Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ravnica: Dissension (Book III of the Ravnica Cycle)

In the chaotic aftermath of Utvara’s infestation, Crixizix, the new firemind, finds that Utvara is still under threat of the Nephilim, and those ancient creatures have grown to even larger proportions. Meanwhile, Teysa Karlov finds herself called in to handle the strangest case Ravnica has ever seen, while Sunhome comes tumbling toward Prahv. Kos is dead, but his ghost still lives on as an Azorius guardian spirit, and that means he can be called to active duty anytime the guildmaster declares it. Fonn and Jarad find trouble when their son Myc goes missing, and his disappearance leads them right back to old Rav and to the demon Rakdos. All that and more fills this last installment in the Ravnica Cycle by Cory J. Herndon.

So, the story goes that all the angels were killed by Szadek while they were visiting Agyrem, the spirit world of myths. But before they were killed, Feather managed to find her friends/family and attempted to rescue the falling tower, only to find that she’s too late. But when she returned to the world of the living in the end of the second book, she accidently opened a path that allows Sunhome to come tumbling out of the sky, and fall directing into Prahv, the city center of Ravnica.

Unfortunately for the angel, she can’t do anything about it, since she’s been placed under custody and waiting trial for various crimes that she admits to committing. I guess it’s not the best thing when you have an angel for a client. And as such Teysa is put in a predicament: how to get an angel acquitted for crimes that she admits to having commit. But there are reasons why Teysa was selected to be the Orzhov baroness, and her quick wits are just was Feather needs to not only get released for her crimes, but also to get the other guilds in motion to stop the failing Guildpact. But as Sunhome comes down, so does the Damnation of Damocles.

Meanwhile, in another part of Ravnica, Fonn investigates some murders that have been popping up all over the city. Having found a way to balance her time between the Ledev and the Wojeks, she works as a Selesnyan first and a Boros second, finding her inherited police skills not quite adequate enough to figure out why there are rats at the scene of every crime. But Jarad would have known the answer, if Fonn would have asked him when she went to pick up their son as per their divorce agreement.

But as Fonn takes Myczil Zunich, her son, out to be trained with all the other Ledev scouts, the group manages to stumble across a very bloodthirsty group of Rakdos, who fall upon the group in a cloud takes off with the trainees. Fonn comes too and begins to panic as she finds no evidence as to where the Rakdos might have taken her son. And in her panic, she calls Jarad through their cell-phone like magical communication stones.

Jarad instantly knows where the Rakdos have taken his son and leads Fonn there in less than a few minutes. Unfortunately for him, storming the Rakdos stronghold costs him his life, but being the guildmaster of the guild of necromancers has it’s perks, and Jarad finds that these tricks are fairly useful when one finds oneself dead.

Myc ends up becoming friendly with the demon-god Rakdos, but things go sour as the Rakdos blood-witch manages to gain control of the demon for her own purposes. Unfortunately for her, this happens right before Rakdos attacks the Simic Project Kraj and falls in the battle. Linked consciousness is not what it’s cracked up to be, especially when one of the consciousnesses has declared war in a chaotic manner against more than one guild. But Rakdos and his rats cause a significant amount of damage, while the Ledev scouts bring down the Nephilim and the Lurkers in the only manner they know how, with explosions.

Kos is brought back from the dead in this novel, and he and Pivlic find themselves once again taking on an enemy bent on destroying the world. But Kos has an advantage against this enemy: he’s a ghost. Armed with the ability to inhabit the bodies of anyone with a semi-harmonious astral signature, Kos moves from body to body as he gets inside the Simic safe house. Face to face with yet another delusional enemy with bodyguards and a power-trip, Kos did what Kos is known to do: he killed the idiot. And following this display, Kos makes his way back to Prahv to face the true ringleader of the chaos, and the true enemy behind the failing guildpact.

Though this book saw the return of some of my favorite characters in the series, I couldn’t help but feel robbed by many of the different loose ends that only partially got wrapped up in the end. For example, in the end of the first novel, it is clear that the necroanalyst for the Wojek Tenth Precinct has become a lurker, but even though this same character appears near the very beginning of this novel, nothing about his nature as a lurker comes forth. In fact, there is several instances where the lurker presents itself and then fades away into nothing. I was very disappointed that this lurker angle simply becomes a convenient way for Herndon to come up with another enemy for the characters to be fearful about, but never able to stop.

To be honest, I was not really impressed with this book, especially after the intrigue of the first novel and the spaghetti western feel of the second. I just expected more out of this tale, but it seems, from the very beginning, that Herndon was pressured into ending the novel within some sort of time limit, because the characters have some sort of time limit. Being that as it is, it becomes incredibly convenient that project Kraj, supposedly the only project developed by the Simic that will be able to take on the greatest beasts and demons of the world, immobilizes the demon-god Rakdos before he can rip down the Life-Tree of Vitu Ghazi.

I wish he had, and I wish that Szadek would have been working of his own accord and not under the spiritual slavery of some up-tight know-it-all Azorius. It seemed as if Herndon was going for some sort of twisted plot device that added more intrigue into the story, but to be honest, I thought it was just a pile of stupidity. Why? Because there already was a twisted plot between the Rakdos, the Golgari god-zombie Svogthir, and the Simic. And even then, Szadek was part of that plot for a moment, which would have been wickedly awesome if it had played out that way, but apparently it didn’t.

As a matter of fact, I found that to be an inconsistency in the book. First we see Szadek with the Simic and the god-zombie early on in the book, but later we find out that Szadek was completely under the command of the Azorius guildmaster Augustin IV. What? Does that mean that Augustin IV was working with the Simic and the Golgari rebels, who apparently were helping the Rakdos, in overthrowing all of Ravnica? Because it seems to me that without the Guildpact, the Azorius would fold under the pressure of the other guilds and collapse. Why would the Rakdos or the Golgari follow a supreme overlord of Ravnica? The Rakdos are far too chaotic and the Golgari don’t really care anyway.

No, I wish that he had been a true good guy until the end, and that the story would have taken a better turn somewhere else. Perhaps there could have been way to resolve the situation involving the god-zombie, who’s still not dead. I would have liked to see the god-zombie or Szadek feeding off the Azorian man’s soul while Kos tried to figure out how to stop them. It would have been a better ending I think.

Truthfully, I think that after all the great things that have come from Cory J. Herndon, I can’t say that he is a terrible author, because he’s not, but I feel that he did drop the ball on this story, trying to figure out cool ways to end situations that could have very easily been solved with some small and simple means. Small and simple means, Cory, not bangpops. That’s what I was expecting and still hoping that my fanfiction actually becomes something worth a darn.

All-in-all this was an entertaining read, but it wasn’t of the same caliber of the previous novels, which was disappointing. However, if you have about a week of free time, and you’ve already read the other two, you might as well pick up this book and finally get the complete story of the characters you come love. If you do that, then you will not be disappointed, but you will be disappointed if you read the story for its plot and intrigue. Happy reading.

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