Literature / Time Streams

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Karn striking a pose.
Time Streams by J. Robert King is the third book of the Artifacts Cycle. Picking up a few decades after the end of Planeswalker, Urza has established an academy at the remote isle of Tolaria, where he conducts time travel experiments. His goal is to travel back in time to prevent the Thran from turning into the Phyrexians. However, before long things go catastrophically wrong…

This book is where the status of Urza’s saga as prequel to the Weatherlight Saga really comes to the fore, as it explains the origins of Karn and the Weatherlight and also introduces Teferi and Hanna’s father Barrin. It corresponds to the blue and red portions of Urza’s Saga and to Urza’s Legacy. The Artifacts Cycle is concluded in Bloodlines.

Tropes in Time Streams:

  • Adaptive Ability: This, coupled with the facts that he lives in a fast-time bubble, is how Kerrick manages to stay several steps ahead of Urza.
  • Angelic Beauty: Radiant, Archangel is the very definition of this. Unfortunately, thanks to her corruption she gets Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon to go with it.
  • Cool Airship: The Weatherlight, which is first built and used in this novel.
  • Evil Chancellor: Radiant’s counselor Gorig.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Phyrexian Sleeper Agents, which were introduced in the previous book and have infiltrated both Tolaria and Serra's Realm in this book. Radiant thinks the sleepers are among the realm's peasants, when in truth they've infiltrated her palace and are being led by her own war minister, who is himself a Phyrexian demon in disguise. On the Tolaria side, Kerrick is one of these, and probably the most successful of the sleepers.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Radiant very nearly kills Urza Planeswalker, being defeated only by her choice to bring together the Mightstone and Weakstone she pulled out of Urza's head instead of just letting him die. To put this into perspective, the only other non-planeswalker character in all of Magic to manage such a feat was Yawgmoth.
  • Fallen Hero: Radiant is one of these.
  • Female Angel, Male Demon: Radiant is the angel, Gorig is the demon.
  • Golem: This book contains the origin story of Karn, Silver Golem.
  • Have You Seen My God?: Serra is not a god, but to the inhabitants of her realm she might as well be, and after it becomes tainted by the Phyrexians she basically flounces out of her own heaven, leaving Radiant in charge.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gherridarigaaz goes out this way.
  • Knight Templar: All angels tend to be these, though Radiant takes it to Ax-Crazy levels.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Shiv, homeland of the Viashino and the Shivan Dragons.
  • Light Is Not Good: Radiant was originally good, but was corrupted over centuries by the influence of war minister Gorig.
  • Lizard Folk: The Viashino.
  • Mama Bear: Gherridarigaaz is a mama dragon, so much so that even being threatened with death by Urza doesn't faze her.
  • One-Winged Angel: Gorig becomes one of these during the final battle in Serra's Realm.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: King tries to give the goblins of Shiv some depth by describing three different kinds. None of them match the standard green-skinned goblins of Magic: The Gathering.
  • The Prankster: Teferi is one of these in this book, fittingly so since he is still young and has not yet become a planeswalker in his own right (though even as a planeswalker he still has shades of this).
  • Proud Warrior Race: Jhoira’s people the Ghitu, which is why Jhoira longs for a strong and mysterious man.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: This is the ultimate goal of Urza’s Time Travel experiments.
  • Time Is Dangerous: Only silver can travel through time unharmed, and even silver has difficulty going further back than two days. Later in the story, many Tolarian students are killed by time rifts when the time machine explodes.
  • Time Machine Urza builds one and much of the Tolarian story focuses on the consequences thereof.
  • Time Travel: The focus of Urza's latest obsessions in this book.
  • Vision Quest: According to Jhoira, the Ghitu undertake these before becoming adults in the eyes of the tribe.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It is never explained what happened to Serra, so readers less familiar with Magic’s many storylines will run into this trope. What happens is this: after fleeing her realm, she eventually winds up in Ulgrotha, a story chronicled in the unpopular set Homelands. She is eventually killed by another planeswalker, having lost the will to live after her husband Feroz's death.
  • Yawgmoth’s Time Travel Exemption Act: Urza’s attempts to prevent the rise of Phyrexia do not go well.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: After the time machine explodes, Tolaria is home to many slow and fast time rifts. One in particular houses Kerrich, who takes advantage of the time difference to build a Phyrexian army for himself.
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