In 1994, gamers were first introduced to the Warcraft universe with Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, a real-time strategy (RTS) game; however, it was on the tenth anniversary that World of Warcraft (also known as WoW) was released as a massive, multiplayer, online role-playing game (MMORPG). In the intervening years, several expansion sets have been released, with a sixth expansion announced last August and anticipated to drop later this autumn. As of late last year, a Forbes article reported that World of Warcraft had 5.5 million subscribers, a Guinness World Record achievement that marked World of Warcraft as the most popular MMORPG among subscribers. Spawning books, board games, trading cards, and comics over the past twenty years, the mythos of the Warcraft world set in Azeroth was in need of a definitive tome. Filling that gap is Dark Horse Books’ World of Warcraft Chronicle Volume 1, which releases this week.
Epic is a word that could be used to described this first volume. Written by Chris Metzen, Matt Burns, and Robert Brooks, this book opens with a preface from Metzen, SVP, Story and Franchise Development for Blizzard Entertainment and brief introductions from Christie Golden, author of Lord of the Clans and seven other novels, and Richard Knaak, author of several novels including Warcraft: Day of the Dragon. All three voiced their long-time involvement, commitment, and passion for the Warcraft franchise. The introductions were followed by fascinating cosmology descriptions that laid the foundation of the essential gods, elements, and cosmic locations (Emerald Dream held particular interest.) in a straightforward manner.
One of the issues that could plague such an undertaking of this magnitude is what to include and how much. The writers divide the Warcraft universe into four chapters: Mythos, Primordial Azeroth, Ancient Kalimdor, and A New World. Metzen, Burns, and Brooks excel at balancing the material for newcomers to the franchise so they are not overburdened, but with enough detail that seasoned veterans will also enjoy and likely embellish with their own knowledge and playing experience as they read this volume. In addition, the trio has a bewitching, melodic tone and cadence that emerge from their shared voice; it felt as though a grandmaster storyteller had set quill to parchment and, with apparent ease, spun a rich tapestry from the Light and Void. It is an experience to relish.
If the text is engaging, the visuals are enchanting. Thanks to World of Warcraft artist Peter Lee and illustrator Joseph Lacroix, the text comes alive via Lees’ paintings and Lacroix’s illustrations. I was able to discern influences from early ancient civilizations of the Greek, Egyptians, and Incan for example, which brought a certain amount of familiarity and connection to the mythos. The two-page chapter spreads featured otherworldly cityscapes while the full, one-page paintings captured characters and events of the mythos – taken together, they provide a visual complement to the accompanying text. Lacroix’s illustrative work included all of the charts, maps documenting major empires and battles, and the number of drawings that spotlight his artistic range and knowledge of tribal art, scroll work, and mystical creatures. His “Comics Forces, Realms, and Denizens of the Universe” chart is captivating and impressive.
And, since I firmly believe that indexes should be compulsory for reference books, kudos to Blizzard Entertainment and Dark Horse Books for including a two-page (small font) index that appears to cover characters, events, and topics well, without falling into the trap of over categorizing.
I received a digital copy of the book for this review, and if ever I wished for a physical copy of a book to review (and keep!), then World of Warcraft Chronicle Volume 1 is it. Generously illustrated with paintings and maps, the mythos comes alive thanks to the creative team behind this first volume. As a person not familiar with the Warcraft universe, I was utterly beguiled. Hence, I can imagine that a reader with gaming experience would be completely captivated by this book. Without a doubt, this is a must-have for any Warcraft fan as well as fans of science fiction/fantasy who want to get lost in a well-developed and intriguing universe.