The dreams are gone, midnight has come, the darkness is our new kingdom. Let’s shine a flashlight on Dark Legacy, by Robert E. Vardeman.
A War of Magics
War rages under the double moons of Dominia. It is Minotaur vs. Elf in a bloody conflict of dirty politics and foul magics.
The human orphan Yunnie brings two formidable weapons to the battle. One is the Living Armor, which turns its wearer into a berserk killing machine. The other is the stone idol Tiyint, which once awakened, slaughters with grim abandon.
But Yunnie soon finds there is even more at stake than a kingdom. There is a third relentless enemy under the ground–keeping the war going, and dining on the dead of both armies!
Based on The Dark, the exciting expansion set to Magic: The Gathering.
The cards featured on the back of the book this time have defaulted back to Cockatrice and Armageddon Clock from Song of Time. Looks like the image budget ran out and they decided to reuse those pictures instead of coming up with new ones… though it’s odd that they’d go back a book to repeat the cards from, instead of repeating the images from the back cover of And Peace Shall Sleep. In any case, it’s kind of a shame, since The Dark contained a number of legendarily bad cards and oddities that do things they have no business doing in their section of the color pie. Witch Hunter, for instance, is a card from The Dark which I think is thematically appropriate enough to the novel to warrant being pictured on the back; and then I could have had some fun really tearing it a new one. Well, the book may have denied me that opportunity; but what while it taketh with one hand, it giveth with the other. Previous books have had a small line on the bottom saying something like “based on the popular Magic: the Gathering trading card game” or “based on the best-selling Magic: the Gathering trading card game”. This one, however, has decided to change the to“based on The Dark, the exciting expansion set to Magic: the Gathering.” Oh, no. Many, many adjectives have been applied to The Dark, but “exciting” is not one of them. “Massively underpowered”, “One of the weakest sets in the history of Magic”, and “Maybe not quite as bad as Homelands, but it’s down there at the bottom of the barrel” would be closer to the truth.
Ah, at last we’ve come to the final book of the pre-revision continuity. But Serra Angels and ministers of grace preserve us, this one is such a tangled mess of unrelated plotlines that I’m not even sure how to begin describing it. Well, for a start, the character who the synopsis would have us believe is the main protagonist – despite him not being featured on the cover art – is Yunnie, a human from a fishing town who went to live among minotaurs. He believes that the minotaurs’ war against the elves is a senseless slaughter, and wants to stop it. Mind you, he still charges into battle alongside his minotaur blood-brothers and massacres every elf he can get his hands on – but he mumbles feeble protests beforehand, and feels kind of guilty about it afterwards, so that’s obviously alright then. The second group of characters – the ones who actually are pictured on the cover – are Maeveen O’Donagh (the book has a weird thing about repeatedly calling her by her full name in the narration) and Quopomma, soldiers in the service of the eccentric researcher Vervamon. They end up traipsing from one end of the continent to the other in search of the Sigil of Ewset, key to the fantastical treasure of the Tomb of the Seven Martyrs, which doesn’t actually exist. It’s just a big ole wild goose chase. It’s the treasure, I should clarify, which doesn’t exist; the sigil does exist, and they do end up finding it, but they just end up breaking it. So that was time well spent. There’s also the court politics of Iwset: Lord Peemel, the evil king, who wants to wage war against the neighboring nation of Jehesic in order to expand his rule; Digody, the evil advisor, who goads Peemel on to greater evils with the intention of usurping the throne himself once the citizenry rebels against Peemel’s tyranny; and Apepei, the not-as-evil advisor, who tries to reign Peemel in and is secretly assisting the Queen of Jehesic in the war. And let us not forget the evil witch Sacumon, who is secretly commanding forces of Coal Golems to fan the flames of war between the elves and minotaurs with the intention of creating an empire of her own. And finally, there’s the shapeshifting spy Isak Glen’dard, who exists. I mean, he has a fair number of chapters dedicated to his POV, so I kept expecting him to eventually do something, but he never did. I kept thinking that his shapeshifting power would come into play, that at a dramatic moment someone would suddenly reveal themself to be Isak in disguise… but no, he ended up contributing bupkiss.
Does that mean I thought the book was entirely bad? Not at all! There was plenty of good things in. While the profusion of plotlines was confusing, it also meant that there were lots of different characters to get invested in; and aside from Yunnie, I found most of the protagonists to be interesting. Sure, Isak never ended up doing anything; but I wished he would, because I actually quite liked him. And Quopomma was interesting: I believe she’s the only example of an ogre protagonist in all of Magic canon. The novel visited plenty of interesting places, like the eerily empty and nightmare-inducing City of Shadows; and introduced plenty of interesting peoples, like the strange race of living molten rock called the Niroso. And while I didn’t particularly like Yunnie, I was at least grateful that they didn’t go the whole “rightful king returns” route with him despite having the whole setup where he was spirited away from the capital as a child with a geegaw proving his royal heritage. I groaned when the plot point was brought up, and was all ready to go on an indignant rant about how twenty years gutting fish is not suitable training to become an effective monarch, but the book ended up dodging that bullet. So yes, the book did have its good points.
Mind you, it did keep using the word “insure” when it meant “ensure”; and it used the word a lot more frequently than you might expect. It really started bugging me, after a while. But I’m willing to overlook it.
Finally, a look at references to the novel in the card set. As a continued sign of the novels growing ever-closer to continuity, while Reod from the last book only managed to get referenced on a single card, some of the characters from this book do much better. Maeveen O’Donagh will eventually go on to write a book titled “Memoirs of a Soldier”, which is quoted in the flavor text of six cards. Vervamon is likewise quoted on six others; most notably, on Carnivorous Plant, his encounter with it being detailed in the book.
…And so concludes my look at the pre-revision Magic novels. Sort of. Because before I finally move on to the post-revision continuity, I’m going to take a detour and look at some of the anthology collections, which contain both pre- and post-revision stories. Look, Magic continuity is complicated, alright?
Final Rating: 3/5