I feel like recent Warcraft novels have been somewhat of a missed opportunity.
You see, when Blizzard first started putting out novels for its games, they generally didn’t have any direct connection to their current releases. They were just interesting stories from around the game universes that helped to flesh them out. Sometimes this extra development helped illuminate upcoming or recent releases, but their main purpose was just to tell good stories.
Lately, though, Blizzard novels — and Warcraft novels especially — seem to be strictly tie-ins to recent in-game events. This has its advantages, to be sure. It can help to flesh out recent events or drum up hype for a new release.
But Warcraft is such a vast universe that focusing purely on current events is kind of a waste. There are so many potentially fascinating periods in Warcraft lore that have yet to be fleshed out. Why focus on such a narrow band of history?
But I am glad to say that Richard A. Knaak’s Dawn of the Aspects bucks the trend. Here is a return to the roots of Warcraft novels, as it delves deep into the past of Warcraft history.
Dawn of the Aspects was initially released as a series of short ebooks, but they have now been collected into a single physical volume.
In some ways, it’s a bit of an epilogue to the events of Cataclysm. Told from the perspective of poor unfortunate Kalecgos — who was the Aspect of Magic for all of about two weeks — it shows Dragonkind waning as they realize their purpose has been fulfilled, and the world no longer has need of them.
In this melancholy state, Kalecgos stumbles upon a mysterious magical artifact within the skeleton of Galakrond, the vast proto-dragon known as the Father of Dragons. This artifact takes over Kalec’s mind, allowing him to vicariously experience the lives of the Dragon Aspects before they were the Aspects — a time when they were merely proto-dragons.
I don’t have a lot of complaints about this book, but I do question the decision to frame the story with Kalec. It adds this odd hurdle for the reader to clear — we’re living through Kalecgos living through Malygos. While the events of the past do have some relevance to the present, I think it would have been best to just ignore the present and focus only on the past.
And the past events are quite gripping once you get past the awkward framing mechanism. It hits the perfect balance for a prequel; the origins of the Dragons are not what we thought they were, but they’re also not so completely different from the story we’ve been told that it feels like a complete retcon or a betrayal of the lore.
Say what you will about Richard Knaak — I’m not entirely blind to his inadequacies as a writer — but there are two things he does very, very well.
One is action. His books are invariably page-turners of the highest order, and his frequent battle scenes are always well-written, inventive, and engaging.
The second is Dragons. Nobody else who has written in the Warcraft universe seems to get Dragons the way he does. He’s very good at making clear that they are not human and do not look at the world in the same ways that we would, but yet he keeps their emotional make-up familiar enough that they’re still sympathetic.
I love Christie Golden, but she basically wrote Kalec as a human who can turn into a Dragon when it’s convenient. Knaak acknowledges the fact that Kalec is a Dragon, and his humanoid form is merely a guise.
Something else that I really appreciated about this book is its sense of mystery. There are a lot of puzzles in this story, and even if the fast pace and nearly constant action weren’t enough, you would want to keep reading ahead to find out what’s really going on.
The ending was a tad abrupt, and it leaves a fair bit unanswered, but if you’re knowledgeable about Warcraft lore — And why would you read this book if you’re not? — you can fill in the blanks, and I rather like that a certain air of mystery is maintained.
There were a few little stumbles here and there. Knaak’s prose has always been a bit on the rough side, though it seemed to be less of a problem this time around, and Dawn of the Aspects did continue the story of Kalec and Jaina’s romance, which I still utterly loathe.
Thankfully, it’s a fairly small part of the book, and Knaak at least acknowledges some — though not all — of the difficulties inherent in a romance between a human woman and a giant, ancient Dragon.
Still wish I could purge the whole plot from Warcraft lore with holy fire, though. Seriously, I hate this like most people hate Med’an.
Still, despite these occasional stumbles, Dawn of the Aspects is a thoroughly enjoyable book, and one of my favourite Warcraft novels in quite a while.
Overall rating: 8.8/10
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