Book Review: ‘The Art of Magic: The Gathering – Amonkhet’

Image By Rebecca Angel

Although my house is filled with Magic: The Gathering cards (I mean FILLED) from my son’s many-years obsession, I have only been playing for the past year. Yet, I have always admired the illustrations. As different sets would be revealed, my son and I would pour over the artwork on the cards. The tiny, tiny artwork. I always remarked that I would love to see those landscapes and fantastic creatures in a larger format. With the recent series of art books put out by Viz Media, I finally have my visual wish satisfied. My son and I enjoyed pouring through the book together.

The Art of Magic: The Gathering – Amonkhet is the fourth book in the series about the artwork of this highly popular card game. James Wyatt, who authored, has done an excellent job bringing together all the aspects of one of the newest worlds in Magic. It is not just a book of full-color illustrations, but the inspiration and talent behind the art and lore of Amonkhet. My son thought the book did a good job explaining the story line and world-building.  He also thought it was cool to see The Reward cycle of cards that are in this book, even though they didn’t make it into the set.

Each piece of art in the book has the name of the card it is on. This is an ancient Egyptian setting with an overall palette of gold and sunset as in “River Luxa,” contrasted with shades of blue and green jewel-tones like “Invitation to Strength.” The landscapes (my favorite of the artwork) feature towering desert monuments, angular stone city, and a lush river valley. Turning the over-size pages is a treat.

The gods and monsters are here in rich color. “Bontu The Glorified,” the crocodile-headed god is an especially stunning two-page spread of light. “The Angel of Condemnation” and “Ominous Sphinx” are other favorites to admire on the big page. Amonkhet also has a plethora of mummies, both dangerous out in the desert, and servants within the city. The artists obviously had a great time depicting these creatures, and in this book, I can finally see the details. “Accursed Horde”employs great perspective, while “Binding Mummy” has a flowing beauty to its creepiness.

The human (or humanoid races) within the world shine as well. “Trueheart Duelist” is one of my favorite illustrations, with shining armor and flowing deep blue cloth on a face looking off into the distance. It is almost impossible to see the nuances in the expression on a tiny playing card, but in these pages I can finally appreciate the artist’s talent. I also am thrilled to see diversity within the game, with an entire world of people who reflect the look of northern Africa.

With over two hundred pages, the book explains the details about the world of Amonkhet. Each god, monster, and race are explained in the context of the overall multiverse of Magic, but specifically within this storyline. Magic is more than just a game, but a large and detailed tale. Reading the text alongside the art is an immersive experience in world building. Unfortunately for my son, he was disappointed that only the first five gods are highlighted, and the final three that Bolas controls are not included.

Ethan Fleischer, the lead designer, has an eye-opening section at the end of the book detailing how Amonkhet came to life. So many people involved! This was my son’s favorite part of the book, and he really wanted more behind-the-scenes information like a timeline of exactly how long it takes to bring one of these sets to publication and interviews with the team. As a student of graphic design, he was also hoping to hear more about about the artists involved in the project. Overall, though, he and I really found the book to be insightful.

Anyone, not just Magic fans, will be impressed by the talent, and enjoy the fantasy artwork within the pages of this hard-cover, large and hefty tomb. Leave The Art of Magic: The Gathering – Amonkhet on your coffee table and see who picks it up!

GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.

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