This story takes place on the planet Oiaohm as it's liberated from the control of a malevolent Empire. There is a physical magical force called Saar that the inhabitants discovered 150 years ago. All humans can use it, but (except for a select few) the ability must be learned.
--- Saar --- Saar is similar to channeling in the Wheel of Time series in that those who use (or wield, or channel) it do so by forming distinct flows of energy that have an effect on the physical world. What effect a flow has depends on the "level" or "frequency" it has. These levels are grouped into the following category: * Spirit - The higher levels of this mirrors human thought, thus giving the traditional name of Spirit. Many of the levels can have an effect on the fabric of space, allowing artificial gravity and a variant of warp travel (allowing for space travel) and also the ability to poke holes through the fabric of space, creating "portals" (though this doesn't work across interstellar ranges for various reasons).
* Fire - The levels in this group speed up the kinetic energy of matter.
* Solid - Flows made from these levels suspend matter. The name comes from the use of the lower levels, where flows become solid and can be used to manipulate physical objects (e.g. lifting them, cutting them, etc).
* Ice - The levels in this group slow down the kinetic energy of matter.
--- Historical Background --- The Empire is made of ~80 planets and is ruled by an alien who calls himself the God Emperor. The Empire is currently at war on two fronts, from opposing sides of its periphery.
Oiaohm has only been inhabited for 1000 years. It's history is not particularly violent, having been colonized by only one group of people (albeit a group chosen to represent several different cultures in roughly equal proportions).
It's people had reached technological parity with 1960s era Earth before discovering Saar, at which point they had to reinvent much of their technology to make use of this new and powerful energy source. Their world at this point in time looks like a more advanced version of ours. The inhabitants do learn to use Saar, though their abilities are dampened in populated areas.