a book.
- In most of the tournaments, I was fighting men more than women due to the fact that in Texas and at the time more men gravitate towards saber. Many seemed to underestimate me or hit too hard to prove a point. Some of those matches are mirrored in fight scenes through Adraa’s point of view where she notes how being a woman in a fight changes the dynamics and at times showcases sexism.
- Overall, while I can’t say the fighting in my debut is a direct correlation to fencing techniques by any means, the emotion and frustration of a fight came from me tapping back into a time where I trained in this sport and fell in love with my own sparing partner.
Cast in Firelight
By Dana Swift
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593124215 | Delacorte BFYR
Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people. Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child. Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet. Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross . . . and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead. Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals . . ? Fiancées . . ? Partners . . ? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.