Review: World of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King by Christie Golden

Arthas: Rise of the Lich KingWorld of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, by Christie Golden

“Arthas: Rise of the Lich King” feels like it should be the best of all the Warcraft books published so far. Golden has a lot to work with: the previous Warcraft books, all the Warcraft games and expansions, and the multitude of lore and history that exists. But there’s a feeling I’m always left with after finishing this book – a feeling that *something* is missing.

The novel is the story of Arthas Menethil, heir to the throne of Lordaeron; a bright boy with a promising future. But instead of becoming a wise king and faithful paladin, Arthas will fall into the dark and icy deep and rise as the Lich King. The book starts out well enough, with Golden tying many of the scenes into other published Warcraft novels and game history. Arthas is established as a boy desperate to do the right thing, eager for his father’s approval, and to be his own person. He makes a misguided vow to do whatever necessary to protect his people, one that he holds to at all costs. Golden is good at writing misguided characters, ones that start with noble intentions that disintegrate – it seems to be her forte; she’s done this in the other Warcraft books she’s authored.

But I feel something is missing from “Arthas: Rise of the Lich King.” For me, Arthas’ fall is too fast. There isn’t enough believability in his fall from grace – while all Warcraft players know that he becomes evil, Golden doesn’t do a good enough job of making it a realistic journey. The third section of the book also glosses greatly over many important events; barely mentioning some and forgetting others all together. The end comes far too quickly. In my opinion the third section is very lacking; it could have used more detail, length, and coverage of important Warcraft events.

Fans of the game will appreciate the little touches Golden puts in, such as Arthas’ anger being described often as righteous fury, a spell paladins have. Or the smell of peacebloom, a common herb in the game. “Arthas: Rise of the Lich King” also features Jaina Proudmoore, Kael’thas Sunstrider, and Sylvanas Windrunner, all legendary figures in their own right.

“Arthas: Rise of the Lich King” was the first Warcraft book to be published in hardcover, and while I did splurge and purchase it in hardcover, I feel $25 is a bit much for this book. Only buy it if you have a good coupon, or wait for the paperback. It’s too short for my tastes, and isn’t long enough to be worth that much, frankly. I was very excited when this book was published, and I couldn’t wait to read it, and I do enjoy rereading it, but I just wish there was more too it. I always feel a bit blah at the end, and I wish I didn’t feel that way.

3/5.

Review: World of Warcraft: Day of the Dragon by Richard A. Knaak

Day of the DragonWorld of Warcraft: Day of the Dragon, by Richard A. Knaak

“Day of the Dragon” was the first book to be written in the Warcraft game universe. But while it is based on a game series, the book is practically a work of original fiction with hints of the story coming from the game. Knaak took the setting, characters, and events from the Warcraft universe and constructed them into an enjoyable, readable novel.

Although it is helpful to have some familiarity with Warcraft, such knowledge is not needed to understand the background of the book. Knaak spends some time in the beginning setting up the scene for unfamiliar readers, and refreshing it for those who have played the real time strategy game. I believe that he is the one who took the dragons in Warcraft and really fleshed them out; he has a very good touch with the behemoths. Their splashes of egotism combined with unique personalities make them seem more powerful than the “regular” inhabitants of Azeroth; you can easily see them meddling in mundane affairs, thinking they are doing the right thing.

The main story of “Day of the Dragon” consists of Rhonin, a mage, being sent on an observation mission into orc-held territory. He believes it is a chance to redeem himself for his previous adventure, one that went disastrously wrong. But his chance quickly turns into much more, as he is actually the pawn of two dragons who are each attempting to guide him into fulfilling their own devious plans.

Novels based on games can be very, very weak – usually only enjoyed by hardcore fans. But “Day of the Dragon,” while set in the Warcraft universe, is much more than simple tie-in fiction. Knaak pens a memorable book, one that kept me reading long past my bedtime, as I kept reading “just one more page” to see what would happen next. The plot is ace, the characters are people you want to know more about and you want to see them succeed, and the writing is solid.

If you liked this book, check his “War of the Ancients” trilogy, which continues the story of Rhonin and the dragons.

4/5.

Review: World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal by Aaron Rosenberg and Christie Golden

Beyond the Dark PortalWorld of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal, by Aaron Rosenberg and Christie Golden

“Beyond the Dark Portal” is a novelization of the video game Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal. Because it is a novelization, the authors are somewhat limited in what they can do, but all said, it’s a decent novel for Warcraft fans. I found it particularly useful for background on the previous Warcraft games, because while I haven’t played them I have been an avid World of Warcraft player for a few years.

While most of the orcs left their planet to wreck havoc on Azeroth, some remained exiled on Draenor, or escaped back to Draenor through the Dark Portal after their disastrous war with the humans. Ner’zhul, the orc responsible for the corruption of the orcs, plays a starring role as he once again takes control of the remaining orcs on Draenor, reforming the Horde with the intent of finding another planet for the orcs to invade. The heroes of “Tides of Darkness,” the previous book (and video game) in the series – Khadgar and Turalyon, learn of the orcs’ plans and take the Dark Portal to Draenor, intent on stopping Ner’zhul to save Azeroth – and other worlds – from the devastation of the Horde.

I wish Christie Golden had solo written this book, rather than pairing with Aaron Rosenberg. “Beyond the Dark Portal” suffers from some of the same issues as “Tides of Darkness,” which was written by Rosenberg. It’s somewhat one-sided, focusing on the humans, while leaving the orcs as flat villains. The characterization is better, probably due to Golden’s assistance. There’s even a bit of a romance; some happiness amid the carnage. The battle scenes are far from realistic or even possible, with undefined numbers of orcs being killed. The Horde left on Draenor is supposed to be small, but they can’t be too small if they’re getting killed in every chapter. The pacing of travel also seems unrealistic, with both sides covering vast distances in what seems like no time at all.

I enjoy this book because I am a World of Warcraft fan and player. If you’re a WoW player and considering this book, you’ll probably enjoy it as it does give a lead in to The Burning Crusade expansion, and provides some nice background and lore.

3/5.

Review: World of Warcraft: Tides of Darkness by Aaron Rosenberg

Tides of DarknessWorld of Warcraft: Tides of Darkness, by Aaron Rosenberg

I read this immediately after finishing “Rise of the Horde,” by Christie Golden, and as such it provides a continuation of what happens after the orcs entered the Dark Portal. It is the story of the Second War, when the orcs tried to take over Azeroth but were stopped by the Alliance of humans, dwarves, and elves.

“Tides of Darkness” is a novelization of Warcraft II, and so is good background information for players new to the Warcraft universe.

I don’t have much to say about this book. It’s a quick read, despite its length of 374 pages; it felt to me like Rosenberg was writing to a juvenile audience. While he has some key figures of the Warcraft universe starring in the book, such as Turalyon, Khadgar, Lothar, Doomhammer, Gul’dan, and Zul’jin, the novel as a whole feels pretty flat and uninspired. Part of that could be because it is a direct tie-in novel to a video game and the author likely didn’t have much leeway, but I still wish the book just had that special something to it. Je ne sais quoi.

2/5.

Review: World of Warcraft: Rise of the Horde by Christie Golden

Rise of the HordeWorld of Warcraft: Rise of the Horde, by Christie Golden

“Rise of the Horde” is what a Warcraft book should be. The book is enjoyable, the plot is pretty solid, and the characters are spot on. In the author biography, Golden states that she is a World of Warcraft player and it shows – there are little things thrown in that any Warcraft player will appreciate.

Each chapter starts with a brief introduction from Thrall, the current chief of the new Horde. He is writing the history of the old Horde, the Horde that destroyed their own world and invaded Azeroth, the Horde that perpetuated genocide on the draenei and slaughtered the humans.

The story of the orcs starts with a noble race, living peacefully on Draenor. The orcs have coexisted with the draenei for hundreds of years, ever since the draenei arrived on Draenor fleeing from their ancient enemies. While the orcs take pleasure in hunting animals and bloodlust, they are not killers and have a culture, family groups, a belief system. But all that changes when the Burning Legion turns a key orc to their side, and he leads the orcs on a terrifying descent into madness. Only one clan stands apart, the Frostwolves; their leader Durotan watches helplessly as the orcs are corrupted by demons.

Golden depicts this tale with plenty of emotion; I felt for Durotan’s situation. How many of us have watched someone do something we know is wrong, but we can’t change their minds? Most of us have, I’m sure. “The Rise of the Horde” details just that, the rise of the horde that descended upon Azeroth, intent on taking the world for their own. The story is known, especially if one is a Warcraft player; but Golden fleshes out the story very nicely. How many Warcraft players have visited Durotar, or Orgrimmar? The figures these places are named after, Durotan and Orgrim, are key characters in this book. The additional background detail it provides will delight any Warcraft player; this is one of my favorite novels based on the universe – I’ve read all of them, and read them all multiple times.

5/5.

Review: World of Warcraft: Cycle of Hatred by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Cycle of HatredWorld of Warcraft: Cycle of Hatred, by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Set a year prior to the opening of the World of Warcraft MMO, “Cycle of Hatred” would perhaps better be titled “Cycle of Blah.” Unlike most novels set in the Warcraft universe, this one doesn’t really add anything at all to the world.

The plot is mediocre and has no twists or turns – it’s straightforwardly flat. You easily guess what’s going to happen. Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall aren’t true to their established characterization; it feels like the author didn’t do any research before writing this book. There are three strong female characters in the book; DeCandido constantly harps on how a woman has to work harder than a man to be in power. It’s very overdone, and I was rolling my eyes the second time it came up, let alone the third, the fourth, etc. The characters and plot feel very flat, very one dimensional.

For me, this is the worst of the World of Warcraft novels. I’ve read all multiple times, and this is my least favorite and the least enjoyable. It’s blah – not good, not bad – just blah. If you’re a WoW player, or curious about the universe, and want to read some of the books, I recommend you pick something other than this one.

1/5.

Review: Warcraft, War of the Ancients 3: The Sundering by Richard A. Knaak

the sunderingWarcraft, War of the Ancients 3: The Sundering, by Richard A. Knaak

“The Sundering” is the final installment in the War of the Ancients trilogy, a series set in the universe of World of Warcraft. The night elves and other races of Azeroth are perched on the edge of losing their lives and their world to the Burning Legion…

Knaak created a truly epic story in this trilogy, taking the story and universe of Blizzard’s award winning game series and creating memorable characters, an intriguing plot, and fantastic battles. He had to play in a world where many readers will already know most of the storyline, but didn’t let that stop him from delivering a very enjoyable series. “The Sundering” has to wrap up all the loose ends of the previous two books, and it does that in a very nice manner. I read most of this book in 2 sittings, as I was eager to know how everything would finish up. And normally I’m not a real fan of too many battle scenes, but the final battle in “The Sundering” is very enjoyable; Knaak has a knack for writing good battles. I would say it isn’t a fight that should be missed.

As I’ve said about the other books in the trilogy, “The Sundering” is full of lore that will make any Warcraft fan happy. I loved knowing what happened to Illidan…how he went evil. How Malfurion became the first of the druids. Why Mount Hyjal is an important part of the landscape. Little things will likely click into place in your mind as you read the book; I know I have some new questions and theories about why things are the way they are in the Warcraft universe.

The War of the Ancients is a trilogy I’m apt to read when I’m a little sick of playing World of Warcraft, and it almost always generates interest in playing again.

5/5.

Review: Warcraft, War of the Ancients 2: The Demon Soul by Richard A. Knaak

The Demon Soul Warcraft, War of the Ancients #2: The Demon Soul, by Richard A. Knaak

“The Demon Soul” continues where the first book of the trilogy left off. Krasus and Rhonin, who are from the future, have joined forces with the night elves of Azeroth’s past to defeat the Burning Legion. The Burning Legion is an ancient force of evil demons who are attempting to take over the world.

This book delves into the dragons, and the creation of the Dragon Soul – an artifact that has the potential to drive away the Burning Legion…but only if it is used properly. Its creator, Neltharion, will become a figure of Warcraft legend…but not for the right reasons. His name will become synonymous with evil, just like the Burning Legion.

“The Demon Soul” further fills in the history of the War of the Ancients, giving Warcraft fans a fun romp through the past of their favorite world. In it readers learn more about the dragons, the night elves, the first druid Malfurion, and more. Also in it the downfall of Illidan, one of the great bosses of the Burning Crusade, is depicted.

Like the first book in the trilogy, “The Demon Soul” is an enjoyable read. This isn’t meant to be high or original fantasy – it’s based on an established game series, but Knaak doesn’t let that stop him from writing an interesting book that will surely be enjoyed by Warcraft fans. There’s plenty of action, plenty of battles and fights; character development for many of the legendary game figures; and more lore. One thing I love about this Warcraft trilogy is that reading it always makes me want to go back and visit the parts of the game that were described, or visit the characters that were given detail.

4/5.

Review: Warcraft, War of the Ancients 1: The Well of Eternity by Richard A. Knaak

The Well of EternityWarcraft, War of the Ancients #1: The Well of Eternity, by Richard A. Knaak

“The Well of Eternity” is the first in a trilogy of books based on the bestselling game series World of Warcraft. It’s a fun and informative read for fans of the game – you see plenty of game characters fleshed out, and by the end of the first book you’ll know them better.

The book starts a little slow, setting up the main characters and settings, but quickly picks up pace. Krasus, a dragon who spends much of his time in the guise of a human figure, and Rhonin, a mage of Dalaran, are thrust into the distant past. There they meet Malfurion Stormrage, the first druid of the night elf race. Krasus and Rhonin arrive at a time when the Burning Legion is reaching its claws into the world, intent on perverting Azeroth and “cleansing” it of all life.

Krasus and Rhonin run into the classic paradox of time travel – if they mess with the events of the past, will they affect their own future? But when faced with their own destruction, the two inevitably join the war effort of the night elves in an attempt to save Azeroth so that there can be a future…

“The Well of Eternity” is clearly meant for fans of Blizzard’s epic game, but I think that people unfamiliar with the game would enjoy it as well. Knaak gives enough background information so that someone unfamiliar with the world would quickly gain familiarity; in doing so, he also expands nicely on the lore for Warcraft fans. I find this book a good read – it’s enjoyable fantasy, and one I reread every year or so. There’s plenty of action, magic, and lore, which is a good combination.

4/5.