Perfect. As a big fan of both Brandon Sanderson and MtG—and Innistrad being my favourite plane—I almost feel as if this book was written just for me.
Davriel Cane has quickly become my favourite planeswalker. The day his card is released I intend on obtaining a complete playset as fast as possible! I predict he’ll be U/B and exiles the top card of the opponents deck to play for yourself, and possibly even the ability to steal abilities from other planeswalkers. And what of Tacenda? A G/W origins style flip-planeswalker? Very excited.
Alright, enough geeking out over predictions for printed cardboard; this is a review for a book, after all. I must admit, I didn’t really enjoy the first couple of chapters. They moved by quite fast—especially for a Sanderson story—however once Tacenda reached Davriel’s manor, I quickly fell in love with the story. The characters shined brightly and that Sanderson charm spilled over Innistrad.
Tacenda is a twin to Willia, they are cursed with Blindness. Tacenda during the day, Willia at night. Along with their curse, they each have special powers. Tacenda can sing a special ward to protect the town. Willia has exceptional warrior strength.
The bloke on the cover, Davriel, doesn’t perceive himself as all that powerful. His only magical ability is to steal spells from others, and his ability to planeswalk is the only thing that allows him to remain confident through conflict. He also has claimed an ‘entity’, which resides inside his head and wills him on to ‘use it’. The full extent of this entity is unknown—Possibly linked to the origin of Eldrazi or even something greater from the Multiverse?—however, he claimed it by killing someone, and is pursued by others because of it. One could assume those after him to be Nicol Bolas, his henchmen, or other planeswalkers. Remaining hidden from these pursuers is a big part of his motivation.
This book should also receive the award for Most Charming Demons. I absolutely loved Crunchgnar and Miss Highwater. Basically, before the events of this book, there was a time where most demons—along with Avacyn—were imprisoned away in the ‘Helvault’. During the last visit to Innistrad, Lilliana Vess destroyed the Helvault, releasing the demons and Avacyn. Another planeswalker, Nahiri from Zendikar, also was released. She was mad at Sorin (Avacyn’s creator) for not protecting her home realm. Hence, she wanted to destroy Innistrad the same way Zendikar had been. She did this by pulling Emrakul (a giant Eldritch-like entity called an Eldrazi). Avacyn went mad by its near presence, Sorin killed Avacyn, and then the whole plane got all messed up by Emrakul infecting its soil. If you aren’t a MtG fan, go look at some artwork for the ‘Eldritch Moon’ set. Bit of a tangent there, but that explains why the angels went mad.
Back to the demons, after being released, we can assume they were eager to ‘form contracts’ to consume souls. Davriel took advantage of this, promising his soul to several demons if they fulfilled contracts; contracts they would be unable to complete. This adds quite a bit of humour to the story, and I loved the way he and his demons bickered with each other.
The plot focuses on a small Kessig town, called Verlasen, and how one day everyone, bar Tacenda, dies. She sets out to exact revenge upon Davriel. Tacenda's failed assassination inconveniences Davriel. But not as much as all his peasants disappearing. Or the fact he is out of dustwillow tea. Davriel sets out to find the answers to the problems, with Tacenda tagging along. Also, Davriel is hunting for hidden reserves of tea. Surely those peasants had some stashed somewhere?
At first they assume the work of a necromancer had claimed the lives of Verlasen. Davriel knows the bog is far too powerful for a mere mortal to go up against. He wonders if it was the bog itself who claimed the souls. After all, most the townsfolk worship the bog and sacrifice their souls to it when they die. They believe it protects them from the horrors of Innistrad. And it has. Until everyone died. The Church of the Nameless Angel is his other suspect. They had been slowly converting the people of the town. But what would that force the bog to do?
The story is full of mystery, action, and great interactions between humans and demons. Pacing is everything you’d expect from a Sanderson book. I absolutely loved it. Other than the start, if I was going to complain about anything else, it would be the length. I want more!
Would love to see a sequel to this, or the continuation of these characters in the MtG Multiverse.
Sorry for the necro, but the recent developments make it worth it.
After Davriel's card in War of the Spark intentionally failed to represent him properly (explained by that he intentionally let just a fraction of his true abilities to be known), we got his digital-only version that represents him both visually and mechanically better in Davriel, Soul Broker.
Also, the Manor Guardian from the same Arena release (Jumpstart: Historic Horizons) is pretty much in vocation and appearance Crunchgnar, despite not being legendary.
And now, in another Arena-only installation (Alchemy) , we are getting Sap Vitality, a spell featuring the Man of the Manor himself, and Gutmorn, one of the contract-bound servants of Davriel, who survived the church ambush (his sister Yledris not being so lucky, neither the diminutive demon Brerig).
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