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

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ashes of the Sun. The blurb on Amazon wasn’t very helpful, nor was the back of the novel itself. All I knew was that there would be some Minotaurs, some Goblins, some political intrigue, and a human woman caught in the middle of it all. Little did I know what was in store when I opened up the book. Instead of a generic tale of fantasy beasts warring with each other, this is a tale of humanity and the true nature of our morality.

Ashes of the Sun
by Hanovi Braddock

The land of Oneah is first mentioned in the short story “Heart of Shanodin” in the first Magic anthology: Tapestries. In the story, a dark knight named Khairt travels to the heart of the Shanodin forest where we learn he was once Grand Champion of the Court in Oneah, and his proper name is Ittono Khairt ni Hata Kan. Khairt was a wrestler under the Roof of Lights but Oneah is gone and its descendants all but dead themselves.

Now, in Ashes of the Sun, we are introduced to another survivor of Oneah’s glorious empire, Istni Ayesh ni Hata Kan. Our story takes place 20 years after the fall of Oneah. Ayesh, a wrestler who was perhaps also trained by the same master as Khairt in the short story, is a storyteller who is traveling the domains and telling the stories of Oneah in hopes of preserving the history of her people. She finds herself in the far islands across the Voda Sea.

The geography of this area is difficult to sort out from the early stories, but MTGSalvation has done a modest job of trying to put it all together.

Ayesh finds herself among a human settlement called Bathtown where she is healed from a goblin attack by the town’s elders. They are interested in her stories but she cries out at their intention to change her stories to make them more palatable for listeners. Ayesh wants her stories recorded as factual history. The elders want to tell tales that will live on for generations. Ayesh, dismayed by their conversation, flees the town and decides that if she cannot have Oneah’s history recorded properly then she has no more reason to live. She tries to antagonize the goblins in the nearby mountains to come out and fight her, but they point and laugh. Soon a band of minotaurs come and capture Ayesh.

Things start to get complex very quickly as Ayesh becomes the cornerstone of a labyrinth of minotaur political intrigue (see what I did there?). Let me give you the quick cliff-notes version of what happens. There is a simmering conflict in the minotaur society between the orthodox houses who adhere strictly to scripture and the old ways and the liberal houses who believe in the future of science. The orthodoxy are led by the priestesses while the liberals practice their science in secret. They have one secret that is very great and Ayesh becomes a critical aspect of it.

The liberal minotaurs have been kidnapping young goblins to perform an experiment. They believe that they can help the goblins become rational creatures so that the minotaurs can negotiate peace with the goblins instead of having to constantly war with them. They’ve developed an elixir that will calm the goblins temporarily, but they need a way to instill this calmness permanently. This is where Ayesh comes in. The minotaurs want Ayesh to teach the goblins the ways of her lost home of Oneah.

There’s just one catch: Oneah was destroyed by goblins and Ayesh despises them more than anything else in the world.

Overall Rating: 4.5 — Ashes of the Sun was far better than I could have expected. There is a lot of depth to Ayesh’s character but also plenty of the other characters have a large range of emotional responses. There are a lot of lessons to be learned as Ayesh goes from a naive storyteller believing she can preserve Oneah’s history, to a pawn in the minotaurs’ political games thinking she can preserve Oneah that way.

Ultimately, Ayesh and the reader alike learn much about humanity, morality, and the reason why some stories change when told to a new audience. Ayesh’s story is a phenomenal one and I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of Ashes of the Sun and read it yourselves. The Vorthos in you won’t be disappointed as the story is full of references to the Fallen Empires, the Hurloon Minotaurs, and other aspects of Magic as well as the stories begin to coalesce into a major region of what will become Dominaria.

Next Week’s Book—Song of Time by Teri McLaren

Song of Time is the second Magic novel by Teri McLaren. The first was The Cursed Land which, unfortunately, I did not enjoy very much at all. My biggest problem with McLaren’s first Magic novel was that it was almost completely devoid of Vorthos lore. This will not be the case with Song of Time which features a young Argivian Archaeologist, the Armageddon Clock, and pays homage to the war between Urza and Mishra.

As Magic becomes more and more established in the community, albeit still in 1996, you can start to see the pieces of the story come together in the Domains which will become Dominaria, and in the stories of places like Oneah, Argive, and so on. The original run of Magic standalone novels will soon be at a close and we’ll be diving into the fully-fleshed out world of Dominaria, its ancient histories, and of course the unforgettable tale of Urza Planeswalker.

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.