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A direct sequel to Agents of Artifice, it follows the artificer planeswalker Tezzeret in his quest to discover the true nature of the mysterious magical metal, etherium. The rest of Agents of Artifice's cast of planeswalkers, including Nicol Bolas, Jace Beleren, Liliana Vess, and the pyromancer Baltrice, make return appearances as well.
This novel contains examples of:
- Actually a Doombot: At the end, Nicol Bolas is revealed to have been a simulacrum of himself the whole time, with only a small fraction of the real Bolas's power and intellect.
- Anachronic Order: Most of the story is told through Tezzeret's flashbacks, mixed in with chapters that take place in the present. Some chapters even swap the perspective of the flashbacks and tell the story from Jace or Baltrice's perspective.
- Anti-Hero: Tezzeret.
- Batman Gambit: Tezzeret considers his greatest strengths to be anticipation and preparation, and he shows it in his machinations against both Nicol Bolas and Jace Beleren.
- Character Derailment: Discussed In-Universe. Tezzeret notices that after Bolas resurrects him, his personality seems to be drastically different. He speculates to Baltrice that his mind may have been altered somehow.
- Cloning Gambit: Nicol Bolas pulls alternate versions of himself and Liliana Vess out of parallel timelines to battle Tezzeret.
- Did You Just Punch Out Nicol Bolas?
- Fantastic Time Management: Tezzeret's solution to the labyrinth is to borrow Renn's time-manipulating clockworking powers and explore every single passage in the maze with an unlimited number of alternate reality versions of himself.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Tezzeret. He tells a story of how he amused himself as an apprentice by saving his fellow students' scraps and building incredible contraptions out of the stuff they threw away.
- Hates Small Talk:
His voice faded to a gurgle as the dragon leaned on his chest hard enough to spring a couple of his ribs. "Banter," said Nicol Bolas, "gets on my nerves."
- I Know You Know I Know: Jace and Tezzeret play this game early in the novel--each tries to anticipate the other's moves on Esper, each knowing that the other is doing the same thing.
- Indy Ploy: When Tezzeret fights Renn, he has to make up his strategy on the fly.
- MacGyvering: Tezzeret manages to perform an impromptu heart surgery on himself in an empty cave with no tools, in the span of just a few minutes. He doesn't even have a box of scraps.
- Naked on Arrival: Tezzeret is naked in the first scene. He spends a lot of time naked in this book, since he keeps getting yanked across space and time and his clothes don't come with him.
- Paranoia Gambit: Played by Tezzeret against Jace at the end of the book.
- Place Beyond Time: The Metal Island, where it is somehow always "now".
- Punched Across the Room: Nicol Bolas casually backhands Tezzeret when he wakes up, knocking him into the opposite wall of the cave.
- Riddling Sphinx: This story is chock-full of sphinxes, so this is a major plot point; Tezzeret has all sorts of riddles to solve.
- Super Mode: Thanks to a quick injection of sangrite into the bloodstream.
- Switching POV: Third-person omniscient in the Metal Island sections, first-person in Tezzeret's sections, third-person limited from Bolas's point of view in the epilogue, and with a few chapters from the point of view of Jace and Baltrice.
- Time Master: Clockworkers. Silas Renn can manipulate the flow of time and even reach into or travel between alternate timelines.
- Understatement: After biting a man in half for telling a bad joke: "[Nicol Bolas] was not known for his sense of humor."
- Unobtainium: Etherium.
- The Watson: Doctor Jest often serves this purpose, giving Tezzeret someone to converse with and explain things to when the story demands it.
- Which Me?: Turns up when Nicol Bolas uses clockworking to pull alternate-timeline versions of himself (as a zombie) and his minions into the present timeline.