Nov 2, 2010

[Books] Rath And Storm (Magic: The Gathering)

Rath and Storm (Magic The Gathering)The Weatherlight Saga marked a major turning point in Magic: the Gathering history. Some argue that it's the most important story ever created for the series. Others contest that the sheer length and complexity of the story doesn't make it the greatest - it just makes it very long. It's hard to say really and the full impact of this storyline will probably be best understood many years from now.

The saga in itself eventually lasted for more than a dozen card expansion sets (depending on how you define which parts belong to the story or not) and a good number of books supporting it as well. Given I was already interested in the back story of the MTG universe to begin with, liking this series was a bit of a no-brainer when I really got down to it. Thus it's with some irony that I was pretty much off my MTG card collecting period by the time this story started gathering steam. And thus I only read the books now when I get the chance, even though I never played with the cards themselves.

I've already progressed past this book some time ago, but the joys of having a copy of a title that was once never returned to me was hard to ignore. And so I took a pause in my steady progress forward and read this book instead, just to make sure I covered all the bases, so to speak.

Rath and Storm is an anthology of various stories relating to the very beginnings of the Weatherlight Saga. While other titles tend to cover a single expansion set per book, this covered a total of three MTG card expansions: Weatherlight, Tempest and Stronghold. The entire collection was edited by Peter Archer and it features multiple stories told from the perspectives of the various characters of the Weatherlight crew.

Our story begins not with the Weatherlight but in an old library. There, an elder sage is prompted to tell a younger man the story of the Weatherlight in order to explain what it means to be a hero. Thus as the two explore the history of the Skyship Weatherlight, the Legacy and of course the many heroes that made up the Weatherlight's crew, we too as readers get to follow along the story.

The book doesn't cover the entire story of the Weatherlight. Through a quick narrative, we're brought up to speed in terms of a key point in their history. In this period of time, Gerard and Mirri have long left the Weatherlight after the death of Gerard's dear friend, the Llanorwar elf Rofellos. Gerard has gone off to become a trainer of warriors in the Benalish Army until one day his past comes back to haunt him in the form of the Weatherlight. But Tahngarth the Talruum minotaur comes not just to pester Gerard with stories of his role in a much greater destiny. He has a more direct message to deliver.

The Dominarian globe, featuring the view from ...Image via WikipediaSisay, the captain of the Weatherlight, has been kidnapped by Volrath, Evincar of Rath. And the crew of the Weatherlight as temporarily led by Tahngarth need Gerard to join them in order to rescue her from the man who was once Gerard's brother. But this journey requires for them to find a way to travel from Dominaria to Rath and that will require additional aid. Thus first the crew gather a few new members to aid in their quest before they make the perilous journey across the multiverse.

The whole short story format from different perspectives is tricky to manage at times but I definitely think that Archer did a more than decent job of keeping this whole journey together. The different writers involved in the project helped bring their own voices to the overall story, which in turn further stressed the differences in perspective and opinion each story carried with it. Thus we get glimpses of the progress of the crew but during each chapter we experience things in a different way, and that's quite the novel adventure when you get down to it.

Sure, there are moments when things feel less than ideally done or the stories start to seem to matter less and less as it drags on. Naturally there was a big question in terms of which parts of the story ought to be featured and which ones didn't. Given the added tasks of covering the back stories of three separate expansions, that's no small feat for anyone.

Still, I can't help but question why Wizards of the Coast opted for a single book for the start of what they certainly hoped to become a much more epic story. Instead they went for this short cut of an anthology that while creative, still doesn't quite make up for the value of a full-length novel for each part of the story. Instead they further developed the next story arc, which thus far doesn't strike me as anything significant or worth all the exploration.

Rath and Storm is still a good book and quite the entertaining read once you get into the narrative. While you do get left wanting to know more about certain aspects of the story, it still gives you a lot to start out with as you travel along with the skyship Weatherlight. It gets 4 arrogant Ertai quotes out of a possible 5.

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