Book Review: Dragon’s Maze: The Secretist, Part Three (Magic: The Gathering)

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Dragon’s Maze: The Secretist, Part Three
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Page Count: 101
Cost: $1.99
Release Date: 05/28/2013

Part three of The Secretist is finally here! Earlier this year, I reviewed the first two parts, and I honestly couldn’t wait for the final installment. I got sucked up in the mystery of the Implicit Maze, and crazy fights that ensued in the pursuit of its promised treasures. Now it’s time to see if this trilogy ended with a bang, or was a nice lead up to nothing.

When we last left Jace Beleren, things were not going well. It appeared all out war was going to break out between the guilds until the dragon ruler of the Izzet League revealed the existence of the maze to all. It seems a race was put forth that would feature a representative from each of the ten guilds. The winner would be the first to correctly go through each of the guild’s gates and reach the end. Oh, and Jace happens to be trapped in a seemingly inescapable pit with a couple of thirsty vampires.

The beef of this story is the race itself, which is interesting, but ambiguous. It’s very hard to gauge what’s going on, apart from a number of deadly encounters. I couldn’t tell how so many people knew the correct path through the maze, how much time was passing, or how any of them survived to the end. Ral Zarek, the planeswalker working as an Izzet runner, throws down the gauntlet that there will be no rules for this race. The guilds go with this idea and sends armies at each other, but the consequences of these battles seem to elude the runners themselves.

One of the bigger issues is that early on, Jace discovers that the maze was designed as a test of guild’s unity. A successful run of the race of all ten guilds would create a new Guildpact, thereby creating peace once more. If even a single representative fails to reach the end, something called Azor’s Verdict will be passed, which can’t be good. Obviously, Jace knows that the runners have to make it to the end, but he doesn’t seem to try very hard to see this result through. Instead, he’s focused on Emmara, a member of the Selsyna Conclave that he’s developed a strong connection with. The book clearly wants to explore that relationship, but doesn’t have enough space to do it justice. Outside of battle, there are few times where the two can interact, and the conclusion feels a tad rushed.

I found the end result of the maze quite interesting however. It creates an interesting conundrum for Jace that should definitely be explored in the future. As a planeswalker, the number one rule is to never tie yourself down to a specific world. Through his actions and feelings, Jace breaks that rule throughout the book, and the end only exacerbates the situation.

In the end, this is the weakest of the three books. Even though it’s the longest of the bunch, it still feels rushed. It’s like of montage of characters and situations, none of which that feel resolved. The ending, though interesting, creates a scenario that attempts to simply brush over everything that happened before. As someone who enjoyed the things that happened before, I found that troubling. Also, there was no real closure concerning a number of important characters. Ral Zarek and Jace discover that both are planeswalkers, have a quick battle, and then pretty much ignore each other. Lazav, the Dimir shape shifter that was revealed to be manipulating people and events, makes a grand entrance towards the end before slipping silently into the shadows. While that fits his character, it doesn’t resolve anything.

I suppose I should have expected the lack of a resolution. After all, favoring one character over another in battle would seemingly put a seal of approval on one guild over another. Magic, as a card game, wouldn’t benefit if a bunch of cards were perceived inferior to others. The game benefits from all colors being equal, and therefore all guilds. It’s also hard to set anything in stone, seeing as the series will continue and likely return to Ravnica once again. Still, this book was a disappointment. It was interesting to be sure, but couldn’t deliver on the build up of the first two books. Even still, I’d love to read a continuation if one is made.

The bottom line is that this book is only a couple of bucks, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’ve read the first two. Just lower your expectations a bit, and it will be a fun quick read.

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