Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ravnica: The City of Guilds

The evening was empty and as cold as the bumbat juice in the half filled bottle on my desk. Nothing happened these days, not since the Rakdos cultist uprising a decade ago. My shift was over and I was drowning the boredom that had slipped into my soul over these past few years. But nothing prepared me for the Decimillennium, when we’d all meet the fabled 10th guildmaster.

This is the caliber of story we get from Ravnica: the City of Guilds, the first installment of the trilogy written by Cory J. Herndon and published by Wizards of the Coast. Imagine a world of magic, intrigue and crime in a city so big that it fills 90% of the globe. That’s the city of Ravnica and the world within which this story takes place. Apparently the same place of all the other novels produced by Magic: the Gathering—books that I have avoided until now—but with a slight difference: this book follows Argus Kos, a weathered cop with a past so mysterious, it takes the entire novel to get the whole tale. His history is full of half truths and partial memories, but his past comes back to haunt him, in a literal way.

Kos is one of a cast of 6 major players: Kos, Jarad, Fonn, Feather, Pivlic, and Savra. Each one of these characters has another part to play in the big storyline, but the main story is split between Kos and Feather, followed by Jarad and Fonn. As Pivlic is introduced to the story, all four characters come together in one place and everything breaks loose. From that point, Savra’s plan to take over her guild and resurrect the guildmaster Szadek, a vampire, begins and the five characters are thrown into a war that only ends when a titan crumbles, an angel fights, a guild is nearly destroyed, and Kos arrests makes the greatest collar in 10,000 years.

Our story takes place in the city of Ravnica, the city of guilds. 10,000 years prior to the story, 10 guilds assembled and signed a contract know as the guildpact, and that guildpact has held the city together since. Thanks to policing from the Boros Legion, a guild run by angels from above, the upper tiers of the city have been peaceful for much of the time, but the underworld is dark and desolate, devoid of sun. That’s where the Devkarins, members of the Golgari guild, come in: dark elves that run the darker parts of Ravnica with Necromancy and pure hunting skill. Jarad is one such Devkarin.

However, they stay close to old Rav’s underworld, leaving the roads free, and so the Selsnyan Conclave use Ledev’s, a group of paramilitary soldiers that protect the rights of free passage on the road. Within these elite Ledev, we find Fonn, eager to guard her friend, a priest, into Ravnica for his part in the Decimillenial celebrations. However, they meet with some heartache as an explosion tears through the city and kills the priest, flinging Fonn into Jarad’s arms and causing far too much trouble for Kos to handle.

With a partner dead and a contract he never signed keeping the ghost bound to his presence, Kos embarks on the investigation that takes him under Ravnica, throw the skies and into the streets plunged deep with innocent blood. Unfortunately for him, that means crossing the doorsteps of some of the most powerful guilds in the plane. But only the corrupt ones and only the ones whose intentions do not honor the guildpact. Armed with his pendrek and his angel friend, he sets out to discover that the conspiracies of the present are invariably tied directly to the past; his past and Ravnica’s past.

I thought this was a good book, with intrigue and wheels within wheels. There was so many different points of subterfuge than I was capable of understanding until it all reached its apex. As the tale came to a close, I walked away with a feeling of completion and contentment, even though the last bit of the book clearly states that it wasn’t as clean cut as we all thought. I was so excited about this story that I went and bought the other two books in the trilogy so that I could have the complete collection. A noir-esc detective story told in a fantasy world where magic is not only common, but life without magic seems unrealistic, is an excellent read when you give it a chance.

Be warned, however, there are some grammatical mistakes and spelling errors throughout the novel, which made me wonder what kind of editing process it went through. I’m sure a team of professionals looked at it, but somehow the mistake managed to make it through. Most of the mistakes were easily remedied, but other syntax errors had me so confused that I could not decipher what Herndon was trying to say—which isn’t very easy when my hobby is Asian languages. However, it does make for an easy read, especially on a day when you’ve got nothing to do and it’s raining outside. Poor weather will help you get to the point in the story when you won’t want to separate from its pages.

Overall, I would recommend this book, even to people who don’t normally peruse the Wizards of the Coast library. This was my second attempt at a Magic: the Gathering book, my first being Anthologies back in the beginning of the company, and I must say that though I don’t like these books, Herndon’s method of spinning the tale is definitely worth experiencing. Any lover of fiction, especially fantasy, will enjoy this read.

Good luck and happy reading.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Save our Libraries?

Recently, the library in the town where I go to school has been closed because of budget cuts. It was a sad moment for me as I realized that there would be less of an excitement amongst children to read; there would be no place for them to borrow books from the city's collection. As I stood outside the building, a wave of emotion hit me in one of the most profound ways it has ever done before. And I have not been the same since.

But all around the building were picket signs and chalk writtings, all clearly done by my fellow college students. These signs and posts said "Save Our Library" and clearly proclaimed that the library should be the last to go. As I agreed with them, I thought nothing more of it at first, but then the realization of something deeper and much more sinister crept into my soul. The dark acceptance of general illiteracy. And I do not just mean in terms of inability to read, but also those people who choose to go through the many days of their lives without truly embracing literature.

In all fairness, the illiteracy rate in the United States is lower than it was in 1970, a fair 6.9% of Americans are illiterate. However, it has become an all too often occurrance that people in my family or close-friends network might say something like, "The last time I read a book was when ________ made me." More often than not, Mr./Ms. _________ was a teacher or parent, someone in an authoritative role who forced said person to read. A horrifying amount of Americans watch television, listen to music, and chat online or text through phones rather than sit down and join the adventures of Huck Finn and his friends. More often than not, if a book is never made a movie, Americans know nothing of it.

And sadly, this assessment extends to college students. Granted those still in school have a tendenancy to read more often than others who are in the working fields, but I still know of a large portion of the college student populace who are still not using Libraries to their fullest advantage. I, myself, have built up a fairly large personal library and thus have no need to visit Public Libraries, but when I was a kid, my most cherished possession was my library card. And I went often, and read until there was nothing in the library that seemed to catch my interest.

With this decrease in literacy, I have noticed a decline in vocabulary and grammar. The other day, I was walking behind two girls who were discussing their lives. I have heard that I have a personality that silently enters and exits from situations that it is not inherently a part of, and so I managed to observe, unnoticed, these two as we walked in the same direction. They were having a conversation about the vicissitudes of life, but a certain f-based swear word replaced many a descriptor. This f-based word was used in places that any suitable adjective might be used, but apparently these girls could not find a word that would be sufficient in their explanation. This saddened, because the only real understanding I got of their mood was that everything was effed. Unfortunately, that could mean a whole lot of things.

So back to my point about the library. The signs said "Save Our Library" and I thought, "Sure. But are you going to use it?" If I were a more emotional person, I would have shed a tear at the thought that came to me next: the reason the library was closing down as apposed to someother bulding in Ashland was because there wasn't a sufficient number of patrons to elicit extra funding. That meant that even if we managed to find a way to save the library, it would probably enter the same precarious state relatively soon afterward. If no one goes, it can't stay open. Not even for the potential that there is a child who treasures his library card over his gameboy. I liked my gameboy, but I liked my choose your own adeventures better.

I blame those amongst the American population who choose not to read very often. I know that there are some people who would love to read, but find that they actually ACTUALLY have no time to do so. Soldiers, doctors, paramedics, pilots, and hardworking men and women with families who constantly need their attention. To them, I have empathy. But to the many others, both young and old, who do not read, I say to you, pick up a book and understand the depths of your own imagination. Stop relying on MTV or ABC or FOX to tell you how to imagine. You determine the depths of your creative mind, and no Pokemon game is going to show you how. I do believe that Anime, Games, Movies, TV, Comics and so on do help your imagination flow, and I would be a hypocrite if I said otherwise, but I also truly believe that you MUST balance it with a visit to your local library or personal library on a at least a semi-regular basis. You'd be surprise at what's out there.

I simply say, we should save our libraries, but not in the way that everyone is thinking. I simply say, read a book once a month, and then you will really understand how you can save the library. I simply say, if you want me to save the local library, you must promise to use it. Save our libraries, save our world. Ignorance is the most dangerous weapon in the human arsonal. Go on, see what your mind creates, and have fun living in the world of dreams.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Free Podcast Novels

Ever thought about writing a novel only to find that you have no audience to show your work to? What if you had something written, but you couldn't get it published because you can't prove that anyone's going to like it? Well, there's a whole world out there for this caliber of novel, called the podcast novel. And here's the best part about podcast novels: they're free.

Recently, I can back from Japan and started up my iTunes account. I love iTunes, for it's a wonderful program. Anyway, as I begin searching through the titles that the iTunes store has to offer, I come across this "Podcast" called 7th Son: Descent by J.C. Hutchins. I download all the available chapters of this novel and upon listening to the opening, I hear this phrase "You are listening to a presentation." I thought to myself, "Podiobooks?! What are they talking about?" So, curiousity got to me and I typed the address in my web browser. is a wonderful website that opens you to a world of books recently in print or yet to be published. These "podio books" are read by the authors and usually put together in chapters, like a novel would be. This provides a great opportunity for an author to get their work out there and known, creating an audio portfolio for the publishing companies to see. And it also gives listeners a free opportunity to experience literature. For people like me, free opportunities to experience literature is heaven.

Recently, the publishing company Dragonmoon Press has been taking alot of these podiobook works and publishing them, giving rise to a whole new medium of publishing. Like the eBook, this new podcast novel seems to be the new literary magazine. Anyone with a microphone and a good sound mixing program can make a podcast novel, so there is hope for you aspiring writers. And never underestimate the power of the podiobooks, since some writers have recently shown that a fanbase can be created.

An example of the power of a podcast novel comes in Scott Sigler's recent victory over Sigler has written 4 podcast novels and with the publishing of his novel Ancestor Scott Sigler reached 7th in the charts the first day of print. Dragonmoon press sold 3800 copies of Ancestor that day, and watched as Sigler's other novel Earthcore reached forth in the Sci-Fi genre. This is the power of the podcast novel fanbase.

Be that as it may, you may or may not want to jump on this podcast novel bandwagon; that's entirely up to you. But if you do feel like you might want to join me and my associates, you can download podcast novels through iTunes, iPodderX, podcastready, and Juice, or you can visit such sites as,, and Or you could simply search for Podcast Novels through Yahoo! or Google. Good luck and happy listening.