Review: The Gathering Dark.

“The viewpoint of a historian is that of a surveyor on a hillside, overlooking a river. He can see the flow of the river and has no doubt about how it runs and why. The participants of history view that same river as would a fish, unsure of where it is taking them.”

Magic: the Gathering: The Gathering Dark, Ice Age Cycle Book I” by Jeff Grubb

Venturing into another cycle of the Magic: the Gathering world (one that wasn’t as successful in the card game, according to my boyfriend), the Ice Age leads us into a world much like the name would suggest: covered in ice, frozen in time. All throughout the land of Terisiare, there is disquiet and unrest, nations uncertain with each other, goblins hording the ruined lands, and it’s really, really freaking cold, too. A dark conspiracy is lifting inside the Conclave of Mages, where a mysterious figure seeks to gain power through the manipulation of pawns and power. One man, seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, finds himself wrapped up in the crossfire between magic and religious zealots, not knowing who to trust besides himself, and even that, he isn’t so certain.

The things I noticed first and foremost about The Gathering Dark is that it felt much more like a straight-up fantasy novel than previous M:tG books. The scene that sticks out the most for me is when the main character Jodah is hiding in a village square fountain as goblins raid the city. There are religious zealots trying to persecute magic and a mysterious man being held prisoner in a dungeon somewhere, restricted by magical runes. And I loved that. It reminded me of the times I would sit in the corner of the library reading DragonLance in high school, and immediately drew me into this next phase on the world of Terisiare.

Another thing that instantly drew me to liking this book were the “flavor texts” (to use a Magic term) at the beginning of each chapter. Each chapter is fronted with a snippet from Arkol, an Argivian scholar looking back on this time period from the future. It frames it in an interesting way, highlighting how the events of the present turn into the history of the future. Granted, I am a history scholar, so this sort of thing has always intrigued me, but it’s a really neat framework that gives a sort of legend quality to the events unfolding…while also showing that legends often miss the little things that prove that history is infused with as much humanity as our own lives.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Gathering Dark; the Ice Age Cycle turned out to be one of my favorites.

Books read: 025/100.


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