Welcome to the World of Warcraft Readthrough where I am diving into the lore of Warcraft chronologically. For a running list of characters, look here. If you’d like more information on the specifics or the why, head over to the starter post. You do not have to have played World of Warcraft or have any previous knowledge of the world, but please note, since this is an in-depth read, there will be spoilers.
After powering through a dense first twenty pages of the World of Warcraft Chronicle, we finally get to discuss the first novel on our list, Dawn of the Aspects by Richard Knaak. The story was originally published as a five-part e-book series. Five months after the release of the fifth part, a complete volume was released that included a new Prologue, written by another author, Matt Burns. Even before starting the novel, I knew I would have issues with the chronological storyline. This book is told in two different timelines. The main story takes place exactly where we stopped in Chronicle, with the rise of proto-dragons and Galakrond. The second storyline takes place much later, after the events of the game’s third expansion, Cataclysm.
I know we haven’t talked actual timeline yet, but that is because the events we have read about so far take place so long ago, the book actually doesn’t list them. When it finally does, we will be at year 16,000 before the Dark Portal. For those unfamiliar, the Dark Portal will be the event that ushers in the new era of Azeroth. So think of the timeline as before the Dark Portal (BDP) and after (ADP), similar to our BCE and CE (or BC and AD to some). To make the timeline of this book easier to understand, I’ll use an unofficial timeline that is based off Blizzard published sources.
- 147,000 BDP – Creation of the Great Dark Beyond
- 65,000 BDP – Ordering of Azeroth ends (our last readthrough)
- 64,001 BDP – Galakrond storyline
- 40 ADP – present storyline of Dawn of the Aspects
As you can see, that gives us quite the difference in time frame. It will also cause some confusion for new readers or those who do not play the game, because many characters will be completely new and have no real introduction. For that reason, and some others I’ll go into at the end of the post, rather than a summary of the book as it read, I will break it apart to better follow the Galakrond storyline.
We live most of this book through Kalecgos, a blue dragon of the 40 ADP timeline, who finds a relic that transports him into the mind of Malygos, a blue proto-dragon alive around the time of 64,001 BDP. For reasons unknown, some of the proto-dragons have gained intelligence beyond that of many of their kin, who remain as mere beasts. While there are fights for dominance, the proto-dragons are a relatively peaceful bunch, doing not much more than hunting. This is often done in packs of varying color, but there is one that hunts alone. He is Galakrond, a proto-dragon so massive he blots out the sun and seems to grow from the constant hunting he does.
Through various encounters, Malygos befriends other intelligent proto-dragons of varying color, breath weapon, and personality. Together, they make quite the motley crew.
- Malygos (blue, ice power) – confident, often takes the lead
- Alexstrasza (orange, fire) – concerned with caring for others, especially her sister, Ysera
- Ysera (yellow, disorienting) – runtish, quick to frustration, but seeks peace
- Neltharion (gray, sonic) – haughty, enjoys fighting, but seeks to help friends
- Nozdormu (brown, sand) – quiet but wise
Several jumpy visions show Malygos and his friends as they encounter trouble. They find corpses of proto-dragons that are desiccated and who appear to have died in agony. Another proto-dragon tries to tell them that it was Galakrond who did this, rambling something about “swallowed them up.” Before long, they are attacked by these corpses who have risen up as the “not-living.” Jumping ahead, we actually see Galakrond swallowing proto-dragons whole, causing utter chaos.
Meanwhile, the not-living are turned loose, and there are several encounters with them. It is later revealed that those who were bitten by the not-living slowly start to feel the hunger as well. Malygos is one of these, but he hides it from everyone, including his friends, as he resists the temptation to eat one of his own kind. Ysera seeks to help those who become afflicted, but the majority of the others, including Alexstrasza, think they need to be killed. The self-proclaimed leader, Talonixa, a strong golden female, has other ideas. To Ysera’s anguish, Talonixa buries the afflicted alive.
While all of this is occuring, Malygos keeps seeing visions of a hooded figure who continues to elude him. Eventually, he chases the figure down. Malygos senses that this small form is just an illusion hiding the man’s significant power. He would end up being right. It was the Keeper Tyr, tired of the fellow Keepers’ inaction. “We never intended this path… Galakrond should never have journeyed in the direction he did, and we did not prevent it. Now… this young world faces annihilation.” Tyr gives advice to Malygos and his companions and sends them on their way to fight Galakrond.
Several proto-dragons have ideas on how to deal with this threat of Galakrond. Talonixa wants to gather everyone together to fight. Ysera seeks to speak with him herself, claiming they can talk peace. Coros, a longtime rival of Malygos, and his fellow bluish green kin attempt to become strong like Galakrond by devouring another proto-dragon. All of these plans are foiled. Coros succeeds only in getting himself and his kin eaten. Ysera is almost eaten as well. It is Talonixa’s charge that comes the closest, but in-fighting brings them to their doom as well.
Despite having claimed he was too wary to fight, Tyr realizes he has to step up. The six of them attack Galakrond who has grown in size even more. We actually get a description of the Keeper in his real form and armor, almost reaching Galakrond’s shoulder. Once again, they fail, with Tyr losing his great hammer and his hand. The proto-dragons escape, carrying Tyr south. As they stop to rest and eat, Tyr disappears. They also discover that Galakrond has moved on to eating the not-living as well. So they formulate a new plan, working with each proto-dragon’s abilities. They attack Galakrond again, and only barely succeed by forcing a rock down his throat so he could no longer breathe.
As they stood staring at Galakrond’s corpse, two keepers, one feminine, the other masculine, approached and admonished themselves for not listening to Tyr, whom they had rescued. At Tyr’s request, they offered to make the proto-dragons stronger to help protect and guard the world. “Guardians are needed… representing the five essential Aspects that have helped mold this world and continue to…You will literally be those Aspects, using them in whatever manner necessary.” They would become something “grander,” if they so choose. All agreed willingly, with only Neltharion hesitating.
It is at this point that Kalecgos is pulled out of his vision and back into the present timeline. I am not sure how much I want to talk about it here, since it really does throw off the chronological feel. Unfortunately, I know we will encounter this issue again in our next novel and probably many others. To be honest, I felt like the future storyline only took away from the book. I understand it is meant to tie the game expansions together, but this book could have been so much more had it not been this way. They could have easily had an epilogue. As it was, all of the jumping in and out of Malygos’ head was disorienting. Kalecgos found the constant need to remind us he was in there, using phrases like Malygos/Kalec did such and such. It was too jarring, and the transitions were not smooth. The basis of the Prologue and the future storyline was to establish that despite their doubts, the Aspects were still needed. It took Kalecgos and this relic to make them realize that. Such a simple thought executed in an overly complicated way.
Whether it was because they wanted to include this future storyline so badly, Kalecgos would leave a vision at an inopportune time only to return later. We would miss whole sections of the story. And the most important part for our chronological reading, the proto-dragons becoming the Dragon Aspects, is completely skipped. Luckily, the Chronicle fills us in there and in other gaps due to the storytelling style of Aspects.
Chronicle does a great job of explaining what exactly happened with Galakrond. He had an insatiable hunger. The more he ate, the more it took to satiate him. So he began feasting on dead proto-dragons. This gave him a necrotic affliction that essentially wafted off his body to bring forth the not-living. It does not explain how in Aspects, Galakrond actually maintained a type of mind control over these undead. It also does not explain how some proto-dragons began to become more intelligent. I can only assume some type of evolutionary process.
Chronicle also gives the details of the Charge of the Aspects. The Keepers had grown apathetic to the world as a whole. They had sequestered themselves away, too tired after their fight with the Old Gods. Tyr convinced all the Keepers to imbue these proto-dragons with powers so they could be the ones to really watch over Azeroth. Only Odyn disagreed. So, each proto-dragon was blessed by a particular Keeper (and in turn the Titans), becoming a larger and more majestic full dragon in the process. Their hues would also change. They would henceforth be called the Dragon Aspects.
- Nozdormu (bronze) became the Timeless One, gaining mastery over time from Highkeeper Ra
- Ysera (green) became the Dreamer, entering a deep trance and walking the Emerald Dream to keep watch over nature from Keeper Eonar
- Neltharion (black) became the Earth-Warder with power over earth and mountains from Keeper Archaedas
- Malygos (blue) became the Spell-Weaver with power over the arcane arts from Keeper Loken
- Alexstrasza (red) became the Life-Binder, steward of all living things, and the Dragonqueen, from Keeper Eonar
Before returning to their lairs, the Keepers altered the eggs of many proto-dragons to create the five dragon flights. They formed Wyrmrest Temple in Dragonblight to serve as their home and meeting place. It is interesting to see how quickly the Keepers became selfish and apathetic after the Titans moved on. Although, I suppose you could say like parent, like child.
I take issue with some of the consistency between the two writings. Throughout Aspects, it is Ysera who comes off as the most worried about all living things. While Alexstrasza felt the need to find their clutch-brother, it was Ysera who was the most affected by his death. While Alexstrasza was worried constantly about her smaller sister, it was Ysera who was worried about peace in the world and caring for the afflicted. Alexstrasza actually wanted them dead. Yet, it is she who becomes Life-Binder while Ysera is stuck in a trance. Sure, she gets to keep watch over nature, but those aren’t one in the same. It is also said that due to her “courage and compassion” in the fight against Galakrond, Alexstrasza is named Dragonqueen. I realize the story is told from Malygos’ perspective, but it did not come across that way at all. It was Malygos who appeared to be the leader until the very end when they are determining how to best use each other’s powers to defeat Galakrond. Maybe because Malygos seemed hesitant at that point to further take the leadership role, Alexstrasza stepped up, but it is certainly not shown to much extent in Aspects. Just another shortcoming of the storytelling style.
The dragons’ colors mostly just deepened into a richer hue. It was only Ysera who was outright changed, and I found that rather odd. And the cycle of women being in mothering roles has continued. Both female dragons got their powers from the only female keeper. At least we have increased the percentage of females to males in important roles, though you could argue Aspects was mostly focused on two male main characters.
. . . . .
I actually enjoyed the Galakrond storyline within Aspects, which was only enhanced by the reading in Chronicle. Unfortunately, it was completely muddled by the addition of the present story with Kalecgos. Likely due to the original publishing format, it is also a little repetitive. It would have been such a better story on it’s own. Even as someone with quite a bit of knowledge of the world and lore, I found myself confused. It was a mangled mess, jumping in and out of storylines with no clear indication to help the reader. This novel is clearly not a good starting point for a newbie, and honestly, not even a veteran. I was greatly disappointed in the writing style of someone who was my inspiration for reading fantasy. Knaak got me into the genre with his Dragonrealm series, but I am wondering if I should do a reread of that to see if it’s really as good as I thought it was 15 years ago.
While we have had an unfortunate introduction to our first novel of the readthrough, I can honestly say that the lore itself is interesting. I just hope the storytelling is better in future readings. For now though, we return to Chronicle for quite some time, getting more background information to set up our future stories. I hope all of this material with give us different insights into our readings.
What are your thoughts on the storytelling style of Aspects? If you are reading along, were you able to follow it clearly?