This review of the Warcraft: Durotan: The Official Movie Prequel novel by Christie Golden is of the spoiler-free variety. Check out the entire Blizzard catalog in our Extensive Extended Universe post.
Oh, so you are interested in the tie-ins to the Warcraft film. Welcome. Warcraft: Durotan sees Christie Golden return to the Warcraft universe where she left off, some 15 years ago after she penned the sequel to the movie’s prequel, Lord of the Clans. Yeah, before World of Warcraft was even released! That story was originally slated for the canceled Warcraft Adventures. Little confused? That’s okay, I’ll kick this Novel Post off more appropriately.
Christie Golden opens Warcraft: Durotan in the orc leaders formative years. Living the hard life known to the Frostwolf clan. One that sees them constantly searching the frozen far north of Draenor for nourishment. Durotan lives the life of relative privilege as the son of the chieftain, Garad, and is constantly aside his best friend, the future warrior hero Orgrim Doomhammer, and astride his wolf Sharptooth. Both of these characters are central to this week’s Warcraft film. The reader is treated to a series of typical clan activities, hunting, Spartan-like treatment of those deemed weak, and the Midsummer festival to educate the reader on orc culture ahead of the creation of the Horde. It’s in this era that orcs, by and large, remain a nomadic people bond together by nothing more than their immediate clan and mutually beneficial, but ultimately temporary pacts between clans.
Then comes a sole being into their lives, Gul’dan, a mystic with unusual powers and garb. Draped in armor decorated with miniature skulls, Gul’dan prophesies a world that’s slowly dying. Subtlely, he paints a world heading towards a cataclysmic end. An end with no solution but to abandon the land that has provided for various orc clans since time unknown. Garad, staying true to parlay traditions, politely declines an offer to “join” what Gul’dan calls his “Horde” because Frostwolves endure no matter the calamity. It’s from here that Durotan’s world, and that of all Frostwolves, is turned upside down.
Gul’dan becomes the antagonist through his words alone. The warlock’s prophecy sows the seeds of doubt and disagreement in the clan despite appearing only twice, both briefly. Is Gul’dan in charge of the feckless clan known as the Red Walkers or are they a product of systematic death of Draenor? Can continue Durotan lead his people, keep them organized and at the ready when the world itself is spewing lava and poisoning the water? Should he become a cog in the Horde to preserve the Frostwolves or live and die by their traditions led by shamanism? Is the world of Draenor actually the antagonist? It’s the way these concerns are handled, the strategic planning and forward thinking that Golden embodies in Durotan. The story of Durotan is in the namesake. The journey of a young orc thrust into leadership figuring out how to lead in a time unseen by his people. Anything else presented in the book is largely superfluous. Readers are here for the character development of Durotan and his supporting cast. Nothing more. Golden delivers.
Golden goes to great pains to ensure that anyone can pick up Durotan. Being a fan of Warcraft is a bonus. Being knowledgeable of the lore lends itself to plenty of foreshadowing, but the author plays the tale too safe. Warcraft: Durotan was not hamstrung like Illidan: World of Warcraft. The focus on the microuniverse of the Frostwolves is a double-edged sword. We’re delivered plenty of struggle, against the environment, against other orcs, but little substance. Readers familiar with the clan, its leader and Gul’dan, are left wanting, waiting for some shoe to drop. No wonder why the book is so horribly titled, in case you forgot that the real story is the high court drama of the movie.
Interested in exploring World of Warcraft’s recent lore further?
Golden is one of the original scribes in the Warcraft universe, which means some of her own material from Lord of the Clans has conflicting information with World of Warcraft and other sources. Even Durotan sees the fantasy world eat itself a bit. Does he ride Nightstalker, as in her Ride of the Horde novel, or Sharptooth, as she details in Durotan? Or do we have to imagine that Sharptooth dies and is replaced by Nightstalker. Now I’m sad.
Time to finish the second original piece for the Warcraft film, the graphic novel Bonds of Brotherhood. What can only be billed as the frat boy bromance between Llane Wrynn, Anduin Lothar and Medivh. We’ll have that review for you faster than a Gul’dan can convince the Red Walkers to join him.
Check out all of the novelizations of Blizzard products in the our Extensive Extended Universe rundown.