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.

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