One of the most frustrating things about getting into a series is the wait. This can be especially true with books, as some authors take several years to put out the next volume. Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire know what I’m talking about. That’s why I like what Wizards does with its MTG books. You get one for every card set that comes out, and since those are released multiple times a year, the wait is never that long. It only took four months for fans of The Secretist, Part One, to get this book. I appreciate that.
When we left off with book one, Jace Beleren was in some serious trouble. He had discovered a hidden maze with the city of Ravnica, and figured out that the maze led to a power so massive that it could tip the scales of power for all of the guilds. Knowing that this knowledge would make him and his friends a target, he chose to use some mind magic to erase all of it from his memory. Unfortunately, he did this too late, and ended up putting himself in a bad position when his friend Emmara got kidnapped by a group of Rakdos thugs. The end up the book had him badly injured from a fight with a troll, and face to face with a Dimir vampire who had come to claim whatever secretes he could from Jace’s mind.
The book is really about three forces, despite the sheer number of guilds entering the fray. First up is Jace, whose only goal is to get him and his friends out of this mess safely. Secondly, there’s the Izzet League, the guild that first found the maze and has stirred up a hornet’s nest of guild activity in their search to find it. Thirdly, there’s the Lazav, a Dimir guild shape shifter who’s been manipulating events to bring himself to ultimate power. The latter two forces are willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to gain control, and the remaining guilds are simply content to throw armies at each other to settle petty grievances.
Jace has a number of those guilds gunning for him. The Izzet League is onto him after he tried to read the mind of their guild master, who also happens to be an ancient dragon. The Rakdos guild, home to crazed individuals obsessed with doling out pain, are after him because of an incident in the first book where Jace humiliated one of their commanders. The Azorius Senate is after him because he broke numerous laws in his attempt to pull himself away from the maze conflict, and the Boros guild is also after him for this reason. He’s also managed to piss off members of the Selesnya Conclave, though at least they’re not actively hunting for him. Finally, the Dimir are after him to get at whatever knowledge he might possess about how to solve the maze. Naturally, all of these guilds going after to him makes things… complicated.
This second book is a clear bridge between the first and the upcoming third, but that doesn’t mean it lacks for action and/or interesting encounters. To the contrary, it starts with a fun battle and only escalates from there, culminating in a huge battle between several guilds. The author keeps things moving at a quick pace, even when stopping to go into great detail about the character’s immediate surroundings. It creates a colorful world full of interesting characters, each with their own motivations. In the middle of that is a love triangle of sorts, that thankfully doesn’t get too much attention as to have the book lose focus. Jace is still the star though, and incredibly interesting. At any moment, he could simply chose to abandon this plane and go to another. His motivations to stay and see things to the end are fun to read about.
Obviously, you don’t want to read this book unless you’ve read the first. As that book (and this one) are available for just a couple of bucks, it’s worth checking out. This is by no means an epic trilogy that will make waves in the literary world, but they’re fun reads for both fantasy and MTG fans. I’m very interested in seeing where the third book will take us readers.