For fans of the fantasy genre, the magic school has long been a beloved trope. The concept of the magic school allows the reader to enter into the world of magic and fully immerse themselves in the way the fantasy world works. From the guiding principles of culture and government to how characters live their everyday lives, magic schools are a gateway into a fantasy novel that allows readers to feel they are also learning along with the characters. From Harry Potter’s Hogwarts to The University in Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, the magic school continues to captivate readers. Join us today as we look at some of the best fantasy novels set at magic schools:
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
I had forgotten how much light there is in the world till you gave it back to me.
Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle is one of the most beloved and influential fantasy series ever. It opens with A Wizard of Earthsea, where we are first introduced to protagonist Ged, also known as Sparrowhawk. After Ged, a talented but inexperienced budding wizard, goes to study magic at The School of Wizardry on Roke. Here Ged impresses with his propensity for magic but butts heads with another student. Their rivalry results in the death of the Archmage, and the summoning of a shadow creature whom Ged must face before he can move on with his life. This classic novel about growing up and taking responsibility is a must for anyone interested in reading more books featuring magical schools.
Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce
Without patience, magic would be undiscovered - in rushing everything; we would never hear its whisper inside. – Sandry's Book
Tamora Pierce is best known for her series, The Song of the Lioness, featuring her beloved heroine Alanna. But she also wrote the Circle of Magic quartet and the Circle Opens quartet. These books focus on the lives, friendships, and challenges of four young mages, each who have been abandoned or left alone somehow. The children study at Winding Circle Temple, where they learn to control their unique types of magic. Each book in the quartet focuses on a different mage and their particular kind of magic.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
War doesn't determine who's right. War determines who remains.
In R.F. Kuang's The Poppy War, orphan Rin escapes an arranged marriage by studying for the national exam and earning a spot at the Sinegard, an elite military academy. While there, she discovers she is a skilled shaman, and her studies shift to incorporate these new talents. She learns how to use meditation and psychedelics to harness the power of the gods, a control that eventually lands her a position on an elite team of shaman assassins. The book was nominated for a Nebula Award.
Sabriel by Garth Nix
Does the walker choose the path or the path the walker?
Garth Nix's classic novel Sabriel features the girls boarding school, Wyverly College. Here, protagonist Sabriel learns rune-based Charter Magic, a magic much different than the Free Magic she and her father use to interact with the dead and keep the world safe from wild undead creatures and necromancers. This struggle between the two types of magic (and the degrading effect Free Magic has on Charter Magic) is central to Sabriel's story and makes for an interesting internal conflict as Sabriel fights for the safety of her world.
Scholomance series by Naomi Novik
There was only me to save me because no one else cared. –A Deadly Education
Best known for her fairytale retellings, Spinning Silver and Uprooted, Naomi Novik’s most recent series is set at a deadly boarding school meant to train young mages in the skills they need to survive a monster-filled world while also keeping them safe from those monsters that would destroy them while they’re at their weakest and most untrained. In the Scholomance series, El is a student at the Scholomance. The school made nearly sentient by the spells put in place to create it, constantly provides her with horrifying and powerful spells in accordance with her natural skill toward dark magic, forcing her to have to find workarounds and do everything the hard way to fight her seemingly destined evil future. The Scholomance magic school is the primary setting and focus of the entire series.