Of Blood and Honor by Chris Metzen

Chronologically speaking, Of Blood and Honor is the last book of the Warcraft: Archive series.  This book is written by the esteemed Chris Metzen, generally regarded as the father (or one of the fathers) of Warcraft.  It is of an honor to finally read his work.

Of Blood and Honor, on the surface, is a rather short story.  Lord Tirion Fordring, a human paladin and a follower of Light, one day finds an old orc in his province.  In his days, every orc is a monster and must be eliminated.  Tirion fights the old orc and is being defeated.  As the tower collapses threatened to kill the unconscious Tirion within, the old orc saves his life, binds him onto his horse, and sends him back to his Keep.

Deeply affected by how the situation turns out, Tirion has decided to return to abandoned tower and confront the old orc once again.  Why would a monster save its enemy’s life?  To his surprise, this old orc speaks his language and has a name.  Eitrigg further enlightens Tirion on how some orcs have decided to leave their ranks because they do not wish to be corrupted by the demonic power and lose their way of life.  Do orcs have honor?  This one seems to have, so thinks Tirion.  In return to Eitrigg’s saving his life, Tirion has vowed to leave Eitrigg in peace and never seek him out.

Unfortunately, words are out and people now know that there are orcs in the area (although there is only one).  Is Tirion willing to risk losing everything he has in order to uphold his honor and his vow with an enemy?  To those of us who have been playing World of Warcraft since the beginning, the interaction between Tirion and Eitrigg marks a pivoting moment in the history of Warcraft – Horde and Alliance can collaborate.  They can fight side by side if a situation calls for.  This is exactly what we do today, when we face the worse adversity the world has yet to face.

Of Blood and Honor may not be rich in complexity.  However, without a doubt, it is a book that is rich in honor and sacrifice.  The path to heroism is not easy.  Especially when most don’t see that you are one.

The Last Guardian By Jeff Grubb

For those who have played Warcraft 3, the real time strategy game released decades ago, you may recall a black raven that transformed into a human prophet at will speaking to both the Horde and Alliance.  It was the prophet’s plan to bring both sides’ attention to the looming danger of the demonic invasion – The Burning Legion.  The game ends with the glorious battle of all races of Azeroth against the demons’ final assault to the World Tree.

Perhaps the name Medivh means something to you.  The Last Guardian tells the story of Medivh, the most powerful mage known in Azeroth, before he has become the raven that some of us are familiar with in Warcraft 3.

To my best knowledge, The Last Guardian is the only Warcraft novel written by Jeff Grubb.  I do not know why he no longer writes for the Warcraft series.  I happen to enjoy his writing style – slower pace no doubt, but with a certain mysterious underlying to the overarching story.  The Last Guardian almost reads like a detective story.  Magic is explained in the finest technical detail.  The entire book is written in such finest detail.  I feel as though I am living inside the tower of Karazhan, together with the visions within and all.

Medivh is an enigmatic character.  His tower of Karazhan holds many secrets of the past and the future.  To tell the story, Jeff Grubb relies on the young Khadgar – a human mage highly recommended by Kirim Tor (an organization of mages residing in Dalaran) to be the apprentice of Medivh.  Khadgar has an inquisition mind and his undying curiosity makes him a perfect spy to learn the secret of the tower.  Medivh knows of Kirim Tor’s intend but is confident that by building trust, Khadgar may one day stand by his side.

The stories told within Karazhan are epic.  It goes all the way when Medivh’s 800 years old mother Aegwynn battled the evil Titan Sargeras.  Throughout my interaction with the Warcraft franchise – be it as in-game or the bits and pieces of lore scattered in books and at Blizzard’s website – it is the closest moment I have read about the Titans.  There are plenty of visions that explain what the past was, and what the future is to be.  The stories further explain Medivh’s background and why the most powerful mage in Azerorth is going insane.

After reading The Last Guardian, there are still many questions in my mind.  If Medivh is the Guardian of Order of Tirisfal, how does he relate to the Aspects of the five dragon flights – who are also named as the Guardians of Azeroth?  If the Aspects are empowered by Titans, what empowered the Guardian of Order of Tirisfal?  Sargeras appears to be one tough Titan to defeat – though it does not seem impossible – would this Titan be the ultimate villain in the online game World of Warcraft?  If so, when would that be?

The Last Guardian is the third book coming from the Warcraft Archive series.  It reads differently from others.  A worthwhile read nonetheless.

Lord of the Clans By Christie Golden

Christie Golden needs no introduction.  She has written tons of books for major fantasy franchises.  I reckon she is one of Blizzard’s favorites.  I may not be agreeable to her writing style, especially her over reliance of the word ‘had’ (who am I to comment about English grammar anyway, though this habit of hers has been highlighted by other online reviewers as well).  But every book of her so far managed to move me to tears.  If you need someone to thoroughly develop a character and to strike the emotional core of the readers, Christie Golden is the one you shall look for.

Lord of the Clan, in summary, is a story of Thrall.  It is the second book from the Warcraft: Archive series.  The demonic power that corrupted the orcs seems to have receded, leaving the blood eyed orcs docile, incapable to return to their former glory.  For most orcs, their way of life is lost.  The warlocks’ abuse of demonic power has driven the shamanic spirit away.  In this era, orcs who were previously addicted to the demonic power are now willingly imprisoned by the human.  The war is lost.  It is a dark day for the orcs.

Infant orc Thrall, son of Frostwolf Clan’s Chieftain, is left in the wild when his parents are brutally assassinated by their fellow Horde.  During a hunting trip, Thrall is found by a human called Lord Blackmoore who is in command of the encampments where orcs are imprisoned.  Instead of killing the orc baby, Blackmoore has decided to enslave Thrall and train him as a gladiator for his personal gain.  He commands his people to teach Thrall how to read and to fight.  He wants Thrall to learn the human language and master the war strategies.  Life as a gladiator is never easy.  However, Thrall is also blessed with a few friends.  One of them is a human girl called Taretha, who treats Thrall as her little brother.

However comfortable life seems to be as a slave, Thrall’s true destiny is not to be a gladiator.  He must join force with Grom Hellscream of the Warsong Clan.  He must unit with the Warchief Orgrim Doomhammer.  Together, the New Horde must rise.

Lord of the Clan is the first book that is written from the Horde’s perspective.  While the Old Horde that fell under the demonic influence is traditionally viewed as villain and the Alliance is seen as hero, with the rise of the New Horde, the line is no longer black and white.  Orcs can be honorable.  Orcs can be merciful.  And human can also be corrupted by political power too.

Thrall has become a center figure in recent lore development.  Lord of the Clans has shed much insight onto Thrall’s childhood and adulthood.  With Thrall’s unique background – born as an orc and taught by the human – it is no doubt he is where he is today.  The question to all whom indulge in the World of Warcraft is: after Cataclysm and at the end of Mists of Pandaria, will Thrall return as Horde’s Warchief?

Day of the Dragon By Richard A. Knaak

Richard Knaak is one of the few resident Warcraft series writers.  His storytelling style is visibly different from others, more so towards the traditional fantasy genre.  Written in 2001, Day of the Dragon is considered as the first book of the Warcraft series.  It is also the first book of the Warcraft: Archive four-book series.  Warcraft is a fantasy universe I am fond of, dearly.  Hence, I read Day of the Dragon with a high anticipation over my holiday in Bandung, devouring every bit of the lore within.

For those who are familiar with the recent lore development, reading Day of the Dragon is real treat.  Never have we been so close to some of the key figures in recent days.  Imagine reading Deathwing in human form, the Old Horde corrupted by demonic power, and the general mistrust of the use of magic – just to name a few.

Back to the era whereby the day of the dragon has passed, dragonqueen Alexstrasza – one of the five great Aspects of the dragon flights – is captured by the orcs from the Dragonmaw clan and is imprisoned within the caves of Khaz Modan.  Deeply weakened by an artifact called Demon Soul, she resigns to her fate of birthing red dragons only to be trained by the orcs to do evil deeds.

Her consort, Korialstrasz also known as Krasus in his human form, must find a way to free his beloved queen.  And it is no easy task.  Uniting the rest of the weakened dragon Aspects seems impossible.  Malygos has gone mad; Nozdormu is obsessed with collecting artifacts throughout the timeline; and Ysera is lost in her dream world.  Only Deathwing the Destroyer – the black dragon flight Aspect – is not weakened by the Demon Soul.  And he is plotting his sinister moves in bringing the world to an end (you could say again, but this event happens before Cataclysm).

Hope is now placed upon a human mage Rhonin from Kirin Tor of Dalaran.  Krasus sends Rhonin on an observatory mission to Khaz Modan escorted by an elvan ranger Vereesa Windrunner.  During their journey, they have recruited the help of the human paladins as well as the dwarves and their quest has changed.  But is it enough to face the adversities of the orcs, trolls, and goblins?  With the Horde losing ground and the Alliance gathering its forces under a mysterious character called Lord Prestor, how would this ultimate battle play out?

Day of the Dragon answers a lot of questions I used to have.  Locations and characters such as island kingdom of Tol Barad, Gemm Greymane, and Gilneas are not featured in World of Warcraft until 2011.  It appears to me that Day of the Dragon was well ahead of time.  Lore development these days are tightly coupled with the game development.  Deep inside, I am wishing that Blizzard would release new lore that will not be seen in the game till, say, a decade later.  This will give the fans something to look forward to, something beyond what we have anticipated today.