June 9, 2009 – 2:24 pm
So I’ve kinda been putting off this book review for awhile.
I’ll admit, I had high expectations for Arthas: Rise of the Lich King going in – Christie Golden’s novels Rise of the Horde and Lord of the Clans are two of my favorite WoW books, and I’d really enjoyed them. They’re not great, classic literature, but that’s ok – they’re entertaining and enjoyable reads with characters I liked and stories that kept me interested.
Unfortunately I’m not quite so glowingly happy with Arthas.
The book suffered from a lot of things that I think really crippled what could’ve been a fantastic novel or novels.
My first issue with it is that there was too much that was utterly glossed over, too much that should’ve been either fleshed out or left out in order to make room for expanding other sections. Were this story fully written out, it would fill two books easily. Sure, Blizzard probably didn’t want to release two books, and I’m not sure if Golden asked for more space and was denied it, or was given a length limit or whatnot.
At just over 300 pages, it felt both too long and too short at the same time, because things were mentioned in passing, instead of explained or written out. So many scenes needed to be actually filled in, rather than glanced over, that it never felt like the book settled into any pace other than headlong, breakneck, and rushed.
For example – during the part where Arthas and the Scourge are marching on Quel’Danas, they mention that there is a traitor. And Sylvanas kinda figures out that there must’ve been one. And then she retains her brain (kinda) – and so does he (kinda) – and they are both part of the scourge… and that’s all that we ever hear about it.
Dar’khan Drathir is one of the biggest betrayers in the history of Warcraft – and he gets hardly a passing glance because the story has to move so fast. You get the same feeling from Arthas’ meetings with Uther Lightbringer – and his Paladin training happens entirely without being mentioned at all. Even two pages dedicated to these kinds of little interactions would’ve helped this feel like an independent story rather than a rote retelling of Warcraft III.
And that’s my second complaint. Warcraft III wouldn’t win any awards for dialogue writing, and that same dialogue is, if anything, less effective in novel form.
Seeing the scene outside Stratholme reenacted in full was nice… but having to rehash the entirety of the game (essentially) with little or no actualy expansion of the dialogue felt forced and was a serious letdown. Golden writes better dialogue than this, and the parts that are “campaign text” stick out. The only part of the book that feels in any way original is the section at the beginning, telling about Arthas’ childhood – and that is fast, furious, and glosses over a lot of things.
Another frustration, in the words of Falconesse? Just marry the fucking horse already! (pardon my language)
One thing that I’d like to have seen, particularly with the development of Arthas himself, is a more defined transition from “wants power to save his people/land/family” to “wants power”. Especially since you see the latter early on. Plus, you have so many clues that Arthas has been mentally unbalanced – if not outright mentally ill – since he was a child that some of it seems, in a way, disgenuous.
Arthas Menethil is supposed to be self-centered, impulsive, and rash (which he is… and I’m not sure how that managed to get him accepted into the Silver Hand – something that seemed to be everyone else’s choice FOR him?) – but he’s also supposed to be good at the beginning, and there are aspects of his character that don’t come across that way even from when he is just a child. Whether this lends credence to it being “his destiny”, weakens the power of the Lich King as a temptation force, or just shows that he was one serious basket case of a man is kinda up to your own reading.
What does the book do well?
It gives us a lot more insight about some lore characters that we didn’t have before – Jaina, Kael’thas, Uther, Muradin, Terenas Menethil. Those sections of the book were my favorites – not the sections dealing with Arthas. The vast majority of the story that deals with Arthas isn’t new. In fact, it reads like a transcription of Warcraft III/Frozen Throne. If you’ve not played those games, and are unfamiliar with Arthas lore (90% of which you can get on WoWWiki), then this will be new stuff for you. Otherwise, it’s mostly old hat.
In fact, I’d say that the only really “new” idea in the entire novel comes in the last 5 pages. And I’m not sure the book supported those last 5 pages particularly well, but I can’t really talk about that without giving it away.
I’m also not sure if part of Blizzard’s request for Golden required that she use the WCIII/FT script and the lore that already existed or not. If it was, I’m more sympathetic towards the novel itself, since that is an incredibly stifling set of guidelines.
Golden’s two previous WoW books basically “set up” the lore for those characters – where with this one she was working from a very well established story, and that definitely may have affected the effectiveness of the novel. I kind of suspect that this is what happened, since the other characters in the book are more interesting than Arthas was. Arthas comes across as a one-trick pony (*mutter mutter horse mutter*), where the other characters – even Uther, who had maybe 4 cameos – had at least the impression of depth.
Should you go out and buy it?
Well, that depends.
Obviously it has some shortcomings, and largely frustrated instead of interested me as I was reading. But, if you are unfamiliar with the Arthas lore, this is a good way to get it – particularly if you’ve not played through Warcraft III. There isn’t anything groundbreaking in the book though, and the writing isn’t good enough to make me want to read it again (unlike both of Golden’s previous books, which I have read twice each). Regardless of the title, it’s a brief overview and not an in-depth character study of Arthas. It’s fast paced, glosses over really excellent opportunities for story/character advancement, and suffers from that awful horse – but as an afternoon’s worth of reading to get you the cliffnotes on Arthas, it’s quite successful.
And I really rather like Jaina. And Muradin and Uther. Would like to see more of them plz!
June 8, 2009 – 9:50 am
This is Part of Angrethar, the story of The Battle for the Wrathgate from Aelflaed’s point of view. You can see all of the posts in this story on the Story Archives page, by searching for the Wrathgate category, or through this link.
It felt like the first time in months that Tarquin ap Danwyrith had stopped to breathe. Two days up here at Angrathar, he knew, but he felt like he had been born in that icy gulch, beneath that broken hill. Maybe this was hell. He rubbed his knuckles into the corners of his eyesockets, as if to scour away what he’d seen, aware all the while of the absurdity of it. Just more petty defiance, more useless-
He put a collar on his thoughts and dragged them back from the abyss. Going to be doing that a lot, murmured the part of his mind that had regained its balance. First things first, the living. He had a responsibility. Ceil was with Sonya, of course; she wouldn’t say two words to the girl, but she’d hover over her as if she could will her back to health. It was typical.
The Riders were ranged about the point where their headlong flight had stopped, in various states of breathless disbelief. Tarquin fancied that he could have seen the same reflection in all their eyes had he bothered to look, heard the same thunderous echoes of – fucking come off it! They were alive, that was what mattered. Wounded, exhausted, terrified beyond measure in some cases, but alive. That was where everything started.
He began a headcount, matching things up against the mental list he carried with him at all times, noting the gaps with a heavy heart. Bellesta, Feliche, Aelflaed -
The monstrous gas probably wouldn’t have gone that far, but even still, Bolvar’s death had routed the Alliance, all the way back to the reserves. She could be anywhere. She could be a twitching shell half-buried in snowdrifts, a torched and mangled body on one of a hundred heaps, a shambling carcass taking up the Bloody Prince’s new guard outside the gates. There were thousands of them out there. Tarquin indulged himself in maudlin thoughts for a moment longer, then turned to his family and surveyed for a moment before calling out. “Jolly! Kaidos! ‘Larra!”
Of the Riders, those were three of the most coherent. Ulthanon had seen it all before, more or less, and Ilarra could always stand to see more. As for Jolstraer, dead-eyed and battered as he was, the old knight simply had too many years of momentum behind him to fall to despair. They all wandered over with the same air of distraction – trying, most like, to keep the horror from creeping in. “We’ve still Riders out there,” he told them. “Aely wis sent wi’ the Legion medical at the start. I want yeh three ta find her, or her body.” Ulthanon winced. “Kaidos, check the field. ‘Larra, go an’ check wha’s left ay the Legion. Jolly, go south, ‘mong the scatters.”
Ilarra cleared her throat delicately. “Lotta dead folk out there, boss. Not that I won’t be positively thrilled at findin’ her, o’ course, but – well, how soon you want us back?”
“When yeh find her.” Tarquin caught Ilarra’s gaze. “Find any in the colors. Bellesta an’ Feliche’re missin’ too. Mair, might be. I’ll have yeh a count in a tick. Get yirselves ready.” He turned back to counting.
June 5, 2009 – 7:24 am
Every Friday here at Too Many Annas, you’ll find a little RP prompting – either in the form of 5 questions to answer about your character or in the form of a ficlet prompt (500 words) to write about them. These aren’t meant to be hard, just things to think about for your character – you can answer in a comment or use them as a blog post of your own!
This week, our subject is time.
- Is your character usually early, on time, or late? What does he or she expect from other people with regards to time?
- Is your character a morning sparrow or a night owl? Is this their nature, or have they trained themselves to it?
- Does your character carry a time-keeping device? (watch, pocket watch, chronometer, gnomish buzzbox with digital clock peripheral)
- How does your character deal with the Bronze Dragonflight – does he or she take them seriously? take the Caverns of Time seriously?
- What does your character eat for breakfast on a “normal morning”? (whenever that “morning” happens to take place)
June 4, 2009 – 9:05 am
For the first official “Ask Anna” post, I’m going to tackle one from Nibuca of Mystic Chicanery and the Twisted Nether Blogcast. It’s a short question, but definitely a good one to ask, considering all the non-rp bloggers out there!
Dear Anna, How do you start writing RP posts on your non-rp blog? -Nib
RP has some odd stereotypes that live alongside it, and it’s not always received as well as progression/raid/pvp related content. Why? Well, a lot of reasons, but suffice it to say that it’s not unusual for me to get this kind of sentiment. Your audience is expecting one thing, and you’re not sure if they’ll be OK with the RP idea, especially the first time you introduce it.
I think there are a few things you can do, though, to break the ice a little.
- Start small. You don’t need to have your first RP post be a 10-part epic like Angrathar. In fact, I’d generally suggest against that! Do a Friday Five or two, pick a ficlet, write a little vignette. Even have a conversation between you and your character about something that maybe you like or enjoy, but they don’t (or vice versa). If you’re not used to thinking of your characters this way, it’s a nice way to “break the ice” with them – and be careful – it can be a little addicting!
- Don’t label it or apologize for it. Just post. If you spend 3 paragraphs apologizing for writing RP, you’ll create in both your readers AND yourself the understanding that somehow this is “weird” or “different”. It’s your blog. You write what you want. If you feel like writing some RPish posts, go for it.
- Don’t get in your own way. Everyone starts somewhere, and nobody is masterful the first time they do anything. If you let your fears of some external criticism stand in your way, you might convince yourself out of doing it. Your readers know and like you. They will almost certainly either enjoy or ignore your RP posts.
- Do a guest post, if you’re worried about your own audience. Most bloggers love a good guest post. If you want to write a little something, but aren’t sure if your blog is the best place to break the ice, see if another blogger will give you some limelight for a day and then link to it. Your readers will probably go read it and comment, but you’ll be away from the “expectations” on your own blog (even if they’re largely created by you!).
- Just do it. New things can be a little scary, especially new things that are as “exposing” as sharing your writing with the world. But you will find your own voice, and your own style. Maybe you’ll decide that this RP thing is more something you like to think about than write about, and that’s fine. But you’ll never know until you try! And bloggers are a LOT more forgiving than say, the general WoW forums.
The best way to break into RP is just to try. You might love it, you might not. But if you’re curious and considering doing a little more with your character beyond the pixels on the screen, take a few small steps and see what you think.
You don’t need permission from your readers to post the occasional RP style post on YOUR blog. And they won’t all leave in a huff if they’re not so keen on RP.
So good luck, happy writing, and may the RP-Fu be with you!
If you have a question for Anna that you’d like to see answered (either privately or on the blog), check out how you can submit one!