I have always been interested in Warcraft lore – if you run mindlessly from questgiver to questgiver, why even bother to play? But I had never read any of the Warcraft novels, or any books based on a game. So I felt I missed out on a whole lot of lore – majority of the lore is not explained in World of Warcraft, we get just glimpses of the big picture.
So I purchased all the novels and started to read them.
As expected, literary quality was for the most part pretty mediocre, to put it kindly. I do not understand why Blizzard even keeps hiring Richard A. Knaak, is he really that cheap? His Night of the Dragon is one of the worst books I’ve read in a while – which is a shame, I like Krasus/Korialstrasz a lot. Strangely, Knaak’s earlier books are much better than latter ones. Perhaps he had a tighter editing for the first books?
Christie Golden is in the other end of the scale. She writes well and flowingly, both her skills and knowledge of the lore seem to be improving from one book to the next. Her The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm is well above all the other books, being both well-written and interesting.
Am I happy with the time spent reading the novels? Yes. A lot of things in the World of Warcraft make a whole lot more sense now, especially the “old” things – War of the Ancients and Second War. A lot of things from these times were not explained in the games… and maybe inadvertedly, we do get glimpses of what will/may happen in the World of Warcraft in the future. I will do a separate blog post about my speculations on the topic.
Unfortunately, Warcraft comics cover a lot of the lore as well – and I honestly cannot say I want to bother with them. Comics don’t have the depth of a book, even if the book is not especially well written. I’ve never been able to get “into” the story in the comics – they just remain picture books for me.
Of Blood and Honor
Chris Metzen, 2001. A short and mediocre book. Tirion Fordring meets Eitrigg and discovers that not all orcs are blood-thirsty savages. Not much lore covered in the book.
Day of the Dragon
Richard A. Knaak, 2001. As far as Knaak’s writing goes, one of the better books by him. Set during the Second War, a good backstory for both Rhonin and Krasus. Explanation of Deathwing’s influence on Alliance. Destruction of the Dragon Soul.
Lord of the Clans
Christie Golden, 2001. Good and solid book about Thrall’s childhood and gladiator days – his upbringing and escape. I started to understand Thrall’s character much better after this book. I wish there was a direct sequel to the book, though.
The Last Guardian
Jeff Grubb, 2001. The story of Medivh and Khadgar, something that was always a bit hard to understand based only on the games. Well written and interesting book. Must-read for everyone who has raided Karazhan or plans to do so in the future.
War of the Ancients
Trilogy by Richard A. Knaak, 2004-2005. Still his good early work – we finally understand how Sargeras became interested in Azeroth and what happened to queen Azshara. Many more important things start in that trilogy – druidom in Azeroth, nagas and satyrs. Sundering of the world, of course. Illidan’s imprisonment, origins of Xavius and so forth.
Unfortunately, most of the characters feel “flat”, lifeless. While Malfurion and Tyrande pretty much stay the same way always, the struggles of Illidan really should be described better.
World of Warcraft series
Cycle of Hatred
Keith R.A. DeCandido, 2006. Set one year before the beginning of World of Warcraft, this is surprisingly well written account of growing tensions between Horde and Alliance – and reasons for them.
Rise of the Horde
Christie Golden, 2006. Story of the corruption of the orcs in Draenor and their war with the draenei. Well written, but feels somewhat detached and I am not sure why. Perhaps Blizzard should have given Golden more freedom with the characters?
Tides of Darkness
Aaron Rosenberg, 2007. Events of the Second War. Not great, but a reasonably good book that recaptures the storyline of Warcraft II. Probably due to that, one-dimensional characters.
Beyond the Dark Portal
Aaron Rosenberg and Christie Golden, 2008. Continuation of the previous book. Alliance heroes follow orcs to Draenor, where Ner’zhul is attempting to open portals to new worlds. Shattering of Draenor.
Night of the Dragon
Richard A. Knaak, 2008. An attempt to describe the origins of Twilight Dragonflight. By far the worst Warcraft book (…so far), Knaak simply doesn’t have the writing skills to pull of a complex multi-character story. Doesn’t add much to the lore, skip this book unless you are a diehard lore-head.
Arthas: Rise of the Lich King
Christie Golden, 2009. Well-written account of Arthas’ youth and way to the Lich King. A lot of the content is known from previous books, Warcraft III and World of Warcraft, but described from a different perspective or viewpoint. Well worth reading, my only gripe is that the most extensive storyline in the lore would have only won, if it would have been longer and more detailed.
Richard A. Knaak, 2010. Unfortunately, a novel about Malfurion and not Illidan. Coming of the Emerald Nightmare and the fight against it. Somewhat strange timing for the novel, as I would have thought that something like that would come before an expansion related to the Emerald Nightmare. Xavius gets defeated and killed, which was a surprise – but then again, maybe we haven’t seen the last of him.
As a book, a bit too jumpy. Too many viewpoints, too many characters – we won’t get into any in-depth before going to the next character.
The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm
Christie Golden, 2010. Best Warcraft book so far and pretty much a must-read for everybody who are interested in the lore. Rumblings of the elements, Thrall’s re-education as a shaman, murder of Cairne Bloodhoof, Garrosh becoming a (temporary?) warchief. My only gripe is Cairne behaving like a total hothead when he challenges Garrosh, without taking time to analyze all the facts. Same applies largely to Thrall appointing Garrosh to warchief in his absense.
Hopefully the next, upcoming novel Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects will be as good as this one.