The latest World of Warcraft novel dives into Azeroth’s past to recount the epic war between dragons and features more than enough excitement/lore for fans to drool over.
The ninth expansion to the ever popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft, brought dragons back to Azeroth after having their isles hidden away for millennia. Having launched back in November 2022, almost a year later, the latest WoW novel, War of the Scaleborn, offers a deeper look at the dragonflights’ history. Specifically, it tells the story of the centuries long war between dragonkind, the result of which factors into the events of the game’s expansion.
When Azeroth was still young dragons ruled. Following the destruction of the evil (and ginormous) dragon Galakrond, dragonkind found themselves divided. There were the Aspects (Ordered dragons) who took on the power of the ancient Titans swearing to protect the world from all danger. Then the Incarnates (Primalists) who believed their power should only come from the natural elements of the world.
For a time, they two lived…well, not peacefully, but they weren’t actively trying to wipe each other out. Without going too deep into spoilers, War of the Scaleborn, explains what happened, how the war progressed over the centuries, and how it finally came to an end. For the most part, the novel conveys these points through the perspective of two main dragons: Vyranoth and Alextrasza.
Once the closest of friends, the pair find themselves on opposites sides of the growing conflict, and it’s the schism between their bond which forms the heart of the story. While there are other major players within the story, the perspectives of these two—and the righteousness they each feel in their own causes—offers readers a unique look at the war and how things aren’t entirely black and white.
Spanning several centuries, War of the Scaleborn, covers a great deal of ground. If you’re a WoW player, it does a whole lot to fill in some gaps in the lore and add a bit of depth to the story that plays out within the game.
Here’s the thing…I’m not a World of Warcraft player. I’ve never touched the MMO despite loving the RTS games (and the lore within) and aside from some passing references, know almost nothing of the story that’s transpired over the many expansions to the game. War of the Scaleborn handles stuff like this fairly well; at least at first.
Even knowing almost nothing about WoW and the Dragonkind in general, Scaleborn is still pretty easy to get into. Because it’s set so far in Azeroth’s past, you don’t have to know any of the other lore to get into the story being told here. There are not Orcs/Humans to contend with, it’s just the dragons dealing with their own mess. As such, the world-building feels akin to just about any new fantasy novel you might pick up. Sure there are some references you might not immediately understand, but the context clues surrounding everything gives you just enough to feel like you’re thrust into a living, breathing world.
It was far more accessible to get into than I expected, and I found myself eager to learn more about these characters and what came next for them (within the game). In that way, it’s a super effective tie-in for both newcomers and long-time fans alike. The problem, however, comes a little bit later on.
There are a number of plot points—even whole characters—introduced in the book that just sort of…disappear. It’s strange to see some of these interesting elements (especially all the stuff with the Dracthyr) brought up, used for something cool, and then completely abandoned. After finishing up the novel, I was curious enough to go onto the vast Wikipedia for WoW lore and learned that pretty much all of those things find their conclusion within the game.
While this makes for some excellent gap-filling for fans who’ve played through the expansion, for everyone else it feels like Scaleborn leaves a whole bunch of dangling plot threads. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an enjoyable read. The characters are unique and interesting, while the action strikes the balance between descriptive and letting readers’ imagination have fun. The result are several action sequences that feel suitably epic. Courtney Alameda’s prose is succinct without too much exposition, which allows the characters to shine through.
As the novel progresses, however, it almost feels like it’s more intent on filling the gaps in the lore from the game than anything else. Where the novel does an excellent job building up to the events of the war, and certain key moments within the conflict, the back-end feels like a race to the finish. As more plots/characters are dropped (to be picked up by the game), the end of the war comes in a rush that left me wondering what I was missing.
Again, I greatly enjoyed the read overall. There’s tons of fun to be had within the novel, though it shines brightest when it’s focusing on the character dynamics instead of filling in the lore gaps. For World of Warcraft fans/players, I imagine this is going to be a must-read as it adds tons of depth to the story within the game. While it doesn’t work as well for casual readers, it’s still a solid fantasy story about a war between dragons.