i've got to say, i am pleasantly surprised. this book is about the mythology & setting details of a magic: the gathering set of cards. sounds absolutely riveting, doesn't it? well, it actually is, now that you mention it. i had hopes for it, which is why i ordered it, obviously, & they panned out. or really more of a curiosity. i knew wizards of the coast was doing more with their themed boosters; we had promotional magnets & posters & stuff for some of their other sets. now, i never did care for collectible card games, but i can see that thought was getting put into this stuff, & i thought it was high time i took a gander at what was going on. also, they published this book-- that too.
when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. a bunch of the "big names" in fantasy illustration proved their mettle drawing cards for magic. & wizards of the coast has become a company with a lot invested in imaginary worlds. put those two things together & you have a solid foundation. the basic premise of the worlds of alara is that once they were a single plane that was shattered. like a crystal, the plane shattered along facet lines, & each of those facets is now its own incomplete world. so bant doesn't have death magic (black) or passion (red) so it is all angels & caste systems. esper is lacking in life (green) & freedom (red) magic, & it is ruled by thaumacyborgs & wizards. grixis doesn't have healing (white) or life (green) & is over-run in demons & undead. jund is missing reason (blue) & law (white) & is all savage volcanoes & dragons. naya is without death (black) & intellect (blue) & is all rainforests & unchecked growth. the setting details don't stop with the sort of easy, high concept platitudes, however. there are lots of races & nations or tribes layered on top, & the cultures & ecologies make sense. sure, the people of esper all want to graft etherium to themselves-- they have this philosophical & religious argument for doing so. a sphinx told them how to. & the humans of naya move in to the holes left when a tree falls in the rainforest & start farming there, bringing a flock of deer to nip the growing shoots of vegetation while they plough. there are details & care shown in the world building.
it reads like an old school third party roleplaying book, actually. like setting details without rules, ripe for a canny eye to pick through. & i did pick through. it is hard not to find something inspiring, with so many pictures from so many artists, so many widely divergent worlds to choose from. i am very happy with it.