I have to confess that when I heard about Magic’s latest ebook last month, my excitement for Magic’s story was as low as it has ever been. The past two years of Magic fiction have been rough for anyone that wants to be invested in long-term storytelling and I honestly went into this book expecting to be disappointed.

Sundered Bond by Django Wexler serves as our first real introduction to the world of Ikoria. Much like The Wildered Quest did late last year, it largely ignores the broader multiverse of Magic in favor of telling a tightly-packed origin story of a native Planeswalker. In this case, Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast.

Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast by Kieran Yanner

We meet Lukka before his fall from grace, when he’s still an exceptional but magic-less captain among the Coppercoats, the monster-slaying specialists of Drannith. This lets us experience the world at ground level, seeing the brutal relations between monsters and humans before story elements like bonders get introduced. When Lukka does become a bonder, his inexplicable connection to one of the hated monsters is enough to destroy his entire life and force him into the wilds under charges of treason. These little details make the world feel real and gritty and for the the first half of the story Lukka is an utterly human character.

A word before I go any further: among their many, many other issues, the two War of the Spark novels from 2019 were poorly written. I wouldn’t call Sundered Bond a masterpiece by any means, but Django Wexler is a competent wordsmith and his writing never forced me out of the story to wonder what he meant. If you were off put by the wooden (and often bad) technical work behind some of last year’s Magic fiction, I’m glad to say it isn’t an issue here.

The entire story is very compact at less than two hundred pages. I finished it in an afternoon without much effort and a consequence of that length is that we don’t get much time to explore the larger world of Ikoria. Of the three human civilizations, only Drannith and Skysail are shown, while Lavabrink gets name dropped a few times. None of the apex monsters make an appearance and the only named characters to jump across from the set to the story were Lukka, Vivien Reid, and General Kudro. (Narset is name-dropped once, but only so that Vivien can clarify that she doesn’t know how to find the monk in time for the climactic battle.)

Vivien, Monster’s Advocate by Lius Lasahido

That said, the story’s brevity works in its favor. While Magic sets are best at telling big, environmental stories about the fate of an entire plane, Magic novels have shone brightest when they narrow their focus to a handful of compelling characters. With a constrained length, Wexler is able to focus the book down to a highly-charged family drama surrounding Lukka, his fiance Captain Jirina Kudro, and her father General Kudro of Drannith. The conflicts between them have widespread ramifications, but all of them are driven by sound logic and understandable motivations. As a result, by the time the story ramps up to a large-scale monster assault on Drannith, the battle sequence actually feels necessary—something large action scenes so rarely accomplish in Magic fiction.

That isn’t to say that the story has no connection to the wider multiverse. Vivien makes it pretty clear that she’s on Ikoria to undo the meddling of some other Planeswalker; but because none of the book is written from her perspective, we never learn the name of this shadowy meddler or how she knows about them. It’s left vague enough that I don’t have a solid guess for who it was, but regardless of their identity, I think it’s the first hint of our next major villain. Importantly though, you don’t need to have read anything else from the Magic multiverse to understand this story.

All in all, I would call Sundered Bond a solid B+ of a story—it is good but nothing truly special. If you want a way to kill five to seven hours, then it’s well worth the relatively cheap $3.99 for the ebook, but if you aren’t already interested in the story going on it’s not worth going out of your way to read.


CORRECTION: The original version of this review asserted that there were five human cities on Ikoria. There are only three.

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