It’s kind of surprising to me, but to some people, appendices like this can be very divisive topics. There are people who will pick up a book and check to see if it has a map and appendix–and if it has both, they’re more likely to read it. (I was actually one of these when I was younger.) I guess the philosophy here, if I analyze my teenage self, was that if an author put so much work into a book–and if the book was so complex–that there had to be an appendix, then that was a book I wanted to read.
Others have the opposite reaction, I’ve come to learn. I’ve met people who think that this sort of thing in the back of a book indicates that the author is sloppy, and can’t tell a tight story. Or, that the story is going to be too complicated to enjoy.
In Elantris, my first book, I fought for a pronunciation guide and a cast of characters in the back. I like appendixes, though now it’s mostly because my untrustworthy brain often forgets who characters are. With the Mistborn trilogy being as complex as (hopefully) I want it to be, I figured I’d need cast lists in order to help you remember book one when reading book two.
So, book two has a bigger appendix. However, I wanted to do something in this one as well. One thing I knew people were going to ask about was a way to keep the metals straight. That’s why I developed the quick reference chart, and my friend Isaac did that beautiful metal table for a visual reference–I absolutely love how it looks.
The name “Ars Arcanum” deserves a note as well. I’ve always liked how Ann McCaffery named her appendix the ‘Dragondex’ in the back of her Pern books. One of the biggest draws of my books are the magic systems, and since I intend to do a new one for every series I write (and many, like the Mistborn trilogy, will have multiple magic systems per series) I wanted some sort of ‘catch all’ title I could name the appendixes in each of my books.
I fiddled around for a while. Ars Magica was my first choice, since it’s kind of a cool Latinate take on ‘Magical Arts’ or ‘Magical Skills.’ However, there’s an RPG out with that name, and I figured I wanted to stay away from their title. Ars Arcanum, then, was my next choice. I ended up liking it better, if only because it has a little more true Latinate feel to it.
My magic systems are generally like a new science for the world in which they are practiced, so I like the feel this gives. Hopefully, you found this appendix useful. If not, I suspect you’ll really appreciate the one in book two, as the cast of characters there will provide a lot of helpful reminders.