All year, Brandon Sanderson fans have wondered what the prolific author’s “secret project” could be, but today’s announcement from io9 has answered that question: Sanderson, a longtime fan of Magic: The Gathering, has written a M:TG novella. Magic: Children of the Nameless explores the connections between Tacenda, a young woman with the power to protect those around her… until she can’t; and Davriel, a Planeswalker of Sanderson’s own creation. And the best part is, you can read the entire novella starting December 12.
io9 shared a synopsis for Children of the Nameless, as well as some insights from Sanderson:
Since the day she was born, Tacenda has been both blessed and cursed. Blessed by a powerful protection spell of unknown origin, she has warded her family and friends against any number of horrors over her 15 years. Cursed because the horrors which visit her small Kessig village are both numerous and frequent. Then, one night, for no reason she can fathom, her sacred song of protection fails. Seeking revenge on the man she believes responsible for the failure and the consequent destruction of everything she loves, she breaks into the manor of the local lord, a known consorter with demons. There she discovers the beginnings of an even greater mystery… starting with the fact the Lord of the Manor is anything but local…
Writing the novella in collaboration with the team at Wizards of the Coast provided opportunities to both write within an existing universe, Sanderson said, and to carve out his own corner of the story: “My editor—Nic [Kelman]—and I decided early on that the way to approach a Brandon Sanderson story in the Magic Multiverse was to give me a lot of freedom. Rather than taking an established character and telling the next chapter in their story, I wanted to section off my little piece of a Magic setting and build my own story, characters, and lore—something that built off what they’d done, and which fit with the rest of their stories, but which gave me a great deal of narrative liberty.”
It turns out that Davriel already existed in some form as a character Sanderson had thought up, inspired by Magic lore. Furthermore, the Wizards team had kept a space open in their plot for a Planeswalker character; so when Sanderson pitched his idea, it was a perfect fit.
And as for Tacenda? Sanderson explained: “The story circles around this idea of what it means to have power, and what does it do to you when you’re too weak despite that power. Her lens is the one through which we see most of the story, as to her, the stakes are very personal.”
The other place that Sanderson found delight in the collaboration was, no surprise, working with the M:TG magic systems: “I am always eager to get my hands on a new magic system, then see how I can bend it, play with it, and approach it from unexpected directions,” he said. “I love the Magic card game, but one of the questions I often ask myself is this: How would these magic spells work in a real-world setting? By necessity, the game’s spells are all about combat. I wanted to ask myself how this magic might instead be used in ways that could never actually be expressed in game mechanics. Things a narrative could do and a game never could.”
Update: Sanderson officially posted about Children of the Nameless on his website and shared some more insights into how the novella came to be. For one, Sanderson proposed to the Wizards team that he not accept payment for the story, in exchange for greater flexibility with the narrative. While there may be a physical edition at some point, he says, the free ebook would still exist. Readers don’t have to know anything about Innistrad or even Magic itself in order to enjoy the story. Which doesn’t mean that it didn’t go through a lot of fact-checking, but “[t]he end result is a story that’s in line with their overarching lore, and doesn’t break the fundamental magic system rules of their universe. At the same time, it’s a story that’s very much a Sanderson piece.”
And as for future M:TG cards based on Children of the Nameless? “That’s up to the card design team to decide,” Sanderson says. “I worked primarily with the creative team, and can’t really say when/if cards related to this story will appear in the game. (Though a little bird tells me that fans should keep an eye on upcoming sets.)”