Tour #9: Vol’jin: The Judgment

We’ve taken all of the printed and in-game material and arranged it into a roughly thematic order within each expansion and we plan to go through the story using a number of thematically appropriate toons. We’ll be discussion our impressions here. Be warned: our discussions will contain spoilers for all currently published Warcraft material. This isn’t meant for first timers, but for old timers like us to experience it in a new way.You can find our tentative list here.

Sonaira says:

I actually remember reading this now. It’s not a bad story. Trolls get very little development until Cataclysm at the earliest, so it was nice to see. As I recall, the retaking of the Echo Isles was a pre-Cata event similar to the retaking of Gnomeregan.

Random Thoughts:

  • I had forgotten who Zalazane was, remembering only that he was…maybe a bad guy? When I went on Wowhead to refresh my memory, it appears that he’s another bad guy that just Won’t. Stay. Dead. And that he’s back in BofA. Interesting timing to read this.
  • The description of the loa in this is odd, based on what we’ve seen before, where loa are described (or shown) as taking the form of things or creatures in the natural world. Here, we have abstract or geometric loa. (Note that I have not played BofA, and those loa may fit more into this pattern)
  • In my head, there’s this world of “might have been.” In this story, Vol’jin sees the mak’gora between Garrosh and Cairne, where Cairne dies. I want that to matter! It can’t, of course, because this wasn’t written until /well/ after Vol’jin joined Thrall’s Horde. Nonetheless, my headcanon is now that Vol’jin disliked Garrosh on sight, and couldn’t figure out why.

Shoryl says:

Of the Horde leaders, Vol’jin is my favorite. This story is part of why. He doesn’t do things the easy way. He’s not always honorable, but he will bide his time and do what’s right for his people, even if it’s wrong for him.

That said, my second least favorite troll is Zalazane. (First would be Zul. If you’re playing Battle for Azeroth, you probably know why.) Reading a story in which Zalazane sees his future bad-guy self is a little unsettling. Moreover, Vol’jin never being shown Zalazane as a bad guy is really heart wrenching.

This story does tie a neat little bow on a lot of the early vanilla questing, as I remember it (which is a foggy memory). And it has the advantage of being backstory to two well established characters by the time it was written, so there’s no inconsistencies.

I like the images of First Home. The idea of the mysticism that the loa reside deep in the jungle, and the idea of Shadow Hunters and Witch Doctors both having special relationships with the loa.

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Tour #8: Old Hillsbrad Foothills

We’ve taken all of the printed and in-game material and arranged it into a roughly thematic order within each expansion and we plan to go through the story using a number of thematically appropriate toons. We’ll be discussion our impressions here. Be warned: our discussions will contain spoilers for all currently published Warcraft material. This isn’t meant for first timers, but for old timers like us to experience it in a new way.You can find our tentative list here.

cropped from a screenshot provided to wowhead.com by user zenvirus

Sonaira says:

Wow, this was underwhelming. I liked the conceit that Taretha had been kidnapped so you had to help Thrall escape, but this couldn’t have been more divorced from the book. Where were those characters? Why create new ones when the book characters would have had more emotional resonance? (And If your argument is that everyone can’t be expected to have read the book, then I’ll point out that the Bronze dragon merely says that “Taretha’s fate remains the same.” This significantly confused me at the time, because I had no knowledge of what her fate was or why.

Shoryl says:

Could a dungeon be any further from the book from which it was envisioned? Where are Blackmoore, Sergeant and Langston? At least Taretha and Thrall are actually there! And why on Azeroth is a Paladin ostensibly working for Blackmoore? No paladin worth their salt would be working on his orders if they’d ever met!

I was a little sad that I recall once upon a time you could ride all the way to Southshore. Now the world just disappears if you go too far that way. (Having gone digging in the Wowhead images for a header for this one, I discovered that yes, in fact, there are screenshots from places like the inn in Southshore)

Tour #7: Lord of the Clans

We’ve taken all of the printed and in-game material and arranged it into a roughly thematic order within each expansion and we plan to go through the story using a number of thematically appropriate toons. We’ll be discussion our impressions here. Be warned: our discussions will contain spoilers for all currently published Warcraft material. This isn’t meant for first timers, but for old timers like us to experience it in a new way.You can find our tentative list here.

Sonaira says:

I’ve heard amazing things about Lord of the Clans, and Golden is far and away my favorite Warcraft writer, so I was excited to read this one. I admit I was partially excited because I wanted too see how it changes my view of the orcs from the First and Second Wars.

So. Does it?

Yes, of course it does. Well, after the little bit in the prologue where Durotan reminisces about talking around the fire while children dream of slaughter. I mean, this is not good social behavior?

But my problem with orcs was that they were genocidal invaders. That is what I reacted to in the previous books. My morality isn’t that ambiguous: genocide is always wrong, and should always be resisted. Durotan could never actually get that far, and I still judge him harshly for it. But equally, slavery is always wrong, and should always be resisted. So can I support the humans fighting against the orcs in one scenario, and the orcs fighting against the humans in another? Yes, without reserve. Because genocide and slavery are always wrong.

Thrall deliberately and repeatedly refuses to kill, or allow to be killed, humans who are innocent of enslaving him or the orcs. The orcs who did their best to eradicate the draenei and then moved on to the humans simply because humans had something they wanted are literally no more or less evil than the cartoonish Blackmoore. Thrall is a hero in the same vein as Tirion, who refused to kill an orc just because he was an orc.

Random Thoughts:

  • The only point of note in the introduction is that Metzen wrote it before Golden has turned in her draft of Rise of the Horde, which is interesting. I like that both were written by the same person, and Golden certainly gave orc individuals a great thematic arc in Rise of the Horde.
  • We open with fucking Gul’dan. The fact that we will not be rid of him until Legion is just depressing. Two deaths was not enough. (And even dead his Skull still causes trouble!)
  • Golden does a great job of picking this one up where Rise of the Horde ends (will end) – with the Frostwolf clan in exile in Alterac.
  • In Chapter One, we have already learned that Blackmoore is a drunkard and an abuser of both women and horses. I’m pretty okay with not valorizing a slaver (which is absolutely what he is), so it’s fine; it’s just kind of cartoonishly evil. I think WoW has advanced incredibly in terms of subtlety from this point.
  • Help! Who was Blackmoore’s father who was a traitor? Why am I expected to know this?
  • I got really, really confused by Doomhammer being alive because I had already forgotten that he and Lothar didn’t actually kill one another. And I’m really glad he was, because across all the books, Doomhammer has been a great character. I’m still trying to figure out why I like Doomhammer’s character and not Durotan’s.
  • I got misty-eyed twice: once when Snowsong Chooses Thrall, and once when he asks the spirits for the stag. (Incidentally, now I wonder if Christie Golden likes Lackey, because wow, did that strongly remind me of Companions Choosing their Herald.)
  • I think “green Moses” fits Thrall better than “green Jesus,” actually. We get the whole basket in the rushes analogue, the destruction of the empire that he served as a slave, and later a terrible mistake that he has to atone for (lookin at you, Garrosh)

Actually, let’s talk about that. Back in the day, you just could not get rid of Thrall. He was everywhere, and everything was about how awesome he was. It felt like he was as omnipresent and annoying as people say Arthas was in the Lich King. And dear gods, Cataclysm. I’m convinced that’s part of why I dislike that expansion so much.

But this book did so much to rehabilitate him for me. He makes poor choices because he wants so desperately to belong. The first non-comatose orc he meets is Grom Hellscream, and Thrall latches on instantly. It’s why he trusts Grom (wrongly) during Warcraft III. He creates the Horde for the castoff, the adrift, the ones who don’t belong. The Horde contains the Forsaken, the blood elves, the trolls, even the goblins, because they had no home. It’s not in him to not want to provide what he had to fight so hard for.

And Grom’s eventual redemption is why he trusts Grom’s shit of a son later. It’s only after he leaves the Horde – this thing he created to give himself a place to belong, filled with other races that needed their own sense of belonging – and finds worth on his own that he can come back and correct his grievous, terrible error. It’s him who mirrors Grom’s redemption, not Garrosh.

Shoryl says:

My biggest problem with these earliest books is that every human is so one dimensional. Blackmoore is evil. Taretha is innocent. Sergeant is honorable. Langston is a coward.

Most of the orcs aren’t treated much better, but Hellscream, Doomhammer, Drek’thar and Thrall all have emotions that at least come from different pieces of the metaphorical pie.

Also, I wholeheartedly agree with Sonaira about genocide, slavery, and abusive asshats. Just so we’re all clear.

  • In an earlier section, we talked about how the orcs were being propped up as noble, and the heavy hand is still quite present, though softened with Golden’s writing.
  • I’ll admit to a certain amount of cringing every time Blackmoore appeared on the scene. He was so easy to hate. Honestly, almost too easy.
  • Drek’thar’s words at the end ring so beautifully. “Of course you are what Blackmoore made you… And you are what Taretha made you. And Sergeant, and Hellscream…”
  • For those wondering, Aedelyn Blackmoore (Aedelus’ Father) was accused of selling state secrets prior to the formation of the Alliance.
  • Also, naming is getting confusing in some cases, with Blackhand, Blackmoore, and Doomhammer (then Thrall) wearing black armor.

Tour #6: Of Blood and Honor

We’ve taken all of the printed and in-game material and arranged it into a roughly thematic order within each expansion and we plan to go through the story using a number of thematically appropriate toons. We’ll be discussion our impressions here. Be warned: our discussions will contain spoilers for all currently published Warcraft material. This isn’t meant for first timers, but for old timers like us to experience it in a new way.You can find our tentative list here.

6-Of-Blood-and-Honor

Sonaira says:

I am having to overcome my innate bias against anything Metzen says about orcs, and it is really, REALLY hard. Don’t get me wrong, I think Metzen was frankly a creative genius, but we all have our loves – and Metzen loves the orcs.  I think he wants everyone to see and appreciate the noble, tragic story of their race. And…I just don’t. I see an invading, conquering army. I see a force that even at their most sympathetic are portrayed as wanting to wipe humans from the face of Azeroth. I see a race that may be refugees, but they’re fleeing from a catastrophe of their own making. (This is not to discount heroic individuals. Draka was a amazing in Rise of the Horde; Doomhammer was a magnificent leader in Tides of Darkness; hell, Saurfang’s pre-BFA short had me choked up.)

So when Metzen says in the introduction that “each race has equal capacity to behave like monsters,” I roll my eyes. Because yes, while each race has individuals that can behave like monsters (lookin at you, Garithos), as a race, only one of them invaded a foreign planet with the express intent of genocide.

In the game, of course, this is (largely) behind them. I don’t hold this mythology against the orcish race circa WoW, nor any orcish players. Orcs are here, it’s part of the fabric of Azeroth, and frankly, a hell of a lot was atoned for in the battle for Mount Hyjal. (Now, anyone who follows Sylvanas after Teldrassil and Lordaeron, we might have a problem.)

But the thing is, I’ve been so evangelized to by Metzen, et al that I instinctively push back against it. So I’m trying to read with an open mind, Hordies; bear with me.

Anyway, that was a very long intro to a very short book.

  • This is certainly not the first time it’s come up, but it’s still very odd to be reading the story of a character when you know how they die. Maybe it’s because Tirion’s death is relatively recent, but I’m interested to see what perspective this gives me when retrieving Ashbringer in Legion.
  • um. Why is Tirion 50, while Karandra is described as his “young wife?” Later: “‘I’ve been soldiering for longer than you’ve been alive, girl!’” … Yeaaah, I’m going to just leave that there.
  • Oh, it’s Eitrigg! I had a feeling it was an orc we already knew.
  • Okay, Metzen is clearly making a straw man argument out of Tirion here, and it’s a little annoying. I do not buy that Tirion didn’t believe the orcs had compassion for their own young, and the “but you speak my language” is kind of distractingly racist. I’m clearly no fans of the orcs as a race, but oh come on, laying it on a bit thick aren’t you?
  • Okay, I vaguely remember something about Tirion as an exile, and maybe…there was a questline? And Shoryl ran me through it and it was supposed to be very cool but like Turalyon it had very little meaning because I had no idea who he was. Damn it, everything about Tirion before Wrath is a blur. (Oh thank goodness,  the Internet has my back. After reading through it, it is a damn depressing coda to this book, but I’m comforted that Tirion never lost his faith again.
Shoryl says:

First, I’d like to say that while Metzen might be a narrative genius in the genre of video games, his characters are quite a bit less compelling in novel form.  If I didn’t already know who Tirion was, I’d hate his character.

  • This was a bit of a hard read so soon after Legion; after watching Tirion die protecting the Ashbringer, it was really hard to watch him swear an oath he had no way to keep up.
  • This book really doesn’t hold up to today’s sensibilities, much like the previous versions of Warcraft really didn’t hold up to the standards of an early 2000s MMO release.

I feel a bit like I’m still in burnout from all the orcs, even though it’s been over two years since Warlords of Draenor.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour #5: Tides of Darkness

We’ve taken all of the printed and in-game material and arranged it into a roughly thematic order within each expansion and we plan to go through the story using a number of thematically appropriate toons. We’ll be discussion our impressions here. Be warned: our discussions will contain spoilers for all currently published Warcraft material. This isn’t meant for first timers, but for old timers like us to experience it in a new way.You can find our tentative list here.

5.tides-of-darkness

Sonaira says:

This book has been a great example of why I suggested this mammoth project. When people were asking where Turalyon was in BC, I just knew him as one of the statues in front of Stormwind. And when he did show up in Legion, it was a minor curiosity that didn’t even make me want to resub to find out what all the fuss was about. But after reading Tides of Darkness, I’m now really interested in seeing that when we get to Legion.

  • The Introduction for this one is really where Metzen starts to defend “retconning” the RTS games into the lore of what had become WoW. Honestly, I don’t mind that a bit, because the plotting and characterizations in Warcraft II we’re sufficient for a mid-90s RTS game, but would have lacked depth for the massive behemoth WoW became.
  • Aw, hi old!Khadgar. Seriously, I’m developing a fondness for the young/old man. (Unlike Shoryl, I actually liked him in Warlords, so this wasn’t unexpected.)
  • It’s particularly interesting to read now of Lordaeron in its prime. Not only will we revisit it in a darker state before Wrath, I keep seeing Anduin confronting Sylvanas in the throne room after the Battle for Lodaeron.
  • The first battle with the orcs was worth it alone for the sheer enjoyment of the first paladins using the Light. Rosenberg did a fantastic job with Uther and Gavinrad fighting Gorefiend and the other version 1 death knights.
  • I like Ogrim Doomhammer in this. A lot. He showed promise in Rise of the Horde, but really shines here. You get the feeling that his goal is safety and security for the clans, not just slaughtering humans, dwarves, and elves. I think Rosenberg wrote him really well.
  • The alliance wins, Gul’dan dies horribly by his own actions, and Turalyon finds his faith. This may be the last unequivocal Alliance victory we’ll ever see, but it was a nice one.
Shoryl says:
  • People wonder why I think orcs are evil?  I’d like to point you to Turalyon’s grasp of the Light, and how his realization that the orcs never thought of Azeroth as their world solidified his faith.  As we’ve said before, there are upstanding orcs, like Orgrim, who was trying to make the best of a bad situation.
  • I’m quite glad that Orgrim chose honor over winning, as I feel like that was not only really good characterization, but also puts some perspective on the orcs, but I still feel like maybe talking to the humans at some point might have been useful?
  • I like Brann a lot better in the books than as the fumbling scholar trying to figure out Titan artifacts in game.
  • The portrayal of the budding love story between Alleria and Turalyon is just adorable.
  • And, of course, yay Alliance victory

 

 

 

 

 

Tour #4: Karazhan

We’ve taken all of the printed and in-game material and arranged it into a roughly thematic order within each expansion and we plan to go through the story using a number of thematically appropriate toons. We’ll be discussion our impressions here. Be warned: our discussions will contain spoilers for all currently published Warcraft material. This isn’t meant for first timers, but for old timers like us to experience it in a new way.You can find our tentative list here.

Observatory

Sonaira says:

  • I actually remembered it as huge, but even my memory had sold it short. It’s even longer if you stop to take a bunch of screenshots, of course.
  • A lot of the areas were more affecting having just read The Last Guardian. I could easily envision baby!Khadgar hard at work in the giant library, for example. And poor Moroes in the banquet hall. (Though I agree with Shoryl that there really should have been a mob in the kitchens wearing glasses.)
  • There are so many little details I never noticed: the horse and dragon carved buttresses, the goblin cherubs on the ceiling of the opera; the fires in the library that are actually PILES OF BURNING BOOKS.
  • Sadly, there are still so many bosses that just don’t make sense, and it’s even more clear from this remove that they were designed to specifically fit in with TBC’s aesthetic. I can kind of headcanon the Ethereal looters. But what’s up with the dragons? How did Medivh end up with the titan-constructed Maiden of Virtue? Why would the Curator of the Menagerie be a blood elf construct?
  • …and why does Medivh have an entire wing of sex workers? (I know some of them are demons, but it’s still an odd choice.)
  • If you are playing as, say, a Tauren, trying to control King Llane while playing Chess is not going to work out for you. (Don’t ask how long it took us to figure out why we couldn’t start the event.)
  • The best part was the long discussion we had about how much of the tower was actually IN the Twisting Nether, which I had never realized in all the runs we’ve done. It really adds to both the mystique of the tower, and why bits of the top seem to be free floating.
Shoryl says:
  • Delving into Karazhan right after reading The Last Guardian was interesting. Comparing this building to the way the tower was described was entertaining, and we were able to identify most of the rooms that were heavily discussed in the book.
  • I still don’t have Midnight’s Reins (I don’t need you to tell me you got them on your first try in the comments, either)
  • Why had all the ghosts in the library forgotten why they were there?
  • Despite what people might think, I’m actually pretty bad at explaining how raid mechanics I know well work. Especially if you can’t actually see what’s going to happen because it’s a vehicle encounter.
  • I can’t decide if the servant’s quarters or the bit at the top of the tower was supposed to replicate the mirror tower from the book.
  • Let’s discuss the top of the tower for a moment. At first blush, it seems you’re on a large upper balcony that has been destroyed. But then you look around, and all the bits are floating in the air. Well, when you fly to Karazhan, that’s not there, so… where are the mountains, exactly? Then it dawned on us. Somewhere between climbing out of the master’s stair and getting to Prince Malchezaar, you enter the Twisting Nether. But where, exactly? We decided that it’s the archway from the dome into the crude hall.

More screenshots we took:

 

 

 

Tour #3: Black Morass

We’ve taken all of the printed and in-game material and arranged it into a roughly thematic order within each expansion and we plan to go through the story using a number of thematically appropriate toons. We’ll be discussion our impressions here. Be warned: our discussions will contain spoilers for all currently published Warcraft material. This isn’t meant for first timers, but for old timers like us to experience it in a new way.You can find our tentative list here.

Portal

Sonaira says:

  • I had honestly forgotten how bare bones this one was.
  • I had also forgotten that the reason you are given to save this moment in time is because otherwise the races of Azeroth would never have overcome their squabbles to come together and defeat the Legion (presumably referencing Mount Hyjal).
  • The best moment was when the advance detachment of orcs actually came out of the portal. It was really fun to see the orc silhouettes start to form in the portal and realize you had just doomed your world to decades of destructive warfare just so it could survive the Legion invasion in the Third War
Shoryl says:

Bringing in Warcraft II lore via the bronze dragon flight is an interesting conceit. Since it’s important to know about Medivh (why the heck would we have Karazahn without him being around?), this is a reasonably clever methodology.  The dungeon itself isn’t exceptionally interesting, and doesn’t bring in much lore, but seeing Medivh in pixel format is pretty cool.

Also, considering this was brought in during Burning Crusade, some of the graphics still hold up.

Random Thoughts:

  • Wait…. we both started as Tauren, why is Sonaira a dwarf and I’m a gnome? That’s backwards…
  • I want an infinite dragon mount.
  • Why aren’t minimalist effects with high contrast (like the portals) used more often in WoW? Also, I think the golden portals were a hint to the true nature of the infinite flight.
  • I had forgotten that the orcs came through the portal, then went back through to let Gul’dan know it was safe. Leave it to him to not be willing to try it himself.

More screenshots we took:

Tour #2: The Last Guardian

We’ve taken all of the printed and in-game material and arranged it into a roughly thematic order within each expansion and we plan to go through the story using a number of thematically appropriate toons. We’ll be discussion our impressions here. Be warned: our discussions will contain spoilers for all currently published Warcraft material. This isn’t meant for first timers, but for old timers like us to experience it in a new way.You can find our tentative list here.

TheLastGuardian

Sonaira says:

So the question I had to ask myself here is “why was I so disgusted by Ner’zhul, but not Medivh?” I think my answer here is agency. Medivh took what little agency he had – and the book makes clear that he was never not also Sargeras – and fights. Ner’zhul takes on his villainy voluntarily. And when he discovers he’s been manipulated into evil, he just sort of curls up into a ball and stops trying. This isn’t an Alliance/Horde thing or a human/orc thing either, because I feel exactly the same about Arthas as I do the orcs who willingly followed Ner’zhul into war. (We’ll talk more about that when we get to Wrath.)

I quite liked this one. Jeff Grubbs is a lot more florid in his writing than Golden, but not as repetitious and wearying as Knaak will be. He clearly had some precious sentences he should have had a copyeditor cut, but his prose is overall serviceable.

Random thoughts:

  • We spend a whole lot of time in Karazhan, of course, which makes me really want to revisit it in game. It’s probably one of my favorite locations. This was published in 2002, well before we would see it in game, but the description of Khadgar approaching it really rang true.
  • I’ve read that this is a love it or hate it book because it extensively retcons the history (or rather, later history retcons it), but I’m honestly far enough from the games and lore that there was nothing in particular that stood out to me as feeling wrong.
  • There’s not much from the Warcraft movie that I found particularly memorable, but baby movie!Khadar is absolutely my headcanon. The book fits in with this nearly seamlessly.
The youth realized he was staring at [Moroes]. “Khadgar,” he said, then after a moment presented the tightly held letter of introduction. “Of Dalaran. Khadgar of Dalaran, in the kingdom of Lordaeron. I was sent by the Kirin Tor. From the Violet Citadel. I am Khadgar of the Kirin Tor. From the Violet Citadel. Of Dalaran. In Lordaeron.” He felt like he was casting conversational stones into a great, empty well, hoping hoping that the old man would respond to any of them.
  • In fact, the movie probably should have tried to adapt either this or Rise of the Horde, not both. The muddled mess we got seems largely due to not having enough space to breathe. (And the really terrible portrayal of Medivh in the movie, ugh.)
  • Every time Grubb refers to Medivh (in his 40s!) as an “older man,” or any permutation of it, I shudder.
  •  Every time Lothar calls Medivh “Med,” I shudder.

 

We placed this well in our tour order, because I’m now really looking forward to seeing Black Morass and Kara again. (And Khadgar in Outland, as I had no idea who he was as I confusedly followed Khadgar’s Minion around Shattrath.)

Shoryl says:

I had little interest in Khadgar or Medivh until Legion released. Even in Warlords, I found Khadgar to be kind of pompous and full of himself. And because of this, I never previously read The Last Guardian.

I don’t usually notice word choice and sentence structure as much as Sonaira does, so I found Jeff’s use of language perfectly serviceable, and didn’t feel anything was drawn out overly much.

It’s not particularly obvious until shortly before the reveal that Medivh is hosting Sargeras that anything is amiss with the Guardian; and I enjoyed watching the issues dawning on Garona and Khadgar.

Random Thoughts:

  • Warcraft has always been built with so very many parallels. Medivh sleeps away his youth, thanks to Sargeras. Khadgar’s youth is stolen from him, thanks to Sargeras.
  • I recently heard an interview with a level designer involved in creating Karazahn (not long after this book was published… hmmm), and now I understand why we never got to go into the lower parts. That would have been a nightmare to create at the time.
  • Khadgar was so much more interesting in the book than he was in game in the early years, I actually sympathize with the character a lot more than I expected; especially since it started out feeling like the mage equivalent of the Hero’s Journey, which has been a generally boring trope.
  • Garona being treated as she is still drives me to distraction. That particular part doesn’t hold up  well in today’s sensibilities.

Tour#1.5: Harbinger: Gul’dan

We’ve taken all of the printed and in-game material and arranged it into a roughly thematic order within each expansion and we plan to go through the story using a number of thematically appropriate toons. We’ll be discussion our impressions here. Be warned: our discussions will contain spoilers for all currently published Warcraft material. This isn’t meant for first timers, but for old timers like us to experience it in a new way.

You can find our tentative list here.

1.5.Harbingers Guldan

Oops! When we were making the original list, Sonaira didn’t remember the animations, so we’re adding this one in here, and have adjusted the rest of the list to account for the others (luckily enough, it actually goes here).

Shoryl says:

For a character I already despised from previous dealings, this Harbinger short that expands (retcon?) how Gul’dan ended up in the Shadowmoon clan makes him even less sympathetic.

Opening with the line “No one living has heard of the village of my past” sets the tone. This is a story of how cruelty begets evil.  The only emotion I can muster is disgust for a character who never felt any empathy for anyone, and was certainly never humble.

For a people who rely so heavily on their shamanistic roots, to see the elements balk and turn from Gul’dan shows how undeserving he truly is.   When the fel energies bring Kil’jaeden’s bargain to him, there is no doubt why he took the deal; but this feels like hollow power for a hollow orc.

Sonaira says:

I think I’m supposed to have sympathy for Gul’dan here. Certainly, his treatment by his nameless clan was horrific; but again, this is before the demon blood and/or fel comes into it, as I mentioned in Rise of the Horde, which reinforces the idea that the curse is not the cause for the orcs’ subsequent blood lust. But I digress.

The behavior of the other orcs can be abhorrent, but again the theme of extremely disproportionate retribution comes to play, which we’ll continue to see as we go along. And too, the elements reject him for a reason. As Shoryl said when we watched this, “Gul’dan was never humble.”

This sort of retcons Rise of the Horde, but can be nearly headcanoned in: Gul’dan slaughters his own clan with fel magic, but is taken in by Ner’zhul because of his great promise as a shaman warlock. The particulars change, but the arc doesn’t.

There is still absolutely nothing redeemable about Gul’dan. I’ve known many people who have endured hardship without resorting to extermination, genocide, and demon worship.

Tour #1: Rise of the Horde

We’ve taken all of the printed and in-game material and arranged it into a roughly thematic order within each expansion and we plan to go through the story using a number of thematically appropriate toons. We’ll be discussion our impressions here. Be warned: our discussions will contain spoilers for all currently published Warcraft material. This isn’t meant for first timers, but for old timers like us to experience it in a new way.

You can find our tentative list here.

RiseOfTheHorde

This book provides a really great example of how difficult it was to place the written works within the timeline of the games.  Rise of the Horde has a prologue of Velen, Kil’jaeden and Archimonde that would be better suited to reading right before Argus. The framing story takes place immediately prior to The Burning Crusade. The main story is the creation of the Old Horde prior to the events of Warcraft I. Since neither of us is going to have to worry about spoilers, we generally chose to place the out-of-game materials in the time period where most of the action takes place.

So here we are, before the opening of the Dark Portal, before the First War, before the excuse plot of Warcraft I. Let’s talk.

Sonaira says:

Golden does a great job as usual here with drawing out empathy for her main characters. The problem is, I’m pretty sure the book wants me to feel empathy for the orcs as a whole. And I really, really don’t.

Look, I get it. Chris Metzen has been …enthralled … with orcs ever since he had a hand in creating them. A noble race, brought down by manipulation, only to find their freedom and rise again! But I don’t buy the “but we too have suffered and been victims!” Ninety percentage  of this book happens before Mannoroth even shows up. The orcs went to war, utterly and completely, with a race that had never so much as skirmished with them without double checking their ghost sources! No recon, no maybe we should go to the sacred mountain where we get our information, nothing.

 This is not the story of a noble race betrayed, this is the story of a race that went with open eyes every step of the way, with the exception of less than a handful of exceptional individuals*.

I really enjoyed reading this one. Any book that evokes emotions about the characters is a good one, and I genuinely “wanted to know what happened next”**. Even if what I wanted next was for most of the characters to suffer karmically appropriate deaths.

Assorted other thoughts:

  • Oh thank gods, it’s by Christie Golden
  • Wow, that’s a terrifying Grom on the cover
  • Surprise Velen prologue! This version (contained in Chronicles of War) was published sometime before Cata, which means it’s post-Draenei retcon, but well before Legion. It will be interesting to revisit before Argus.
  • Chris Metzen very briefly rails against the term “retcon” in the Introduction, saying that he used the opportunity of doing these stories to make the world more fully fleshed out and integrated. Well, sure. Just because it’s a retcon doesn’t mean it’s bad, just changed.
  • Speaking of retcons: okay, hang on. The orcs are turning green before drinking Mannoroth’s blood. Which retcon did I miss?
  • THEY GATHERED MANNOROTH’S BLOOD IN KARABOR
  • It devolves into grumbling and angrily yelling at characters at this point. I should maybe mention that my first main was a draenei.
  • There is no game in which I get to kill Gul’dan enough times. I hate farming raids, but I might make an exception.
  • This is why our main Horde toons are Tauren.

* Yes, many Horde players are equally exceptional characters. But it stands that the orcs are presented here as extremely susceptible to manipulation…and I expect I’ll have more to say about that when we get to War Crimes.

 ** I know what happens to them next, of course. And I shall take great pleasure in meting out those deaths in some cases.

Shoryl says:

I’ll admit to a serious Alliance bias here. My love for all things WoW dwarves is apparent in the name and header image of this blog.  That said, the heroes of this book are characters worthy of the title. When it comes to orcs, Durotan and Draka are above and beyond my favorites.

This book made me angry in so many ways. Mostly, Gul’dan being so hungry for power that he was willing to destroy his entire world. While I’m not as grumpy about the treatment of Ner’zhul here, I really just don’t like the character. If his spirit had ever made it to his wife, I’m sure she would have had words for him.

The thing that always bothers me about the creation of the Horde and the invasion is the way Mok’gora is only used as a plot mechanic.   I still don’t understand how Gul’dan was so able to sway the orcish clans, or why Durotan stayed his hand until it was too late.  One warlock, no matter how powerful, shouldn’t be able to stop an entire clan of warriors if they wanted to stop him. Maybe not fair or honorable, but Gul’dan certainly wasn’t doing either of those things.  When the balance of your world is unhinged, the high road is not always the best way.

I also enjoyed learning of the secrets the Draenei technology, and would have been as mystified as they were if I didn’t know why Kil’jaeden wanted them all dead.

Most of my random additional thoughts are summed up by Sonaira.