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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've never before read a Magic novel; what I know about M:TG could fit within this sentence with room to spare. But I am a big fan of author Matthew Stover, so I read this book anyway. Fortunately, this book is perfectly accessible to new readers and stands alone. (It's set after the events, and features many of the characters, of Agents of Artifice, however, so if you want the backstory to this book fleshed out you might want to check out that one.) Test of Metal delivers so much of what I've come to love in Stover's writing: awesome, intense action sequences fleshing out satisfying character development with a mythological flair; a smattering of fun philosophizing with an emphasis on paradox and contradiction and the nature of identity; great writing full of vivid descriptions, cracking dialogue and snappy banter; and conflict between humans and gods (or other godlike beings) -- in Stover's worlds, just as people ought to be careful what they wish for, so too ought gods or dragons be careful whom they toy with. The book isn't flawless -- an early sequence involving magma scorpions, for instance, didn't thrill me -- but it is a thoughtful, exciting fantasy romp that was absorbing enough that I read most of it in a single sitting, certainly a cut above what I'd have expected. I can't tell you how it holds up to other Magic novels, but on its own terms it is a lot of fun. Recommended to those who enjoy good fantasy action.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was my first foray into MtG books since they first came out, so I had no idea what to expect. I SHOULD have expected this book to grab me from the start. I should have expected to laugh out loud, to stare in horror at the antics of the protagonists, and to be reduced to saying "Guh" at the mind-bending metamagic reality screwing that went on. I should have expected it, because nearly every other Stover book has had similar effects on me.

I've read all the reviews up thus far, and one of them questioned "Would you expect a planeswalker to talk like that?" Yes. Yes I would. I would, because a planeswalker has access to different planes, and not all of them would be elves in tights speaking in flowery rhymes. Also, it was made pretty clear what kind of background Tezzeret came from, and yeah, they'd talk like that. What's unrealistic is the pg-13 bleached out version of character interaction that you get in the majority of fantasy novels, especially fantasy novels spanning several authors. They end up mediocre, bland, and forgettable. Not this book. Immediately upon finishing it my guy and I went over it, "Did you remember when he did that?" "Oh man, that was brutal!" "That sneaky bastard!"

Not that I didn't find any faults with the book. For one thing, I got the sense that Stover was constrained by length. A few parts felt rushed through that could have easily been expanded upon, by oh, a few chapters. The very ending seemed to be a forced tie-in to the rest of the MtG books, but that didn't so much upset me as seem to stand out.

I dearly hope that Stover is asked to write again for MtG, because this needs to happen again. I'm tired of blah fantasy, and am ready for more kickassery!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
from the begining when i started this book i was immidiaty sucked into the life of the dark and brooding planeswalker named tezzeret. in my past experience with MtG books most of the main characteres have been imediatly thrown in with the good side. but with tezzeret i could only guess.He hasnt really fallen in any side.although he definitly is not good he is noot all bad either...i loved the part in the book where tezzerets past is thrown in. but there was so little writtin on it and it was so wonderfully that it made me want to hear his WHOLE past. this in itself could be a book. HINT HINT.the reason i gave this booh a four and not a five was the mildly confusing chapters starting from the middle to the end.i could never tell if tezzeret was tricking Bolas or if HE was being used and didnt know it.i also think tezeret was made to weak in many parts of the book but then much overpowered in the otheres. i am not going to explain the plot of the book so i wont mess it up for the readers but all in all it was one of the best magic books i have read in a long time. i cam only hope there will be more books with tezzeret in them because now he is one of my favriotes right now. i also recoment Jeff grubbs ice age cycle. the first book is called The Gathering Dark. it is a classic
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2011
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
Having read most of the other Magic-novels, I bought this novel mostly to read the continuity of the story arch. I expected to be somewhat let down, as many of the other Magic novels are pretty mediocre. I was very surprised when I found myself enjoying the book immensely; Matthew Stover's characters works *perfectly* and his writings are many levels above many other writers.

I can deeply recommend anyone reading this book. As for the story and its continuity, I suggest you may read "Alara Unbroken" first, or some things may be a bit confusing here.

In fact, I grew so curious about the author, that after reading this book, I bought his Caine-stories. Which are very, very, very recommendable too.

I saw some people here rating this book as 1-2 stars. Many of them haven't read it through, which may be why they find the 25.000 yo dragon too... unintelligent. Or whatever. Well, without spoiling anything - there's a reason to that - and everything makes perfect sense when you close the last page. This book contains a lot of attention to details and intelligence - as well as good ol' ruthless action.

If you're reading this review to be sure whether to buy the book or not, I suggest that you stop reading reviews now, and simply buy the book. It's really that good. I've read many fantasy novels from many authors, fx. in the worlds of Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Magic etc. - this one novel is definitely in my top 3 now.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 10, 2010
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is the kind of book that I had been warned about: one where you'd read a page and have to meditate on what it was you'd just read. TEST OF METAL is that book, and I couldn't be happier for it.

I don't know much about the MTG universe; in fact, I only know what this book taught me. I was going into this blind, interested to see what the lore behind the game was all about. Well, color me interested, because I have nothing but praise to throw at this property. D&D spread across several planes of existence, with "planeswalkers" being the only people capable of traveling between them. It provides so many story possibilities, and it was a joy to experience.

But on to the story. It's all about the story here, because what you get is (not to delve too far into hyperbole) a masterpiece of fantasy fiction. To me, that is. There were just so many twists and turns through dimensions you didn't even know existed to bring this story together at a climax that made my jaw hit the floor. To even allude to it might spoil the surprise, so I'll just say that my brains were thoroughly scrambled.

TEST OF METAL picks up not too long after a planeswalker named Tezzeret was left brain-dead by his rival, Jace Beleren. He is brought back from the dead by a 25,000-year-old dragon, Nicol Bolas, for the sole purpose of finding a sphinx, Crucius the Mad: the creator of a very, very valuable mana-channeling metal called "ethereum." Tezzeret is left in the dark about many things, but the dragon gives him little choice in the matter. So, he reluctantly sets off into the town of his upbringing to look for the first clues that will eventually lead him on a mind-blowing journey through time and space.

If I had to compare this book to anything, the frame narrative is similar to THE NAME OF THE WIND initially. Most of the story is told in the first person by Tezzeret himself as a series of "flashbacks" due to someone probing around his mind. We follow him through his early years as a lowly scrapper of etherium and then on to the life-altering moment when he constructed his metal arm. There are very brief recaps of events that occurred in previous books, and then we're back on to the story proper.

The thing is, unlike THE NAME OF THE WIND, stuff actually happens here. A lot of it. The pacing is steady, the action is intense and gut-wrenching at times, and the raw concept for the entire structure of this book just floors me whenever I think about it. Because the story delves into the mechanics of a "time-traveling" ability called "clockworking," which kicks everything up to, and beyond, eleven.

Imagine, if you will, a fight that takes place across time, and not just in one direction. Because there isn't one direction; there are many. Every decision you make, and don't make, creates an alternate timeline: one that a clockworker of substantial power might be able to take advantage of. So now, you're not just witnessing a fight where one of the combatants might go back in time and change something, you're witnessing a fight where one combatant can jump around and hijack a timeline where his opponent made a bad decision, and use that to his advantage.

How do you even...?

Anyway, the logistics do my head in just recounting them. Suffice to say, I was in awe for most of the book. And not just because this is a Stover novel, but because this is a Stover novel that had more work put into it than is probably justified.

This book will deceive you (or some alteration of you) over and over, well into the fifth dimension. The characters are great to follow around, the universe is detailed and astounding to visualize, and my head still hurts from the story. Stover has knocked it out of the park with this one, just as he did with Traitor (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, Book 13). He immersed himself into the universe to write this book, and I think it will owe him a debt of gratitude if he decides to continue Tezzeret's adventures (which I sincerely hope he does).

Because, to me, this is still the midpoint.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2011
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
Stover is a fantastic author, and he comes through again here. The writing is detailed, engaging, and I didn't want to put the book down. It was my first Planeswalker novel and my first experience with Stover in a non-Star Wars novel context, so I didn't know what to expect. It was really well, written, however, and I ended up really liking it. The point of view changes are well done, and the differences is personality between the different characters really come out. I'm currently reading the novel that serves as a prequel to this one, but Stover wrote so well that I was not even aware that I needed backstory to read Test of Metal. Definitely one of the better novels in the MTG canon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
If you enjoy Magic this book will give you some flavor to the characters and game to help in the enjoyment of playing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Having never read anything in this series and being unfamilliar with Magic The Gathering as a whole, I picked this up solely because I am a fan of Stover's works and I was not disappointed. The main character is not a hero, but he is a character I came to admire for his attitude and actions in this story. Good book, fun read and another Matt Stover character I enjoy so well worth the time and money to pick up.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I wanted to give this book both a 5 star rating and a 1 star rating. It is, in essence, a very schizophrenic read.

What made the book great:
It had a really complex weave of timelines to follow, it's exactly how I would imagine someone like Tezzeret and Nicol Bolas would think and interact. Pretty entertaining.

What made the book terrible:
I don't know if the author knows much about MTG or even cares, and what's worse is that I don't know what kind of nonsense is going on with the dialogue sometimes. I'm wasn't expecting a literary work of art, but when I read a fantasy book I want to experience another world. Mr. Stover constantly ruins any semblance of immersion. This is a dialogue heavy book, but there is nothing more mind wrenching than when you're going along reading about all sorts of crazy magical happenings and Tezzeret (a master artificer) says to a 25,000 year old dragon:

"I have two words for you old wurm." I held up a finger. "Dental." I folded that finger and lifted the next. "Floss."

Really? What the hell is that? Is that how planeswalker speak? Really? Just bizarre. And that's not the only time, the text is filled with present day colloquialisms which destroy the flow of the book if only because they make you stop and say, "Wait, what?" Again, I don't expect overly pretentious dialogue, but I expect it to be consistent with the world that I'm reading about.

Half the time I was expecting Tezzeret to say, "Yo sup dawg" whenever Baltrice showed up. It's just that weird. Not to pile on, but oftentimes the casual dialogue between characters makes them feel like middle schoolers watching a movie together. I know someone will say, "That's just the style of the writing." But it isn't! And that's the thing, it's split. Half the time you're going along reading a high fantasy novel, then you're hit with lines or paragraphs of really silly junk.

Here's a perfect example of that jump between sentences one directly following the other:

"That's what they call it where I come from. KISS. 'Keep It Simple Stupid.'"

"An elegant phrasing, and proper advice," I said. "However, simple comes in a variety of sizes and colors. We're assuming, for example, that all those zombies are the work of one necromancer."

Instead of using a cliche that middle managers use when trying to give advice, why not say something like, "Where I'm from we say, 'Unnecessary complexity is the result of a feeble mind." Then, it at least matches the writing style that follows.

In closing, if you read Agents of Artifice and wanted to see where it went and you can stomach some oddity, give this book a shot. If you haven't, I can't honestly recommend it even though you don't need the background to understand what's going on; it's just that I couldn't understand the motivation to do so.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2010
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book's main selling point is it's not-at-all-terrible writing. If you hate colloquialisms it's probably not for you, but otherwise a very enjoyable read.

Of course the plot falls apart at the end and the character of Jace is 100% off the rails, but let's face it: this is pulp fiction. I'm rating it solely based on my enjoyment while reading it, not on any nebulous artistic merits. If you approach it the same way you should have a good time.
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