Hiya book bees, for this post I want to discuss the way magic works (so far) in The Fourth Element series by Kat Ross. I think the magic system that we’ve been introduced to is super fascinating, and something that I can’t really discuss in depth during my reviews of the individual books. Thus this post!
How Magic Works
In The Fourth Element magic is used exclusively by the daeva. The daeva are an elemental-like race of creatures with mysterious origins. A commonly held belief in the first book is that they are related in some way to the druj, an undead race of monsters that prey on humans. The daeva can manipulate three elements: water, air, and earth. Doing so often takes a great physical toll on their bodies, so more powerful daeva that can cause massive elemental effects without killing themselves are unusual and often very old.
Daeva are enslaved by humans, bred from a prison and put into cuffs that were designed to bind them to humanity. The cuffs, when placed on a daeva child, bond them to a human being with the “spark” or ability to touch the Nexus, where elemental power dwells. The daeva child receives an infirmity of some sort as a result of the magic of the cuffs. Examples of this are: one blind eye, becoming mute, a withered arm, a twisted leg. Once the daeva is cuffed, they lose the ability to access the Nexus freely. Their bonded human then becomes in charge of releasing the power to the daeva, usually in a fight. Bonded daeva and human pairs are utilized for defense, such as being part of the elite Water Dogs who travel the country to protect its people.
This is called “talismanic” magic, in which the cuffs act as a talisman that allows magic to pass through them. Similarly, there are humans called anti-magi or necromancers. These humans are given a set of chains by Queen Neblis that are imbued with necromantic magic. When an anti-magi captures someone in their chains, they drain that person of their life force in exchange for the ability to wield magic.
What I Like
I absolutely love when a magic system has a hefty price for its use, forcing magic users to either grow in strength and creativity or become consumed by their power. For me, the most interesting magic systems are ones that take time and practice for its users to become powerful. Natural skill can only get someone so far if they aren’t careful. This system definitely has that in the physical toll that magic takes on the daeva. While daeva also have longer lifespans and faster healing, as well as strength and speed beyond humans, the use of magic can still wear them down immensely. Older daeva have greater amounts of power and are able to access the Nexus more easily, and while some younger daeva have greater amounts of power it can still overwhelm them.
As I’m not all the way through the series, the magic system is still being expanded upon as I read. Ross introduced the idea of what talismanic magic was in the second book, which I just read, and explained that this was the tie between how the cuffs and the chains of the antimagi work. I’m absolutely fascinated to see the next expansion of the system, which likely has to do with Breakers (people who can manipulate fire, the element that daevas cannot touch).
What I Don’t Like
Though the first book includes an explanation from a daeva to a human of how daevas touch the Nexus and utilize its power, I still don’t fully grasp this part of the system. Though for the most part the prices of using magic make sense, and the cuffs stemming the ability to reach that power, I also don’t fully understand the combination of human beings with the “spark” and what the “spark” is with controlling the daevas bonded to them. This is in part because the humans that are bonded to daevas are so diverse themselves, and it’s unclear what the uniform “spark” is that allows them the ability to help daevas reach the Nexus.
I will start by saying that as I haven’t finished this series, there’s definitely more to the magic system that I haven’t learned. I can already see that Ross is building up to more reveals regarding the origins of the daevas, how they got their powers, and what sorts of powers human beings can have. I still love what I’ve already read, despite some of the confusion I’m grappling with. As I said above, magic systems where magic comes with a serious price really fascinate me. Magic systems where skill comes from time, learning, and dedication and a price is even more interesting in my opinion.