The Novel Post: World of Warcraft: War Crimes Review

This review of the World of Warcraft: War Crimes novel by Christie Golden is of the spoiler-free variety. Check out the entire Blizzard catalog in our Extensive Extended Universe post.

Steeped in the immediate lore of Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard Entertainment tasked long-time Warcraft writer Christie Golden to articulate how the entire continent of Azeroth would come together after the events of the Siege of Orgrimmar. The amount of pain, death and destruction spread throughout the continents of Azeroth by one orc, former Warchief Garrosh Hellscream, is unimaginable. No member of any race in World of Warcraft would be looked upon crossly for wishing the death of the perturbed warrior, and yet, it was Varian Wrynn who stayed Go’el’s hand setting in motion the most important trial in the long history of Warcraft.

The dastardly acts perpetrated by Garrosh leave little doubt to his innocence. In fact, the plot of War Crimes never broaches this possibility. The story crafted by Golden is one of potential redemption. Could Hellscream have been simply misguided, like his father? Was he working to perfect his idea of the Horde while putting moral and ethics aside because these ideas couldn’t coexist, like some argue Stalin did with Communism? Or, have Varian, and later Jaina, been right all along in believing the son of Grom Hellscream is simply a monster? It’s these deep moral, heavy topics that Golden sets the reader to.

No matter the allegiance, the reader will be torn between the decisive issue of redemption and capital punishment. Through a ridiculously deep cast of characters, from Vol’jin to Anduin to Velen, Golden tears at the reader’s, and the very characters she’s relating, emotions. Moments in recent and historic memory are retold in great, often painful, detail. These events aren’t some mock trial with a fate of one orc already sealed. They’re for justice. For the healing of the Alliance. They are for the Horde to show all sentient beings that this one orc, leader as he may have been, does not represent what the rest of the faction believes in. They’re for Azeroth.

War Crimes isn’t flawless. First, the audience must be prepared for a long introductory period. It’s almost as if Blizzard reminded Golden that the subscription numbers have been dropping, that the audience may not be aware of the most recent events, in game or in the extended universe. As such, the story develops slowly. Very slowly. Fear not, its beard grows. This is not WoW done in the vein of Law and Order. Not if you stick with it. At times, War Crimes also reads like a season of a dieing TV show. Important names are dropped or pop in for a few pages, only to be summarily dismissed and rarely seen again. This has to do with the immensity of Garrosh’s crimes and the scope of the book, a scant few days.

Yes, there’s tons of courtroom drama. Back and forth between the Accuser and the Defender. Retelling of horrible acts. Horrible acts, that to some extent, are analogous to of our own Earthly history during the middle of the last century. It’s not likely a mistake. Those were insane times, and in Azeroth nothing will ever be the same. If these deep moral topics aren’t of interest then War Crimes is mostly not for you.

The outcome however is truly amazing, generating so many questions, concerns and pressures during a period in game development that normally has players scrambling for things to do. War Crimes, in essence, closes the chapter of Mists of Pandaria while simultaneously opening countless lore threads for Warlords of Draenor. It’s left to Blizzard’s in-house lore geniuses to pick them up in an engrossing manner.

Only true lore nuts, or history buffs looking for a light fantasy retelling of the Nuremberg Trials, need bother with the entire novel. After that, pass it off to your WoW pals that are casually interested in lore and have them read the final third of the book. They won’t be disappointed.

Interested in exploring World of Warcraft’s recent lore further?

Christie Golden has become a staple writer for the Blizzard universe. Traversing Warcraft and StarCraft seamlessly, Golden has penned over 10 books for the franchises, including the perfect companion piece to this novel, Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War,  The Shattering – Prelude to Cataclysm andArthas: Rise of the Lich King.

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, the Dawn of the Aspects story arc is mentioned, and while these play a rather minor role in War Crimes, the events are of interest.

Check out all of the novelizations of Blizzard products in the our Extensive Extended Universe rundown.


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