Magic in the Kingkiller Chronicle is a bit of a delicate subject. For ease of explanation, it is best to separate two predominant types of apparent magic and define them separately. Firstly, there are the disciplines taught in the University ; the arcanist's arts (Sympathy, Sygaldry, Alchemy and Naming), whereby a person can use trained skills to produce effects indistiguishable from magic to the layperson. Secondly, there is something that, for lack of a better term, must be called Fae magic (Glammourie and Grammarie), for insofar as Kvothe's tale has revealed, it is only wielded by fae creatures.
According to one of Patrick Rothfuss interviews, there are still two other types of magic not yet disclosed, apart from the six types mentioned above.
Arcanists have an uneasy relationship with the rest of society in the Four Corners . On the one hand, their achievements have yielded a vast array of benefits to everyday people that are undeniably useful. High-quality glass, clean light sources, modernized waterworks, and all manner of other products commonly recognized as "technology" are in fact produced by arcanists or arcanist students at the University. On the other hand, the common folk of these nations cannot explain how any of these achievements happen, and they have a deep mistrust of arcanists that is the product of a cultural bias stretching back hundreds of years. It has not been overly long since arcanists were burned alive out of suspicion of consorting with demons or other superstition-based crimes, most often backed by the Tehlin church. Due to simple ignorance and indoctrinated superstition, for the average citizen of the Four Corners, the arcanist's arts are a type of magic. Four of the disciplines taught at the Academy can be specifically attributed to magic-seeming phenomena.
- Sympathy-whereby a sympathist uses strength of will to usurp the laws of physics and manipulate energy
- Sygaldry -whereby an artificer uses runes and delicate metalwork to create items capable of amazing feats
- Alchemy-whereby an alchemist uses principles to concoct potions which can produce any manner of results
- Naming-whereby a namer can invoke a True Name he has learned and command the named thing to behave as he wills
- "Bast lay his bloody palm flat on the table. The wood groaned and the broken timbers snapped back into place with a sudden crackling sound. Bast lifted his hand, then brought it down sharply on the table, and the dark runnels of ink and beer suddenly twisted and shaped themselves into a jet-black crow that burst into flight, circling the taproom once.
- Bast caught it with both hands and tore the bird carelessly in half, casting the pieces into the air where they exploded into great washes of flame the color of blood.
- It all happened in the space of a single breath. `Everything you know about the Fae could fit inside a thimble...How dare you doubt me? You have no idea who I am.'"
Fae magic is a grouping that represents all wondrous effects so far shared in the Kingkiller Chronicle that cannot be explained under the heading of the arcanist's arts. Fae creatures, by their very nature, have abilities that do not fit into the rules of the mortal world. Inherent in their constitution are abilities that are both wondrous and strange, and they seem perfectly capable of exercising these abilities if and when they cross over from the Faen realm into the mortal world. Felurian has well-documented powers of seduction, as well as apparent immortality and eternal youth, and as quoted above, Bast has exhibited several miraculous abilities that cannot be explained as anything but magic.
There does not seem to be any specificity or even pattern to the types of abilities that fae beings possess. If the story related by Felurian is accurate, then it stands to reason that each type of being that exists in the Faen realm is a product of specific design, and could quite easily have been created out of pure whim and flight of fancy. This raises an issue of semantics relating to causality and crossover between the types of magic.
Crossover-the Nature of Naming
There could quite reasonably be some argument as to whether the art of Naming should be considered a learned discipline such as Sympathy or Alchemy, or a more esoteric and "unnatural" ability, one which perhaps a Namer either is born with or is not. Given that each point of view in this argument would appear to have equal footing, it seems most effective to leave things categorized as they currently are, for a number of reasons.
- Ease of grouping: the categorizations as they stand leave everything taught at the University in one group, and everything else in another.
- Slippery Slope Semantics: if one accepts Felurian's account of the Creation War, then it appears that all of the Fae is, in actuality, a product of the power of Naming or Shaping. Whether exhibitions of unreal power performed by creatures invented entirely by Namers are considered a type of magic or not is a discussion beyond the scope of this wiki, and so it is quite simply easier to leave them described as they are.
Rothfuss interview with Jo Walton
Rothfuss discussed the different magics we have been exposed to in a Q&A with Jo Walton, split between his blog (http://blog.patrickrothfuss.com/2012/05/a-different-sort-of-interview/) and tor.com (http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/05/rothfuss-reread-pat-answers-the-admissions-questions). According to Rothfuss, we have been exposed to seven types of magic in the books, and there is at least one more which we have not been exposed to, yet. The eight magics are:
1. Alchemy 2. Sympathy 3. Naming 4. Sygaldry 5. Glammourie 6. Grammarie 7. ?? (Rothfuss says it receives a "whisper of a mention" in the books, some theories say it could be knacks, while others suggest Yllish knots - like the ones Denna ties in her hair) 8. ?? (Rothfuss says it has yet to be revealed)
Rothfuss himself says that some of the magics are very similar, while others are very, very different. He also says that no Grand Unified Theory of magic has peen proposed, though members of the University occasionally discuss whether all magic must follow the same principles.