Thursday, 20 July 2017

REVIEW: "Warcraft: War of the Ancients #1: The Well of Eternity (Book 1)" by Richard A. Knaak

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Warcraft: War of the Ancients #1: The Well of Eternity (Book 1)
by Richard A. Knaak 
Pocket Star
Copyright April 2004
Mass Market Paperback, 384 Pages

Breathtakingly told and exceptionally written, the narrative of this book climaxes in an epic and heart-thumping battle against the fearsome demons of the Burning Legion. I absolutely relish the astounding and spellbinding fantasy world that the author conjured, and admire the skill to which the author masterfully weaved together the intricacies in the plot which evoked a deafening sense of suspense. This is certainly a novel that I look forward to rereading in the future. 

The narrative generated much foreboding and eventually thankfully resolved into a dramatic triumph of good over evil. Before the change of luck and surprise victory for the forces of good in the narrative, I can’t help but sigh with a sense of resignation in anticipation of the heartbreaking consequences of what I perceived would be an actualization of a tragic tale of delusion, greed, egoism, and depravity of inhumane proportions.

It is this sense of impending tragedy and doom permeating almost the entire narrative that I feel makes this book so incredibly riveting. The dreadful irony of the queen of the night elves facilitating a brutal carnage of her own people, who were rendered especially vulnerable by an idea of her own conjuring, makes the narrative so sad but deliciously captivating. It is the queen and her counselor’s painful delusion, and the depiction of her almost sociopathic witnessing and even fascination by the sight of her own city being razed to the ground alongside unparalleled suffering and death befalling her own people that I feel defined a narrative apex.

I admire especially the author’s linguistic prowess, particularly in fluently articulating matters I personally could not translate with integrity from visual to written form. I’ve always adored and been captivated by the in-game peculiar beauty of fantasy creatures, and I’ve seen similar creatures to the hounds of the Burning Legion in various videogames I enjoyed but always never could quite put into words their peculiar beauty and grand magnificence. As such, it was so invigorating to read of the author’s masterful presentation of such creatures—“The beasts” whose “scaly hides were colored a deathly crimson accented by savage splattering of black and on their backs fluttered a crest of wild, shaggy brown fur,” and “atop their backs thrust two long, whiplike, leathering tentacles that ended in tiny sucker mouths.”

Having personally played the Warcraft 3 game when I was young, and now just finished reading my very first book in the vast Warcraft franchise, I’ve come to be convinced of the perfectly complementary roles to which the game and the novels served each other. I believe that my having engaged with the game universe of Warcraft 3 allowed me to experience a heightened sense of enjoyment as I devoured this book. I also returned to the game with a renewed appreciation and understanding of this much loved fictional world after reading this book.

I felt nevertheless that this novel additionally offered a cherished experience that eclipses that which the videogame format could offer. As a reader, I savored how I was privy to for example environmental stimuli from the intimate perspective of characters and creatures directly involved in the plot. This distinctly contrasts with the mostly top-down point-of-view as offered by the Warcraft 3 in-game experience, taking into account as well relatively brief cutscenes in-game that only temporarily bring the reader closer in vantage point to the action in question. As with the free availability of our rich human imagination as well when I immerse myself in this fantasy world as conjured by the written word, I personally felt that the Warcraft world appeared more real to and better integrated into my consciousness than offered by the in-game experience.

If anything, I relished the way the action in the narrative was capable of making strong emotions pulse through me, even if it meant experiencing vicarious fear and dread for the various protagonists in times of stressful predicaments. This was especially so in the instance when the spirit of a friendly night elf Malfurion, in his fearless attempt to sabotage a rival operation by treading in the realm of the Emerald Dream, was captured when the reader least expected it, and taunted with the ominous question, “How long do you think it will take your body to die without your spirit within?”

It was almost a magical experience in itself as I worked through the pages of this novel. Whilst the plot clearly contained common narrative themes such as time travel and the use of magic, the way the author adroitly marshaled these themes into a creatively extraordinary plot would remain a skill I could only dream of attaining in time to come. 

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion.

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