Oct 19, 2010

[Books] Nemesis (Magic The Gathering Masquerade Cycle - Book 2)

Nemesis (Magic The Gathering Masquerade Cycle - Book 2)I have to admit that I fell in love with the Magic: the Gathering series pretty badly in my elementary days. Thankfully I had managed to get myself a decent job doing voice overs and this helped bankroll my initial foray into the collectible card universe.

Eventually I found myself taking the time to explore their slowly forming expanded universe. The best example of this was their limited venture into comic books set in the Magic: the Gathering universe, thus expanding on the limited stories we could put together with snippets of flavor texts and a lot of speculation. I really liked some of the stories that came out of this venture and despite my diminishing funds eventually killing my CCG period, I still stuck around long enough to keep up with the stories.

Now the books remain the best example of why the series worked for me over the years and it's nice to see the put a lot of efforts into expanding the back story beyond just the name of the plane, Dominaria. So now while I may not actually buy the cards anymore (but I do get a little tempted sometimes), I do have a sizable collection of the books. My thanks to our friend who was generous enough to let go of his collection.

Nemesis is the second book of the Masquerade Cycle and it continues the story began with the skyship Weatherlight. This time around Paul. B Thompson takes us away from the Weatherlight crew for now and takes us back to the artificial plane of Rath.

In the aftermath of the Weatherlight's exit from Rath and Volrath's disappearance, the crew of the Predator are in near complete disarray. As Greven il-Vec commands his crew to bring the ship back under control despite the damage done, the young wizard Ertai barely manages to hang on as well. Abandoned by his crew after he was thrown from the Weatherlight, Ertai does the best he can to survive by offering his services to Greven.

Flickr the GatheringImage by Paul Watson via FlickrMeanwhile, Crovax was now on Phyrexia after giving into the dark voices in his head. With Volrath gone, the overlords of Phyrexia had determined that Crovax had the potential to become the new Evincar of Rath. There he was altered in such a way that absorbing the essences of the dead would give him even greater strength than before. At the same time, Phyrexia also dispatched the artificial being known as Belbe as their emissary to oversee the transition of power of Rath to a new evincar of her choosing.
Thus all these elements are to come together with Crovax vying for the throne, Belbe trying to understand how best to evaluate the merit of all those would claim the mantle of evincar while the rebel forces on Rath continue their fight against the Stronghold.

This story is inevitably darker than the one just before it (as if this storyline wasn't grim enough). I say inevitably given (1) this story is set on Rath after all, (2) we have Crovax and Ertai as our sort of main protagonists and (3) that's just how life is. It's hard to determine who to root for in this particular struggle given the success of Rath means the end of Dominaria once the invasion comes along, so that can't be a good thing. And without the crew of the Weatherlight to act as our moral compass, we're left with the self-centered and highly conceited Ertai as the closest thing we'll get to a good guy.

The elven rebels are sort of irrelevant at this point. They're really can't do much against the overwhelming hordes of the Stronghold.

Belbe is an interesting figure, although at times she seems to echo too much of Xantcha from the Urza series of books (and of course card games). That's not too much of a bad thing I guess, but I suppose I wish she had more of a distinct personality on her own. In that regard she's highly lacking and she feels like one big walking plot device trying to move things forward.

The overall story is, well, just okay. It felt like the author was given key plot points to work on and not much else. While this is probably the pattern of all Magic: the Gathering books, one can't help but wish that the author would exert more effort into remaining creative. Instead it felt like he just stuck to those plot points and did little to embellish the bits in-between.

Thus we're given just a decent mix of things that gets us where we need to go, but not much else. I don't even know how this book really factors into the larger scheme of things given the plot points could have been covered in a flashback in another book or something.

Nemesis is a decent foray back into the world of Magic: the Gathering but not quite one that really makes a big difference in your life. It gets 2.5 flowstone creations out of a possible 5.

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