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.

Chainer’s Torment
by Scott McGough

We begin our tale several months before the epic sequence of events that took place in Cabal City during the Odyssey story. The object of everyone’s desire, the Mirari, sits alone in the basement of an abandoned home outside of the main city. It beckons to a young dementia caster-in-training: Chainer. He retrieves it and immediately understands its power, but instead of claiming it for himself he brings it back to Cabal City, demands an audience with the Cabal Patriarch, and the events that will bring the Order, the Mer empire, the Cabal, and Otaria to the bring of destruction are set in motion.

At the beginning of Odyssey, Kamahl, Laquatus, and Kirtar are already in Cabal City. At the beginning of Chainer’s Torment, we learn, through the viewpoint of the Cabal, how everyone was put in place, like pieces on a game board, by the Cabal Patriarch. As we move through the months leading up to the dragon attack on Cabal City, we learn more about the Cabal, which maybe isn’t such a bad place.

Chainer seems like an okay person, as does his mentor Skellum. They’re like a family, of sorts, but then you remember that this is essentially a magical crime syndicate that relies on mages who summon nightmare horrors to fight for them and yeah, maybe we shouldn’t get too attached emotionally. But it’s difficult because Chainer is a very likable character. He’s clever and funny and he befriends Kamahl, our hero, and the two of them become pit champions together.

About halfway through Chainer’s Torment we catch up to the halfway point of Odyssey and the dragon attacks Cabal City. Chainer defends the Cabal Coffers that contain his precious Mirari while Kamahl, Kirtar, and Laquatus begin their ridiculous trek across Otaria chasing the Mirari only to see it end up back in the Cabal’s hands, as the Cabal Patriarch planned.

Once the Mirari returns to Cabal City, Chainer becomes less and less able to resist its power. During the dragon attack, Chainer used some of the Mirari’s strength, despite it being locked in the vaults, to battle the Order. As Kamahl and Chainer become a more powerful team, Chainer becomes emotionally attached to Kamahl and looks up to him. Chainer and Kamahl go on a spiritual journey, which is where we start to begin our dark road into the fall of Chainer.

Wait, you didn’t think this had a happy ending did you?

Overall Rating: 4.0/5.0 — I won’t spoil Chainer’s Torment for you because Scott McGough does a very, very good job of making us like Chainer, question Chainer, and ultimately hate Chainer (or come pretty close to it). One of the biggest failings of fantasy stories is usually a complete lack of character depth. Kamahl, for example, is 100% red-blooded barbarian. Laquatus is 100% blue-blooded merfolk. The Patriarch is 100% black-blooded evil-incarnate. But Chainer is an ever-changing entity and we get to go on his soul-searching journey with him.

Next Week’s Book—Judgment by Will McDermott

The Odyssey story has so far proven to be much more enjoyable than the final chapters of the Urza/Weatherlight stories. A lot of that has to do with the dynamics of Chainer’s Torment. Will that continue in Judgment? Next week we pick up the pieces as Kamahl flees the ruined Cabal City and Laquatus and Braids are hot on his heels to recover the Mirari. There’s only one part of Otaria left to  destroy explore and it’s the Krosan forest. What secrets will it hold for our characters as the Odyssey comes to a close?

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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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