One of my favorite styles of magic, though not often see is not a clever way for the protagonist to control the forces of magic, but a system where the forces of magic control the protagonist. I suppose an ancient prophecy ca work kind of like this or a higher being giving direction, but I’m talking a more concrete and local form of control, yet exercised by a more abstract force.
The forces of magic involved don’t necessarily have to be sentient or intelligent in the way a human is or, even an animal although they could be. Honestly, I think not being so makes the situation all the more interesting.
Think of the way a bee is involved in an ecosystem: generally as a pollinator. Now imagine that a human (probably a mage or this world’s equivalent, but not necessarily) has been incorporated into the magical ecosystem of the world in the same way. Some force of magic has evolved to encourage certain behaviors in human mages that are beneficial to the magic of the world that force of magic is part of.
Perhaps there is a cycle sort of like the water cycle that benefits from humanity in chaos, and so the magic has evolved ways to create that chaos through empowering some mage or person. The specific actions of the person are irrelevant to the magic, as long as they cause a great upheaval. The system may not even care if humans would describe this pawn of magic as “evil” or “good”.
Humanoid characters are almost always portrayed as exerting control over the magic of their world, but they are rarely shown to have been integrated into the system–as we are integrated into nature, even despite our control of it–despite what is portrayed in the world’s history as thousands or even millions of years of coexistence.
Where are the magical world equivalents of modern climate change? There are apocalypses sort of like nuclear bomb analogs. Mercedes Lackey’s Winds series, for example, with it’s effects on the world of the end of the war depicted in her Gryphon’s series. But rarely if ever are there subtle build-ups of all the interference caused by humans harnessing magical forces. Not even on the local level like the magical equivalent of the flooding and ecological damage caused by damning rivers, or the water shortages caused by different political entities failing to cooperate on usage rights of the local river.
I would love to read (or write!) some fantasy exploring a closer relationship between man and magic than simply human master and magical servant/slave.