“‘The last day,’ said Urza softly. ‘On the last day, we’re equal.’”
“Magic: The Gathering – Artifact’s Cycle, Book One: The Brothers’ War” by Jeff Grubb
When one picks up a Magic: The Gathering book, one does not expect great literature. If one does, then I believe one must re-evaluate one’s expectations significantly. However, the M:TG books do offer a little bit of entertainment, a little bit of fuel for the type of fantasy that got me into writing in the first place, and at least a little bit of inspiration, as well. And I’m talking about the inspiration of what I could do as well as what I shouldn’t do.
The Brothers’ War starts the saga of brothers Urza and Mishra, born exactly one year apart, so that “on the last day, they were equal.” Orphaned by mysterious circumstances that are never explained (or are either so forgettable that they seem unexplained), the brothers are shipped off to the desert to help dig up old fossils and machines. It’s through these machines that the brothers start to gain their power…and drift apart, becoming enemies as each tries to out-do the other with his prowess and influence. They split off, each seeking their own role in the world, building up to influence while their hatred for each other stews and grows stronger. Their machines are getting bigger, their resources are getting scarcer, and there’s that whole thing where Mishra accidentally opened up a portal that allowed an ancient mechanized god loose. Whoops.
Like many of the M:TG books, The Brothers’ War is a good, solid, though by no means extraordinary, fantasy novel, with some steampunk elements thrown in (before steampunk was mainstream?). Most of it was a little basic and predictable; I was really hoping that the story would not draw a distinctive line between which brother was the “good” one and which was the “bad,” and it maintained that for most of the book, only to fall back on the typical convention in the end. I best enjoyed the part of the book where the brothers split up and embark on their own journeys to becoming who they are; those were the most engaging chapters and I thought they were really well done. I also thought it was interesting that the book was written entirely from the perspective of secondary characters, so the drama between Urza and Mishra and their great wars was watched from afar…it made for an interesting effect that recognized these two men as great, powerful forces, but it left the reader feeling that same disconnect that the secondary characters felt, where you couldn’t really sympathize much with either of them or connect with them.
Overall, an entertaining, though not spectacular book that’s unlikely to leave much of an impact (except that I absolutely love Urza’s reasons for trying to win the princess’s hand. That was clever!).
Books read: 19/100.
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