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.

by Vance Moore

After wrapping things up with the epic story of Urza and Yawgmoth it’s time to move on with our lives to the next saga on Dominaria. This time we find ourselves on the continent of Otaria, a part of Dominaria that was somehow completely ignored during the entire Phyrexian invasion despite Yawgmoth’s intent to cover the entire world and not to mention the fact that Crovax had a complete globe of Dominaria and oh yeah how is it possible Urza was never here? Plot holes much?

Okay, okay. Actually some of these plot holes get addressed in the short story collections we read out of order such as Secrets of Magic. Go back and check out some of the short stories there which take place on Otaria before the Odyssey story such as “Journey Home” which tells the story of Balthor the dwarf (who we’ll meet next week), “Stolen Harvest” which tells the story of how Aboshan became emperor of the Mer empire and how Laquatus became his ambassador, and “Family Man” which tells the story of the founding of the Cabal.

Now that you’ve filled in those blanks we can talk about Odyssey. Our tale begins about a century after the end of Urza’s war. We meet the barbarian Kamahl on his way into the incredibly poorly named “Cabal City.” Yes. I didn’t make that up. The city run by the equally poorly named Cabal is literally called Cabal City.

Can we take a quick aside and talk about how good we have it these days with story telling? No offense to the folks who did the world building for Odyssey block but “Cabal City?” Come on.

Kamahl, like many others, has been drawn unknowingly to Cabal City (ugh) by a mysterious and incredibly powerful artifact which we will later learn is called the Mirari. Among his competitors are Seton, a centaur from the forests, and Kirtar, a bird-soldier who is a member of the also-so-descriptively-named “Order.” Also we can’t forget about Ambassador Laquatus of the Mer empire and his frog-minion Turg.

Another quick aside. There are interesting names for some places in this story. Otaria. Pardic Mountains. Krosan Forest. Why was it so difficult to name the Cabal and the Order? Did people not think the audience would figure out who the good guys and the bad guys were? Thankfully the Order doesn’t hail from “Order City” but rather “The Citadel.” Sigh.

The story of Odyssey is about the mad chase for Mirari which ends up in the hands of Kirtar. No one really knows what Mirari does but anyone who’s anyone wants to possess it. Kamahl will travel far and wide to get it. Kirtar will slaughter against his nature to get it. Laquatus will do almost literally anything to get it. The story is completely driven by the desire of, chase for, and killing in the name of Mirari.

Oh, and then there’s Caster Fulla, who you may better recognize from her portrait.

There’s another minor Cabal character who is around to help Kamahl when he arrives in Cabal City (ugh). His name is Chainer and we’ll talk a bit more about Chainer in next week’s story. For now, here’s a quick run-down of how the Odyssey story works:

  • Everyone wants Mirari
  • Everyone chases Mirari
  • Someone gets Mirari
  • Someone uses Mirari
  • That was a bad idea
  • Repeat from step one

End scene.

Overall Rating: 3.5 — The characters in this story are a very nice change of pace from Urza and the Weatherlight crew. Everyone on Otaria seems to be out for themselves, including the noble members of The Order. Or, at the very least, they’re all out for the Mirari. This is, to a certain extent for sure, the result of a society structured around a society/organization that is so creative enough to call themselves the Cabal. If I lived in a world with so little creativity that everything was run by “The Cabal” from “Cabal City” I’d probably be very bitter and angry all the time too.

Regardless of my relentless assault on organizational nomenclature, Odyssey was an enjoyable story. Some of the characters are incredibly likable (Kamahl, Seton, Chainer, Fulla, Pianna). Some of them are incredibly loathsome (Kirtar, Laquatus, Turg, Aboshan). But you’re genuinely interested in what they’re going to do next and who’s going to end up with Mirari.

The plot holes are mostly about how Odyssey ties into the rest of Dominaria, but as I mentioned earlier we have the luxury of accessing that information out of publication order from The Secrets of Magic anthology. The core story here, as simple as it may be, is still enjoyable and a refreshing change from the superhuman exploits of Gerrard and the Gang.

Next Week’s Book—Chainer’s Torment by Scott McGough

Next week we take a look at the darker side of life on Otaria as we learn all about young Chainer (pictured on the cover). The story of Torment will show us life in Cabal City away from the gladiatorial pits. Also, we’ll be treated to a prequel of sorts as the first half of Torment takes place before and during the events of Odyssey. It turns out that things may not be exactly what they seem.

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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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