WoWMar 14, 2016 4:00 pm CT

World of Warcraft: Chronicle Vol. 1: Essential reading for lore buffs

When World of Warcraft: Chronicle Vol. 1 was announced, you could say I was excited — a book that covers all of Azeroth’s history and fills in many of the blanks surrounding Azeroth’s creation and evolution? Sign me up. Both Matthew Rossi and myself have spent the last several years speculating and trying to fill in those blanks via a series of tinfoil-hat Know Your Lore columns, some more far-fetched than others, so it’s a safe bet to say we both had a keen and vested interest in reading this one.

Written by Chris Metzen, Matt Burns, and Robert Brooks, Chronicle Vol. 1 covers the history of the Warcraft universe from its creation all the way up to the cusp of the First War, and includes a metric ton of never-before-seen lore. Even if you’ve been following Warcraft lore all this time, you’re still going to get a mountain of lore reveals.

Please note: This is a spoiler-free review.

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The real story of Azeroth’s origin and more

To date, we’ve only had two small stories regarding Azeroth’s creation, and they seemed to directly contradict each other — the Tribunal of Ages introduced in Wrath of the Lich King, and the in-game book The Old Gods and the Ordering of Azeroth. We’ve interacted with Titan artifacts, fought titanic watchers, saved the world from certain destruction by defeating Algalon, saved the world again by disabling the re-origination device in Uldum, saved the world again by repeatedly foiling Old Gods and their minions — including Deathwing — all in the name of our survival. But the question of why Azeroth was in near-constant peril wasn’t really addressed directly.

Chronicle shapes the evolution of the universe itself within its pages. Not just Azeroth, but the Titans, the Naaru, the Old Gods, the Burning Legion, and everything in between. Azeroth’s formation is discussed in detail, as is the motivation and events surrounding Sargeras’ departure from the Pantheon, and how the Burning Legion came to be. And that’s really only the tip of the iceberg, because despite most of Azeroth’s known history taking place since the First War, there’s thousands and thousands of years worth of information that we simply didn’t have.

We’ve got it now. Chronicle doesn’t really retcon existing history so much as it expands what we already knew, and fills in the blanks of those thousands of years. Unlike the Diablo equivalents Book of Cain and Book of Tyrael, which were both written from the perspective of Sanctuary historians, Chronicle is simply laid out with no references or allusions to being written by anyone on Azeroth. It’s just a history book. It’s a really weighty, hefty history book.

And that in turn makes for some pretty heavy reading. This isn’t your average Warcraft novel — it’s not a story of an individual character, it’s a series of encyclopedic entries about the history of the Warcraft universe. If you’re looking for a good story with emotional impact, you’re better off going through Blizzard’s library of novels. Chronicle may seem a little dry to those unfamiliar with the lore, and it’s not what I’d call a beginner’s book by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, it’s the lore book that lore junkies like myself have been begging for — the book that clears up all those mysteries that were never fully explained.

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Peek into Azeroth’s past with art and maps

And as if the history weren’t enough, the book is littered with beautiful, full-color illustrations by Peter Lee, depicting scenes from Azeroth’s history. Wars between Titans and Old Gods, illustrations of Sargeras both before and after the Legion’s formation, the Black Empire, troll cities, the gorgeous spires of Suramar — it’s all here. I’m sort of hoping we’ll see at least a few of the illustrations from this book released as art prints at some point — I’d frame any of them and put them on my wall.

In addition to the art, the book is full of maps — the book states that additional illustrations were done by Joseph Lacroix, so I’m assuming those are his work. There are plenty of maps of old-world Kalimdor, prior to the Sundering when it was still one continent, with detailed overlays that illustrate the territories of the Old Gods, Titan facilities, Night Elf territory, the spread of Troll tribes, and more. There’s also a cosmology chart that illustrates the different elements of the universe — Order and Disorder, Light and Shadow, Life and Death, and everything else in between. The chart does an excellent job of laying out where the different schools of magic come from, and how they relate to one another.

And if you’ve been looking for some kind of definitive timeline beyond the basic one presented in the World of Warcraft: Ultimate Visual Guide, it’s right here. Chronicle itself is that timeline, with approximate dates for all the events in Warcraft lore, told in chronological order. Early events in the universe aren’t given dates, but from Chapter 3 onward we’re given approximate dates for everything in Azeroth’s history.

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Plenty of mysteries remain

While Chronicle may have explained a lot about Azeroth’s history, it doesn’t cover everything — any worries I may have had about removing all mystery surrounding Azeroth’s past are gone now. There’s plenty of mystery left, and plenty of new mysteries created in Chronicle‘s pages — mysteries that may or may not be explained in Vol. 2, whenever that one arrives. And a lot of the events and history we see in Chronicle are things that we’ll see again once World of Warcraft: Legion is released as well, making the book a must-have on several different levels.

That said, while most of the book is expanding on existing information, there are a few inexplicable retcons within its pages. Without giving anything away, certain events in The Last Guardian have been completely invalidated in Chronicle’s pages, and I find myself wondering why. All players involved in that period of history are dead, so there was no reason to re-write those events — and by doing so, the personalities and traits of two characters have been shifted in a major way. One of them is suddenly way more important, and it’s at the expense of the other one’s well-documented character development. I have absolutely no idea why — because both of them are gone, and have no effect on current events in Azeroth.

I really liked The Last Guardian. I thought it was one of Blizzard’s best books. I don’t know why they felt the need to “fix” it when nothing in the novel needed to be fixed.

But aside from that one small point of contention, Chronicle is absolutely everything I could have asked for, and plenty more on top of that. Those that are looking for answers, those that are fascinated with Azeroth’s early history, those that are dying to know the details of the enigmatic Titans, those wanting to know more about the Trolls, Aqir, Tauren, Mogu, Pandaren, Night Elves, Humans, and more will not be able to put this thing down until they’ve finished it. If you’re a lore fan, if you are at all invested in reading lore, this book is something you absolutely need to have. Your Warcraft library won’t be complete without it. We’ll be diving into plenty of spoilers in both Lore Watch and Know Your Lore for months to come, so you should probably prepare yourselves!

World of Warcraft: Chronicle Vol. 1 hits the shelves tomorrow — you can pick it up on Amazon in either hardcover or ebook format.

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