Featured Articles

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ravnica: City of Guilds Non-Spoiler Review

[Note: This is a non-spoiler review, but I consider information revealed in the cards to be free game, and to a slightly lesser degree information revealed on the mothership. Information in the Primer is free game.]

      [Ravnica] - [Guildpact] - [Dissension]

Ravnica. The first full block where Mark Rosewater had control as Magic Head Designer where he instituted true block design. The concept of the ten guilds was a fascinating one, it was absolutely clear that both Design and Flavor worked as one. Here we have a city where ten Guilds have come to a truce and have split the functions of ruling over this city between them. On top of that, the Guilds were rolled out in groups of 4-3-3 as each set was released. I entered this book with the expectation that the novels would follow suit, and as it turned out that assumption was right.

Score: 8/10

Herndon's writing, on average, is adequate at best. The dialogue serves its purpose and is unfortunately sprinkled in with a word or phrase that is too cheesy for my taste. The way that action is depicted is pretty decent, but the place where Herndon shines is when conversational dialogue and description are put aside, and technical dialogue and description are brought to the forefront. He does a great job blending a seemingly mundane job like a hospital nurse or a police officer with the unique cultural backdrop of a world that is run by the ten Guilds of the Guildpact. This is where it becomes clear that this isn't a typical sword and sorcery epic, rather we have a veteran cop walking the streets of a magical world.

Score: 6/10

As a whole, the plot of the story is pretty solid. Mere days away from the 10,000th anniversary of the signing of the Guildpact, the book starts with three seemingly separate storylines (a murder investigation, a religious pilgrimage, and internal Guild strife) which inevitably converge into a planetwide crisis, and a Guild that isn't supposed to exist by most accounts steps out of the shadows. Individually not all the subplots make sense. While they read fine as is, if you separated them from each other, some of the subplots feel forced into the narrative, and some feel like they could almost be taken out entirely and there would almost be no impact at all.

Score: 6/10

The pacing of this book is all over the place. Some chapters have all kinds of action and development going on and could almost be full stories in and of themselves, while others slow to a crawl or are hampered by a character that seems to be only there for comic relief, and sadly can't even accomplish that right in most cases. It all almost works until you get to the end and realize that all the momentum that's been building up has lead you to a dead end and before you know it characters and plotlines are over too quickly to be satisfying.

Score: 7/10

With the present day story all taking place within the span of days, don't expect tons of character growth. For the most part, they are who they are, and it's what they do and what they're up against that matters. With that said, our main character, Agrus Kos , is great as an atypical lead. He's a veteran wojek officer nearing retirement age with no ambitions beyond doing his job as best he can. He has his flaws and his regrets, but when it comes down to it, he wants to see justice served. As the book's central character he has the benefit of starring in a few flashback chapters to help give him some additional depth. As for the supporting cast, they're hit and miss. Some aren't developed as much as they should be despite their role in the story, some have too much screen time despite not adding to the story, and there are some sporadic POVs that show up and are never used again.

Score: 8/10

The strongest aspect of this book is how deeply Herndon goes into bringing Ravnica to life. Ravnica is the first block where Wizards decided to really focus on using the cards to create the setting and use the novels to deliver the story. While Herndon does manage to pull together a story he also takes his time to transform the static images and really bring the whole concept of a magical city-world to life. The book is teeming with bits of history, side characters, and all kinds of Guild interactions that subtly (and not so subtly) alter the culture of the world in a very seamless way. This is the best reason to buy the book.

Score: 6/10 (This is not an average.)

The world-building within the book is top-notch. If you want to take a tour of Ravnica seeing the sights and sounds and witness first-hand the Guild interactions and how that shapes Ravnican culture, especially if you're interested in the Boros Legion, the Selenya Conclave, the Golgari Swarm, (House Dimir is sadly lacking) then you came to the right place. If you want a tightly woven plot centered around a more police procedural kind of structure, this could be the place for you. However, if you want a tightly woven plot that also has a satisfying resolution with a glorious final battle that is full of tension and actually makes sense... well... that's where you might want to reconsider picking this up. Sometimes a bad ending can really sour an experience. If the ending had been better, the score would certainly be a 7 or higher.

      [Ravnica] - [Guildpact] - [Dissension]

No comments:

Post a Comment