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Arena (Magic: The Gathering)
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Arena (Magic: The Gathering #1)

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,165 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
The introduction of the hottest new game in 1993 has spawned the hottest new book since Dragonlance was launched. Magic: The Gathering trading card role-playing game system inaugurates a new world of magic and mystery. The book includes a coupon for two rare Magic trading cards that cannot be found anywhere else.
Paperback, 297 pages
Published October 16th 1994 by HarperEntertainment
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(showing 1-30 of 2,104)
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Feb 10, 2016 Alex rated it liked it
As a 12 year-old, when "Magic" was the center of my world, I was in love with this book. Re-reading it now, 20 years later, I cannot summon (get it?) the same enthusiasm. The characters are paper-thin and the plot is pretty pulpy, inspired - as several reviews have pointed out - by the timeless tale of Yojimbo. It might make a decent dumb movie.

There is one thing it has going for it, though, which sets it apart from most game tie-in novels. Rather than simply explore the fictional world the gam
Feb 24, 2010 Engineous rated it liked it
It's... readable.

The melodramatic emotional fireworks are very annoying, but fortunately the author partitioned most of them off into small one- to two-page segments. Hammen somehow manages to be both out-of-character and cliched at the same time (what was with him unconsciously transferring to calling Garth "Master"?), the background characters (and women, too) are cardboard, Garth (hero/main character) is hypocritical but mercifully bland in this respect, the villains are annoying stereotypes
Sep 11, 2008 Ross rated it it was amazing
As mentioned elsewhere, this story is something like Yojimbo or the more recent Last Man Standing. I found this in my parents attic the other day, and I read the reviews here so I decided to read it. I had never read it, even though I bought it when it came out (copyrighted 1994). The last page was cut where the coupon for the two free cards was, but I think I got the last line of the book.

This book was written not necessarily before Magic had a story line associated with it, but before they put
William Dalphin
Mar 07, 2009 William Dalphin rated it it was amazing
Take Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (one man plays two rival groups against each other), now put it in a fantasy setting based off the Magic: The Gathering cards, turn the two rival groups into four (or five), and you've got Arena. It's a clever tale of one man's revenge against an entire city run by magical guilds that fight each other once a year in a spectacle called "Festival". I don't want to give away anything, but the treachery and twists make this a fun read. It's a guilty pleasure of mine.
Mar 06, 2016 Josh rated it it was amazing
This is not imaginative, ground-breaking fantasy nor does it claim to be. For me, this is a five star read because it knows what it is and the author indulges in every word of it. I don't always need or want to read nuanced, complicated novels with twists and turns that keep me guessing. This novel was an enjoyable, quick fantasy story that is well told and has plenty of action. This is just what I wanted from it.
Oct 14, 2011 Myles rated it liked it
The pacing and the simple plot operate like greased pistons in Arena and there's lots and lots of gory, liquifying, burning death and PG winks towards that thing that mommys and daddys do when they love each other very very much. A very American sense of priorities. I'd expect no less from an author who collaborates with Newt Gingrich in a series of at least seven historical novels. I want to put scare quotes on that historical but...must...resist. I'm sure they're great. Arena is not a great no ...more
Chris Youngblood
In my experience, early books from the Magic: The Gathering Collectible Card Game series of novels fell into one of two categories: those that were so entrenched in the game aspects of the CCG that their worlds suffered, and those that used the idiom of the CCG to build up a complete world from the flimsy structure presented by the cards themselves.

This book falls into the latter category. The author created a relatively complete world, replete with customs and a mythos to support it. Even thoug
Sep 03, 2013 Yune rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I think one of these stars is for nostalgia, but I do still find the book reliably entertaining after over a decade and quite accessible even for someone who doesn't know anything about Magic: The Gathering (that said, some quirks of the magic system will make more sense if you're familiar with the card game).

This isn't the most original story, but it doesn't pretend to break new ground -- it just romps with fierce joy over the old stuff. So you have a mysterious one-eyed stranger show up in tow
Mar 28, 2007 Sparhawk rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
Based on the popular card game of the same name, this was the first book written using the MtG world as a backdrop.

The main character is a mysterious, one-eyed magic user by the name of Garth One-Eye. He has to come to an annual festival where magic users of many different houses compete for honor, glory, and the right to walk alongside a powerful Walker who promises that all will be revealed to the winner of the tournament.

While some people who have never played the card game before might scoff
Jul 29, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-books, 2014
It took me quite a whole to get into the first Magic The Gathering novel but by the end I was frantically reading, gripped to reach the end. Although I didn't enjoy it as much as the Theros novellas I'm still looking forward to working my way through the world of magic through book form and bringing a new depth to the game. This felt like more a tribute to the actual card playing game - giving it a 'real life' setting rather than the later stories which have evolved some ideas, especially those ...more
Karlie Nyte
I know this book is far from awesome, however, I still enjoy reading it. I get such a kick out of when a spell is cast, and I know what card they are referring to. I really think that the MtG novels got the short end of the stick, when thinking about how people view them. They are entertaining. And for me, the wife of a (former) avid Magic player, they offered me a way to be involved in the game, as I did not play that often, insight into the characters and places that were being battled over on ...more
The writing style of this book is not really very good but the story itself is interesting. At the time the book came out, there is still a lack of deep lore regarding the world of Magic: the Gathering so this author pulls through and managed to realise an entire city. At times, it does try a little too hard to tie the magic back to the game system and comes across as unrealistic. If you're a fan of the game, this book is a good read.
Luke Sonnier
Jun 11, 2008 Luke Sonnier rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any fan of fantasy and/or Magic: The Gathering
No extensive review or anything, but this is one of my all time favorite books. I'm not sure that there is anything all that great about it, but being a fan of both fantasy and Magic: The Gathering, the story of Garth One-Eye blew me away.

I read this for the first time as a freshman in high school back in 1994 and have re-read it so many times since that I've lost count.
Oct 08, 2010 Alotor rated it it was amazing
I read this book a long, long time ago (more than 15 years or so)in that time i was an avid Magic: The Gathering player so this but i didn't have much hope for this book.

I don't remember the argument very well, but i remember that i loved this book. I think it's one of the main causes for me to enjoy fantasy so much.

That well deserves 5 stars :D
Tim Cusmano
May 26, 2014 Tim Cusmano rated it really liked it
I have read this book more times than anything else. Not to say you should go out and buy it right now, far from it in fact. I bought this primarily to get the free card exclusive to the book, and ended up throwing it into my backpack. From there, I just brought it to class with me every day, and just continued to read it once I had finished it. It was a rough year for me at a new school, and this I guess was my constant.

The premise is simple: mysterious stranger comes to town for magic tournam
Mar 07, 2015 Sam rated it really liked it
Fantasy is not a genre of book that I normally read, but having recently gotten into playing the Magic: The Gathering card game, I thought I would see what the first book in the series was like.

The story at first seems pretty straight-forward, but the author does a good job of slowly unraveling further details to keep the reader's curiosity pulling them along to the end of the story. The descriptive writing of the procession through the city to the Arena and of the battles between fighters thro
Graham Houle
Jun 16, 2016 Graham Houle rated it really liked it
Believe it or not but this is one of my favorite books! Pure entertainment and I have re-read it atleast half a dozen times, a crazy world with tons of fantastic beasts and cool battles!
I wouldn't recommend it to many people but for me it doesn't get any better than this entertainment!
Jan 26, 2009 Tric rated it it was amazing
I had a few other books based on Magic: The Gathering, but this is the only one I kept after my big move. For whatever reason, the story in this one is really fantastic and always makes me read it in one sitting.
Andrew Ziegler
Aug 04, 2011 Andrew Ziegler rated it really liked it
Read this when I was really into playing Magic and reading about it. God, that was over 10 years ago. Man I am old. Anyway, this book was a lot of fun and probably the best Magic based book there was.
Michael Reyes
May 14, 2016 Michael Reyes rated it it was ok
For someone who played M:tG during its early years, it's nice to see some of the cards/spells mentioned in the book and to see a semblance of how the game was played integrated when two "fighters" dueled.

Nostalgia aside, the book was an OK read. It wasn't that great, but it wasn't that bad either.

Some of the characters were clichéd and flat, but I think it's forgivable being the 1st book in the M:tG franchise and seeing what Forstchen had to work with. I'm pretty sure that the powers-that-be jus
Jan 16, 2009 Angie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This is a great fantasy book.. When you start reading it, you may find yourself hard to put it down. Like the magic itself, it'll consume you.
May 22, 2014 Nick rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This is, far and away, the best MTG book I have read. They go down hill so fast, I am not sure I'll pick up any more.
John R.
Apr 25, 2016 John R. rated it it was amazing
I know my rating is skewed by nostalgia and you know what? I'm okay with that. I started playing MTG in 1993 and I missed this books initial release but still managed to read it after the promo card giveaway expired.

I'd guess the last time I read this book was in 1996 but after a dry spell of not reading for almost 5 months this year I decided I needed to reread something from my past. This was sitting in my desk drawer because I had every intention of trying to convert it to a eReader format s
Apr 04, 2014 CJ rated it it was ok
In my opinion, this book was not good.

The basic premise is that a mysterious one-eyed stranger arrives in town on the eve of the annual magic festival (actual cards here) and pits the pre-established magic-wielding groups against one another for his own secret purposes. There is much magicking and some sneaking and a little implied sex and a certain amount of violence. The "mob" is always "howling" and magicians' hands are always "waving" and everyone has names like Zarel and Kirlen o
Mark Troutwine
Feb 02, 2014 Mark Troutwine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Story Brings MtG to Life

This is the first MtG novel I have read. I was immediately taken in by the story and characters. it really brought MtG to Life illustrating what the card game represents in lore and its own unique universe. it is an easy read and extremely entertaining book.

I wanted to read the book that followed Arena, Whispering Woods, but quickly found out that many of the MtG series is still only available in printed format. Hopefully this will change.
May 23, 2014 John rated it it was amazing
It's a great story about a man seeking revenge and by lying, cheating, and stealing. Great twists and turns, though predictable, a great ride all the way through with likable characters and decent writing. You don't have to know anything about Magic the Gathering to understand this book, though it wouldn't be a bad idea to become a bit more familiar with the world.
Jan 24, 2014 Austin rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Definately takes you back to magic the gathering's roots of the classic summon and fight duels. The premise is good in a foundational way, taking place in a town where there are artisans, groups, clans, etc... The main fanfare involves the arena (sort of Magic the Gathering's version of Gladiator). I usually recommend this book to new magic the gathering readers before they go off down the themed novels that occur later in the series once the card game took off.
Jun 06, 2013 Gereon rated it it was amazing
I've read hundreds of fantasy books and this is one of my favourites. I've read it many times. I even wrote an email to the author, complimenting him and asking him to write more books of the kind. He said thank you very much for the compliments and "fantasy has always been my first love and I will eventually return to it".

This is a story about strong magic, about love, about justice and politics, about one man bringin down a corrupt system, by being smart and determined. The story is filled wit
Apr 24, 2015 London rated it did not like it
At first, I loved the book. A one-eyed stranger with skill and prowess known only to those in the four houses...I was in love. But after awhile, I began to wonder what his motives were, creating pandemonium in the streets, needlessly killing thousands of innocent people for his own personal motives. And it was gory. It was a great thriller and great for people who like bursting intestines and fountains of blood, but I for one am not one of them.
There were a lot of things I liked about the book,
Neil Chafin
Nov 11, 2013 Neil Chafin rated it it was amazing
This was the first Magic the Gathering novel I ever purchased and read. I'm glad I started here. I read this book as a teenager, enjoyed it very much, and recently revisited it.

The story moves along at a blistering pace. A little thin on character development, but it more than makes up for it in action and a strong sense of adventure. Because of the main character, Garth, and his unpredictable nature, he keeps you guessing at pretty much every turn. Even when you finally figure him out, it remai
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William R. Forstchen (born 1950) is an American author who began publishing in 1983 with the novel Ice Prophet. He is a Professor of History and Faculty Fellow at Montreat College, in Montreat, North Carolina. He received his doctorate from Purdue University with specializations in Military History, the American Civil War and the History of Technology.

Forstchen is the author of more than forty boo
More about William R. Forstchen...

Other Books in the Series

Magic: The Gathering (1 - 10 of 63 books)
  • Whispering Woods (Magic: The Gathering: Greensleeves, #1)
  • Shattered Chains (Magic: The Gathering: Greensleeves, #2)
  • Final Sacrifice (Magic: The Gathering: Greensleeves, #3)
  • The Cursed Land (Magic: The Gathering)
  • The Prodigal Sorcerer (Magic: The Gathering)
  • Ashes of the Sun (Magic: The Gathering)
  • Tapestries (Magic: The Gathering: Anthology, #1)
  • Distant Planes (Magic: The Gathering: Anthology, #2)
  • Song of Time (Magic: The Gathering)
  • And Peace Shall Sleep (Magic: The Gathering)

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