After reading the reviews of War of the Spark: Ravnica earlier this year, my initial reaction to The Wildered Quest was one of cautious optimism. Kate Elliott had already done a masterful job with her work on The Chronicles of Bolas, but I was unsure whether the novel was the ideal format for Magic story. For years, the short stories that accompanied Magic sets gave players the opportunity to “read along” while experiencing new cards and plot lines. However, my fears were completely allayed after binging The Wildered Quest within a few hours of its release.
At its heart, The Wildered Quest is the coming-of-age story of Rowan and Will Kenrith; it explores their journey to understand the relationships between freedom, power, and responsibility. Building on the bones of fairy tales and Arthurian ideals of knighthood and chivalry, Elliott weaves well-known literary themes with the core tenets of Magic color philosophy and lore. The quest that drives Rowan and Will forward through the courts of Eldraine exposes them (and us) to new experiences that challenge their preconceived notions and eventually ignite their respective Planeswalker sparks.
However, Rowan and Will aren’t the only characters that come into their own in this story. Garruk makes a much-lauded return in this novel, traversing his own hero’s journey as he fights to claim ownership of himself and his fate. It’s a wonderful way to incorporate the Planeswalker into the novel, and gives us a clear thread of continuity from the broader Magic universe to this plane. Garruk has been portrayed for years as a tragic figure, and it is gratifying to see him grow into a tempered, more mature character.
Elliott’s writing is concise, descriptive and compelling, and her affection for Will and Rowan clearly shines through. Will, ever the more introspective twin, is thoughtful and compassionate. In various ways, he is reminiscent of Jace on Ixalan: using knowledge and a desire to learn to connect with others. Rowan is impulsive, fearless, and full of zeal, ready to act and seek adventure. They balance one another in their quest to find their father, who has been stolen away by the mysterious shapeshifting Planeswalker Oko. The twins struggle in their own ways, but both are faced with the realities of acknowledging their privilege, dealing with loss, and fulfilling their duty.
The Wildered Quest shines when it wholeheartedly examines the intersection of gender and power. This is particularly embodied in the character of Queen Linden, Will and Rowan’s stepmother. A former knight also chosen by the Questing Beast, Linden fought alongside their father, High King Dariel Kenrith, to complete the quests within the five courts. However, due to circumstances outside her control, Linden only completed four of them, thus ceding the crown to Dariel. Despite their loving marriage, her excellent parenting, and her hard work, Linden finds herself constantly compared to her husband, both in terms of competence and credibility. It’s a situation too many women in power are familiar with, and it’s refreshing to see these themes explored in a fantasy setting. Despite her detractors, Queen Linden’s grace and skills under pressure make her a pillar for the twins and the realm itself.
The Royal Family is also a surprisingly modern one, featuring not only an interracial marriage, but a blended family as well. It’s clear early on that Linden is not Will and Rowan’s biological mother, but her treatment of them and her own biological children is equally affectionate and disciplined. Dariel Kenrith is a regal white man, while Linden is portrayed as a stately black woman. Hazel and Erec, the twins’ younger sister and brother, are biracial and share a close relationship with their half-siblings. At its heart, the Kenriths are a united front despite their complicated pasts.
However, I was left wanting more from some of the characters in The Wildered Quest. While we’re able to see Will’s and Garruk’s growth over the novella, Rowan’s impetuousness seems shallow in comparison. Likewise, we didn’t see much development from characters such as Titus and Cerise. Oko’s own motivations for stealing away Dariel and sowing discord between the five courts are mysterious at best and obtusely cryptic at worst.
The setting of Eldraine promises lush intrigue, history and depth in each of its five courts, but I was left with several questions. How did Vantress get its mysterious mirror? What is the structure of each of the five courts? What is life like for non-nobles? What drives someone to become a witch, and how do they become one? But perhaps that’s a mark of a good tale: leaving us with the desire to read and experience more.
The Wildered Quest is a strong, well-written story that brings to life one of the newest and most intriguing planes in the Multiverse. Like every good fairy tale and hero’s journey, The Wildered Quest’s fantastical setting gives us insight into not just the ambitions we dream of, but the truth of what we must do to achieve them. I hope that Kate Elliott has more opportunities to contribute to Magic lore, as her genuine enthusiasm and care for the characters and Multiverse brings life and perspective into this game.
A consummate lover of books, tea, food and instant-speed kill spells, Michelle is a person of many passions. Her hobbies include cuddling cats, throwing pottery, and analyzing Magic lore from a literary perspective. She is also a co-host of the Vorthos comedy podcast, “The Loregoyfs,” and she comprises a full 25% of The Felidar Guardian (specifically the right hand, left ear and both scapulas). Her CMC is 2BWU, and her ETB trigger creates two 1/1 cats with lifelink and trample.