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Literature / Ravnica Cycle

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The Ravnica Cycle is a trilogy of tie-in novels by Cory J. Herndon, set on the eponymous City Plane of Ravnica, that corresponds to Magic: The Gathering's Ravnica block.

Each of the three novels is mostly self-contained:

  • Ravnica: Agrus Kos, a wojek officer, is investigating the death of his partner, with the help of said partner, who's been Resurrected for a Job. Fonn is a rookie ledev in the Selesnya Conclave, escorting an important dignitary to the capital. Jarad is a devkarin elf who holds a high position in the Golgari Swarm. Their paths collide when they stumble upon a conspiracy that threatens all of Ravnica.
  • Guildpact: Agrus Kos is retired and living a quiet life in the wild, untamed Utvara district, which has recently come under the management of Orzhov heiress and advokist Teysa Karlov, who intends to shake the place up. Meanwhile, the Izzet courier Crix gets lost and is captured by a clan of Gruul barbarians. When a mad scientist threatens to destroy the world, they'll all have to work together to stop him.
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  • Dissension: After mysteriously disappearing in the first book, the angels have returned...and they're all dead. Meanwhile, another conspiracy rears its head, and Agrus Kos is raised from the dead to investigate it. On top of all this, the city is being destroyed by giant monsters.

The Ravnica Cycle provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: Agrus Kos and Myczil Zunich investigate one at the beginning of the first book.
  • Alternative Calendar: The first chapter takes place on the 17th day of Griev in the year 9943 Z.C.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Rakdos Cultists are portrayed as raving lunatics willing to cannibalize themselves and engage in heavily implied rape. This is in contrast to future sets on Ravnica that would give them at least breadcrumbs of nuance.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Nephilim, who grow to Kaiju sizes after eating some dragon brains in the third book.
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  • Becoming the Costume: Thanks to a faulty "performance enchantment", a troupe of actors wreaks a little accidental havoc in Chapter 2 of Ravnica when the guy playing a bloodthirsty Gruul chieftain gets a little too in-character.
  • Body Surf: Kos does a fair amount of jumping about in Dissension.
  • Born as an Adult: In Guildpact, the three dragons hatch from their eggs as fully-grown, mountain-sized adults already capable of speech.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: In the final battle of the first book, Sunhome and the angels are nowhere to be found. They don't return until the end of the next book, and we don't find out what really happened until 'Dissension''.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Let's just say leadership in the Golgari Swarm has a high turnover rate. Just within the first book it jumps from Svogthir to the Sisters of Stone Death to Savra to Svogthir again.
  • City Planet: Ravnica has long been entirely consumed by civilisation. Only the polar edges retain some semblance of wilderness.
  • Cyborg: Crix the goblin has multiple artificial limbs, with her feet housing secret rocket boosters that allow her to fly.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: While Savra followed Szadek's plan, most of the Golgari were outside of the conflict, and eventually another member of this guild, Jarad, becomes a protagonist.
  • Evil Gloating
    • Lampshaded with Hauc in Guildpact. When he starts gloating about his master plan, Agrus Kos thinks he sounds like a cliché storybook villain.
    • Momir Vig gets in on the action when he captures Kos in Dissension.
  • Eye Beams: Zomaj Hauc can shoot rays of fiery energy from his eyes.
  • Fallen Angel: Well, more like "demoted". Feather has her wings bound and is made to serve as a wojek as a punishment.
  • A God Am I: Svogthir's followers in the Golgari Swarm reverently call him "the god-zombie" for his immortality and great power. Their adulation has clearly gone to his head, as he refers to himself as a god at several points.
  • Good Running Evil: Jarad becomes the new Golgari guildmaster and resolves to put a stop to their various pointless acts of evil, like human sacrifices.
  • Greater-Scope Villain
    • In the first book, Szadek, to Savra's Big Bad, using her as a pawn to take over Ravnica.
    • Augustin IV becomes this to Szadek in Dissension, using his spirit as a pawn for his plots.
  • The Hero Dies: Agrus Kos is killed at the end of Guildpact. He's raised from the dead in Dissension.
  • Hijacking Cthulhu: Zomaj Hauc's evil plan is to incubate three dragon eggs, nourishing them with countless stolen souls so that they'll possess godlike power, and then enslave them with a magic spell when they hatch. From there, he plans to overthrow Niv-Mizzet and Take Over the World.
  • Hive Mind: The Selesnya Conclave. All the members are connected by the song, which they can always hear in their heads.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: In Guildpact, Kos is mortally wounded when a piece of wreckage pierces his torso. In the same book, the dragons are killed when the albino tackles the blue and Golozar steers them both into impaling themselves on a jagged metal spire.
  • Inertia Is a Cruel Mistress: When the white dragon tackles the blue dragon head-on, stopping its forward momentum, Hauc is flung off the blue dragon's shoulders and crashes headfirst into a cliff at breakneck speed.
  • Interrogating the Dead: During Kos's first case, he and his partner stumble upon the site of a massacre, with the ghosts of the victims hovering above their remains. Kos tries to interrogate one of the ghosts as a witness to its own murder, with mixed results.
  • I See Them, Too: Kos is supposed to be the only person who can see or hear Borca's ghost, due to the terms of an Orzhov insurance policy Borca took out before his death. Pivlic and Szadek can see and hear him too, however, much to Kos and Borca's surprise.
  • Kill and Replace: The Lupul can shapeshift into any person it has consumed.
  • Knight Templar: Augustin IV, who seeks to impose absolute order over all of Ravnica.
  • Knowledge Broker: Pivlic the imp is a restaurateur with ties to the Orzhov Syndicate, and if he doesn't know something already, he can get his hands on it very quickly thanks to a network of contacts. Kos seeks him out to get information on who hired the suicide bomber that killed Saint Bayul and Sergeant Borca.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: Kos's actions in the first book have made him famous by the second book. Whenever he introduces himself to someone new, they always ask if he's the same Kos who arrested a mythical vampire and saved the world.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Szadek is behind Savra's actions.
  • Married to the Job: Kos doesn't have much of a life outside his job as a wojek lieutenant and has repeatedly refused to retire so he can keep doing the one thing that brings him any sense of fulfilment.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Agrus Kos is sent to infiltrate the Simic Combine to discover how Momir Vig is involved with Szadek... so he's somewhat surprised and chagrined when Momir Vig begins Monologuing about his own, completely separate plot to Take Over the World.
  • Moral Sociopathy: The Azorius, who care more about laws and order than about the common people the laws are supposed to protect.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Myczil Zunich's approximate reaction when he discovers that he's just accidentally killed a little girl.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Dissension takes a chapter, or thereabouts, to explain that the reason why the plane of Ravnica is so horribly screwed up is because Agrus made it a point to arrest Szadek as a member of the Boros Legion. Minor problem with that, though: the Guildpact was designed to maintain the existence of all ten Guilds. Without House Dimir, the Guildpact was actively screwing up.
  • Non-Indicative Name: When Kos attends a play detailing the events that led to the formation of the Guildpact, he is mildly confused to note that Cisarzim's battleaxe is named "Skullhammer".
  • No-Sell: The Sisters of Stone Death try to kill the rejuvenated Svogthir with their petrifying gaze. Svogthir responds by putting his hands on his hips, looking the lead Sister dead in the eye, and grinning as her gaze fails to affect him.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Feather, a.k.a. Pierakor Az Vinrenn D'rav. At least to most people; the other angels and officials like the Azorius tribunal use her real name.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The major conflict that led to the founding of the Guildpact was the conflict between the order guilds (Azorius, Boros and Selesnya) and the chaos guilds (Golgari, Rakdos, Gruul and Dimir); Orzhov, Izzet and Simic remained neutral. Even during the events of the trilogy, well after the two sides have been forced into a status quo for ten thousand years, the various antagonists tend towards one extreme or the other.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: In Ravnica, people become ghosts after death. Some of these ghosts are peaceful, some—called woundseekers—are violent and vengeful, and most of them eventually fade away to an unknown fate. The League of Wojek has been trained to deal with ghosts in various situations: in the first book alone, Kos unsuccessfully tries to interrogate a peaceful ghost as a witness to its own murder, and later must destroy a woundseeker after a failed attempt to pacify it. Sergeant Borca's ghost is unusual because it is both more lucid than the typical ghost and Invisible to Normals.
  • Pest Controller: Jarad has the power to command and commune with insects, using them as spies and weapons. At the climax of the first book, he even manages to take control of the lupul, albeit with great difficulty, and turn it against Szadek.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: The taj are ghostly Orzhov assassins who specialize in killing people and possessing their corpses to create what are essentially super-zombies, which they then use to kill more people.
  • Rent-a-Zilla: Nephilim, Kraj, and even Rakdos himself get a chance to trample the city in the third book.
  • Restraining Bolt: The magic that Savra used to create a new body for Svogthir also gives her complete control of that body. He can't do anything without her consent, and if he tries to take any action against her, she can shut him down with a thought.
  • Resurrected for a Job: Borca, and, later, Agrus Kos are brought back as spirits to serve in other guilds.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Svogthir was defeated by the Sisters of Stone Death a thousand years ago. They couldn't kill him due to his immortality, but they did manage to cripple his body and imprison him in the depths of his own pyramid, where he's been stuck ever since. Savra lets him out of the can and gives him a new, stronger body, allowing him to take revenge on his usurpers.
  • Secondhand Storytelling: In the first book, the founding of the Guildpact is told through an in-universe stage performance, complete with narration.
  • Take Over the World: Pretty much all of the villains, with Szadek and Augustin IV in particular desiring to rule all of Ravnica and mold it into their whims.
  • Technicolor Fire: In Guildpact, the dragons breathe fire matching the color of their scales: blue fire for the blue dragon, and white fire for the albino.
  • Truth Serums: Teysa Karlov can create magical verity circles which force anyone standing within them to speak truthfully.
  • Visionary Villain:
    • Zomaj Hauc vaguely claims to want a world of freedom. Most of the time he just wants to kill everything via dragons however.
    • Augustin IV desired a fascist society. To these ends he manipulated the other guild masters into breaking the guildpact so a new, more rigid order could take place.
    • Momir Vig originally desired to perfect all life. Eventually he got bored enough to jump ship into killing everything via Experiment Kraj.
  • When It All Began: We eventually learn that the events of Kos's flashback in the first book were important to almost all of the main characters.
  • Who Are You?: In Guildpact, Hauc angrily asks Kos "Who are you supposed to be?" after the latter gets free of his restraints and starts causing trouble.
  • The Worm That Walks: Lupul, the shapeshifting Dimir monstrosity composed of a swarm of worms.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Szadek's plan. Plan A: Get Savra initiated into the Conclave, then kill her, destroying the rest of the Conclave with her, thanks to the mind link. Without their power upholding it, the Guildpact will be shattered. Plan B: The Conclave recovers in time and the Guildpact is not destroyed, but Szadek's defeat and subsequent arrest breaks the balance of power in the Guildpact by removing the tenth guild, causing it to crumble anyway. Either way, the Guildpact is destroyed and Szadek wins.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One
    • In the first book, the heroes fail to thwart Savra's initiation into the Conclave, allowing Szadek's machinations to bear fruit. As a result, they have to stop the bad guys at the very last minute.
    • In the second book, the heroes fail to thwart Hauc's hatching the dragon eggs. As a result, they have to fight a dragon.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In the first book, Savra rejuvenates and frees Svogthir, the ancient lich who founded the Golgari Swarm, so the two of them can overthrow the gorgon sisters who currently run the Swarm. Once Svogthir has dealt with the gorgons and reclaimed his leadership of the Swarm, Savra promptly kills him and takes his power and position for herself. Savra later ends up on the receiving end of this trope; after fulfilling her part in Szadek's plan to break the Guildpact, Szadek thanks Savra by snapping her neck.