Book Reviews: Agents of Artifice by Ari Marmell

Well, to all my loyal readers out there, I’ve returned from my excursion to South America.  It was a life-enriching experience, and I do urge you to sometime visit Machupicchu and the Galapagos, as they are simply amazing.  You can expect to see a small feature about this trip within the next day or so, complete with pictures for your enjoyment.

I’d also like to welcome the newest member of Power 9 Pro, Sean.  I knew of Sean from the Alberta Magic forums (www.sc2gg.com/magic for those of you interested) before he came here, and I’m sure he’ll be a great asset to the team.

With those housekeeping items out of the way, I’d like to discuss something more Magic-related, namely Ari Marmell’s Magic novel Agents of Artifice. This novel is the first in a new line of planeswalker novels published by Wizards instead of the three small novels that used to accompany fat packs for each new set.

Now the price tag for the first planeswalker was about 2.5 times what I used to pay for a Magic novel, but with the elegant hardcover binding and a promotional Jace Beleren promotional card, I couldn’t really say no.  Unfortunately, most of the promo Jaces have ben bought up, so you shouldn’t count on getting one when you go to acquire your copy.

I started reading Magic novels with the Time Spiral saga, and I was not very impressed.  The initial novelty of reading about characters like Teferi and Venser that were staples in your Magic deck wore off, and I quickly lost interest halfway through the Planar Chaos novel.

Then, when the Lorwyn saga of books arrived, I was able to complete Lorwyn and Morningtide before the relatively uncaptivating plot ceased to hold my attention enough to prevent me from starting Eventide.  I was impressed by the Shadowmoor anthology, as they did not require long reading sessions t get your entertainment, and the plots were intriguing for their length.

Needless to say, I didn’t expect much from Agents of Artifice, but hey, at least I got a promo card.  I sat down to read the tale of Jace, Lilliana and Tezzeret, and was surprisingly enthralled.  After all, when the first chapter talks about Lilliana Vess getting into a bar-fight, you want to read more.

As I continued reading Agents of Artifice, I was happy to see that halfway through, I was still as excited as I had been when I had first sat down to read it.  Whereas the plots in previous novels had been almost confusing to understand, Agents brings a totally new style of writing to the world of Magic fiction.  Ari Marmell has a knack for complex character development, and does an admirable job of making the planeswalkers seem relatively human in their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Agents of Artifice is an excellent read in that anyone who loves Magic can appreciate it.  Although the story starts in Ravnica, the Magic veteran will appreciate the description of places like Kamigawa and the Blind Eternities (referred to as the Æther on most cards).  Newer players can encounter some of their favourite people and places from the latest sets, such as Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker on his home plane of Grixis as well as the megalomaniacal leader of the Infinite Consortium, Tezzeret the Seeker.

Agents of Artifice follows the life of Jace Beleren, a young planeswalker with extraordinary mental powers.  He makes his living by blackmailing Ravnica’s rich and famous with their most precious secrets, at least until he is discovered by Tezzeret, the leader of an interplanar organization known as the Infinite Consortium.  What Jace doesn’t know is that he is to be used as a weapon against one of the most powerful beings in the Multiverse: Nicol Bolas.

Needless to say, relations between Jace and Tezzeret become frosty, and with the aid of his newfound compatriots, Lilliana Vess and Kallist, he tries to bring both the crazed artificer and the vengeance-seeking dragon to their knees.  With what seems like the whole world (or at least a very big part of it) set to kill Jace, his magic is being put to a test the likes of which he has never encountered.  To find out which one of these magical forces will prevail, pick up a copy of Ari Marmell’s Agents of Artifice, available from bookstores and game shops alike.  Marmell has crafted the magic multiverse and made it his own, and has set a very high standard for the next Magic novel, Alara Unbroken, due out in May.

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