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 have very mixed feelings after finishing Dark Legacy. On the one hand, I didn’t completely hate the story. There was a bit of intrigue and mystery. There was political strife. Vardeman’s combat sequences were also entertaining. On the other hand, I hate every character and I’m glad that almost everyone ends up either unhappy or dead. Maybe this was Vardeman’s intent? Perhaps he wanted to make a chorus of entirely unlikable characters so that you didn’t get attached to anyone? I highly doubt that, but in the end when I finished the book I felt that almost every single one of these characters is a selfish asshole who was only looking out for their own best interest and in the end they got what they deserved. The end.

Dark Legacy
by Robert E. Vardeman

Let’s go through our cast of unlikable assholes beginning with our main character, Yunnie. Yunnie is a human orphan who was abandoned at birth and vaguely remembers a female elf taking care of him. He was fostered by a family in a dump of a fishing town called Shingol which he abandoned not too long (a few months?) before our story begins. He is almost 20 years old and did what most teenage boys do after running away from home: he joined a minotaur tribe and became one of their blood brothers through sacred ritual. Yunnie’s best friend is a minotaur named Mytaru who is (pun intended) bull-headed. Mytaru is a complete idiot as are pretty much all of the other minotaurs. They are bloodthirsty and can only regurgitate their rituals and traditions. The female minotaurs are all obedient housewives.

The minotaurs have been skirmishing with the elves of the neighboring forest and Yunnie is suspicious that someone is playing both sides. It turns out he’s right (surprise) when he discovers an evil sorceress named Sacumon has been conspiring with with a race of rock people to pit the elves and minotaurs against each other. Aiding the rock people are goblins and Coal Golems. Sacumon is doing all of this because her superiors (we’ll get to them soon) have ordered her to prevent an alliance between the elves and minotaurs. She tells all this to Yunnie after giving him a suit of Living Armor to defend himself with. Of course the armor is cursed so that Sacumon can control its wearer, and she also curses Yunnie with a spell to forget all about Sacumon and also to prevent him from speaking anything of what he’s learned from her.

We haven’t even gotten to any of the really deep parts, but first let’s talk about Sacumon. She is an evil sorceress and for that she is unlikable, but the way she casts spells is through blood magic. She basically cuts herself and channels the energy to cast spells. That’s a rough way to live. When she is fighting in earnest things get a little out of hand and she starts cutting off her own fingers to empower her spells. Then she cuts off her hand. Not too long after she is depicted attempting to saw her own arm off. Vardeman really wanted to paint a picture of how evil Sacumon is.

So why don’t we like Yunnie? Well he proceeds to spend the rest of the book trying to prevent the war between the elves and minotaurs and failing spectacularly. Why? No one believes him when he tries to tell them they’re being manipulated by a third party. What’s really weird though is that he is able to overcome the curse that made him forget who Sacumon is, but he can’t overcome the curse preventing him from yelling at people “there is an evil sorceress manipulating goblins and coal golems into inciting war.” This part makes very little sense. In the end after all the elves and minotaurs have basically killed each other off and Yunnie can do whatever he wants, he decides to just whine some more about how badly he messed things up. He has an opportunity to do great things, but basically decides to shirk that responsibility and be all emo instead. What a little shit.

The other main component of the plot deals with a mercenary captain named Maeveen whose company travels in the employ of a pompous archaeologist named Vervamon who reminds me a lot of Gilderoy Lockhart from the Harry Potter universe. Vervamon is hired by Peemel, the King of a local city-state Iwset (more on him soon). He is hired to find something called the Seal of Iwset which Peemel (obviously falsely) claims is the key to something called the Tomb of the Seven Martyrs. In reality, the seal was stolen from Peemel almost twenty years prior by an elf who also spirited away the bastard child of Peemel’s fourth wife. Peemel, concerned that the bastard child could somehow resurface with the Seal of Iwset and claim that the throne is theirs decides to trick Vervamon into recovering the item for him.

Maeveen spends half her time arguing with her lieutenants and the rest of her time fondly remembering the past when she was sleeping with Vervamon and not just commanding troops to protect him. Their trip takes them through a forest of Carnivorous Plants and then to the City of Shadows before they get to Shingol. Along the way Maeveen has a dream of a young man who looks a lot like Vervamon. He is wearing magical armor and leading minotaurs in battle. It’s a weird nightmare that Maeveen believes is prophetical.

At this point the reader can put two-and-two together and tie both halves of the plot together and figure out that Yunnie is Peemel’s fourth wife’s bastard child and that Vervamon is the boy’s real father and that Yunnie is the only one who can stop the war between Iwset and Jehesic.

Oh right, the war. So framing this whole archaeological/minotaur-war story is the larger political conflict of Peemel trying to expand his empire. Now I can introduce you to the rest of our deplorable characters. Peemel is the old and decrepit leader of Iwset. His advisors are Digody, a Jafar-type evil advisor and Apepei, a mountain dwarf who is pure of heart and just wants what is best for Iwset. Then there’s Peemel’s general Ihesia (who is constantly described as both an object of lust and a military genius) and the church leader Abbot Offerio who leads the inquisition. Helping to round out this growing list of casting challenges is Isak, a shape-shifting diplomat who is working for Digody, Peemel, Offerio, and Ihesia all independent of each other (though he’s also sleeping with Ihesia). Last but not least are Farentia, an ambitious adviser to the empress of Jehesic, and Edara, the actual empress.

So, why are they all so unlikable? Peemel is a buffoon and a megalomaniac who gets himself assassinated. Digody is basically Jafar, trying to usurp rule from Peemel who he eventually assassinates. Apepei is an idealist who just wants what is best for his city but he’s also been sleeping with Edara the whole time he’s been telling Peemel not to go to war with her. Ihesia doesn’t do anything interesting in the entire story other than be an object of lust and get Peemel’s army routed. The Abbot isn’t necessarily unlikable but he is leading a religious inquisition which isn’t so nice (the inquisition is because everyone is terrified of magic thanks to Urza and Mishra). Isak is literally only in this for himself (but maybe Ihesia who he lusts after) and eventually flees to the north after stealing Yunnie’s Living Armor. Last but not least, Farentia tries to force her empress to marry Peemel for diplomatic reasons and Edara of course tries to force Yunnie to marry her for equally absurd diplomatic reasons.

In the end Edara and Apepei get married after Apepei kills Digody who killed Peemel and Yunnie goes to live in solitude despite being offered a life of adventure with Maeveen who wants so desperately to sleep with Yunnie because he reminds her of a young Vervamon and literally no one lives happily ever after. The minotaurs and elves are almost all dead. Iwset is broke from war and its people starving. And Yunnie, the main character, is as lost as ever. The end.

Overall Rating: 2.0 — This book was unnecessarily long and so was this synopsis but now you know how awful this story was. You can read it if you’d like, especially for the flavor from The Dark, one of Magic’s underrated expansions. It’s actually maybe worth it just for the fact that everyone uses Uncle Istvan in conversation colloquially the way modern Americans say Jesus Christ. But, Vorthos content aside, the story is okay but the characters are just so unlikable. If you like stories without happy endings, this one is for you. But if you want to connect to the characters, look elsewhere.

Next Week’s Book—The Thran by J. Robert King

If you’ve been following along all year so far (12 books, congratulations) then this may be the moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s only been hinted at so far in other books but now we are almost at the point of learning all about the Brothers War between the artificers Urza and Mishra. But first, we have to travel even further back in time to the civilization that seeded the artifice that the brothers would eventually discover.

The Thran were the technologically advanced race that ruled Dominaria many centuries before the brothers were even born. It was a peaceful land which had many scholars and engineers and beautiful people. The Thran is the story of these people, and of how they suffered and were ultimately destroyed by a scientist/doctor who only wanted to be loved. That doctor’s name?

Come back next week for the story of Yawgmoth.

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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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