Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Media Tie-In
Publisher: Audible Studios (May 3, 2016)
Length: 7 hrs and 29 mins
Narrator: Toby Longworth
Warcraft: Durotan is the official prequel novel to the Warcraft movie, set to hit theaters later this summer. As a fan of the game franchise, I almost feel like I have an obligation to go out and see this film, though whether or not it’ll actually be good remains to be seen. Call me cynical, but I’ve been burned way too many times by underwhelming movie adaptations, and so while part of me is excited to finally see one of my favorite games come to life on the big screen, I will also remain cautiously optimistic for now.
Still, I picked up this book because I knew I would want the background story. A lot of people don’t realize that Warcraft is more than just a game series—it’s also an immense, indescribably huge body of lore. Its world encompasses a countless number of locations and characters, and its history stretches back thousands upon thousands of years. And as much as I enjoy playing the games, in some ways I enjoy hearing about the stories even more. I love the epic tales of legendary heroes, reading about their great deeds and how they made their mark on the world of Warcraft and its history.
The Frostwolf orc clan chieftain Durotan is one of these legendary figures. The eponymous main character of this novel will also be one of the key players in the upcoming film, and this is the story of how he led his people out of the dying lands of Draenor to find their home in a new world.
When the book begins, Draenor is already on the brink of destruction. With the spirits of the elements weakened, winters are becoming increasingly harsher and the dwindling herds mean that the orcs will soon have to abandon their territory or face death by exposure and starvation. However, when a mysterious warlock named Gul’dan arrives with an offer to save them, the Frostwolf Clan decides to turn him away, preferring to maintain their independence. No stranger to tough times, Durotan believes it would be better to take their chances on their own rather than join the outsider’s “Horde”, especially since he does not trust the warlock. But while the Frostwolf may be one of the last clans to hold out, things in Draenor are going from bad to worse, and soon they too will have to make a decision on how to move forward, or risk dying with their homeland.
Believe it or not, finishing this book actually made me feel more confident about the movie. The events portrayed here offer us a solid foundation and a promise of some fantastic things to come. But then again, it’s Christie Golden. She’s written some of my favorite Warcraft and Star Wars novels of all time, and I knew even before going into this novel that it was going to be great. I’m beyond excited that this was everything I expected, especially since Durotan’s story was one that I’ve always wanted to get to know better.
I’m also pleased that this novel was entirely about the orcs. I say this even as a diehard Ally, as I honestly believe not enough attention is being given to the races of the Horde when it comes to media tie-ins, plus fantasy in general can be so human-centric. It’s easy to get caught up in the faction pride sometimes, reducing the “other guys” to nothing more but enemies to kill, but the truth is, orcs are a complex race with values deeply rooted in their society and culture. We get to see many examples of this in Warcraft: Durotan, as our protagonist realizes that being a leader is about more than just his strength and pride. Wisdom is just as important, as is compassion—even for your enemies. Durotan often finds himself torn between his honor and what he knows is best for his people, but knowing when to listen and when you have to sacrifice for the greater good are just some of the lessons he learns first as the Frostwolf’s chieftain, and then as a husband and a father-to-be. This book is simple filled to the brim with all these feels.
Kudos also goes to Toby Longworth for doing a superb job narrating the audio version. He has a very strong voice, great for reading fantasy novels and perfect for capturing the personalities of larger-than-life characters like Durotan. In addition, this audiobook was very easy to get into; at seven-and-a-half hours in length, I finished this one in good time, probably within two or three listening sessions. Finally, the audiobook ends with an audio excerpt of the “sequel”, which is the novelization of the movie itself, also written by Christie Golden.
If you plan on seeing Warcraft, I highly recommend picking up Warcraft: Durotan first, because it shows a larger picture and puts some of the movie’s events in context. Lore hounds will also love this book, especially if you want deeper insight into those who had a hand in shaping the face of Azeroth. All told, this is a wonderful, fascinating look into the life of Durotan, who is the loving mate of Draka, a contemporary of Orgim Doomhammer, and the future father of one of Warcraft’s most prominent characters.
***A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.