Feruchemy: Making Boring Objects Awesome Again
Welcome to Part 7 of Why I Love Mistborn
Symbolism is a powerful tool in any writer’s tool belt. This is true whether you’re planning your plot, strengthening your theme, or refining your world. Because of who I am and where you are, you’ve probably guessed this applies to magic systems as well.
Over the course of a story, a reader comes to associate certain objects, names, and locations with the extraordinary elements of your story. Allomancy, for example, has mistcloaks, coins, and Mistborn while Hemalurgy has spikes, blood, and Steel Inquisitors.
Feruchemy, on the other hand… well, I don’t have strong associations with Feruchemy.
True, the Keepers have distinctive jewelry, but that’s not what stuck with me. Allomancy and Hemalurgy stand out in my memory because they change how I view specific symbols. Feruchemy is my favorite of the three systems because it changes how I view the world.
It may sound dramatic, but it’s true. And for one simple reason.
Feruchemy Works with Anything
Allomancy uses ordinary compounds, but only in specific ratios and in the form of ingestible powders or flakes. Hemalurgy is even more specific, working only with specially constructed, infused, and administered spikes.
Feruchemy has none of those limitations. There’s a scene in the third book where Sazed destroys his opponents in a fight while chained in place. Sazed is no trained warrior, but he took advantage of the ordinary items around him (the lock, the grate beneath him, and the chains themselves) to unleash his feruchemical awesomeness.
And I LOVED it! No surprise since I love seeing creativity and versatility in my heroes.
A Feruchemist can take any metal object in their surroundings and convert it into a metalmind. Any. Metal. Object. That flexibility creates a massive potential for creativity and improvisation.
If I had the choice, I would convert dozens of mundane objects throughout my house and town into metalminds. That way I’d have stores of power available in an emergency, no matter where I was.
Paranoid? Maybe, but I know the wombat mafia is coming for me. And when they arrive, I can guarantee “paranoid” is not what people will call me…
Sorry. Personal tangent… Let’s get back on track.
It Creates New Opportunities
The point is, a clever Feruchemist has lots of interesting ways to prepare for trouble. They could strategically fill metalminds within their home to be ready for virtually any scenario. And these metalminds can be anything from a doorknob filled with weight, a key filled with speed, a knife handle filled with health. Each object must contain the correct metal, but the number of options is delightful you can do.
This adds new ways for Feruchemists to interact with their environment.
A disreputable Feruchemist, or “paranoid” author, might store caches of metal minds around a city like a squirrel buries nuts, moving from cache to cache causing trouble.
Because Feruchemist can tell when an item is a metalmind, even if it’s not their own, a detective could follow a trail of partially spent metal minds through the city. And when the two finally run into each other, the detective uses his special, zinc-plated gun to tap mental speed during the gunfight, giving him the edge he needs to survive.
Makes it Easy to Hide Your Abilities
Allomancy can be very subtle or showy, depending on the metal burned, but a trained individual can detect even the most delicate application of Emotional Allomancy. Hemalurgy is even worse because of the physical mutilation involved.
Feruchemy can blend in. True, the Terrisman have a distinct fashion and personality type, but that’s the culture and not the power. I could have metal minds stashed all over my body without seeming strange. At least… no stranger than usual.
The fact that mundane items can become magical storage vessels is so freaking cool.
There may be extra limitations I’m not aware of (a limit on the number of metal minds, how long they remain potent, or maybe a max distance they can be from the Feruchemist and maintain its charge) but as the system stands, there are so many possibilities I can’t help but jump up and down and squee.
Look beyond your favorite uses or techniques.
Start by establishing the common practices and uses of the magic. Once that’s done, try to identify some uncommon or unfavorable methods of using the magic.
It’s important to establish what is “normal” and “instinctive” for characters and the magic as a whole, but some of the coolest scenes are when the characters abandon their usual tricks and improvise.
See what weird tricks and interesting ways they can interact with their environment. Doing this is one way you can unlock your reader’s imagination. If you can do that, they will love you for it.
That’s All for Now
Thanks again for coming by. I’ve really enjoyed analyzing Mistborn for all my favorite parts. If you want to build a magic system as awesome as Allomancy, I’m right there with you and I’d love to help however I can.
One simple step you can take to improve your magic systems is to sign up for the Marvelous Magic Builder’s Mailing List. I’m currently running a special: be the fifth to sign up through this page and I’ll give you a sliver of anti-magic material. Embed this in your chest and no magic can affect you. Guaranteed!
Of course, I usually use magic to send these thing places… so I’ll have to figure out something else
Anyway, you will still receive monthly updates from me and notifications each time a new post goes live. I’ve got a lot of projects, giveaways, and services I’m planning in the future, and those on the mailing list will be the first to know.
I hope to see your name on the list, but if not, we’ll still talk soon.