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.

Planar Chaos
by Scott McGough and Timothy Sanders

At the end of Time Spiral Teferi entered the time rift over Shiv intending to sacrifice himself to close the rift and allow the continent he phased out of existence to safely return to its rightful place in Dominaria. Teferi didn’t die, but he did lose his planeswalker spark, reverting back to being a mortal being as he was before his ascension. He also became a bit of a babbling idiot, as he takes about 75% of the book to return to normal.

So Jhoira is in charge now and she decides to take Venser back to her people, the Ghitu, who have now returned, and rebuild Venser’s teleportation device: the ambulator. What she doesn’t tell Venser is that she’s installed a special component into the new device which will attempt to summon Karn (yay) and that the device doesn’t work when Venser uses it because he’s a planeswalker (what).

So they build the device and Venser uses it to teleport himself and Jhoira back to Urborg and everything goes according to Jhoira’s plan which is to say it doesn’t work at all. Jhoira fortunately finds herself in the caring arms of a four-thousand year old wizard named Jodah while Venser finds himself in the clutches of the Weaver King. They’re eventually reunited in Urborg but I have some problems with this.

First, it’s disappointing that Jhoira’s character is almost constantly defined by a more powerful man being in her life. For most of her existence as a student in Tolaria that man was Kirrik, a Phyrexian spy. Then it was Karn. Then it was Teferi for a few centuries. Now that Karn is gone, and Teferi is gone, Jhoira finally has an opportunity to take charge. Of course the first thing she does is summon Karn. Then she ends up being found by Jodah, the archmage eternal who drank from the Fountain of Youth and then helped Freyalise end the Ice Age.

Second, the Weaver King is a poorly designed villain. I don’t know what the storyteller’s obsession with Phyrexia is but the Weaver King is one of Volrath’s creations and basically just messes with people’s minds. It’s a very strange existence, and perhaps it’s somewhat related to the time rifts, but for the most part it feels like it just doesn’t fit with the rest of the story. From a storytelling perspective we all know the real threat is the time rifts themselves. The rifts expel some of Dominaria’s greatest threats from the past such as Gatha’s Keldon/Phyrexian hybrids and the Phyrexian armies of the Ice Age and the Ice Age itself. What’s the point of the Weaver King? It’s just distracting.

What continues from this point is an ongoing battle between Windgrace and the Phyrexian invaders of Urborg and a simultaneous battle between Freyalise and the Phyrexian invaders of Skyshroud. The details get pretty convoluted but they don’t really matter do they because eventually, despite all their moaning about not wanting to listen to Teferi, Freyalise and Windgrace do exactly what Teferi told them to do and they sacrifice themselves to seal the rifts in Urborg and Skyshroud.

Karn arrives to save the day, as Karn usually does, by spending about two chapters traveling back in time to close the Tolaria rift before Barrin released his world spell to destroy the Phyrexians there during the invasion. For some strange reason though things don’t go according to plan and Karn never returns to the present day. Teferi, Jhoira, and Venser agree that they have to close the four remaining rifts beginning in Yavimaya, and then moving on to Zhalfir, Otaria, and Madara. Then Jeska shows up looking for Karn and we end scene.

Overall Rating: 3.0 — Yet another Magic the Gathering story becomes a Michael Bay film of sorts but once again the Vorthos content is turned up to 11 so we give Planar Chaos a bit of a pass. Teferi, Jhoira, Venser, Windgrace, and Freyalise continue their stories and are joined by Karn, Leshrac, Jeska, and the hero of the Ice Age: Jodah. As the multiverse counts down the final days of Dominaria, we’re getting treated to appearances by pretty much everyone who spent time ruining the plane in the past. Now they all have to fix what they broke.

I wanted Planar Chaos to have more commentary on the character depth and struggle of Freyalise and Windgrace, nearly omnipotent beings who are confronted with the having to make the ultimate sacrifice despite their incredible power. We get a bit of it at the very end when both planeswalkers finally decide to seal their respective rifts, but ultimately the book is about 10% planeswalker character analysis, 40% action-adventure story, and 50% Venser whining.

It’s not a bad story at all, but the Weaver King is a somewhat contrived opponent when the main opponent, the time rifts, are far more interesting. Like Warlord Greht in Time Spiral, the Weaver King is really just a distraction. The main conflict is between planeswalkers and the damage they’ve done to the multiverse. We get some insight into this conflict, but more of our time is spent on phyrexians and the Weaver King. Maybe Future Sight will be an improvement?

Next Week’s Book—Future Sight by Scott McGough and John Delaney

With four rifts down and four to go we turn our attention now to the few remaining planeswalkers left who can impact Dominaria. The Vorthos in you will be thrilled to no end as characters from Dominaria’s past return to try one last time to save their precious multiverse while Venser tries to figure out just what the heck he is.

The scene is set for Jeska and Leshrac to finish the work that Teferi began and Freyalise, Karn, and Windgrace continued, but the time rifts are more powerful than before. Perhaps a certain elder dragon legend planeswalker will have to make a reappearance on his home world to set things straight?

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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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