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VINE VOICEon April 23, 2005
I was wary about reading a book based on a trading card game (even though I love MTG) because of the limits put on the author when much of the world they are writing about is already laid out. Maybe partly because of this trepedition, I found myself unable to put this book down, captivated by the story. Its a damn good book where I didn't really expect to find one. A plesant surprise!

While its true that the occasional attempt to conform the book to the MTG game by casting some of the more popular spells from the game and by trying to explain the limitations and mana requirements of magic took away from the seriousness of the book, the core story is very well told. The plot, characters, landscapes, and action are top-notch and the reader is drawn in by tantalizing mysteries (The main character's true identity isn't revealed until very near the end of the book).

Having played Magic the Gathering (particularly the older editions) will enhance your enjoyment of this book because of some ambiguousness of some of the spells used. With knowledge of what a craw wurm is you'll have a better understanding of what is happening. I'd still say that anyone that hasn't played the game would enjoy this book anyway.

Forstchen was a great choice of author for the first of the MTG books. I look forward to reading more of them and more of his.

Strongly reccomended.
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on March 11, 2003
This is the first Magic The Gathering book, and hands down the best. It is the closest of all the books to the true "feel" of the card game, something that none of the last 20 Magic The Gathering books have even come close to. I liked this book so much I went on to read over 12 books by the same author, many of which are great and happen to be about niche markets that I love. *Wing Commander for example*. If you are a fan of Magic The Gathering, you MUST read this book above all others!
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on April 18, 2005
I have read this book so many times that the book has actually fallen apart. I just bought copy #2, and am just as enthused by the book as ever. It's definately within my top 5 books of all time, maybe even number 1. THIS IS A MUST READ
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on February 24, 2007
Ah yes, Magic the Gathering. The child of Richard Garfield, run through dark magic and incest by the terrifying and evil Wizards of the Coast. I still play Magic, but it will never be like the old days, before Wizards of the Coast became huge. This book was written during the old days, and I reread it every couple years to remind myself of how cool the CCG world was back then.

Arena tells us a story of Garth One-Eye, a mysterious fighter who can control the flow of mana, as he plays a game of cat and mouse (where he's the mouse) in a city ready to tear him apart. Anyone who has seen a Clint Eastwood film will get numerous rushes of recognition. The basic plot of the book follows A Fistful of Dollars, with Garth playing the ruling houses of the city against each other.

So it's a rehash of a familiar plot. Does that make it bad? No. For one thing, it's a familiar plot, but we have to admit it was an entertaining plot as well. And there are twists and turns in this story that go off on their own (albiet Magic the Gathering inspired) direction. But don't be surprised if you start imagining Garth with that Clint sharpness in his voice.

Why read this book? First of all, if you're a fan of the old Magic the Gathering editions, you have to read it, just so you can say you have. Second of all, even if you're not a fan of magic, while it will lose about 10% of its goodness, it's still a great read, easy to pick up and hard to put down.

Any complaints? Only a couple. One, the sequels (by a different author) follow completely different characters and while a couple from Arena appear in later books, the cameos don't quite do them justice. Another downside is that one of the characters, Kirlen, was a potential gold mine of development and plot that only barely gets used.

But I reccomend Arena, especially if it's as cheap as I think it is these days. Pick it up before your next airplane flight or bus ride. It will keep you thouroughly entertained. And it may even make you want to play Magic again.
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VINE VOICEon July 18, 2011
I had an ever so brief time in my life around 1996 when I played Magic the Gathering or, at least, I collected some cards. I never actually played it with anyone but one acquaitance, and only a couple of times at that. But when I started learning the game I found Arena by Forstchen and fell in love with it.

The book is a short read, one that flows effortlessly from one page to the next. At times the writing is a little simplistic but this does nothing more than enhance the plot and make you enjoy the use of mana and the casting of spells. The focus of the book, and there is a lot of it, is the dueling, in and out of the arena. Garth is mysterious and you greedily read on to see what he does next, or what he has in his little bag of tricks. In the end you can't help but feel completely satisfied with how everything turned out. The only slight criticism is the love interests. With very little development you suddenly have strangers falling in love with Garth. It is quite sudden and makes you scratch your head wondering why it was so forced when the rest of the plot is so well thought out.

This was the third time I have read it (this time because I recently played the PSN game) and enjoyed it just the same, if not more, as when I read it for the first time in 1996. A definite recommend.

5 stars.
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on October 26, 2010
I read this book back in 1994 when I first started playing Magic: The Gathering, I instantly fell in love with this book because it was so exciting to read. Now reading it sixteen years later I read the sample and instantly fell in love with it all over again. However this time I could follow along better with knowing the card game very well it was better the second time around. Arena is in my must read category for fantasy fans. There are more books with some of these characters that make cameos, I don't think they are available on amazon yet.
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on November 11, 2014
Still one of the best books I have ever read in my life. A great story that I think anyone can enjoy. You need not know anything about magic. It is a PG book, maybe even R rated in some peoples minds. Lots of death and a few run ins with intimacy that are left mostly to the imagination.

If you are in the market for a exciting fantasy read. This book is awesome. I compare most fantasy books I read to this book, hoping they will live up this one. Some come close, LoTR tops it, but most books just don't stack up, in my opinion.
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on November 16, 2015
Recommended read, particularly for fans of MTG, as it really illustrates the game's dynamics as you would have imagined it would be in story-form. That being said, whether or not you're an MTG fan, the book is well written and fast-paced, with plenty of action and plot-twists that will keep you coming back for more. All in all, I have been surprisingly pleased with the MTG based books, although I've only read one's that have an average of 4 stars or more in Amazon ratings...
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on June 4, 2005
The main question on your mind right now has got to be "But isn't this just using a name to sell books?"

And I can tell you no. They could have easily just slapped together some drivel, put the Magic logo on it with the card offer, and it would have sold probably just as well. While you may appreciate its connections to the card game, it's not necessary to enjoy the book. The author adds much to a, at the time, thin background to realize a whole city and a system of magic.

The story does seem to come down to the childish, but not too often, and not enough to distract me from the rest of the book. The best part is learning about the different schools of magic and the people that head them!

The worst of these, let's call them childish asides, is that they put in some PG-13 stuff in that takes up all of a page. During the rest of the book the only reference to it is the phrase "It meant nothing", which comes out more than once. Which is true of the story as well, it meant nothing. It's just added as an afterthought I'm sure, to tantalize the younger reader. As I said however, the main story grabbed me unrelentlessly in such a manner that I could overlook such things.

This is a stand-alone book and, as I understand, does not have any direct connection to the rest of the series (new or old).
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on July 25, 2010
I just completed this today. It's the first book in a long time I could not stop reading. Good story, it's not cheesy and I loved the characters. I wish there was a second part. Well worth $1.99
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