Review: The Wildered Quest by Kate Elliot
- Ryan Scicluna
The Wildered Quest by Kate Elliot is the first exploration of the plane of Eldraine, a world inspired by fairytales and Arthurian legends. Magic returns to a simpler type of storytelling where the stakes aren't plane-ending, but involve a set of key characters, including fan favorite Garruk!
A Small Disclaimer
The Wildered Quest takes place sometime before the events of Battlebond. In the story, readers will meet Rowan and Will Kenrith for the first time before they become planeswalkers. In fact, this adventure is an origin story of sorts for the Kenrith twins, as they discover they share a planeswalker spark. This review contains spoilers!
A Thrilling Mystery
King Kenrith is missing! His wife, Queen Linden, is trying as best as she can to hold the peace between all the courts and the wilds. In the meantime, the Kenrith twins are old enough to start going on quests on their own. Their first goal is to find their father and unravel the mystery of his disappearance. Along the journey, they meet Oko, a new shapeshifting planeswalker, and Garruk, a planeswalker hunter who isn't acting quite right. They also befriend other characters from the world of Eldraine who are either noble knights in search of glory or individuals with sinister motives with ties to greater conspiracies. The Wildered Quest culminates in an epic revelation that triggers Will and Rowan Kenrith's shared planeswalker spark and the redemption of one Magic's most beloved characters, Garruk.
An Inspiring World
Eldraine is a world divided into two. The wilds, populated by creatures who live in the forests and don't seem to care about any sort of social structure, and the courts, the world of nobles and knights. Kate Elliot manages to show the reader all the diverse aspects of this plane in a very eloquent way. Her use of language creates a world that truly feels lived-in and is brimming with magic. World building can be done in various ways in a narrative, but the most effective way, I believe, is when I as a reader experience the world through the characters' eyes. I find that Kate's use of characters and their interaction with the world around them instills a sense of wonder and adventure. As such, this read already feels like an improvement over the last few stories published by Wizards of the Coast. This world feels alive with many pockets that need more exploration. The Arthurian influence is clearly evident in all the courts and the individual knights we meet. Meanwhile, the wild creatures embody the fairytale aspects that clash with the ordered world of the nobles. Some do merge into familiar concepts and ideas, but nothing ever devolves into a cliche ́.
An Assortment of Complex Characters
During our time on Eldraine, we meet a number of interesting characters that feel fleshed out enough as to make them believable and relatable. What makes The Wildered Quest more memorable than recent stories is the fact that nearly all the main characters are given enough opportunity to shine. Some get more screen time than others, but nobody's left out. Even though this is a coming-of-age story centered on Will and Rowan Kenrith, the narrative does not fall into the usual traps of such stories. The read is an enjoyable ride with the thrill of mystery still front and center. Throughout the story, there are some red herrings which try to point to certain individuals as being the mastermind of the whole affair. But it becomes clear from the first time we meet Oko, that we shouldn't trust him. There always is that feeling that somehow he is up to something. Considering he also is a shapeshifter, as a reader you are never fully aware if a particular character may actually be Oko in disguise.
A Confusing Villainous Plot?
Oko is the "villain" of the story, however, he is not a villain in the traditional sense of the word. He is more of a trickster, trying to bring chaos wherever he goes for his enjoyment. Sure, there might be some deeper motivations for his actions, but I don't think there was time to explore Oko's backstory amidst the adventure of the Kenriths. This is mostly the Kenriths' story with the benefit that in the end we also get to witness Garruk's redemption. There are other malevolent forces at work in the world of Eldraine. However, they are secondary to the plot, as they are brought into action only because of the missing king. What drives the events of The Wildered Quest is in fact a very confusing ploy by Oko: It involves turning the king into a stag to be hunted and killed during a festival with the goal to upset the balance of power and bring chaos to Eldraine. Aside from all that, the quest comes to a shocking end, when we learn about the Kenrith twins' secret history. This added an extra layer of depth to certain key players and actually made me want to know more or spend more time on the world of Eldraine.
A Fulfilling Quest
The Wildered Quest is a satisfying read and an enjoyable one at that too. I liked Garruk's redemption and how the Kenriths' spark ignited in the end, sending them off to a future of adventures around the Multiverse. I highly recommend reading the story, especially if you like identifying key plot elements in the cards from the set Throne of Eldraine. I'm a fan of building themed decks that try to recreate the story or certain elements from it. There are so many more things I could say about the world of Eldraine, but I have to leave some out for you to discover on your own. If you like fantasy that does not revolve around world-ending threats; if you are able to look past certain complicated plot elements that make little sense in the overall scheme of things; and if you could do with some heartwarming moments, then Kate Elliot's book is perfect for you.
What do you think? Did you enjoy The Wildered Quest? Would you like to see more of Eldraine or the Kenrith twins?
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.