Much like Illidan, anyone who is aware of Warcraft will probably have heard the name “Arthas” being thrown about.
As one of the most lore-centric characters throughout the entire franchise – having at least some small part within every other character’s background – Arthas Menethil’s story is of love, loss, war (once again), betrayal (yep, betrayal again) and good intentions leading to bad decisions. A lot like Illidan, really.
World of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King gathers all of the snippets of lore that have been released over the many years Warcraft has been around. It starts with Arthas as a young boy, eager to impress his father King Terenas Menethil II and prove he’s stronger than he is. Stereotypically reckless and prone to ignoring the advice of his elders, Arthas is every bit the ambitious prince we’ve been led to believe he is.
Throughout the first third or so of the book, we’re taken through his training to become a paladin under the tutelage of Uther the Lightbringer, his blossoming friendship with Jaina Proudmoore and his rivalry with the blood elf prince Kael’thas Sunstrider. Alongside all of this, we watch as Arthas grows up from the ignorant child he was to the daring prince he is known to be.
However, one of the most important lore points is also covered in detail – the Culling of Stratholme. This is where we first properly see the change in Arthas from righteous paladin to a man who will do anything to protect his people, even if it means killing an entire city to stop a plague spreading. Players of World of Warcraft are able to take part in this key event through a dungeon in the game and in the original Warcraft RTS games as well. The reason the Culling of Stratholme is such a major plot point in Arthas’ story is because this is where he meets the demon lord Mal’Ganis, the mastermind behind the Stratholme plague, who’s defeat becomes a sort of obsession for Arthas and is what ultimately leads him to Northrend and Arthas finding Frostmourne, the cursed blade of the Lich King.
The way Christie Golden writes effortlessly conveys the subtle tweaks to Arthas’ personality before he encounters Mal’Ganis, showing that Arthas cares about his people but knows the line between right and wrong and won’t cross it. As the story develops, we are shown that this line blurs before disappearing altogether as right and wrong are more “can do now” and “will do eventually”. In the numerous battle scenes within Arthas, the action flows and twists with ease, thanks to Christie’s ability to describe the scenes in detail but not in a way that slows the fights down but instead adds to the intensity of the action.
When I read Arthas, I finished it in about three days, which was about a hundred pages a day. I couldn’t put it down, despite knowing what would happen next as I knew the lore of Arthas, which attests to the enticing way Christie Golden writes.
World of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King is a fantastic book if you are a fan of the Warcraft franchise or not. For those who know the lore anyway, it is still a great read – and for those who don’t but are interested, it’s a great gateway to lead onto other books in the series.