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’re taking a step back from the main Magic storyline to read another collection of short stories from around Dominaria. This is the third such book published by Wizards. You may recall the previous two dealt with a variety of stories in a place called “Dominia” which we now know as Dominaria. The Colors of Magic features eleven short stories. Each color gets two stories except for black which only gets one and blue which gets three because apparently even in the books blue is best. The eleventh story is a five-color story featuring Feldon.

The Colors of Magic
Edited by Jess Lebow

Since the stories were pretty short I can give a short synopsis of all ten of them, so here goes!

Angel of Vengeance: This is a story about the color white in which a wizard summons an Angel to exact revenge from a rival family for the murder of the wizard’s kin. Things escalate quickly as the Angel loses her divinity as she becomes more of a tool of violence. Eventually a demon shows up and we all learn a valuable lesson about vengeance.

Reprisal: The second story about the color white is also a story with a moral. The main character is an intelligent young man named Finroy who is appointed to be the personal assistant of Lord Rothchild who is the overseer of Eastern Kjeldor. This story is a bit of a slapstick comedy as Rothchild turns out to be a womanizing alcoholic who Finroy keeps having to cover for to keep the peasants happy. The moral is that not all politicians are what they seem to be (how relevant).

Versipellis: The next story features the color green, and another moral. Our main character loses a duel with the fiance of the woman he lusts for. He wanders the woods and discovers a sprite who gives him the power to change into a bear once and then change back. So our hero returns to town, changes into a bear, and slaughters the fiance. Of course since he is a bear in the middle of a city he is hunted and killed before he can change back. Everyone dies and the woman is left to roll her eyes at the stupidity of men.

A Song out of Darkness: We finally get our first real taste of Vorthos with this story about Gwenna. Gwenna was the elf on Argoth who let Urza’s son Harbin leave the island and report its existence back to Urza, ultimately resulting in the destruction of Argoth and the end of the Brother’s War. Gwenna and several other survivors are stuck in a bayou, compelled by an evil spirit. Another elf, Temken, comes to rescue them and Gwenna sacrifices herself to destroy the spirit and redeem herself for Argoth.

Goblinology: Goblins of the Flarg invent American Football. Yes, that’s the synopsis of this story. If you don’t believe me go read it for yourself.

The Crucible of the Orcs: A Balduvian mage manipulates a horde of Orcs to fight for him and plans to make them a sacrifice in some greater scheme. The Orcs in turn sacrifice the mage’s goblin horde again before killing the mage and savoring the victory for themselves. It’s a time-honored tale of the color red featuring flaring tempers, racial bigotry, and backstabbing.

Dark Water: In black’s only story, two cousins of noble birth shun their families and take up the dark art of necromancy which for obvious reasons eventually gets them killed. Sure, they lived for a long time by compelling others to do their bidding, but in the end they got too greedy and wound up dead. Lesson learned, right?

Expeditions to the End of the World: This may be the best Vorthos short story ever. A freighter captain at the height of the Brothers War is left in a conundrum. Because of the war, the economy has gone to shit, and he can’t make money shipping goods anywhere anymore. So what does he do? He turns his ship into a pleasure-cruise boat and sails Argivian nobles out to the waters off the coast of Argoth where they can watch Urza and Mishra fight it out. This story is brilliant.

The Mirror of Yesterday: Our next blue story features four apprentice wizards and a bunch of overly clever garbage resulting in three dead apprentices and one promoted wizard. It’s a cute story but not very interesting. The moral in this story is to stop living in the past or you’ll never see your future.

Bound in Shallows: This is a weird story and I’m not sure why it’s blue instead of black since the main character takes in a woman who was in an abused relationship, tries to make her dependent on him, then fights mage-duels in casinos to earn enough money to buy her love, and when she leaves him to go on her own he uses his magic to compel her to kiss him (which is rape). If you read this book, skip this story.

Loran’s Smile: This story was actually republished by Wizards of the Coast when Feldon finally got his own card in Commander 2014. In this story, Feldon wishing to bring his deceased love back to live visits masters of the other four colors of Magic (Feldon being a master of red magic). He learns each color’s means of resurrection and ultimately decides not to do so. The lesson is that each aspect of Magic is only a facet of reality. Feldon and Loran, of course, were two of the scholars who discovered the Sylex which eventually ended the Brothers War.

Overall Rating: 3.5 — Some of these stories were great but most of them were mediocre at best and two were downright awful. The abundance of Vorthos love in a few of the stories helps redeem the book as a whole. It was kind of weird how every story had a moral. They could have renamed the book Urza’s Fables and probably would have sold more copies.

Next Week’s Book—The Gathering Dark by Jeff Grubb

Next week it’s time for the Ice Age! The Brothers War’s epic conclusion triggered an expansive ice age in Terisiare and also a deep contempt for magic. This trilogy kicks off with the introduction of Jodah, a powerful mage. This story features Vorthos lore from both The Dark and Ice Age block.

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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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