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Monday, September 12, 2011

Dissension - 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]

Dissension. The third and final book of the Ravnica Trilogy. It covers the final three Guilds of the Guildpact, namely: The Azorius Senate, The Simic Combine, and the Cult of Rakdos. I knew there were some seeds for a larger overarching story planted in the first two books, but the unique stand-alone feel of each novel was more prevalent. I wasn't sure if Herndon was going to finally going to tie this into one solid trilogy or if the three books would end up being three separate spotlights on unique aspects of this intriguing plane. I was pleased with the answer.

Score: 7/10

Dissension pulls together nearly every stray thread in Ravnica and Guildpact and adds in several new plot threads into the mix. In fact there are so many characters and plot threads that while the book starts off simple enough, there are so many that by the end it is just one gigantic mess of a war between the Guilds. For the most part, this is what I've been wanting to read since the first book. This is a world of ten Guilds and there is a war with more than two sides. Chaos should be expected. The only problem is that with so much going on, some of those plots lead nowhere or feel like they were included just for completion's sake.

Score: 7/10

There is a lot going on in this book. Whereas the first two books followed the stories of just a couple characters, this book is more about the events, and characters are only used as needed. Still, the book manages to build up everything from relatively mundane moments and eases us into the chaos. The build-up is gradual and punctuated with epic moments and big reveals in a way that feels right for the most part. However there are a few characters that get lost along the way and there is one scene in particular that is quite jarring in how bizarrely out of place it feels that it kills any emotional punch it was intended to have.

Score: 8/10

Pretty much every character you could want to come back does come back, and every returning face plays their part as expected or is actually improved in terms of depth of character, through a better fit within the plot, or simply by being paired off with someone they have interesting chemistry with. On top of the returning faces there are quite a few new characters both good and bad that all have their roles to play and they range from good to excellent additions to the cast. The biggest problem is that with so many characters present there are quite a few that feel under used. Even the demon-god Rakdos himself who graces the cover of the book is force to share his screen time amidst the chaos.

Score: 8/10

We're brought back to the true city-life in this book as opposed to the frontier feel of Guildpact and the return is welcome. This is the Ravnica I wanted to read about. Not only that, but card after card after card makes an appearance further cementing this novel as a reflection of the set it's named after. When you have such a strong concept as the Guilds with their guildmasters and champions, it is expected that you'll see these people working alongside or against each other. And because of relatively massive cast, there was almost no way Herndon couldn't deliver. When you have the setting, plot, and number of card appearances in sync as much as it is in this book, there is no question you're reading a Magic novel.

Score: 7/10

The prose of the book is of the same quality as Dissension. It serves the plot on conveying necessary information in an adequately direct way in terms of dialogue and action in a similar vein as the previous two books. The most prominent change in style is the distracting addition of a universally used swear word among nearly all the characters regardless of species or Guild affiliation hadn't made an appearance until this book. The good news is that once again Herndon's strength continues to be the way he fills the plane of Ranvica with history and detail by exploring the beliefs, thoughts, and practices of the various Guilds, with the Azorius Senate as the most prevalent.

Score: 7/10 (This is not an average.)

This is the Ravnica I wanted to see. Disasters appear left and right and the Guilds are at war.  While the book is packed with both old and new characters, the amount of people and plots that are squeezed into nineteen chapters counter-intuitively makes this story much more about the plane of Ravnica itself rather than the people. Sometimes there is so much going on that some of these people and plot threads get lost, and there are certainly some flaws in logic and execution, but the overall book is about the breakdown of the structure and order of Ravnica, so it's not as jarring as it might be in another book. Herndon continues to deliver on his strengths of fleshing out the Guilds while doing it within a plot that I've been looking forward to since the beginning which makes this book my favorite of the trilogy.

      [Ravnica] - [Guildpact] - [Dissension]

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