Invasion Cycle

Planeshift, by J. Robert King

pshiftAs Yawgmoth will let you know, Dominaria is no easy world to invade.  I couldn’t have laid waste to every continent and killed every hero without the help of many colleagues and friends….
…And of course, I want to thank the fans, every last one of whom is now a subject of the dread lord Yawgmoth.  It’s been nice conquering you.
(I know some of you hope Urza and Gerrard can pull this thing off in the next book, but don’t count on it.  Yawgmoth and I go way back.)
-Author’s acknowledgments

Imagine living through an invasion by the next best thing to demons.  Imagine the elation you’d feel knowing that you’d helped beat back the forces of evil.  Then imagine what you’d feel if you discovered that it was only beginning; that another world in another plane was suddenly overlaid upon everything you know.

That’s probably what happened to Gerrard Capashen and company at the beginning of the second book of the Invasion cycle, Planeshift.  When we last left our heroes, they’d just finished a great battle, and were recuperating from considerable tragedies (the nature of which I’ll leave quiet for now, since this review is coming out at the same time as Invasion).  Unfortunately for our heroes, it turns out that it was only the opening gambit.  The plane of Rath, currently ruled by the Evincar Crovax, has begun a dimensional shift onto the lands of Dominaria.  That in itself wouldn’t be so bad, if not for the fact that the overlay brings with it the hordes of Phyrexians living on Rath.  To make matters worse, Crovax’s Stronghold comes with the rest of Rath.

Fortunately, the heroes of our story aren’t exactly twiddling their thumbs.  Urza Planeswalker leads a team of other planeswalkers for a massive assault on Phyrexia itself, hoping to take out the being known as Yawgmoth directly.  The elf-lord Eladamri goes to the lands of Keld, where the warriors are firmly convinced that they are facing Twilight (their version of the end of the world).  Agnate, leader of the metathran soldiers, makes common cause with the lich-lord Dralnu.  The dragon Rhammidarigaaz finds himself attempting to awaken long slumbering powers that will reassert the might of the dragon nations.  And Gerrard and the crew of the Weatherlight help out where they can, but work towards their goal of dealing with Crovax and the Stronghold.

As this is the next to last book, expect some resolutions in some long-running subplots.  I’ll spare the details, but expect casualties on all fronts, both physical and mental (and both!).  Urza continues to demonstrate his obsessions, which includes a truly chilling moment which demonstrates that Urza’s not particularly nice in the effort to destroy Phyrexia.  Of course, it also doesn’t escape his notice how Phyrexia is close to his own ideas of paradise….!  There’s also a nice moment featuring Tahngarth the Talruum minotaur, as he steps into his own in not just one but two important sections.

The ending is appropriately horrifying as well, although hope is still offered (in spite of the author’s acknowledgments); just what you’d expect out of the penultimate chapter of the Invasion cycle.  Planeshift does a nice job of continuing the plot, probably the result of having the same author writing both Invasion and Planeshift (and the forthcoming Apocalypse).  I’m still wondering how they’re going to get all this wrapped up, but I’m willing to wait for the next book before rendering judgment on the Invasion cycle (and by extension, the entire Weatherlight Saga).

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Invasion, by J. Robert King

invasion…Safety isn’t the issue.  Defeat of the Phyrexians is.
This is where you and I differ, Master.  Safety is the issue.  You’ve never wanted to save your people.  You’ve only wanted to defeat your foes-Mishra, Gix, K’rrik, and now Yawgmoth himself.  You would sacrifice us all if you knew it would doom him.
I am willing to sacrifice myself to defeat Yawgmoth.  I have neither sympathy nor patience for others who are not.
As I said, Master, this is where we differ.
-A debate between the planeswalkers Urza and Teferi

    For thousands of years, Urza Planeswalker has been waiting for this moment.  Since the day he fought and defeated his brother Mishra in the depths of the past, he’s been looking to defeat and destroy the evil of Phyrexia, a plane of existence of plagues and twisted machine/creatures.  He’s been planning a way to defeat the Phyrexians when the time came for a final conflict.  That time is now.

This is it…the trilogy that has been building in the Magic the Gathering books for a few years now.  The Thran gave us the ultimate genesis of this story.  The Artifacts cycle gave us back story on the prime mover on the world of Dominaria. Rath and Storm was the prologue of the current events featuring the potential hero of this story, and the Masquerade cycle gave us the fallout from those events in three different settings.  Now, J. Robert King brings us to the grand finale:  the Invasion cycle, starting with the book of the same name.

Invasion has three major plots going through it.  The most significant one features Gerrard Capashen, captain of the skyship Weatherlight.  He and his crew are returning to Dominaria from another plane just in time for the Phyrexian invasion.  Gerrard’s been hyped as the heir to a Legacy which features a number of artifacts and the Weatherlight, all working as one unit.  The opening of the book certainly does much to prove that the Legacy is a force to reckon with.  Unfortunately, it also makes him a prime target for Tsabo Tavoc, a spider-woman-like creature who is leading the first wave into the land of Benalia-which happens to be Gerrard’s homeland.

Another plot is that of Urza Planeswalker, the somewhat insane immortal who crafted the Legacy, and supposedly has a plan to destroy Phyrexia once and for all.  He’s assisted by a mortal-but extremely long-lived-wizard named Barrin; he also created a fighting force called the metathran, beings born and bred to fight Phyrexians.  The last major plot features the nature spirit Multani, the spirit of the Yavimaya forest, who deals with the Phyrexian invasion in his own way; he later will gain assistance by an elf-lord from the plane of Rath.

When this whole story was first introduced, the Legacy was hyped as being the one thing necessary to drive off the Phyrexians for good, and that Gerrard was a key component of that Legacy.  He’d also left behind a piece of that Legacy when he traveled to Rath in the beginning of this story, to prevent that piece from falling into Phyrexian hands/claws/appendages.  I’ve a sneaking feeling nobody will remember that part….  Even so, I have trouble believing that the Weatherlight is going to single-handedly stop the invasion.  Of course, I’m not the one writing the story.

Urza is one of those characters who can’t really be considered a “good guy”.  As the quote above shows, he has his obsessions, and they’ve been a theme of Urza’s since the beginning.  One has to wonder what will happen to him if he should survive all this (always presuming that the invasion is pushed back, of course).  I also rather liked the character of Teferi, a planeswalker like Urza, but with a far better attitude.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t get nearly enough pages.

While Invasion is a pretty good beginning for this trilogy, I can’t help but feel that this might be a little to big for a trilogy to handle.  After all, this is the invasion of an entire world, using the resources of another world.  We only get to see small bits of it.  I’m all for heroes having near impossible odds, but I’m hoping that I won’t be disappointed by the resolutions.

Incidentally…don’t look for too much in the way of triumphant victories.  This is only book one, after all…

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