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

Once again my copy of The Shattered Alliance has failed to appear in my mailbox so we’re going to skip ahead to the next collection of Anthology books. For those who don’t remember, these are collections of short stories that take place in the Magic multiverse, mostly on Dominaria, and show different windows into the world that our heroes occupy. You won’t find stories of Urza or Mishra here, but you will find out what it’s like to be an everyday person (or purple crab) on Dominaria.

The Myths of Magic
edited by Jess Lebow

This anthology, like most of the others, features 10 short stories. We’ll give a brief run-down of each one and then an overall rating at the end.

Blue Moon by Paul B. Thompson

We kick things off with an Aesop’s Fable-like tale of wealthy glass merchants on an island nation treating their workers poorly as they reap the benefits of selling their glass overseas. The story revolves around a mysterious sorceress who comes to the island looking to replace a part for her ship, which is made entirely of a bluish glass. The part, it turns out, is made from a blue gemstone that allows the ship to fly.

Our main character is a poor and starving worker who is continually being beaten and berated by one of the island’s merchants. In the end, the workers have the last laugh, the merchants learn a valuable lesson about greed and sloth, and the world of Dominaria gets a new moon. This one was highly predictable but still enjoyable.

The Isle of the Lost by Vance Moore

Moving on we have a bloody tale of piracy which, to be honest, is hard to follow. There are some ruthless pirates, ruthless piracy, and a small island-nation defended by a witch who likes to kill pirates. There’s also not a whole lot of Vorthos lore in this story (practically zero) so you won’t be missing out on anything but a minor headache if you decide to skip this one.

Leviathan by Philip Athans

Next up is a cute origin story about a massive whale who vomits up the entire world after creating merfolk and humans inside of its stomachs. It’s framed by a sassy purple crab regaling a fellow crab with this tale as they travel to deeper water to find some large prawns to eat for dinner. The crabs are cute and written well but the origin story leaves much to be desired with its cliche progression.

Phyrexian Creations by J. Robert King

If you’ve read The Thran then this one is worth giving a shot. King wrote The Thran which tells the true story of how Yawgmoth gained his power and how Phyrexia came to be. In this short story, “Phyrexian Creations,” we learn the myths of Yawgmoth that the Phyrexians pass down to new generations in order to brainwash them and ensure their devotion to their ineffable god. It’s a fascinating look and a good reminder that no culture, even a compleated one, is free from myth-making.

The Deathbringer by Jonathan Tweet

Jonathan Tweet brings us a twisted version of a creation myth where the world is full of light and life but there is no darkness, no silence, no death. Thus the world is full of suffering. The tale, told at a meeting of an ancient order of assassins, begins with a woman who so loathed everything that she climbed a mountain to find nothingness. Once there, the void of nothingness impregnated her with four sons. The first had the power to make things be still. The second had the power to make things be silent. The third had the power to make things forget. The fourth had the power of the void itself, and the ability to absorb things into it.

This one is another fable of sorts though instead of glamorizing the light it is grateful for the darkness and for nothingness. It’s an interesting twist, but unfortunately not well put together.

Keldon Fire by Scott McGough

Skip this one.

The Lady of the Mountain by Will and Daneen McDermott

Yet another creation myth, this time featuring the goddess Gaea and her brother Fiers as the creators of all of Dominaria. Gaea creates the seas and the forests and the elves to tend them, and then she has her brother create the mountains and metals and the dwarves to tend those. After some time Gaea and Fiers create the Lady of the Mountain, who is their child (of sorts) and has all of the best aspects of Gaea and Fiers.

There isn’t really a moral in this creation story. Gaea and Fiers leave Dominaria and the Lady of the Mountain remains as its protector, working with the dwarves and elves to fight against darkness and evil that threatens the world. This is a very traditional creation myth, and is easily the most action-packed tale in this collection.

In the Blink of an Eye by Michael G. Ryan

“In the Blink of an Eye” is a fantastic story about fear, but mostly about the fear of death. Our main character, Athanasia, is the youngest of three sisters, and she loses both her sisters and her betrothed to death. The eldest is killed by a jealous suitor. The middle sister is killed in a political coup. Her betrothed is lost at sea. Athanasia is terrified of also dying and decides that the best way to avoid death is to become so fast that death can never catch her.

Of course, as another myth there is a lesson to be learned, but the story is clever, and the lesson of not sacrificing the meaningful things in life because you live in fear is a very valuable one. If you only read one story in this anthology, make it this one.

Hand of Justice by Richard Lee Byers

This story is actually a sequel to the first short story in the previous anthology collection: The Colors of Magic. Seven years later, the holy civic mages summon a Hand of Justice who quickly gets out of control. This myth comes with another Aesop’s Fables-esque moral about the nature of justice and the folly of separating it from the rest of our morals and ethics, and meting it out without any compassion or empathy. While well-written, the tale was not particularly clever or insightful.

Myth and the Many-Chinned Magistrate by Francis Lebaron

We finish with the shortest story in the book, and thankfully so because it was an incredibly boring creation myth from Mercadia, told while torturing a foreign ambassador who had come to Mercadia to complain about recent increases to import tariffs. The creation myth is very simple and doesn’t really have a moral other than to explain to other nations why Mercadia rules over the entire world. Obviously Mercadia will soon play a major role in the Magic story and the saga of the Weatherlight so perhaps this was a way to sneak in a look at just how vile the city can be.

Overall Rating: 2.0 — If you came here for Vorthos lore, you may be a bit disappointed. The stories about Yawgmoth, Mercadia, and the creation of Dominaria are all fascinating, but somewhat contrived, while the only card referenced is Hand of Justice, which is a nice shout-out to all you Fallen Empires fans. Ultimately though, this anthology is mostly a disappointing collection of re-purposed creation myths.

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

Next week we’re continuing with the Anthology series and The Monsters of Magic which features 12 short stories (not just 10) from many of the authors we’ve come to be familiar with. Having perused the titles of the stories I’m especially looking forward to “Ach! Hans, Run!” by Will McDermott, “An Atog Comes to Aphetto” by Steven E. Schend, and “Tap, Kraken &  Pop” by Tom Dupree.

This anthology also features stories from Scott McGough, Jess Lebow, Vance Moore, and Paul B. Thompson.

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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