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

After spending so much time on the saga of Urza Planeswalker I wanted to take a break for a few weeks from the main story to learn more about the world of Dominaria. The Urza story can be broken up into three main chronicles: The Brothers War, the Tolarian Academy, and the Invasion. We’ve covered the first two chronicles, but before getting to the third we’re going to look back at the time period between the first two beginning with The Gathering Dark, the story which provides the flavor for the expansion set The Dark.

The Gathering Dark
by Jeff Grubb

Our tale is told to us by Jeff Grubb who also authored The Brothers War, so he is one of the core voices behind crafting this time period of Dominarian history. Roughly 150 years have passed since the cataclysm that destroyed Argoth and ended the time of antiquities. You may recall that a key storyline at the end of the war was the discovery of Magic by a group of scholars including Urza and Mishra’s childhood friend Loran, the artificer Feldon, and the mage Hurkyl.

Now Dominaria is reduced to city-states and barbarian tribes all trying to survive as the climate continues to sink. We saw some hints of the climate change problems in And Peace Shall Sleep which told the story of the Fallen Empires expansion and the beginning of the end of the Sarpadian Empires. We are before that point in time now but the oncoming Ice Age is still looming.

The main character of our story is a fledgling wizard of white mana named Jodah. In the beginning of our tale he is traveling with his master Voska and the two of them are beset by goblins and then, more gravely, by The Church of Tal. In turns out that in the wake of the Brothers War the populace has broken down into various city-states and loosely governed lands. The Chruch exists throughout and serves to combat wizards, those menaces which can threaten the Chruch’s power.

This conflict isn’t particularly new or innovative. Jodah flees the Church’s clutches but his master isn’t so fortunate. Jodah eventually runs afoul of them again but is saved by another mage named Sima. Jodah enlists in the army to evade the Church but his destiny seems to be inescapable. After a battle he is assigned to escort a high-level church official and some prisoners and lo and behold the official is the same one who caught him previously and has now caught Sima.

Sima and Jodah escape and about a third of the way in the book they find themselves on a boat to the City of Shadows where Sima can get Jodah properly taught in magics. A magical storm has other ideas and Jodah is kidnapped by merfolk, dragged to a deserted island, resuscitated by a Rag Man, and then led through a magical cavern to a place known as the Conclave where he is to learn magic in their citadel. All of this has been orchestrated behind the scenes by Ith, High Arcanist.

Wow that’s a lot of Vorthos!

Each chapter is prefaced by notes about The Dark as a period of time. The notes come from a scholar from New Argive though we don’t have a timeframe for these notes. They could be contemporary to the time of the Tolarian Academy during which we know a New Argive exists. Regardless, these notes have a lot to say about Jodah who may have been a single mage or a group of mages or a mage organization. Many events and wondrous things are attributed to Jodah, but in our story he is still a fledgling mage.

Overall Rating: 4.0 — The Vorthos power alone is really enough for me to encourage you to give The Gathering Dark a try. The list of cards featured in this book either through name or flavor text includes Barl’s Cage, Bone Flute, City of Shadows, Curse Artifact, Dance of Many, Dark Sphere, Diabolic Machine, Fellwar Stone, Holy Light, Inferno, Inquisition, Knights of Thorn, Maze of Ith, Miracle Worker, Morale, Rag Man, Stone Calendar, The Fallen, and Tivadar’s Crusade. These cards and the characters referenced therein will be seen in a whole new light after you read this story.

The story itself leaves a bit to be desired from a plot perspective but there is decent character development for Jodah, who will go on to be the main focus of the rest of the Ice Age cycle of novels.

Next Week’s Book—TBD

Unfortunately due to a shipping issue with the rest of the Ice Age cycle I’m not entirely sure what we’ll be reading for next week. Check back next Sunday for whatever surprise I have in store for you (it might even be Kamigawa)!

It won’t be Kamigawa.

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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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