War of the Spark: Forsaken (Book)
As the Gatewatch’s newest member, Kaya aims to help write that future. In joining, she pledged an oath to protect the living and the dead, but now that oath will be tested. The grieving guild masters of Ravnica have tasked her with a grave mission suited to her talents as a hunter and assassin—a mission she is ordered to keep secret from the Gatewatch. She must track down and exact retribution on the traitor Liliana Vess.
But Liliana Vess has no interest in being found. Forsaken by her friends, she fled Ravnica after the defeat of Bolas. She was hostage to his wicked will, forced to assist in his terrible atrocities on pain of death—until Gideon, the last one who believed in her goodness, died in her place. Haunted by Gideon’s final gift, and hunted by former allies, Liliana now returns to a place she’d thought she’d never see again, the only place she has left: home.
The latest novel set in the world of Magic the Gathering picks up where the previous one left off, giving our heroes even more magical troubles, and mysteries, to deal with. Is the return to Ravnica worthwhile? Read my full review to see my full thoughts on the latest fantasy novel release!
Crazy to think that it’d been nearly a decade before Magic The Gathering fans got a brand new original novel to enjoy, and now, War of the Spark: Forsaken marks the second novel in six months! This isn’t a bad thing, especially considering that Forsaken picks up immediately on the events from the previous novel, Ravnica.
Seriously, we’re talking, you could flip open the first page of the new book and feel like you’ve jumped into the next chapter from the last. This is both a good and bad thing, but I’ll get to that in a little bit.
The first War for the Spark book pulled together a host of Planeswalkers from all over the Multiverse, as the devious dragon Bolas sought to become the ultimate Emperor of everything. After an incredible battle, the dragon is finally defeated...But his minions are still around. In the aftermath of the battle, the leaders of Ravnica’s various guilds hire three Planeswalkers to track down and bring Bolas’ strongest minions to justice. In this case that justice would be death.
As the Planeswalkers divide, it’s “business as usual” on the city-world of Ravnica as the guilds seek to consolidate power and rebuild after the devastation wrought by the War of the Spark. Of course that means it’s right back to scheming and infighting!
While Forsaken once again features a large cast of characters, the novel narrows the focus quite a bit this time around. While we follow the Gorgon Vraska as she tracks down Dovin Baan, as well as Ral’s quest to take down Tezzeret, the bigger focus of the story is on Lilianna Vess. The necromancer was/is a central figure in the lives of many of the heroic Planeswalkers. While she ultimately betrayed, and defeated, Nicol Bolas her crimes have cast her in the light of a villain. There are many who wish her dead, but some believe there’s a chance at redemption.
The young heroes from the previous book, Teyo and Rat, team up with the ghost assassin Kaya to track down Vess, and in doing so uncover a different kind of mystery.
If it sounds like I’m all over that place, it’s because I’m really trying to avoid any big spoilers for the book, and there’s a LOT that goes into this story. From political intrigue, romance, action, and even quite a few surprises, Forsaken has a bunch of story packed into it.
Pacing and Accessibility
One of the things I loved most about Ravnica was its excellent pacing and how easy it was to get into. Magic The Gathering has decades worth of lore built into it already, but Greg Weisman was able to tie all of that together into a story even those who’ve never played the game (or read any previous books) could get into.
A big part of the ease of access came from Ravnica’s story. Taking place over a single day, the novel plays out as essentially one massive battle. It moves along at a ridiculous pace, leaving you with little opportunity to take a ‘breather.’ Picking up in the aftermath of that battle, Forsaken slows things down a little bit, especially in the first act.
Overall, the slower pace was great as it gave us, and the heroes, a chance to take in all the events of the previous book and get better acquainted with the new characters we were introduced to. The problem, however, is it made it tougher for me to get into. The slow down brings the deeper lore into focus, which long time fans of Magic will surely enjoy. For me, who has very little experience with the game, the gaps in my knowledge definitely came into focus.
Even so, I’ve read enough fantasy novels to be able to piece it all together without feeling lost…Mostly. As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed how closely this book follows up on the events of the previous novel. It makes it feel like one long adventure that we’re getting in a serialized nature. The downside to that, however, is Forsaken doesn’t hold up as a standalone story.
At the very least, you have to read Ravnica in order to have any idea of what’s going on. On top of that, Forsaken doesn’t exactly end it’s own story either. A number of third-act revelations had my jaw on the proverbial floor, and I’m very eager to see how those plot threads play out in the next book. This makes Forsaken feel more like a side-quest, rather than its own individual story.
While Ravnica very much depended on other lore to tell it’s story, while laying the seeds of future plots, it was able to still feel like a complete story that works on its own. Don’t get me wrong, Forsaken is a really fun adventure, and despite a slower start, by the book’s second act I was thoroughly hooked and unable to put it down.
The action is ridiculously impressive and the characters managed to feel grounded and relatable despite their fantastical nature. Weisman once again manages to pull it all together in an engaging way that makes sense, even with all the crazy terminology being tossed your way. The writing is smart, making the action sequences easy to follow, while still allowing for plenty of touching character moments.
While I wish it would have worked better as a standalone story, like Ravnica did, there’s no denying that by the time I turned the final page I was hungry for even more. It’s a “middle” chapter in many regards, but it’s a FANTASTIC middle chapter and a worthwhile follow up for fantasy readers.