Lore Matters: War of the Ancients book series

So, over Christmas break, I had long airplane flights. So, I took the Warcraft: War of the Ancients trilogy book series with me as reading material to keep me from getting bored on the plane.

For as much as some people dislike Richard Knaak’s work, I actually found this series to be important for me. It helped me with realizing who Deathwing is, and why his coming back in the next expansion is really a terrifying thing for Azeroth. In addition, I learned a lot about Malfurion and the early history of druids in the book series. I also realized that it would have been helpful for an introduction as to why Illidan was the big bad guy of the Burning Crusade expansion. I didn’t play any of the Warcraft games before WOW, so I tend to have frequently missed out on important lore things.

Lore is important for feeling connected to the storyline in the game. Lore is important for knowing WHY we’re fighting, and WHO we are fighting. It is easy to get distracted by game mechanics, and lose the story along the way.  The lore-based books help make the world feel bigger (and older) than it feels as you go through various quests and raid encounters. It makes the battles feel bigger and more hopeless in ways that gives you a reason to want to fight.

An example of being disconnected to the Lore: I complained one week when we were learning Ulduar about how I felt cheated because the keepers don’t actually die. I think it was just unfulfilling to keep defeating but not killing the bosses (I knew they helped us on Yogg, but I didn’t quite “get” what was going on). My boyfriend responded to this complaint by spouting off the reason why they don’t die (something about our objective being to free them, not to kill them). I don’t remember the specific details, but I got caught up in the fight mechanics and forgot to pay attention to WHY we were doing it.

I read the Arthas book at some point so I would feel more connected to the lore surrounding Northrend and the Lich King. I thought it was really helpful for me to do that, since I wanted to feel more connected to WHY we were in Northrend fighting.

Deathwing is one scary beast. I’m also starting early to study up on lore that I think is relevant to Cataclysm so that I don’t feel so disconnected from the WHY. Deathwing used to be a normal dragon, but the old gods corrupted him and made him go a little bonkers. He betrayed the rest of the dragons, and did a lot of bad things. When you know the story behind where Deathwing comes from, the idea of his getting free to wreak more havoc on the world is pretty scary, and is much more motivating to fight against it.

One of the other great pieces in the War of the Ancients book series is that there is a lot of information about Malfurion Stormrage, and what the early druid spell casting actually looked at. I never really quite understood the love triangle between Malfurion, Illidan (his brother), and Tyrande (NE priestess).

One of the things this book series has is detailed descriptions of how Malfurion’s druid spells worked (ie. seeds that burst into flames: “Malfurion threw the seeds into the bat’s maw. The monster convulsed immediately… A fiery glow erupted from within Varo’then’s mount. The captain tried to maintain control, but to no avail. The bat flailed around, shrieking. A moment later, it burst into flames. Malfurion had used the seeds’ inherent heat during earlier battles…” (Knack, 2005, The Sundering, Pg. 287). This is definitely a spell we don’t have anymore, but I think “flaming seeds” should be something that the we should start looking into learning how to use again (on second thought, maybe not with the name “flaming seeds”).

The small amount of Malfurion lore in this book series actually made me really excited at the prospect of the Malfurion book that is supposed to be released sometime relatively soon.

14 Comments

  1. Posted January 28, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I did enjoy the War of the Ancients trilogy for those reasons. Knaak’s other work left me a bit colder (Day of the Dragon etc.) but I keep reading them all anyhow just to glean the bits of lore I’d like to know. Like you, I didn’t play the Warcraft games before so I started out not really having any idea what was going on. A glimpse into night elf society afforded by WotA was really interesting. I liked Rise of the Horde for the same reason – I wanted to know more about the orcs and the draenei.

  2. krizzlybear
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    When I read the passage about the seeds (I believe it was when Malfurion was trapped in a cave of sorts with Krasus) I immediately thought of Seed of Corruption. Because, well if it involves Fire, it’s probably either warlock or mage-induced.

  3. Chipster
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    How is the writing style in these sorts of books? I generally avoid tie-ins because companies don’t usually hire Shakespeare to write the associated novels. If the writing style is bad, I can’t get through a book. It doesn’t matter to me how good the story can be, but poor story-telling ruins it for me.

  4. Siobhann
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Hey – they stole Malfurions spell and gave it to mages!

  5. Posted January 28, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I read them aswell, and Im now busy with Day of the Dragon, and I must really admit it enriched my wow experience. So yes, totally agree!

  6. Posted January 28, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Well, you talked me into trying the first one.

    Seems a relatively old series (2004). Is this all canonical for WoW? Does it explain the seed/soil gathering quests finally?! That’s a storyline that I kept wishing would get some closure, or at least be pushed along a bit. I’m suspicious of the head druid trainer in Darn now, but it’s been so many years now that I can’t recall why…

    (Seems you could drop off soil (?) to the guy at the bottom of the tree or to another druid a ways off in another zone. *sigh* Here I come again, WoWwiki…)

  7. Lissanna
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    At the very least, Malfurion cast spells with a more diverse repertoire than balance druids have today. I mean, reading about the spells he casts makes it seem like balance druids gave away all their spells to the other classes & forgot to leave some spells for themselves…

    I would expect the Malfurion book to have more closure for the current World of Warcraft storyline. The books relate more closely to some of the earlier Warcraft games.

  8. Posted January 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    “If the writing style is bad, I can’t get through a book.”

    Ack. I’ve read a few pages. The writing style is [so far] really, really bad. Check some excerpts. “The tall, forbidding palace perched atop the very edge of the mountainous cliff, overlooking so precariously the vast, black body of water below that it appeared almost ready to plummet into the latter’s dark depths. … Thunder rumbled like a thousand dragons and those who lived around its shores huddled close, uncertain as to what sort of storm might be unleashed.”

    Can you imagine if you read this in a creative writing class? Freakin’ crud.

    Wait… yep, the first bit accessible (as text) at fictionwise.

    http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/b21825/?si=0

    OUCH.

  9. Lissanna
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    In terms of writing style, some people don’t really like his books. I do, however, like reading the lore-pieces even if they aren’t super spectacular just because I find it interesting.

  10. Posted January 28, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m in the same boat, Liss, as far as not having played the Warcraft games, and waiting until pretty recently to read the novels. I’m using my credits on PaperBackSwap.com to pick up the novels as they become available in the system, so I’ve been unable to get the Arthas book just yet, and haven’t necessarily been able to read in any specific order, but it has helped me understand QUITE a lot more about the game. I wish I’d read them prior to BC, frankly, because I was very hazy on what Outlands was, why the Burning Legion was that big of a deal, and who these bad guys were that we were fighting.

    As far as Knaak’s writing style, there may be a few overblown descriptive bits now and then, but overall I’ve found that the story itself overshadows any issues I have with the writing. Since I didn’t really know the story beforehand all that well, I was drawn along by the plot more than distracted by the writing technique. Nothing really stood out to me as either good or bad, to be honest.

    Now, if you happen to be a lore expert without having read the books, you might find it easy to get distracted nitpicking the writing. Or maybe I’m just not that picky about writing style as some… I’ve read plenty of fiction novels that have irritated me because of bad writing or horrible editing, though.

  11. Maor
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    There are a few reasons why people take issue with his books that have little to do with his writing style.

    That said, I enjoyed the series, and I don’t mind his writing style. He’s not the best author I’ve read, but he’s not the worst.

  12. Shingetsu
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    The problem with the spells being lost and Moonkins having only a smaller amount is down to how they dont want two class’s having the same spell. Having the same spell would mean that through talents one of them would be more powerful and as such massive issues would errupt, QQ on the forums etc ^^.

    I do agree though that the lore side of the moonkins and the moonkins of WoW today are very different interns of there arsenal of spells. But never fear they say that moonkins will have more spells to play with and as such maybe there will be a variety of different rotations with splicing and mixing of there rotations.

    Tbh i would love to see some of the spells that are mentioned into the lore but brought upto the standards that WoW has today. Flaming seeds seems like a bad name but the idea of placing a seed onto the target and then have it bloom after a few seconds or triggered through a talent to then do damage over time or have it create something mroe then just plain spell damage would be awsome( both graphically and number wise ^^ ).

    NOW back to the book, i cant say i have had the pelasure reading large parts but tbh i normally end up reading the alternative write-ups on wowwiki and they normally help fill in huge blanks that sometimes get me with the lore. Hopefully the end of ICC will be as well designed to honor the lore behind Arthus as well as the new cataclysm expansion.

    Finnaly Deathwing is gonna be a bad ass, bet it will end up being multiple fights rather then one big one, and chances are we wont defeat him on our own in a raid we will have multiple NPC’s help( even on hard mode )and in fact we probably wont kill him but reseal him below azeroth( doubt he will be killable ).

  13. Mortiseraph
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    You pick up a lot of the lore via the warcraft games particularly WC3 and its expansion. You find out all about kael’thas and sylvannas as well. Its wonderful. Its worth playing through just to see the story that leads up to this expansion. Wrath is pretty much a direct continuation of WC3. Hell, if anything “procure” the game and use the cheat codes to make you unkillable and just play it for the lore.

    I thought about checking these books out but it sounds like I pretty much got what I need from the WC games. I do however need to read the Arthas book. I’ve been lazy.

  14. Azygos
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I read a few of the Warcraft books myself, being a huge fan of the lore. In fact, it’s safe to say that it’s the lore that brought me to WoW in the first place. Having played all the games of the RTS series, the prospect of getting to explore first-hand the locations I’ve grown to love was definitely the main incentive I had to pick up WoW. For this very reason, it took me a obscene amount of time to level my first character to 60 since I was constantly exploring everything (including the plaguelands as a level 30 ghost, because I couldn’t wait to see it!).

    In any event, I read a few Warcraft novels too. Lord of the Clans and Last Guardian first, as I got them from preordering Warcraft 3 and its expansion respectively. I then bought Knack’s 4 books. I have to say that between all 3 writers I’ve sampled, Knack is definitely my least favourite. I enjoyed Day of the Dragon, but the War of the Ancients trilogy? Got halfway through the second one and I couldn’t stand it anymore.

    There are lot of things that can be said about Knack’s novels. Cheesy writing, mary sue characters, etc. But you know what? I can normally cope with that. I’ve read some “cheap” fantasy books before (Forgotten Realms, etc) and enjoyed them. When I pick up such a book, I don’t expect Tolkien or Hemingway. I just want some light reading about a setting I enjoy and have fun with it. What killed the War of the Ancients trilogy for me is that Knack simply went too far. Rhonin and Krasus are ridiculous characters and using the whole time-travel plotline to include them in the War to satisfy the author’s ego trip is revolting. It’s not like the story wasn’t interesting in its own right! As if that weren’t enough, the main characters (Knack’s self-inserts, Illidan and yes even Malfurion) are, to use a gaming term, grossly overpowered and turn the supposedly epic conflict in a chest-thumping contest to determine who can slaughter the most demons with his uber epic spell of doom. And I won’t even talk about how the women, notably Azshara, were turned into wimps to make room for Knack’s epic mages, or how insulting the notion of Rhonin teaching Illidan the ropes of magic is.

    I won’t deny that the chap has done some significant work with the setting. Dragons come to mind. And yes, all of Deathwing’s characterisation comes from him. After all, he was barely present at all in Warcraft 2. If it weren’t for Knack, having Deathwing as the new villain would be about as exciting as having a boss called “Grand Poobah Villain”. But was he the best person for the job? That’s highly debatable. I’m personally really disappointed about how much Blizzard has been relying on him lately.

    I think I got carried away a bit =P Anyway, yes I’m a lore nerd. And yes, I think Knack’s “version” of the War is a slap in the face of long-time lore-lovers, as it really doesn’t represent Warcraft well in my opinion.

    All right I’ll stop now!