I’m somewhat embarrassed about the two bookshelves in my bedroom, which act as a relic of my time in high school. There’s a plethora of trashy fantasy and science fiction to be had, and I have a solid shelf of books devoted to video games. I’m afraid to reread to most of them, for in my heart I know they aren’t good. Yet curiosity is a strange thing. I recently found myself wanting a book, and Warcraft: The Well of Eternity wound up in my hands.
Warcraft: The Well of Eternity by Richard A Knaak is a strange novel, one whose flaws are abundant and easy to point out, yet I had a blast going through it again. I don’t know what that says about the book. I don’t know what that says about me.
Taking place sometime after the Burning Legion’s second attempt on Azeroth, Rhonin and Krasus are called to a strange anomaly by Nozdormu (the dragon aspect of time) as Azeroth’s last hope. They arrive at the anomaly alongside an orc named Brox, and all three are sucked into it and spat out into a long-ago region of Kalimdor just prior to the Burning Legion’s first arrival.
There’s something entirely absurd about that plot summary, and really, there’s something entirely absurd about this book. It embodies the ideas of “genre fiction” so fully it hurts. There are elves, night elves, dragons, the undead, demons, demigods, magic, and regular gods, and all of these are introduced within the first few chapters.
Perhaps the pure unashamed nonsense of the world Warcraft takes place in is what makes this novel so stupidly fun.
Rhonin and Krasus are our main characters, and both embody the spirit of World of Warcraft. Rhonin is a wizard whose much to powerful for his own good, and Krasus is a dragon because fantasy novels can never have enough dragons. I used to play World of Warcraft, and I never really bothered to question how powerful my characters were. Rhonin is like that. He’s a max-leveled player in a world that’s ten levels lower than himself. Krasus…is a dragon.
And while that should be an absolute problem, it isn’t. If Rhonin is level 80 then Illidan is level 81 and Malfurion is level 85. Brox can be level 79, and Krasus is still a dragon.
Warcraft: The Well of Eternity is more akin to a superhero comic book than a novel. Our heroes are just better than those around them, but the villains are powerful and seemingly infinite, and if the good guys fall, then everything is lost. If Superman loses just one fight, then Earth is gone. The same can be said here.
What this book does well then, and why it somehow works, is that the stakes feel real. The Burning Legion are like a hive of angry hornets whose nest was stepped on by a stumbling child. Angry hornets aren’t creatures with any depth, but they are scary on their own and terrifying en masse. They will not hesitate to sting you to death no matter the cost. These are our demon foes, creatures of pure malice bent upon wanton destruction because that’s just what they do. Azeroth is our poor, stumbling child, and the heroes mentioned above are a can of Raid.
There isn’t enough Raid to stop these hornets though. Not by a long shot.
If the word “fun” is my first descriptor for Warcraft: The Well of Eternity then “flawed” is my second. This novel is far from perfect.
The beginning of the novel is paced rather poorly as eight characters are introduced alongside a very established world. There’s this strong sense of nothing happening for perhaps the first quarter of the book despite our large cast moving around and interacting with new environments. The book is never dull, but the beginning isn’t all that interesting either. There’s simply too much exposition, too much scope early on, and some of it feels forced.
A large cast of characters in one novel makes them hard to juggle, and though the book jumps between them well enough, no one is given the chance to really shine. Each player is set up, but there’s little development to be had here.
Our antagonists leave much to be desired as well. I like the Burning Legion well enough despite the glaring black/white morality, but the corrupted night elves are boring. The Highborne and their lofty queen dislike how gross the world is, and it just so happens the Burning Legion is promising them an easy way to cleanse it. Never has a genocide felt so derivative.
There are plotting issues as well. Magic is a steady go-to in every event, and while it’s mostly fun, it also feels a bit lazy. There’s little logic to the magic found in the Warcraft, so it can solve and create any problem needed. Krasus is also stricken with a malady and memory gaps to raise the tension, but this only comes off feeling terribly convenient for the author and no one else.
Finally, the writing itself has problems. There are areas that read like bad fanfiction, normal nouns are repeated within close proximity to each other, and some sentence structures are repeated far too often. Knaak really enjoys starting sentences with the word “true” and then explaining something that doesn’t need to be explained. Thankfully, these writing problems show up in spurts, and the majority of the novel lacks them; however, they do hurt the experience.
Warcraft: The Well of Eternity is a strange, flawed, stupid, fun mess of a book. It feels genuine though, one that wants to tell a story and not act as a cynical cash grab based on the Warcraft name. As fantasy, it’s genre fiction pure and simple. There are better fantasy books out there. But, if you’ve any connection with World of Warcraft and are willing to look passed some writing problems, there’s an enjoyable ride to be found here.