Wednesday, 21 August 2019

War of the Spark: Ravnica - the online stories

Writer - Greg Weisman
Released - May-June 2019

Eh... have you read my summary of the War of the Spark novel? This is just the same story again, but entirely from Rat's perspective and with some bits summarized. There is a little expansion here and there, like a scene between her and Hekara in the first part, and we get to see a bit more of Kaya convincing the Orzhov to join the battle, but otherwise it's just the same story we've already covered.

This might sound weird, but while this is just the exact same story as War of the Spark, I also think it is a million times worse.

While reading the novel I did not feel the vitriol some other people felt, perhaps because I thought it was just overambitious, which made me accept a few flaws. It was trying to do far too much in too few pages, but the constant action and cool individual scenes kept me entertained while reading it.

Then I heard there is going to be an online story as well, and I thought "Adding a few extra chapters to War of Spark is a great idea! That'll give them more space to develop the bits that were rushed through!"... and then I read it and it is just a summary of what I already read...

War of the Spark: Ravnica

Writer - Greg Weisman
Cover art - Magali Villeneuve
Released - April 2019

This book has a... high paced plot, so... *deep breath*

In the prologue we see Ugin talking to the spirit of Niv-Mizzet, who is inside the Firemind Vessel and was dropped off in the Meditation Realm by Sarkhan Vol. The two dragons talk in veiled terms about their plan to take down Nicol Bolas.

And no, you didn't miss anything, Niv-Mizzet is already dead, having been killed while trying to stop Bolas, before the book starts. This book skips over some very important plot points that are only now being covered in The Gathering Storm. We'll talk more about that below.

On Ravnica the Interplanar Beacon is switched on to lure as many planeswalkers as possible to the plane to fight Bolas. Among the first to turn up are Teyo Varda, directly after his ascension, and the Gatewatch and their allies, who were having cocoa at Pia Nalaar's place while Gideon went back to Dominaria to see why Liliana didn't follow them at the end of Dominaria.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Children of the Nameless

Writer - Brandon Sanderson
Cover art - Chris Rahn
Released - 12 December 2018

As requested I'll do a summary here, but I really want to urge you to go and read the whole thing here. It is a mystery story, and I don't want to spoil the main plot for the people still planning to read it. Also, it's free, so why miss it?

The story starts rather dark, with a girl named Tacenda being the sole survivor of an attack on her Innistradi village. She and her twin Willia were born with a strange condition: she can only see at night, her sister only during the day. In exchange for this strange curse the girls have powers: Willia is a fantastic warrior, and Tacenda can sing the Song of Warding which can protect against all the nasty creepies of Innistrad. The song failed to work though when mysterious spirits known as Whisperers attacked the village during the day, leaving Tacenda fairly helpless. Yet she survives and blames the Man of the Manor, the local aristocrat, for the attacks, as he was previously seen killing the twins' parents while they were making an offering to the Bog, a magical spot worshiped by the villagers.

Yeah, this story is fairly complex, so the summary is going to be veeeeeery info-dump-y.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

The Monsters of Magic

The Monsters of Magic
Editor - J. Robert King
Cover art - Ron Spears
First printing - August 2003

This is the final installment of the anthology series, and it is pretty much like all the others. By now the creators have figured out that it's a good idea to tie all the stories into either the cards themselves or to the rest of continuity, so there are no completely random stories anymore, but the quality is still very variable. The monsters featured range from very famous Magic creatures (LhurgoyfAtogMorphling) to some also-rans (Vampiric DragonPhantom Monster), but curiously the four on the cover weren't included for some reason, even though they are pretty iconic Magic monsters! (Okay, Two-Headed Dragon isn't quite in the same league as Sliver QueenHypnotic Specter and Masticore, but it was played as a finisher back in the day!)

The stories are divided up into three parts: Ancient Monsters, Modern Monsters and Otherworldly Monsters, with four stories each. This is a bit less useful than the more specific time periods from The Secrets of Magic, as the division between "Ancient" and "Modern" is actually just "Pre-Invasion" or "Post-Invasion" and everything in the Otherworldly section fits in the "Pre-Invasion" bit as well. We'll have to see if the stories themselves guide us to a clearer placement.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

The circulair continuity of Legends I, Legends II and Greensleeves

During the Legends I and Legends II reviews, and heck, all the way back in the Greensleeves trilogy reviews from 2015, I've said that I would eventually do an article about the multiple incarnations of the Legends Legends set that appear in the Magic canon. Time to cross another long promised project off the list!

I must warn you though, if you're hoping for another Lat-Nam Kerfuffle where I try to make all of this fit together somehow, do temper your hopes a little. It's simply impossible to make all these references fit without creating some sort of circulair timeline where one character appears first in Legends I and then in Legends II, while another character goes the other way. Even with less egregious examples you can end up with characters who have apparently been around for thousands of years. To solve this without making up a whole lot of fan fiction involving outlandish time travel plots we need to assume there are multiple characters with the same name in the canon. Madarans especially seems to have a habit of naming their children after ancient legends in this fix. It's probably a cultural thing.

As for why this happened... well, Clayton Emery and Scott McGough have pretty much told us. Calyton has said several times, most recently in the comment section of this blog, that Xira was a late addition to the book, originally another minor character that was changed to incorporate more Legends from the set. Only nobody told Scott, who was putting the same characters in his own story. There was no editor keeping this straight, so it should come as no surprise that there was also no one making sure the new books worked with the old Harper Prism stuff.

I have speculated before on why continuity was such a mess at the time. Remember that the two Legends trilogies were published at the same time as the Otaria Saga, which was also a complete continuity trainwreck both internally and with regards to the rest of Magic's continuity. We'll probably never learn exactly what was going on inside WotC at the time, but this was clearly a time when the storyline, and especially a consistent continuity, were very low down on the list of priorities. Well, at least it's left us with an interesting puzzle...

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Champion's Trial

Writer - Scott McGough
Cover artist - Kev Walker
First printing - November 2003

The book starts with Nicol Bolas in the Blind Eternities, recapping the situation after the previous two books. He is unable to trace Tetsuo. We then find the former champion alongside Kolo Meha, Wasitora and her kittens hiding near the village of Sekana. Together they make a plan to take down the kentsu, newly crowned regent Ramses Overdark and emperor Bolas himself. Overdark sends kentsu troops to Sekana to lure Tetsuo out, but they are destroyed by Meha and the nekoru. For this failure Bolas robs Overdark of the use of his body, paralyzing him but putting his mind in direct contact with all his minions.

The army isn't doing any better on the Edemi's. Jorgan Hage has one part of the army attack the remaining rebels under Lady Caleria while another part attacks the Sylvan Library, still under control of Ayesha Tanaka. Ayesha utterly defeats them, attacking them with wood golems, strangling them by taking control over the leather in their armor, and supercharging the growth of the reefs around Kusho to destroy the fleet there, leaving the army just enough ships to retreat from the island. Hage is teleported to the mainland by Overdark to avoid the slaughter. Lord Magnus's spirit, which is still in the Library, is pleased that Ayesha's ingenious use of its powers killed so many kentsu, but still wants his seat back, so the two make a deal. Ayesha relinquishes control, but is transported to Kusho with the means to heal the island's mana lines and her own mana addiction. Going there also allows her to seek vengeance on the killers of Kei.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Emperor's Fist

Writer - Scott McGough
Cover artist - Greg Staples
First printing - March 2003

After last book's failure of imperial assassin Ramses Overdark to quell rebellion in the Edemi islands, the emperor of Madara sends in the army, headed by Marhault Elsdragon. Overdark is ordered not to interfere, and imperial champion Tetsuo Umezawa and his crew are punished for their interference in Overdark's attack on the Edemi's by being forced to serve under as army officers for the time being.