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

Rath and Storm is a collection of ten short stories which tell the tale known as the Rath Cycle. Longtime players of Magic however may know the Rath Cycle by the names of the three expansion sets that tell the story: Tempest, Stronghold, and Exodus. The stories revolve around the crew of the fabled Weatherlight skyship, built by Urza Planeswalker to mount an assault against the Phyrexians invading Serra’s realm. Now the ship is in the hands of Captain Sisay (who we learned a bit about in The Secrets of Magic) and the story of the ship will become what is known as The Magic Story.

Rath and Storm
edited by Peter Archer

Even though Rath and Storm is a collection of short stories, it would be a grave disservice to the writers and Peter Archer as the editor of this volume. In fact, Rath and Storm is very ambitious in employing two different storytelling devices but it executes the narration quite well.

Before we get into the book’s contents let’s talk about its two narrative styles. First there is the traditional story-within-a-story framework. We begin in a dimly lit library in the late evening hours during a violent thunderstorm. An elderly sage is startled when a young apprentice, well past curfew, comes to the library. Unable to sleep through the storm, the apprentice goes to work helping our sage organize some ancient texts. They come across Early Dominarian History and the story of The Rath Cycle.

The second narrative device is that the story is told through the perspective of many different characters, some in the third-person and others in the first-person. This is not unlike George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones which was published two years before Rath and Storm but only features third-person narratives. In our tale we continually revisit the sage in the library as he tells the young apprentice his thoughts on The Rath Cycle. In between these interludes we are treated to the short stories told from the viewpoints of the crew of the Weatherlight.

Gerrard. Tahngarth. Ertai. Greven il-Vec, Hanna, Starke, Karn, Crovax, the Weatherlight, and Mirri. These are the points of view presented in Rath and Storm. Their shared narrative spans the events taking place in the expansion sets WeatherlightTempestStronghold, and Exodus. But wait, we just finished with the story of the Ice Age and Alliances. What happened to Mirage and Visions? You can read that story at here, but it isn’t related to the Ice Age nor the Weatherlight. So feel free to check it out but then come back here.

So what about the actual story? The Rath Cycle is already a pretty well-known story among Magic’s long-time fans, but because many of the game’s newer fans weren’t around for these expansions I don’t want to spoil too much. The story is a coming-of-age tale of sorts for the crew of the Weatherlight and in a way for the ship itself. In fact, as the story progresses, our librarian/sage/narrator will begin to frame the tale in the context of what makes a true hero, and whether or not Gerrard is in fact a hero.

Our tale begins by establishing that Gerrard was once a part of the ship’s crew under Captain Sisay, but things have changed. After the death of their close friend Rofellos, Gerrard and Mirri left the ship. Since then Sisay was captured by Volrath, the evincar of a plane called Rath. Volrath is actually the phyrexian-compleated form of Vuel, Gerrard’s step-brother of sorts. Tahngarth, acting as captain, decides to seek out Gerrard to lead the ship to Rath to free Sisay and recover the lost artifacts of the Legacy.

Simple enough, right?

Overall Rating: 4.0 — It’s easy to get excited for this book because we’re finally digging into the real Magic story. The Weatherlight saga spans the four expansions I mentioned above, along with the six expansion sets from Mercadian Masques through Apocalypse. In-between, we’ve already covered Urza’s Saga which is actually a flashback to the events that bridge the Brother’s War, the Dark, and the Ice Age through to the Weatherlight saga.

That is to say that these books are full of Vorthos lore. But, more importantly perhaps, Rath and Storm presents a somewhat standard coming-of-age tale in the framework of two interesting literary vehicles and builds compelling characters with an interesting narrative. Since we already know the story continues in Mercadian Masques, don’t be surprised at the cliffhanger ending.

Next Week’s Book—Mercadian Masques by Francis Lebaron

Escaping from Rath, the crew of the flying ship Weatherlight finds itself adrift. Grieving for their lost comrades and in need of repairs, they make their painful way to Mercadia, a city where everything is for sale. But not everything is as it seems. In the streets of Mercadia, the heroes of the Weatherlight find that more than merchandise can be bought and sold.

Next week we begin the story of Masques block, which to be fair wasn’t a very popular block for cards but it was a popular block for story and characters. We’ll see how the books fare beginning with Mercadian Masques.

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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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