As an avid Magic the Gathering player and a Brandon Sanderson nerd, when I heard he was writing a Magic the Gathering novella I sorta lost my marbles. But as a literary critic, I feel strongly about keeping my standards and integrity high. So you will understand it is with the utmost objectivity that I say:
Children of the Nameless is awesome.
It’s awesome for characters: one a surprising villain that goes from reluctant to almost-hero (and makes an unusual but fitting choice in the end), another a plucky girl with more magic that she knows battling to save her family and village (a little more familiar, but there’s a reason we love tropes, right?). Both Davriel (now an actual Magic card! Not that you non-MTG nerds care) and Tacenda follow believable and satisfying inner journeys as the outer story rolls on.
Speaking of which, the story is awesome too—no surprise with Sanderson. The pace is fast, the mystery is well-plotted (who half-killed my whole village? Can I figure it out with this reluctant hero/villain’s aid in a single night, before they all actually-die?), there are plenty of twists and surprises (including, of course, the whodunit reveal), and the action is fun and magic-laden.
Which reminds me, the worldbuilding is awesome too (three?). Sanderson has made a name for himself in imagining very cool magical abilities (related, this MTG nerd is sure, to him playing Magic the Gathering for so many years), and working their unexpected consequences into plot and character moments. Children of the Nameless is no slouch there, and amazing in that the author fits Lovecraft-level epic entities into a novella-size story, with room for more human- (and demon-) -sized magic too. The demonic side characters, and the various carefully-worded contracts Davriel has bound them into, are some of the coolest and most fun parts of the story.
“So what’s cool and not fun, then, Mr. Objective Literary Critic?” you ask in your most skeptical tones.
There are actually a few things. One is part of Tacenda’s inner journey that feels a little cliché and forced, with her pondering fate vs free will and the supporting cast comforting her with platitudes. It feels like a placeholder for the real arc that she does in fact have (about power and heroism)—but placeholders Sanderson never actually filled. Given that, the pacing droops a little bit during her later introspective moments. There’s also a too-convenient-church-sketch clue discovered at a convenient time, and one of the Chthulu-sized entities talking in a pretty predictable voice…
But really I’m grasping at straws here. Children of the Nameless is awesome. So awesome this humble author wrote a free novella inspired by it, with a very different setting and pair of characters—and what better flattery than imitation?
So once again, I tell you as Objective Critic (and fanboy, and Magic player, and fantasy author): this novella is objectively awesome. And it’s free. So go get it.