This review of the World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1 by Chris Metzen et al. is of the spoiler-free variety. Check out the entire Blizzard catalog in our Extensive Extended Universe post.
Chronicling the world of Warcraft is no short order. Lore Hound was, effectively, founded for that express purpose. Diving into the myriad of lore spread across Azeroth, Draenor the various dimensions and planes of existence for the most interesting morsels to feed our insatiable appetite for the community was our prime directive. The glacial pace of Blizzard’s game development led us to explore other arenas over time, but with each tie in, new expansion or spin off, we’ve returned to the fount that piqued our interest enough to formally create Lore Hound in the first place. The battle between Orcs and Humans began in our world two decades ago, but as the massive extended universe has been fleshed out, the real story is tens of thousands of years old.
Normally, we’d reserve this section to set the state of mind. What era of Warcraft are we in, past, present or an alternate future? Who’s the focus of the story, the side players and the interested parties? None of that applies to Chronicle Volume 1 for one simple reason, it’s a massive eon-arcing tome featuring all the known history of the physical plane in which the planets of Azeroth and Outland are a part, called the Great Dark Beyond. Not stopping there though. Chronicle bursts with all the known major historical events of the non-physical planes that revolve around the aforementioned interstellar system, be it the Twisting Nether or the Emerald Dream (Nightmare) too. Is your level 100 feeling infinitesimal yet?
There’s a lot to digest. At high and low levels. And “all known” lore is misleading. Being Volume 1, Chronicle terminates its extensive categorization as it approaches the modern era of Azeroth. The era filled with millions of adventurers that have decimated the Old Gods of legends, witnessed the neutering of the Dragon Aspects and slipped into a time paradox. That one isn’t detailed. That’s partially because of the scope. Those major events are a bit like humanity’s time on earth, a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of the Great Dark Beyond.
What Chronicle attempts to do is nothing short of amazing. Through two decades, Blizzard Entertainment and its partners have added layer after layer to a universe that, while not as beloved as Tolkien’s, is certainly larger and far more detailed at this point. Humans like Chris Metzen and Micky Neilson have lorded over the development and direction, but the size, scope and depth is simply unmanageable. Chronicle, like Dark Horse’s Hyrule Historia, was conceived to wrangle the nuances. Set the wrongs right, canonize the retcons and fills the gaps of history. The annals of history are complicated. Chronicle is supposed to present it to lore buffs and Hearthstone newbies alike.
Volume 1 lays out everything it can in a digestible fashion moving smoothly down the timeline of major events. It’s a timeline begging to be made into a fully interactive book. Chronicle’s storytelling is much like our long-defunct TL:DR 250 Words or Less retelling of key Warcraft characters. It focuses on the major plot points, rarely diving into specifics that drive entire species, let alone characters, in favor of regaling readers with the overall story arc. If only to ensure that the history of the multiverse can be consumed in around 200 pages. Metzen and Co. captures the essence of everything Warcraft, from the rise of the Old Gods, the discovery of Azeroth by the Titans, the fall of Sargeras, everything, while breadcrumbing readers to further information. Ever turn of fate, power struggle and corrupted character is spin to another cycle of Azeroth’s repetitive history. It’s own distinct tree of knowledge. A tree that the Chronicle begs you to climb, but cannot provide the limb itself. Yes, it’s a spinning tree of knowledge.
Recommending WoW: Chronicle Volume 1 to anyone interested in the lore of Warcraft is a no brainer. If you’re a lapsed player from ages gone by or a panda-hating Mists of Pandaria dropout, you’re covered. If you’re interested in learning the backstory to your new favorite card game Chronicle has you. What Chronicle does skip over for these readers is how the events unfolded or were discovered. Blizzard decided not to detail the origins of the knowledge, be it in WoW, novels or short stories. Everything is presented in a way to make readers believe this has been and always will be the way the timeline unfolded. The merits of the presentation can be debated endlessly and will be by any being with retcon scruples.
Lastly, to address the Warhuh? readers. First off, why are you reading this if that’s the case? Anyways, if you’ve never heard of Warcraft in your life and were drawn to the artwork and ever-changing landscapes detailed inside then welcome to your new time sink. Careful, all that knowledge can be a bear to digest at once.
At the very least, Chronicle can help settle more than a few arguments.
Interested in exploring World of Warcraft’s recent lore further?
You can purchase a hardcover edition of the most recent WoW novel, Dark Riders, for less than a Jefferson. Vol’jin recently saw his own novel and the Horde of the Cataclysm era has the most recent comic entry. The Warcraft movie – did you know that’s an upcoming thing?! – has a tie-in from common Warcraft scribe Christie Golden coming but I’m really waiting for William King joining the universe with the return of Illidan, a tie-in to upcoming expansion Legion. We’ll have review of both of those once they drop.
Check out all of the novelizations of Blizzard products in the our Extensive Extended Universe rundown.
I don’t know about you, but I need to veg out a bit after all that deep lore talk spanning tens of thousands of years. I think it’s time to entertain myself with a little bit of virtual cooking by way of Papa’s Bakeria. It may not provide the buff of Dirge’s Kickin’ Chimaerok Chops, but it’ll get the job done.