Before I start on this post, I realize that a few weeks back I mentioned that I was trying to avoid doing written blog reviews. What I meant to say was that I am trying to not constrain myself to just writing review posts, I want to make sure that the blog posts I write are constantly entertaining and not pigeon holed into one type of writing. Having said that, I was recently sent copies of Parts 1 and 2 of The Secretist by Wizards of the Coast, written by Doug Beyer. The Secretist is the story that accompanies the current Magic: The Gathering set, Return to Ravinca. If you're a fan of Magic or a big lover of fantasy books, you will want to click past the break for more.
For those of you who may not be that familiar with Magic; it is a collectible card game where you and your opponent take the form of powerful mages called "Planeswalkers" who duel each other. Each year, Wizards of the Coasts releases a "block" of Magic cards. This block of cards consists of 3 different sets that are released throughout the year. Each one of the sets within the same block of cards take place in the same location, sharing a common theme and background story that weaves its way into the various characters, abilities, and flavor text. This background story is typically expanded upon by a series of novels that are released around the same time as the individual sets. So each year, a block will contain 3 sets of cards and 3 novels; one to go with each set. This year, Wizards is experimenting with this formula a bit; releasing 3 shorter novellas throughout the year as ebooks.
The first part, Return to Ravnica, The Secretist Part 1, stars Jace Belerin, a Planeswalker who specializes in mind magic. Jace has discovered an ancient code within many of the structures located in the world of Ravnica, a world consisting of one giant city rules by ten various guilds. The code that Jace has discovered is believed to lead to an "Implicit Maze," which at the end of it is rumored to contain some sort of weapon. In February, the second ebook in the series, Gatecrash, The Secretist Part 2, the discovery and subsequent exploration of the Implicit Maze has caused dissent between the ten guilds, causing their leaders to prepare for all out war. Jace finds himself in the middle of the guilds' tensions and must find a way to discover what is really inside the Implicit Maze before war tears apart the entire world of Ravnica.
Up until this point, I had never read Magic's background novels. Each year I see them, and am tempted to read them, but they always get placed low on my to-do list. When I got the copies of "The Secretist", I was determined to finally get off of my butt and read these Magic stories. I downloaded both parts for the Kindle app on my iPad and got to reading. The availability of the stories as ebooks made it so much easier to obtain and read through the stories, and I really enjoyed that. If Wizards of the Coast were to release all of their Magic stories as ebooks from now on, I could see myself reading more of them. Especially because I loved this story so much. The way that the author describes the various people and guilds, most of which are available as different cards in the Magic set, allowed me to get more immersed into the story and location. The description of the different guilds battling it out is very vivid in its description; you can easily see in your mind the way that the characters cast their spells to attack and defend against their opponents. I am more of a Science Fiction reader, but I have read a couple of different Fantasy books. None of them have gone into as detail as these books on the magic and the way that the spells come into reality. The fact that the card game is called "Magic: The Gathering" probably is a large reason why this is the case.
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed these two books, and I am really excited for the final part of the story. Not only that, but I am excited for the next time that I get to play the Magic card game, as I feel I will have more understanding as to why the cards are the way that they are and why certain mechanics behave in a particular way. That, of course, is probably Wizards of the Coast's goal in publishing these Magic stories; and for this Magic Block, I feel that they have succeeded.
Gatecrash, The Secretist Part 2, along with the first part of the tale, can be found for $1.99 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. If you are a big Magic: The Gathering fan, or someone who wants a different sort of fantasy tale, then I highly recommend that you pick up this book. If you do, let me know what you think and if you are as excited as I am for the final part!