EN World Reviews Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos is in the news again, and it’s not hard to see why. A lot of the talk around the book is hugely positive, but if you’re looking for a good eyes and hands onto the latest release coming in from the D&D WotC team, then EN World’s own Beth Rimmels has got you covered. Beth’s review is weighty and hits on all the major ups and down of the book in a clear and concise manner.
Beth gives the book a solid B+ and notes that the only reason it’s not an A- is that basically, Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, and the Wild Beyond the Witchlight had raised the bar so highly.
Having read both of those, I can definitely agree with Beth here and they’re both books that are in a nutshell: hard acts to follow.
I’ve yet to get my magical mitts on the Strixhaven book, but Beth’s in-depth review touches on an issue that I have with a lot of tomes which try to tackle the concept of magical schools, and that is in the realm of opposing forces inside each house/college/faction in said books.
Strixhaven makes the same missteps here and goes for the most convoluted explanation of these concepts.
For example, Silverquill is known as “the College of Eloquence”, but then SACoC describes Prismari’s opposing forces as “Perfection and Expression” with its deans being the Dean of Perfection and the Dean of Expression. Wouldn’t expression go with eloquence? SACoC then goes on to explain that “perfection and expression” actually represent “intellect vs. emotion.” That’s a long way around to make the point.Beth Rimmels – SACoC Review
By contrast, MtG describes Prismari mages as not seeing a difference between art and magic. The MtG version doesn’t use fancy titles for the dichotomy. It refers instead to the colors of magic foundational to MtG, but even without the “perfection versus expression” label the MtG version is clearer in my opinion—Blue magic is artistic theory and training while Red is elementalism, so students magically harness the elements to create art. That’s much easier to comprehend than the SACoC version, which describes how Prismari can overlap with Lorehold and Silverquill without really improving the clarity much.
To summarise Beth’s review, these are the final thoughts on why the book is worth it in the long run.
I like SACoC a lot and recommend it with a few caveats. First, if you’re expecting Harry Potter dropped into the D&D multiverse, SACoC isn’t it. Magical schools come in a variety of styles from Ursula K. LeGuin’s Wizard of Earthsea to Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars and Diana Wynn Jones’ Witch Week in the Chrestomanci series to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and beyond, and the MtG card set draws from such a broader range of inspirations. It’s also firmly focused on college-age students, not 11-year-olds heading off to Hogwarts. I recommend Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos if you:
* Want a fresh adventure approach
* Enjoy the magical school genre
* Like or are interested in MtG to D&D setting adaptations
* Want an adventure with a lot of opportunities for role-playing
* Are in the mood for a more light-hearted adventure that still has action and dramaBeth Rimmels – SACoC Review
Beth’s full review can be found here
One thing to note is that the book’s Cultural and Sensitivity Consultant, Tanya DePass was left out of the credits – something which WotC have rectified and altered in the digital versions.
Go and drop by Tanya’s twitter and give her some love for her role in the book.