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 is what the Vorthos life is all about. In the original alpha edition of Magic the Gathering there was a blue common creature that you may recall fondly: Prodigal Sorcerer. This wizard was one of the most popular cards in the game and Mark Sumner decided that it deserved its own full-length novel. I can’t say I disagree. Prodigal Sorcerer also comes with some flavor text setting up this novel: Occasionally a member of the Institute of Arcane Study acquires a taste for worldly pleasures. Seldom do they have trouble finding employment.”

The Prodigal Sorcerer
by Mark Sumner

At its core, The Prodigal Sorcerer is an elegant fantasy story including adventure, intrigue, and of course war. Our story begins simply enough. A human king has united the tribes of the land including much of the human tribes and the Garan (which are Sumner’s own breed of elves). All of these people live in a valley which is surrounded by a magical barrier called the magewall. The wall keeps outsiders from invading the valley and it was created by mages a long time ago at the Institute of Arcane Study which lies in the middle of the valley. In the southwest corner of the valley is the capital city of the Viashino, and it is the last holdout preventing the entire valley from being united under one peaceful banner.

Now the stage is set for the invasion of Berimish the capital city of the Viashino (which also houses a large human community). Here’s a quick aside on the Viashino, and part of what makes this novel such a great story for Vorthos fans. The Viashino are a lizard-folk race which have appeared on several planes including Ravnica, Alara, and most importantly Dominaria. They first appear in Mirage on the cards Viashino Warrior, Hivis of the Scale, and Zirilan of the Claw.

Mirage released in October 1996. This novel released in November 1995. Almost a full year before the first Viashino appear on Magic cards, Mark Sumner is highlighting their society in The Prodigal Sorcerer. As we’ve seen already, Wizards was giving some of their authors early insights into what was coming down the pipeline. As we know today this is a fantastic way to build the worlds in which Magic exists. Now, in 1995/1996 there was no fleshed out world of Dominaria. We will see the world of Dominaria start to take shape over the next few months of novels in our series, including more details around the Viashino living in Shiv and Jamuraa.

But back to our story. The human king, Tagard, prior to attacking the Viashino capital, traveled with his advisors and daughter to the Institute of Arcane Study where he recruited his Prodigal Sorcerer, a mage named Aligarius who had studied there for over a century and become bored with life in the institute. He traveled with Tagard and used a spell to put all of the Viashino to sleep, allowing Tagard to capture the city unopposed.

Tagard is an interesting leader because he truly understands what it will take to bring peace to the valley. Tagard does not kill the Viashino leaders. He even works to appoint the Viashino king as a member of his council to further unite the people. His daughter Tallibeth, called Talli, does not understand what Tagard does not subjugate the Viashino who have warred with him for so long. He explains to his daughter that he wants to unite the people of the valley, not eliminate the Viashino and leave the valley for the humans and Garan. Talli explores the city with a native guide and begins to understand her father’s motives.

Of course this is an adventure fantasy novel and it wouldn’t be exciting if Tagard successfully created a peaceful union among the peoples of the land. What ensues is a fantastic tale of intrigue and conspiracy with layers upon layers of betrayal, growth, and learning what it really means to make a sacrifice for the greater good.

Overall Rating: 4.0 — Mark Sumner does a fantastic job of developing multiple characters in this story including Tallibeth, the daughter of the invading King, and Recin, her guide to the land of Berimish. Sumner’s characters have an emotional depth and motivation that is rare to find in many of Magic’s earliest novels. It is also a fantastic Vorthos novel as it brings to life the Institute of Arcane Study, the Viashino race, and several artifacts named in the book such as Millstone and the Amulet of Kroog. Though this story, like the other Magic novels of the time, is generic fantasy, Sumner goes above and beyond to try to bring the world of Richard Garfield’s cards to life. It took almost two decades for Wizards to rediscover this formula, but it is clearly the superior way to intertwine the story and the cards.

Next Week’s Book—Ashes of the Sun by Hanovi Braddock

Next week we continue our journey through Magic’s early history. Dominaria is still an unknown entity but we learn more and more about the conflicts of the land. Braddock’s tale will feature goblins and minotaurs as we continue to build more and more mythos into the land. I have to admit that this one sounds like it’s going to be a fairly generic fantasy tale, with little in the way of Vorthos lore. Still, it is cemented as one of the original tales of Magic’s past and next week we’ll find out where it fits in the history of the game.

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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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