If a magic system was by alawyer, this would be it. That may sound like a boring concept, but Max Gladstone’s execution is far from it. In his urban fantasy world, it makes complete sense, leaving you wondering why it hasn’t been done before.
In the city of Alt Coulumb, the power of the gods is for sale. Magic works on the basis of contracts and trades, Gods bartering with cities and each other for the loan of their powers.As a result, the world is populated by vampires and gargoyles, fallen gods and necromancers. However, due to these contracts, using magic requires express permission. The battle for its use partly legal, arguing a case for its use in the courtroom.
From this concept, Gladstone builds a complex mythology, complete with multi-dimensional libraries and supernatural elements. Despite this, he never infodumps or confuses. The magic system unfolds naturally though action and dialogue, spurring an easy understanding of its nuances.
To use power, mages manipulate their souls to affect the physical world, but there are elements of steampunk and modern economic systems. The result is a fantastic blend of genres, defying hundreds of conventions and telling an unusual story.