Monday, April 26, 2010

Zendikar: In the Teeth of Akoum by Robert B. Wintermute

Quite a number of years ago, I had an interest in Magic: The Gathering. I collected the cards, but my favorite aspect was reading the novels. I read a number of them, and then moved on to other hobbies. However, as I have been looking at tie-in fiction since I started up Luke Reviews almost a year ago, and enjoyed some Forgotten Realms novels (published by Wizards of the Coast, same as Magic: The Gathering is), I decided to give it a go again. I picked up the brand new release and dove in.

The world of Zendikar is one infused with magic, and its inhabitants draw magic from the land. However, Nissa Revane, an elf from Zendikar and powerful with magic, and her town are under attack by strange creatures she has never seen before. As Nissa and a group of warriors press the creatures retreat, they are attacked again, and everyone dies except for Nissa, who is saved by a mysterious human. Accompanied by a vampire slave, the trio sets out to stop these creatures from destroying all life on the planet.

The premise of the novel is entertaining, and the characters aren’t bad. While every once in a while something grabbed me as a problem common to first novels, all in all what I read wasn’t bad. However, I didn’t finish the book. Why not? The back cover.

The plot of the book hinges on a couple of secrets. The bad news: these secrets are spelled out for you on the back cover. I don’t know if these count as spoilers, since I found them out from the back cover and not the novel itself, but there is the warning, just in case you don’t want to finish this paragraph: What is the secret that people try to warn Nissa about that involves the mysterious human? Why does he have an affinity for the vampire? Why does he smirk when Nissa cracks on vampires? Because he is, as the back describes him, an “ancient vampire” himself. So much for that surprise. Why does he know so much about these creatures? What is the secret of his past? According to the back once again: “He was among the original jailers of the √¶ther-borne scourge.”

End of “spoilers,” if they are truly such. While the book isn’t bad, the back cover gives away the suspense that is meant to carry the reader along. It is hard for a story to recover from that. Not finishing the book wasn’t the story’s fault, so I’m not going to give it the low rating it would normally receive. And I will keep my eye out, both for future Magic: The Gathering novels, and work from Wintermute, who shows lots of promise.

My advice to you: If you are interested in this book, there is a lot to like, so give it a shot. Just don’t read the back first.

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