September 17, 2019, 06:16:51 PM

Poll

Where do you hope to find magic?

In the blood.
6 (42.9%)
In the books.
8 (57.1%)

Total Members Voted: 14

Author Topic: Magic: In the blood or in the books?  (Read 11384 times)

Offline AEMarling

Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« on: May 02, 2013, 05:26:20 PM »
We all delighted when the downtrodden Harry Potter discovers he has magic in his blood. The slanted ceiling of his room under the stairs might tremble with pounding feet, but at least his magically charged DNA lights his wand. Who could begrudge an orphan his magic?

<-- This guy could, apparently.

In my first review on Fantasy Faction, I critiqued the talent-based magic slung about by the orphan protagonist in The Wretched of Muirwood. In this excellent middle-grade fantasy, the power-infused family tree annoyed me more than I wanted to admit. The untrained protagonist outclassed other magic users with years of experience. The story had one man born without magic who harnessed it through his own ingenuity. He was the villain.

Inborn magic is by definition elitist and exclusive. Yes, an owl still hasn’t brought my Hogwarts letter, and I have an enchanted axe to grind. Beyond my wand envy, I am concerned that portraying magic as talent based leads to an unhealthy world view: Dominance through birthright rather than hard work.

Studies have shown that students who believe intelligence is a fixed trait are more likely to avoid challenges that might prove themselves lacking. They tend to see diligent practice and studying as signs of weakness, and when confronted with failure they more often give up or cheat. (These conclusions come from a study by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford.)

The world does have its prodigies, but how many hours do you think child Mozart practiced piano in a day? Answer:
Spoiler for Hiden:
All the hours. He had an ogre taskmaster of a father.
Even geniuses have to work hard for their successes, as is the case with learning spellcraft in The Magicians by Lev Grossman. The protagonist has to drudge through his arcane studies, and I loved the novel for that. The author does all he can to turn tropes upside down and portray magic as tedious, and I hated the novel for that.

Magic should be fun. It should be the tingle of sparks rushing down the fingers, of runed portals leading to unknown worlds. Magic should be a secret, a prize, a hidden wonder. We dream of flying, of moving objects with our mind, of effortless power. We want to win the lottery of magic. Or, at least we want our protagonists to.

As much as we desire magic to burst into the life of the protagonist in an exciting adventure of sparkling wonder, we want to feel that our hero has earned the newfound power. There’s nothing more depressing than when a protagonist wins every fight. A magic that comes too easily is too hard to believe. (At least to me.) Likewise, even talent-based magic systems require study.

Harry Potter might have grade-A magic blood, but he still spends far more time than he wishes with his nose tickling the pages of a spellbook. Sure, he may tussle with dark lords, but he won’t go far without the help of Hermione, the Helen of Texts. (If there’s a third in the trio, he’s dead to me.) In the Wretched of Muirwood, the protagonist also struggles to attain the right mindset to access her faith-based magic. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the hero in the Magicians has talent--not of inborn magic--but of intellect. That is, if intelligence is a fixed trait.

In your favorite fantasy book, did the magic lean more toward talent or practice? And if we had magic in this world, on which side of the spectrum would you prefer it to sparkle?
Touch the sky of human imagination. Read fantasy: http://aemarling.com/
Newly unchained reviewer for Fantasy Faction: http://fantasy-faction.com/author/a-e-marling

Offline Poe.

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Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2013, 06:32:41 PM »
Interesting read! :>

I never gave it much thought, but I definitely left your post liking the idea that anyone who puts their mind to it could (or should be able to) learn magic. As mentioned in other posts around the site, I've done surprisingly little reading in the field of fantasy, so it should come as (little to) no surprise that I'll draw on a television show to give you what my initial answer to that question was: Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Yes. Willow's good at witchcraft and I do seem to recall quite a few people being surprised (correction: cautious) about the swiftness with which she learns newer and bigger, more challenging things. That said, she did start out as a mere mortal, who then dabbled until dabbling didn't really cover it any more, and I like that - the progression. Because it suggests
Spoiler for Hiden:
, as did Dawn being able to bring Joyce back from the dead,
that it is something anyone can learn, and I like the inclusiveness of that. Which kind of made me think, just now, as I read your post that I want the same for the series I'm working on (so thanks for opening my eyes like that <3).

So yes. I am definitely Team Books (assuming the Blood in the title refers to the Harry Potter way of doing it all).

Offline tenlegdragon

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2013, 08:05:32 PM »
While there's a lot going for the guy who can pick up a book and learn magic, I'd give the win to the naturalist. I think it's coming from my strong background in anime and manga, (I was a hikikomori for a couple years a while back).

In the early days of Naruto (ninjas with chakra powers basically), one of the founding arcs is devoted to establishing which one is better, the person born with sheer natural power and magic - the guys with "bloodline magic" - versus the other ninjas who aren't born with inherited ultra-powerful techniques but still strive to move up in the world - the geniuses of hard work.

Naruto builds a strong case for having it in your blood. You have instincts that can't be learned from a book. You have more resources to draw from, as opposed to the genius of hard work types. PLUS - you can be a natural genius and ADD hard work on top of it, in which case you basically rule the world because you become better than the lazy natural geniuses. It's hard to watch Naruto and not want to have that extra bit of power running through your blood...

In GRRM's ASOIAF - it doesn't pay to be a natural born genius, babies get their heads smashed in and whatnot, but then, upside = dragons? got to go with that blood magic. 

LOTR - Elves are cool, Aragorn is awesome too as a regular human who learned Elvish and Archery and all that, but Legolas/Haldir have him beat any given day. Legolas can walk on snow and talk to horses and be more or less immortal. Got to go with the blood.

Kvothe is an interesting case - so far, he seems just to be one of those hard-working, practical geniuses, but then, it can be argued that he has a higher aptitude? Provided by his gypsy blood? Or his gypsy training? Vague belnd of nature and nuture at work with him...

I'd say that HP makes the case for hard work, expect I was on Voldemort's side the entire time. HP is a prissy magic-aristocracy brat with a bookworm sidekick, and Voldemort's just an off the street guy who was good at black magic. If he wasn't diluted with muggle blood, who knows, he might have come out on top. Down with muggles!

All YA involving Fae- if you don't have some magic in your blood, you don't stand a chance, as all the genre savvy but merely mortal, dead BFFs and sidekicks will attest to.

Lev Grossman's Magicians were a little tedious for me. To little mysticality. I sorta felt that if I got to go to magic school, I'd be a way better student than him and his pseudo-geek friends.

Or take Hemlock Grove - I naturally depended on Roman and Peter to handle the vargulf. Angry millitary woman might have had all the training under the sun, but really? 0 instinct.

A key part of fantasy, I think, is getting the reader to really admire the protagonists and I think it's built in to us humans to admire people who excel at things we can't. And if not admire, at least covet. If you can make magic because your great grandfather was Merlin, I admire you and covet your inheritance and I read on because I want to know what you do with this God given blessing.

That's why, even outside of magic, we have this built in respect for kings and other such people in fantasy novels, and even real life. God, or whichever higher power that be, has reached out and selected a person to be the hero. He has God given talent. A god given right to be the hero... So when you usurp the throne of a dragon, when you kill a dragon on the Trident, we'll read 5-7 books hoping for said dragon or a relative of said dragon to raise an army and reign havoc down on your a** and the a** of your bastard children.

We want Harry to be good at quiditch because his dad was good at it. How dare Malfoy try to be a better Seeker, was his dad a Seeker? No. (Maybe? Can't remember.)

My favourite fantasy book is The Heroes by Abercrombie, though, and nobody has any sort of real magical power in that. My fav character is Prince Calder though, who's not really a prince, since his dad wasn't really a King, but just by tacking on that "Prince" title, though it's mainly sarcastic, I'm on his side automatically.

The best demonstration of hard work winning out, I think is in Full Metal Alchemist. The hero is a 15? year old kid who literally learns magic through text books and he pays for it with an arm and a leg. In this world though, there's nobody born with natural alchemy... Or even a natural understanding of alchemy. It's all "Everybody gotta work"

The best case for a little bit of both is Kakashi from Naruto, who's a normal guy, but borrows a magic eye that he has to learn to use. He's not the very best at it, because it doesn't come natural to him, but he's like Kvothe with that "talent for learning", so he's easily better than all the "normals", though you can say he inherited his talent for learning from his bada** dad... But come on, he's nothing compared to Itachi, amirite? Itachi - the laziest, most best natural genius ever... Dude barely opens his eyes. Can't be bothered by the lessers. His laziness makes him a villain, but his sheer brilliance makes you root for him regardless, even against the actual good guys.

Blood magic makes for good, lazily excellent heroes. They also make for good Ace type characters and Broken Ace characters. We automatically sympathize with them because they're special and nothing bad should happen to them ever. There's no downside to characters having blood magic, and the upside is you can use add-ons and make them hardworking natural geniuses.

Hard-work, no-inheritance Heroes like Ninefingers who learn through practice, have a talent for learning like Kvothe, and Ned who learn through sacrifice and sound moral upbringings are just the slightest bit dull. They need to be extra witty, extra moral, extra charismatic to make up for that lack.

And I forgot Dune. Bene Gesserit. House Atreides. Leto the Tyrant... That's some good blood.

And if magic did exist in this world, I think I'd have it. Or I'd be a Kvothe type, with a "natural talent" for being awesome. I used to consider myself a natural genius until 2 years ago, when I failed an exam and spent a year on the couch afterwards "grieving". Then I realized that I was still a natural genius, just not for hands on practical s***, and I gave myself the old "hero turning to the darkside of the force" speech which is basically, "F*** 'em, your midiclorian count is so high, they just don't understand your genius. Their tests can't measure you! You need to just take over the world and end all the hassle."  So yes, I'd like it if magic was as inheritable as Type 2 diabetes. If I can get DM and Breast Ca, then I want to inherit some magic too. But basically, I'd be a magic genius anyway. Inheriting it would be preferable, but I'd by the text and cram the s*** out of it if I had to. I'd own a effing library of magic books and I'd make Hermione wish she was me. Either way, I'd be awesome.

Anakin is probably the only case against natural genius. Dude grew up to be a henchman.

"What luck for rulers that men do not think."

Offline Sean Cunningham

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2013, 08:19:53 PM »
A like seeing a variety of the above done well, but my preference for this sort of thing comes down to:

"If you want a great archer, start with the grandfather."

- Really Old Saying
"You can't prove it won't happen."
- Futurama

Offline Jonathan Campbell

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2013, 08:22:59 PM »
While there's a lot going for the guy who can pick up a book and learn magic, I'd give the win to the naturalist. I think it's coming from my strong background in anime and manga, (I was a hikikomori for a couple years a while back).

In the early days of Naruto (ninjas with chakra powers basically), one of the founding arcs is devoted to establishing which one is better, the person born with sheer natural power and magic - the guys with "bloodline magic" - versus the other ninjas who aren't born with inherited ultra-powerful techniques but still strive to move up in the world - the geniuses of hard work.

Naruto builds a strong case for having it in your blood. You have instincts that can't be learned from a book. You have more resources to draw from, as opposed to the genius of hard work types. PLUS - you can be a natural genius and ADD hard work on top of it, in which case you basically rule the world because you become better than the lazy natural geniuses. It's hard to watch Naruto and not want to have that extra bit of power running through your blood...

Pretty sure thats the opposite message the story was going for.

Or at least, its supposed to be that hard work can trump talent even if it doesn't always pull it off. It shouldn't be underestimated.

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2013, 08:46:40 PM »
Either one works for me, depending on the story/world

I mean if anyone can do magic, why don't they? Even if it's just a little bit, like lighting a fire or making your pumpkins grow bigger? Pretty much everything would be done by magic, wouldn't it? If anyone can use a simple spell to say light a fire, no one will bother inventing matches. If you've got a world where that happens, then cool. But anyone can do magic, yet only a few do, I'm going to wonder why the rest don't.

And yes, I suppose blood magic can be exclusive, but then the real world isn't all peaches and cream either. I don't see why a fantasy world has to be (in fact it'd seem unrealistic in many circumstances for it to be so). Maybe magic is a genetic mutation, and maybe while it gives some benefits, it also takes some away. Maybe some people have more talent (like some families are all great at X) but they still have to learn, to work at it.

A mix of the two works best to my mind -- you may be born with a bit of an extra something, but you still have to work hard to get it to do anything useful. Just like someone who is born with the perfect body shape to run faster, but still needs to train. Works fab in the Discworld, and is very believable to me. 

Although frankly, anything can work, if the world supports it sufficiently and the writer has though through the consequences of how their magic works.

As the great Sir Pterry says -- if pigs can fly, then everyone under heavy flightpaths should be carrying stout umbrellas.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2013, 08:51:26 PM by Francis Knight »
My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

http://www.juliaknight.co.uk/

Offline tenlegdragon

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2013, 02:03:22 AM »
While there's a lot going for the guy who can pick up a book and learn magic, I'd give the win to the naturalist. I think it's coming from my strong background in anime and manga, (I was a hikikomori for a couple years a while back).

In the early days of Naruto (ninjas with chakra powers basically), one of the founding arcs is devoted to establishing which one is better, the person born with sheer natural power and magic - the guys with "bloodline magic" - versus the other ninjas who aren't born with inherited ultra-powerful techniques but still strive to move up in the world - the geniuses of hard work.

Naruto builds a strong case for having it in your blood. You have instincts that can't be learned from a book. You have more resources to draw from, as opposed to the genius of hard work types. PLUS - you can be a natural genius and ADD hard work on top of it, in which case you basically rule the world because you become better than the lazy natural geniuses. It's hard to watch Naruto and not want to have that extra bit of power running through your blood...

Pretty sure thats the opposite message the story was going for.

Or at least, its supposed to be that hard work can trump talent even if it doesn't always pull it off. It shouldn't be underestimated.

We're talking about the Naruto story here? Because I'm pretty sure that the message of Naruto is that yeah - Hard work is awesome. More Awesome? Having outlandish amounts of powers genetically encoded into your mind going back a thousand years, or at the very least, having your daddy put an unlimited source of power in you when you're a baby. Yes, there are downsides, and you need to work hard to control your magic and your uber-powerful demons, but the bottom line of Naruto is the kekkei genkai. It's founded on the kekkei genkai. Hard work can win out over inheritance, but that's so not the point of Naruto. Shikamaru can "kill" Hidan on a good day, but really, in the Narutoverse, hard work only goes so far, as far as Guy Sensei maybe. There's a sense of hypocrisy though, that I'll give you, because they do give a lot of lip service to hard work, though if you look at the entire story, it's all based on hard working natural geniuses. 95% of the heroes are hard working natural geniuses. Take even Hinata - she's hard working as hell, but she's got the byakugan making her an elite ninja by default. She's not starting at the bottom.
"What luck for rulers that men do not think."

Offline AEMarling

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2013, 04:18:53 PM »
I was on Voldemort's side the entire time. HP is a prissy magic-aristocracy brat with a bookworm sidekick, and Voldemort's just an off the street guy who was good at black magic.

A man after my own heart. I assume by “bookworm” you mean an astute individual who can reclaim knowledge from texts with the same purifying and beneficial effect of an earthworm sifting soil.

But if anyone can do magic, yet only a few do, I'm going to wonder why the rest don't.

As the great Sir Pterry says -- if pigs can fly, then everyone under heavy flightpaths should be carrying stout umbrellas.

First of all, you gain Points for the Terry Pratchett quote. Second, as we’ve seen, some balance of predisposition plus hard work usually equals magically charged triumph for the protagonist. However, you raised another point with which I love to grapple. Since having people bred to magic does not suit my tastes (it’s like guacamole ice cream, kinda awesome but also kinda ewww!), I needed new ways to separate the magic users from the non’s.

I turned to my background in fantasy gaming, where people make the choice all the time between staves and swords. Traditionally, mages have heart-stopping, world-warping power at the price of wearing armor the thickness of toilet paper. Also traditionally, a high-level mage is still overpowered. (I bear the emotional scars from a few notorious casters in MMORPG’s. Curse you, Dynal!)

Rather than a barrier of blood, I prefer magics with barriers of cost. Power that comes at a price. In my own writing, the sacrifice needed for magic is high enough that a person of intelligence might reasonably decline. With most sane people backing away from magic, it retains its fringe status, its tantalizing mystery. It would take a desperate person to turn to arcane, and Desperation City is precisely where I want my protagonists to live.

To give a few examples from my writing, enchantresses can only cast spells when asleep and require precious materials to carry their magic into the waking world. Bright Palms sacrifice their human emotions (and to some extent, volition,) to supercharge their blood with luminescent endurance and rapid healing that would make trolls whistle in approval. Feasters can only cast their illusions at night, when they become beautiful nightmares, hiding the daytime bodies that have wasted away from a magic that rusts them from the inside out.

My balancing requirement results in darker, grittier magic. It’s a price I’m willing for my characters to pay. But I only torment them because I care. The conflict inherent in their magic twists their lives into fascinating displays of humanity.

Can anyone think of a novel where the magic is almost exclusively blood or books? Or what about a favorite novel featuring a magic system with a gut-wrenching cost to the character?
Touch the sky of human imagination. Read fantasy: http://aemarling.com/
Newly unchained reviewer for Fantasy Faction: http://fantasy-faction.com/author/a-e-marling

Offline magisensei

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2013, 05:14:54 PM »

Quote
Can anyone think of a novel where the magic is almost exclusively blood or books? Or what about a favorite novel featuring a magic system with a gut-wrenching cost to the character?

Devon Monk's Magic in the Blood series has a particularly gut wrenching cost to using magic - the cost is your memories - the more power you use the more memory you lose and there is no way of restoring them. 

Nature or nurture in terms of magic ...hmmmm

If you are naturally gifted but don't study - then at most you can do a few tricks so studying usually is the key to becoming more powerful when there is magic. 

Most fantasy worlds tend to combine the two in some way. 




 

Offline Sean Cunningham

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2013, 08:26:30 PM »
Can anyone think of a novel where the magic is almost exclusively blood or books?

Piers Anthony's Xanth books? You were born with a talent as that was that. As I recall, if you were born outside Xanth, your talent manifested once you went in for the first time.

And if I remember A Spell for Chameleon correctly, successive generations drifted further from human and closer to magical creature until humans as a species would vanish without immigrants from the non-Xanth world coming in and marrying into the gene pool.
"You can't prove it won't happen."
- Futurama

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2013, 09:21:10 PM »
Well, adding cost after to cost to the magic is one way, but I still think either books or blood or a combo are viable, depending on how it's done. It all comes down to personal preference in the end,and execution means more to me than whether it's genetically based or learning based or whathaveyou. I like the genetic/blood thing. Perhaps because of my interest in biology?


Quote
Can anyone think of a novel where the magic is almost exclusively blood or books? Or what about a favorite novel featuring a magic system with a gut-wrenching cost to the character?

I take it I can't use mine? :D Genetic AND costly....

I love that's there's so much variety in fantasy, if I'm honest

Curse of Chalion used the 'really high cost' thing very well, I thought.

Discworld wizards are born to it, being only seventh sons of seventh sons, and sorcerers come about if one of them has 8 sons... (though they have to learn too. I can't recall whether the witches are one or the other)

Chronicles of Morgaine, the 'magic' was actually very far advanced tech

It's been a while since I read the books, but didn't the Talented in Night Angel have innate abilities (that is, born with them?)? (They had to have more than one, three was it? iirc)

Promise of Blood has inborn ability, with it passing down through generations (esp the Powder magic, I think)

Wizards First Rule has inherited magic ability (also IIRC)

In the Demon Cycle, all humans can learn the wards (jeez, my memory) though some are better than others. However, demons have innate magical abilities (????)

I used to play a lot of pen and paper RPGS. In the Middle Earth one, only certain races can be certain types of casters, or learn certain spells, which seems to indicate a level of genetics to it.














My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

http://www.juliaknight.co.uk/

Offline Sean Cunningham

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2013, 10:50:43 PM »
I can't recall whether the witches are one or the other

Surely Discworld witches decide to be witches, regardless of what magic thinks of the matter.
"You can't prove it won't happen."
- Futurama

Offline DjangoWexler

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2013, 03:11:54 AM »
I was just going to mention yours, Francis!

In China Mieville's Iron Council there's a monk whose magic gradually consumes his memories, and eventually his identity, whenever he uses it.

In R. Scott Bakker's books, the Few (magicians) have their talent at birth, but can only use it after extensive study in one of the magical schools.  Once they start practicing, they become vulnerable to ancient anti-wizard artifacts that can destroy them with a touch, which is a pretty serious cost in their society.  There's another order of mages who have to blind themselves to learn magic, too. 

Overall though, I agree with Francis' point earlier -- there has to be some kind of significant barrier between most people and magic, or else (assuming magic was really useful, as it usually is) why wouldn't everyone do it? 

A good mixture I've often seen done well is where a person can have a talent for magic, so that while anyone can learn it, a talented person will go faster and farther.  That makes it like any other physical skill -- like most people won't ever play basketball at a professional level, say, or that I will never run a three-hour marathon, regardless of how hard I work at it.

I think a lot of the weirdness that makes me uncomfortable in HP and other "blood" systems is the notion that magic is directly heritable, which is NOT like most physical skills.  We all resemble our parents, but not to the extent that, say, someone who is a pro athlete has children who are automatically pro athletes too.  The HP universe would be a bit more equitable if magic didn't breed true; as it is the wizards are almost a separate, superior species, which is a little squicky.
The Thousand Names -- released July 2!
http://djangowexler.com/book-info/

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2013, 04:59:41 AM »

I think a lot of the weirdness that makes me uncomfortable in HP and other "blood" systems is the notion that magic is directly heritable, which is NOT like most physical skills.  We all resemble our parents, but not to the extent that, say, someone who is a pro athlete has children who are automatically pro athletes too.  The HP universe would be a bit more equitable if magic didn't breed true; as it is the wizards are almost a separate, superior species, which is a little squicky.

Well, in FtB at least, I kind of think of it as some weird mutation in a gene that carries forward* (and may be recessive, or dominant). Which can lead to certain physical traits IRL*, though not usually beneficial ones. Though my magic isn't always beneficial, soo...Mind, my mages still have to learn how to use it. It confers on them the latent ability, not the knowledge. Not all of them survive the process....Then again, limiting magic, which is obviously fictional, to ONLY real world principles is silly. I use this world as a basis, not a ruler.

It's all going to depend on how your magic works, where it comes from, how it's manipulated etc. The only limit on systems is our imagination.


*For instance the sickle cell anaemia trait. If you have both normal genes, you're more susceptible to malaria. If you have both sickle cell genes you get sickle cell anaemia. If you have one of each, you have a higher resistance to malaria (or your symptoms are less if you do get it).

So in FtB, not all children of mages will be able to use magic. Some will get a massive dose, which isn't very healthy. Some will get it juust right (like Goldilocks :D) But that's just this system of magic. Some of mine are blood related, some aren't. I think either can work, for me anyway. It's all in the execution.

PS Looking forward to your book!
« Last Edit: May 04, 2013, 05:03:25 AM by Francis Knight »
My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

http://www.juliaknight.co.uk/

Offline DjangoWexler

Re: Magic: In the blood or in the books?
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2013, 06:32:19 AM »
The weird thing in HP is that magic seems to be a *dominant* trait -- children of two wizards are almost always wizards, children of mixed pairs are often wizards.  But two non-wizards can have wizard children, so it doesn't quite match up.  (My question was always, why aren't there more wizards than Muggles?  The wizards mostly breed true, and live longer to boot.)

In real life, most non-trivial traits are governed by many different genes, so there's all kinds of subtlety you could put into a "blood" system -- people could inherit some parts of magic, but not others, or be good at some things but not others.

The other thing is that if magic is pretty useless, than even if it was "books" exclusively, people wouldn't bother to learn it, especially in a primitive or medieval culture.  Like most people didn't learn to read, say, not because they were intrinsically stupid but because it wasn't a skill that would have a big impact on their lives, and it was a pain to acquire.  (Of course they also may have lacked the opportunity.)

(Glad you're looking forward to it!  I'm very excited for the release.)
The Thousand Names -- released July 2!
http://djangowexler.com/book-info/