Mount Readmore Book Review, 2018 88/200
Return to Dominaria by Martha Wells
Finished on 6/7/2018
Dominaria’s story starts right after the events of Hour of Devastation. Gideon and Liliana have arrived on Dominaria following the Gatewatch’s defeat at the hands of Nicol Bolas. Together, they begin a mission to kill Belzenlok, the final demon holding Liliana’s contract. They get to see a lot of Dominaria in the process, which gives fans a look at how the plane has changed, and make some allies who may be familiar to longtime players.
Besides the members of the Gatewatch—Gideon, Liliana, and Chandra—you’ll see Jhoira, Teferi, and Karn, plus a few others who make surprise appearances along the way.
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Franchise Fiction, Magic the Gathering, Wizards of the Coast
A Return to Old Stomping Grounds
This series of short stories had good parts and bad parts. On one hand I liked all the characters, dialog and plot of each of the individual stories. Martha Wells is a talented author who knows how to write prose, that’s for sure. But on the the other hand, overall this series of short stories shows a lack of a guiding hand.
First, the good. I liked that we got to see both old and new characters interact with one another. We had Teferi and Liliana cooperating to conquer a puzzle, as well as Chandra learning a trick or two from Jaya. It was a fun throwback which honored these much beloved characters who we haven’t seen for a decade(s). Teferi was a fun time-travelling father figure, Jaya was a lovable pyromaniac grandma, and Karn was a stoic rock guy.
Next, by and large I liked the newly introduced characters. In particular I liked Tiana and Slimefoot. The rest didn’t get enough development to really be fleshed out.
The plots were, by and large, very well told. I particularly liked the flashback to when Teferi was a young(er) man wooing his first wife- it was a nice piece of slice-of-life in an otherwise break-neck paced storyline. None of the individual stories failed on their own.
Which brings us to our biggest problem: as a collection of short stories which tell a larger story put together, the Return to Dominaria storyline as a whole lacks glue. It felt like WotC demanded the author include each and every single legendary character present in the block, because this is a ‘legendary matters’ block. Did we need to see Yargle, Danitha, Kwende, Raff and Shana (and Muldrotha and Whisper and Jodah and Radha and Urgoros and on and on and on)? No, we didn’t. This anthology suffers from an overabundance of characters- there are so many that the narrative fails to glue onto any of them. If the author had pruned out maybe half of the legendary characters the story would have been able to develop the characters it did have more.
And as for the second biggest problem, this anthology was paced at such a breakneck rate that I was metaphorically left gasping afterwards. It was so breakneck that the slice-of-life section I mentioned earlier stood out like a sore thumb. I blame part of this on the introduction of too many characters- had the author instead focused on just a handful of characters instead of constantly introducing and dropping them that handful would have had a better defined narrative through-line through the entire text of the anthology as a whole.
Now I’ve heard that WotC had originally planned on this being a two set block instead of a one set block, so the author was presumably forced to compress a story told in twenty four parts into a story told in twelve parts. This alone would have caused the breakneck pace and lack of denumonte at the end, so I’m willing to excuse the author of this. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that franchise fiction can’t be held to the same standards as regular fiction due to timetables and external demands demanded by the gaming company.
Would I recommend that you read this? Yes, if you are a fan of the franchise. Otherwise, no. I think the Ixalan stories could be read by a non fan and possibly be somewhat enjoyed, but not these.