Fact: If you look hard enough, you'll find folks who will readily compare the fiction of hit online game World of Warcraft (WoW) to that of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. In at least one regard, they're absolutely right. The Warcraft universe is far older than the recent WoW phenomenon, dating back to 1994, and is arguably to blame for creator Blizzard Entertainment hiring a historian to keep track.
Where The Lord of Rings has The Silmarillion, WoW has a lore database spanning eons with its very own creation myths. It almost goes without saying that a novel based in this world would have no need for exposition. But in Christie Golden's Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War, it's tough to get through a chapter much less a page without a friendly reminder of the significance of a character, a location, an event or even a magical weapon.
Tides of War follows Jaina Proudmoore, a powerful wizard sworn to protect the martial island city of Theramore, as she quickly becomes as jaded to the idea of peace in the war-torn world of Azeroth as she is to love. That's until she meets Kalecgos, a shapeshifting blue dragon in search of an ancient, dangerous artifact. (Yes, this is weird even for fantasy.)
If you're lost already, fret not. Golden takes great pains to ensure you're not left in the dark on the slightest detail. But chances are--greatly, in fact--that you're already quite the WoW fan. Regardless, expect long-winded paragraphs dedicated to explaining just what the hell items like "Fearbreaker" are and why they matter to the rest of the story.
Isn't nearly 20 years in a tad late for this much explanation? This could easily be the first WoW novel for some fans. Though, did J.K. Rowling inundate readers with redundant explanations of "Wingardium Leviosa" and "muggles" by the fourth novel? In Golden's defense, she unfortunately had to deal with a fatal flaw in the WoW mythos.
It exists in too many damned places. From novels to comic books and the game itself, the WoW story is everywhere. While Golden should be commended for even attempting to deal with such tortuously tangled lore, Tides of War would have been much more bearable with one simple fix: footnotes.
Don't knock it just yet: Judging from the current book up for discussion in HuffPost Book Club, footnotes are in style anyway. If anything, at least they would provide an escape from the painfully awkward asides that read like a Family Guy joke in search of the punchline.
Gawky descriptors like "leonine" and "ribald" only make this feel more like a guilty pleasure. This is a fantasy novel based on a video game--the pinnacle of geeky literature--but it doesn't have to read that way. This sub genre should be worthy of the label "nerdy" for its subject matter, not its language.
Cringe-worthy synonyms and exposition notwithstanding, there's an exciting and even tragic tale within the 300-some pages of Tides of War. Throughout this story, characters clash (with each other and themselves) in explosive battles inching toward all-out war. That sounds like a rip-roarin', textbook fantasy romp if there ever was one.
Tides of War successfully puts some of the most popular characters in the Warcraft universe under the microscope, giving readers an in-depth look at how they tick. That is, of course, if you can swallow an entree of exposition with a heaping scoop of cumbersome language (even for a fantasy work) for dessert.
For: The Studious Nerd: He or she owns a poster depicting the map of Middle-Earth, every Star Wars novel (canon and non-canon) and can clearly explain every major retcon in Marvel history.