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 review another of the Magic anthology books. As the title implies we’ll be reading a dozen short stories which feature some of the most mythical beasts and monsters of the multiverse including a Lhurgoyf, a Thorn Elemental, an Atog, and more! Chronologically this is the last of the anthology series, though we still have a few more books to read. The stories within take place across a wide span of time ranging from the days of the Tolarian Academy to the period of the Invasion.

The Monsters of Magic
edited by J. Robert King

Once again, instead of giving an overview of this anthology I’ll give you a brief synopsis of each short story followed by my overall review of the collection as a whole.

Who is Queen? by Scott McGough

Our first tale features a fascinating creature called a nekoru which is almost certainly Scott McGough’s clever attempt to combine the Japanese words neko (cat) and ryu (dragon). The creatures featured in this tale are a species of half-cat-half-dragons and the hero of our tale is a wild nekoru who challenges the mightiest of them for the title of sovereign.

Ach! Hans, Run! by Will McDermott

Fans of the sets Unhinged or Time Spiral will likely recognize both the name of this story from its namesake card, Ach! Hans, Run!, or from the card Saffi Eriksdotter, the character who appears in a single paragraph of this story just to speak the line of flavor text from the inspirational monster card of a lhurgoyf. This is probably the most vorthos-rich story in the collection as it features a short-story based on a single line of flavor text but it also includes a cameo appearance by everyone’s favorite Ice Age-era pyromancer…

The Reluctant Student by Tim Ryan

If you want to read a somewhat clever tale in which Barrin, the master mage of the Tolarian Academy, learns yet another valuable lesson about the folly of his arrogance, you won’t want to skip this one.

Unlikely Allies and Unjust Desserts by Brian M. Thomsen

You don’t usually find quality comedic entries in these anthologies but Thomsen delivers with this quirky tale of an orc, a goblin, and a dwarf who discover a Serpent Generator and use it to turn a dim-witted Lord of the Pit into their personal assassin. I did not make any of that up.

Ereth the Mighty by A.L. Lassieur

Ereth wants nothing more than to harness the great power that her favorite professor can tap into. But, when she learns about the dangerous cost of such power she’ll come face-to-face with a Thorn Elemental and have to decide what she’s willing to give up to become that mighty. As cheesy as it sounds, this story is actually quite well-written.

True Enough by Denise R. Graham

Graham brings us a clever but predictable tale of a much more subtle monster who manages to con an entire village. I won’t give too much more away but this one has its moments, even if many of the scenes are cringe-worthy.

Seasons of Slaughter by Vance Moore

And now we come to the inevitable story in each of these tales which I tell you to skip. In this one there are no redeeming characters and almost everyone gets eaten by a Vampiric Dragon but the main character survives which is frustrating because he’s not a nice person. If you like vivid descriptions of gore and violence this is the story for you. If not, skip ahead.

An Atog Comes to Aphetto by Steven E. Schend

A boy and his Atog take on the entire Cabal to seek revenge against them for kidnapping his father, sister, and brother-in-law. Fantastic combat and a pet monster with a ceaseless appetite for magic are the highlights of this tale.

Delraich by Jess Lebow

You can probably skip this one too actually unless you want to read about a sorcerer in Mercadia who repeatedly puts himself in worse and worse situations until it eventually costs him his humanity. No one saw that coming, except for everyone, because Lebow lays it on pretty thick.

Tap, Kraken & Pop by Tom Dupree

Boy meets girl. Boy wants to marry girl. Girl’s father sends boy on a fairy-tale quest to discover an island with a tree full of golden leaves and return with a leaf from said tree in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Yuck. The cast of sailors is entertaining but we’re all here for the fight with the kraken. There’s a good pun at the end if you’re willing to read the whole story for the payoff. Maybe it’s not that good actually.

Crucible by Stephen D. Sullivan

Not a great story to be honest but it features life on the plane of Rath and the terrible price of challenging a Laccolith Titan. While the tale is pretty simplistic, and the characters are mostly idiotic, there’s something that strikes a chord with the vorthos in each of us to read a short story built from a single card.

The Voice of Command by Paul B. Thompson

Thompson tries to be way too clever for his own good with this story. In fact there isn’t really a monster in this one, though I guess the main conceit of the story focuses around these courier-birds who remind me of the Dictabird from the Flinstones.

Overall Rating: 3.0 — This anthology has plenty of redeeming vorthos stories to make up for some of the utter garbage. I was hoping for tales featuring twelve of Magic’s most iconic monsters (how are none of these about a Mahamotti Djinn) but the Atog story was pretty cute. Then again, given what we’re reading for next week, maybe I’ll be glad to not have had to read so much about monsters this week.

If you come across this anthology I think it’s worth reading if only for the Atog, the comedic Lord of the Pit, and the cameo by Jaya Ballard.

Next Week’s Book—The Dragons of Magic edited by J. Robert King

Next week we’re continuing with the Anthology series and The Dragons of Magic which features 12 short stories from many of the authors we’ve come to be familiar with. Having perused the titles of the stories Honestly how could anyone not be excited for a book full of short stories about the Dragons of Dominaria? I can already tell you’re excited!

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.

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