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

We come now to the end of the Dominarian Anthology period of our book review series. The Secrets of Magic contains some of the more interesting stories from these anthologies, including origin stories for more than a few major characters throughout the ages. The short tales within this book cover periods of history on the plane from ancient times through the Invasion and then after the Apocalypse. Overall I felt this collection was very enjoyable, but let’s break down the individual tales first.

The Secrets of Magic
edited by Jess Lebow

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.

For Want of Ink by Paul B. Thompson

We begin with an ancient tale of an apprentice scribe in the time of the Ice Age in the empire of Kjeld. Pharon, the most powerful mage in the city, is dying, and the scribes have all been sent to his deathbed to record everything he says for the sorcerer’s guild. It quickly turns out that the dying ancient mage will only speak to one of the journeyman scribes, a young man named Barrinalo.

Pharon shares tales of his youth, recipes to brew potions, and finally the secrets to the destructive spell that Urza used on Argoth to end the brother’s war (a bit dubious for those of us who’ve read The Brother’s War). This is a very well-written tale with fantastic magic all over Pharon’s tower, but the payoff for all you Vorthos’s will come with what happens to Barrinalo.

Song for the Plague Rats

This is a simple tale of a village ravaged by the plague and a local Baron who will do nothing to protect his people. Eventually a young girl’s mother and father both pass away and at the funeral for the mother she is confronted by a young boy. The boy teaches her a song that can control the rats. She is terrified of them but now has the power to do something about it. What will she do with the rats, and who is the young boy, and why won’t the Baron protect his people? The answers are well worth reading this story.

A Nut By Any Other Name by Nate Levin

Our next short story is a very straightforward tale about the industrialization of western culture, represented by an outpost of men encroaching on the forest land that is stewarded by the elves and other denizens such as primates and treefolk. This story revolves around a crazy old elf’s last stand. There’s not a lot of content here for Vorthos, but it’s not an awful story.

Goblin King by Jim Bishop

Sometimes the Goblins win, but only when they have a very clever king leading them. This is a story about a tribe with just such a king. It doesn’t hurt that the invading humans are led by a complete fool of a general. Once again there isn’t a lot of Vorthos payoff in this story but it’s surprisingly entertaining and I think one of the few stories in these collections that’s worth reading without having any relation to the main Magic story.

Burning Vengeance by Chris Pramas

Pirate stories are usually hit or miss but this one is a big hit. Captain Murad is a notorious pirate wanted by Zhalfir and his crew is a well-oiled machine. This is a lighthearted tale of his adventures feature one very helpful cabin boy who turns out to be more than they seem and a ship-mage who learns what it means to be a loyal pirate. Definitely one of the better pirate tales in these collections.

Like Spider’s Silk by Cory J. Herndon

This story would have been much better if it had ended much sooner. Herndon manages to beautifully relate a tale full of gore and violence as a Giant Spider ambushes a wedding. Some of the survivors, including the reluctant bride and groom, set off to hunt the beast and the tale is tragic and emotionally touching. If you want to really enjoy this one you should stop reading about two-thirds of the way through. The ending ruins it.

Behold, The Fish by J. Robert King

Skip this story about a colony of merfolk artists who hide from the Phyrexian Invasion refusing to participate in Urza’s war only to find that without the war they can no longer define themselves as opponent’s of war. Seriously, skip this one.

Journey Home by Will McDermott

A heartwarming tale of a bloodthirstry dwarf and a deadly barbarian returning to Otaria after the end of Urza’s war. This odd couple become close friends in battle and the dwarf decides to abandon his own kind to live among the barbarians. There’s not too much Vorthos lore, except for one very, very special staff that our dwarven hero comes across on the fields of battle.

Stolen Harvest by Vance Moore

Have you ever wondered how King Aboshan and Ambassador Laquatus met? This short tale is a prequel of sorts to the stories of the Odyssey block, which we’ll get to in a few months. Before the cephalids ruled the seas, they had to usurp them from the merfolk. Why did Laqutus betray his own kind? How did Aboshan take the throne? Find out in this Vorthos-laden story.

Family Man by Scott McGough

In our final and darkest tale we witness the destruction of generations of family intrigue, pride, and conflict, as all is replaced with the rising of a new cabal that is built only upon greed and desire. This is also a prequel of sorts to the Odyssey stories which will follow the Apocalypse and will very much feature the cabal.

Overall Rating: 4.5 — Overall this was a very good collection of stories. Yes, there was the obligatory story that ought to be skipped over but there was far more Vorthos content and interesting storytelling across the ages of Dominaria. If you want to glean some insight into some of the more obscure parts of Dominaria’s past, then you should definitely pick up The Secrets of Magic.

Next Week’s Book—The Shattered Alliance by Jeff Grubb

The time has finally come. Next week we re-join the archmage Jodah and the young pyromancer Jaya Ballard as they deal with the fallout of the planeswalker Freyalise’s actions to abruptly end the Ice Age. The Shattered Alliance will close out the story of this time, aligning with the expansion Alliances.

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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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