Welcome to our 2016 52 in 52 series. This year I will be reading 52 Magic: the Gathering novels spanning two decades of Vorthos lore. Each week I’ll share my review of the book along with a synopsis for those of you who are just interested in the core of the story.

52 in  52

Welcome back to 52 in 52! This week we read Shattered Chains by Clayton Emery which is the second book in the Greensleeves Trilogy. In case you missed it last week, be sure to check out my review of Whispering Woods, the first book in this series. When we left off last week our heroes, Greensleeves and Gull, had freed themselves from the evil wizard Towser, discovered that Greensleeves is a druid, and formed a ragtag army to take arms against evil wizards across Dominia (what they call the world we know as Dominaria). This week, in the middle chapter of our story, our heroes grow more powerful thanks to an old friend of ours (not theirs).

Shattered Chains
by Clayton Emery

In Whispering Woods we’re introduced to Gull and Greensleeves, a woodcutter and his sister, who have their world turned upside-down when two wizards lay waste to their village while searching for a powerful artifact. One of the wizards recruits them into his service afterwards only to betray them when he discovers Greensleeves can weave mana. The evil wizard, Towser, is foiled by Gull and Greensleeves and our heroes form an army to battle wizards.

We pick up several months later as this rag-tag band roams the land trying to figure out just what the hell they’re doing. They’re really quite clueless and every day they’re picking up more followers and becoming more disorganized. Gull is no general. Greensleeves is no druid. Lily is no wizard. But then we meet a pair of new (old) characters. Enter Garth and Norreen, the heroes of the novel Arena. At the end of Arena, Garth and Norreen had started a family after their escapades left the city of Estark in ruin. Now, however, not all is perfect in their world as Garth leaves his wife and son in pursuit of more Magic (typical man).

Almost immediately after Garth’s departure, Norreen is beset by a group of heroes from her home in Benalia. They capture her and her son and bring them back to Benalia where a man that Norreen refused to marry is now in charge of everything. Yes, it’s very cliche but we are already attached to Norreen who we learn is actually named Rakel. The leaders of Benalia take her son away and tell her she is to assassinate Greensleeves and Gull, the leaders of a great and threatening army, and in exchange she can have her son back. She has until the next moon.

The story actually moves very quickly at this point, much quicker than in Whispering Woods. Rakel comes across the army in the midst of battling another wizard. Gull and Greensleeves emerge victorious but at great cost and Rakel realizes they’re actually decent people who she can’t bring herself to kill. So instead she joins their army. It’s too bad because she could have made a really interesting villain but in the end she’s a Benalish Hero, through and through.

She whips Gull’s army into shape while in the meantime Greensleeves and Lily come across an archdruid named Chaney. You know, just hanging out nearby. Okay it’s a three day’s ride but nonetheless we are treated to a pretty uninspiring double-montage of Rakel training Gull’s army and Chaney training Greensleeves and Lily in magic. The big reveal during this part of the story is that the Mana Vault they thought they discovered at the end of Whispering Woods is actually something much more powerful.

It turns out it’s a shape-shifting artifact created by the Sages of Lat-Nam to battle the brothers Urza and Mishra during the brother’s war and can be turned into a helm and used to command other wizards to stop being assholes. Holy plot device, Batman! So now Gull and Greensleeves and Lily know what they must do and plan to travel across the world with their army forcing evil wizards to stop using magic. And then Rakel/Norreen attempts to kill herself.

Wait, what?

Yeah, that’s right, suicide. The honorable exit since she can’t bear to kill Gull and Greensleeves nor can she live with herself for abandoning her son. I can’t believe I’m only halfway through recapping this. It moves quickly, but describing it all now seems kind of crazy. I won’t tell you more, because you should really read it for yourself and find out what happens next. I’ll just give you a little tease by letting you know that our heroes will visit both Benalia and Phyrexia before the story ends.

Overall Rating: 3.5 — In general the story is a big improvement over the tropes presented in Whispering Woods. In the previous story you knew from start to finish that Gull and Greensleeves were going to be all-powerful, nigh untouchable heroes in the classic Mary Sue paradigm. This time however we don’t know what’s going to happen to a lot of characters that we’re starting to generate emotional attachments to, especially Rakel/Norreen and Lily. There’s still a lot of hand waving going on, especially when it comes to Greensleeves’ training, but ultimately the pace of the action and the fantastic descriptions of magical combat carry this book.

Next Week’s Book—Final Sacrifice by Clayton Emery

At the end of Shattered Chains Gull and Greensleeves are more enthused about their crusade than ever. Not surprisingly the Mary Sues of our story are still stronger than ever (I won’t tell you who’s still with them) and plan on forcing every evil wizard in Dominia to stop being evil. But what they don’t know is that the wizards they’ve compelled have been organizing and are forming an army of their own. From Amazon:

The archdruid Greensleeves travels with her ragged troops, searching for spells to defeat an army of angry wizards and end their reign of terror.

What will happen? Will our Mary Sues survive? Will the evil wizards reign supreme? And why the hell are all wizards evil anyways? Aren’t they supposed to be representing us, the players? Find out the answers to all these questions and more next week when we review the epic conclusion of our trilogy!

Full Disclosure: The images of books in this review will take you to Amazon.com where you can purchase these books (and many more items, so I’m told). If you do so, Hipsters of the Coast will receive a small percentage of your money which will be used to ensure columns like this and many others can continue to exist.

52 in 52 is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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