Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ravnica: Guildpact (Book II of the Cycle)


When a man retires, the last thing he wants to become is the sheriff of some backwater town on the outskirts of the biggest city in the world. But when an old mining town suddenly becomes the site of a new wave of destruction, Kos has no choice but to shine his badge, strap on his pendrik and get to dishing out justice, frontier style.

This is the second installment of the Ravnica Cycle, written by Cory J. Herndon and published by Wizards of the Coast. Like it’s predessor, Ravnica: City of Guilds, this novel stars Argus Kos and his business partner/friend Pivlic, as well as several new characters, in an rousing adventure full of intrigue and mayhem. With their new friend Teysa Karlov, baroness of the frontier zone named Utvara, the two begin to unravel an Izzet secret that delves deeper than many of them wanted to ever go, all the while searching for the missing messenger of the Zomaj Hauc, Izzet Guild upper manager and lead engineer of the Cauldron, a powerplant supplying energy to all of the Utvara region.

Crix the goblin finds herself in the hands of the indigenous peoples of Utvara while Baroness Teysa and her minions attempt to gain control of the region that has now become her’s to own. But Crix finds that the plains around Utvara are mysterious, full of bizarre creatures that trace back to the ancient days of Ravnica, as well as a race of people who wear fungus on their backs to protect themselves from a spore that got thrown up into the air after the Izzet Guild attempted to “reclaim” the Utvaran region for the previous owner, Teysa’s uncle and prodigal father. But as Crix stays out in the spores, strange occurrences with the natives lead her to believe that something against the natural order is occurring, and that the answer can only be found within her master, Zomaj Hauc himself.

Crix manages to manipulate the natives into helping her get to the cauldron, partially to deliver the message she had been sent to deliver and partially to get to the bottom of this deadly mystery. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the courier, Argus Kos and Pivlic have also become aware of the strange behaviors of the natives and begin an expedition to rescue the intrepid Izzet. However, as they work forward toward their goal, both the human and the imp find that it is not as easy of a task as it originally appeared, especially not when the Nephilim, those ancient creatures Crix encounters, become more rampant in this area of the frontier. Since Kidnapping is a crime, Kos is propelled forward, but unfortunately for him, his path leads straight to the gates of the Cauldron, and on the eve of yet another attempt at ruining Ravnica.

Back in Utvara, things seem to be simple and reclaiming the once lost territory is becoming a task that Teysa Karlov has turned into a lucrative business venture. But as business is getting better, Teysa begins to discover a mystery and a magic that has been plaguing her for most of her life. And the lies and deceptions strike directly into the heart of the woman who is beginning to get too old be able to deal with it. Be that as it may, the Guildmaster, the first Baroness of the Orzhov guild, meets her enemies face to face and proves that royal blood does make a difference.

I did enjoy this novel, mostly because it was a new take on the Ravnica series. In the first book, we got a gritty look into the world of municipal policing in a metropolis that sprawls over most of the world, but this book takes us to a western frontier town with little to no crime and little to no police to take care of it. This being the case, it was like reading a western Magic: the Gathering style. In this novel, Kos became the epidemy of the old sheriff we read about in westerns and Pivlic the owner of the Saloon. And like saloon scenes, Kos gets too drunk and throws another too drunk man out the door and into the dust outside. Sobering up, bar-fight-style.

I didn’t really find this book lacking anything. The intrigue was just as twisted as it was in the previous novel, and it didn’t really leave any loose ends to worry about. It was a self-contained novel that, surprisingly enough, any casual reader could enjoy, whether or not they’ve read the previous novel. Interestingly, Cory J. Herndon has a way of reminding the readers about things that they may have forgotten, or informing the readers of things they may never have known. Being that way, a lack of any previous knowledge is overcome, an aspect I think Herndon was aiming for.

But the action was great and I spent most of my time pondering the turn of events in the end, but I could not actually guess what was growing in the Cauldron, so I was surprised when the secret came out. I also could not guess how the situation was going to be resolved, but I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. The back of the third novel in the series had me waiting to find out how a certain character died, which was a good thing, but I don’t recommend that anyone purchase them and read their synopsis before they actually read the book.

My only complaint with this story was the grammatical mistakes that appeared every so often, just often enough to get annoying. Clearly, the team that edited this particular novel had a lot on their plate, or just spaced it when they were reading, but I felt inclined at some points to reorganize the syntax until the misplaced modifier was no longer misplaced. Cory J. Herndon, pay attention to how you modifier certain ideas, my friend.

All in all, I found this a very entertaining and easy read. I nearly swallowed it in a week, which is a relatively impressive task for me. I just found that once I started the novel, I couldn’t put it down until I had finished it, which made it interesting when I started cooking my curry. If you read quickly, which I don’t, then you’ll probably have this done in a few days, but if you are like me, you’ll find that no matter how slow you read, you’ll find time to read this novel from cover to cover. Happy reading.

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