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.

Mercadian Masques
by Francis Lebaron

We pick up right where we left off in Rath and Storm, with the Skyship Weatherlight being transported from Rath to Mercadia through an ancient Phyrexian portal after escaping Volrath and his own Predator, Flagship. Upon reaching Mercadia, the Weatherlight crashes into a farmhouse after sustaining great damage fleeing Rath. The crew barely has time to get their bearings straight before water-wizards come and steal the skyship with Orim still on-board. Even then, before Sisay and Gerrard can mount an expedition to retrieve the ship, soldiers from Mercadia arrive to arrest the crew and bring them before the Mercadian magistrate.

That’s a lot to unpack and things only get more confusing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of Vorthos content for fans of the Weatherlight and the story of Mercadia, but at times it feels like the story is greatly condensed while other times feel very much stretched out. There’s also a lot of lore that is completely glossed over, making Mercadia feel a bit like a half-fleshed-out world. Before we get into the main story let’s discuss Mercadia itself.

The plane of Mercadia is first introduced in The Thran. This, you may recall, was the story of how Yawgmoth destroyed the ancient civilization and ended up in Phyrexia in the first place. During the story, Yawgmoth imprisons a contingent of Thran diplomats but a planeswalker named Dyfed frees them and steals them away from Yawgmoth to the world of Mercadia. Along with a group of goblin servants, the Thran are left to their own to settle the top of an inverted mountain and then Dyfed leaves. It’s the last we’ve heard of them, until now.

In our current storyline it’s been thousands of years since Dyfed brought the Thran survivors to Mercadia. The main city still sits atop the inverted mountain and the goblins have become the ruling class. In the meantime there are two other hubs of civilization. The first one is the Rushwood, a swampy forest that is home of the Cho-Arrim people and their leader, Cho-Manno, Revolutionary. The second is the merfolk city of Saprazza which is reached from the mainland via the Rishadan Port.

Now that you know the major locations we can discuss the plot outline. What’s unfortunate about the plot is how predictable it is. As I already said, Orim ends up with Cho-Manno in the Rushwood while Gerrard, Sisay, Tahngarth, Karn, Hanna, and Squee are taken to Mercadia. Orim befriends the Cho-Arrim people while the rest of the crew escapes their imprisonment and convinces the Mercadian magistrate to let them raise an army to retrieve the Weatherlight from the forest. You can already see where this is going.

Before Gerrard and the Mercadians arrive to massacre the Cho-Arrim before Orim can tell them it’s a mistake, Orim learns the traditions of the Cho-Arrim including the story of Ramos who brought the Cho-Arrim and the Saprazzans to Mercadia. The Cho-Arrim believe that Ramos’s soul is the Weatherlight, and that the Saprazzans have Ramos’s mind while Ramos’s bones are in a secluded part of the world. If all the pieces are reunited, the people of Mercadia will be saved. Again, you can already see where this is going.

Overall Rating: 3.0 — I won’t tell you exactly where things are going because I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but unfortunately the book does a good enough job of ruining its own surprises. If you guessed that Gerrard and the gang go all over the plane to track down the items they need to repair their ship and fulfill the Cho-Arrim prophecy then you’re pretty much right. Sure, there are some twists and turns along the way, and some minor character deaths, but after the epic drama of Rath and Storm, this tale is a bit lacking.

While there’s plenty of lore and there are lovable characters there’s very little in the way of character development or plot development. Gerrard, Sisay, Tahngarth, Hanna, and Karn, despite traveling all over Mercadia on an epic quest to unite the people, overthrow the ruling class, and restore the Weatherlight, are basically the same at the end of the story. Orim and Squee go through some pretty significant character changes, but that’s not necessarily the focus.

From a plot perspective, yes the Weatherlight gets repaired (not really a spoiler) but the main plot doesn’t really move very much on the dial. This is pretty disappointing and why, despite the great lore and Vorthos content, I can only give this story three stars out of five. Let’s hope the storytelling improves as we get closer and closer to the Michael Bay-style finale of the Urza story.

Next Week’s Book—Nemesis by Paul B. Thompson

The Weatherlight returns to Dominaria after an adventure on Mercadia but things are still progressing on Rath as the invasion now seems inevitable. While the story of our heroes who escaped Rath on the Weatherlight was an enjoyable one, the story of those who were left behind, namely Crovax and Ertai, will not be nearly as pleasurable an adventure.

Join us next week as we get one book closer to the epic conclusion of the epic conflict between Urza and Phyrexia.

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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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