Yesterday I talked about the three Azeroth books I recently read through, and starting the review process with Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde. It’s one of the more recent books to come out, unlike today’s choice which came out in 2010.
It’s funny how I talked yesterday about Vol’jin’s book not having a lot of the war element we would typically find in a World of Warcraft novel. For the early portion of this book, it’s the same. But unlike Shadows of the Horde, this one blends things in and then just keeps blending. Arthas’ story is told in three stages and focuses on three different stages: Arthas Menethil, the Jaina era, and finally Sylvanas and the Lich King.
The story involves many significant moments that are major lore points in WoW. How Sylvanas became the Banshee Queen is no secret, nor is the “Culling of Stratholme.” These and many other familiar facts pour out of the pages along with some that aren’t as well known. For instance, there’s a lot more to the Lich King and his mount that I had no idea about and can actually appreciate greatly. As should anyone who has ever had a strong bond with an animal.
So the first act deals with Arthas growing up and the pressures of being a prince and all the good and bad that comes with it. You see a few moments of the old “much to learn, boy” that comes with such a tale, as well as what would be a couple of innocent seeds if a person didn’t know Arthas’ final destination. In the second act we have the Arthas and Jaina relationship, and Prince Menethil doing what he feels he must for his people. There’s a great chapter that also involves visiting Thrall in his early days. It’s not an exchange, but it does help tie characters together well. In more than one way. But this is nice Arthas. Not off the handle Arthas, which we get later on in the middle section of the tale. Finally it’s Sylvanas’ turn and her death followed by what he does (I had no idea he resurrected Kel’Thuzad…makes sense). How he is pulled back to Northrend to save the Lich King makes for an interesting encounter with Anub’arak. You really see how parts of Wrath came together as a story.
There’s so much more to the story which, despite knowing most of it going in, is just an amazing read. You can see a few grains of sand fall, and Christie Golden does a great job of making the grains continue to fall through the hourglass until you know Arthas is off the deep end and can actually see how he got there. You almost pity him for the journey until the very last moment, when he actually becomes the Lich King and that’s when you know he is beyond “bat-crazy.” Still, I love how that was presented, in part because I didn’t see all of it coming.
With an iconic character like Arthas Menethil you have so much material to work with. It would be easy to mail it in and just recite much of the moments in his life. Golden slows some of those moments right down, barely touches on others, and adds a few new ones that create a bigger picture than what the average person would even know about the man who would become the Lich King. To do that and have the reader not feel like the book is a history class, is excellent writing. Hands down my favourite Warcraft book and not just because I’m fond of the content but because it’s simply that good.