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

This week we feature the first full-length Magic novel that, as far as I could tell, has almost nothing to do with Magic Vorthos lore. The title is taken from a Magic Card, sure, but the characters, the land, the action, and almost everything else about this story is a unique, standalone fantasy book. Almost everything.

The Cursed Land
by Teri McLaren

The one bit of Vorthos lore in our story is actually a framing device for the entire plot. One of our peripheral characters, an apothecary of sorts named Malvos, has been abandoned in a world virtually devoid of mana. His previous job was in the employ of a planeswalker. His role was to go to worlds and seek out leylines for his employer to connect to mana. It’s like asking your friend to pick you up some lands for your collection. So anyways Malvos was stealing mana from his employer and she decided to abandon him in this world with virtually no mana.

So now we get into our terribly stereotypical fantasy story. We have a village, an old magical tree that sustains the village, the keeper of the tree’s magic, and his jealous childhood friend. The keeper is named Haen and the jealous friend is Nohr. Malvos, sensing that the tree is the world’s only source of mana, decides he wants the mana so he can escape this place and convinces Nohr to destroy the tree and free the energy within. He does so, and a curse is placed on the land. Hence, the Cursed Land.

The curse separates the land into two sides, one following the line of Haen and the other following the line of Nohr. The world is cast into darkness and only the Haenish preserve any semblance of nature and sunlight and agriculture. The Nohrish people build a small medieval city and survive from a mining operation. The book is pretty black and white about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

I don’t want to go into too much detail because the story is full of detail. McLaren builds a very diverse world to tell her story in but it is not a terribly exciting story. The bad guys kill the good guys leader who passes on his secrets to his daughter. The bad guys capture the daughter and try to torture the secrets out of her. A relative of hers comes to save her. Does this sound like Star Wars yet?

Our hero is the daughter and halfway through the story she and her compatriots will attempt to make their escape. She confronts the leader of the bad guys and is gravely hurt. She retreats to safety and all hope seems lost as the bad guys march on the good guys to destroy them once and for all. Does this sound like the Empire Strikes Back yet?

In the final third of our story we get a pretty lengthy training montage where our hero learns to overcome her fear and anger and become the true hero. Hero’s journey complete she returns to the world where she purges the darkness from the leader of the bad guys. This is nothing like Luke turning Darth Vader from the dark side. Nope, not at all. In the end everyone celebrates including the ewoks tribal clans folk.

And that’s basically it. Oh, when it’s all said and done, the evil planeswalker returns to punish Malvos, seven hundred years after dumping him here.

Overall Rating: 2.0 — The problem with The Cursed Land is that it’s well written but incredibly boring and full of unnecessary side plots. There is an elven couple who have been around for centuries trying to make sure the prophecy comes through. There’s a slave rebellion going on in the bad guys’s land. There’s a subtle sub-plot of the main character overcoming the challenge of being female. There’s a cameo appearance by the Fates of Greek mythology.

I would have enjoyed a hero’s tale story with a female protagonist if it had more Magic Vorthos lore, but it does not. Instead it has a planeswalker framing device and then a bunch of uninteresting side plots. Everything gets wrapped up neatly in the end with a bow on top and thus ends our fantasy tale. Unless you really enjoy hero’s tale stories, I don’t recommend this one.

Next Week’s Book—The Prodigal Sorcerer by Mark Sumner

For centuries, the magewall has isolated a battletorn valley. There, three races live in perpetual strife fueled by prejudice and fear. The Viashino hate the Garan, the Garan loathe the Humans, and the Humans despise them all.

But a new day is dawning. Tagard Tarngold, a human leader, has a plan that could bring harmony to his war-ravaged home, and has enlisted the aid of Aligaurius, a sorcerer from the Institute of Arcane Studies, in his efforts. Peace may be on the horizon at last.

But the terrible price of Tagard’s peace may be more than his people can pay.

That doesn’t sound awful I suppose. I mean, how bad can a full-length novel inspired by the card Prodigal Sorcerer really be anyways? Besides, even if the story is bad it will have more Magic vorthos lore thanks to featuring the Viashino. For those who don’t know, the Viashino are a race of lizard-folk from Dominaria. This is hopefully a continuation of building up the world of Dominaria as we get closer and closer to it becoming a fully realized world and the home of our major stories.

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. Please note that if you click the link then anything you purchase from Amazon in the next 24 hours (even if it isn’t this book) will provide us with a small percentage, so if you want to help support Hipsters of the Coast and need to buy a new vacuum cleaner then click away!

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.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.