Review of Dawn of the Aspects, part one by Richard A. Knaak

Review of Dawn of the Aspects, part one by Richard A Knaak

Everything we know about the formation of the Aspects is wrong. Well, not wrong -- but so far from what is truth that the reality of the situation is a dizzying puzzle that has only begun to be addressed. Dawn of the Aspects is a puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle, and part one of the tale has only just begun to unravel these pieces into what will hopefully be a coherent whole by the end of the story.

While we've had hints and suggestions as to how the Aspects and the varying dragonflights came to be, it's never been truly defined. And when we made our trip to Northrend in Wrath of the Lich King, the proto-drakes found roaming the peaks and valleys of the continent were an intriguing puzzle. How did dragonkind make that leap from proto-drake to dragon? Who was Galakrond, and how did his existence tie into the existing dragonflights? Was he the father of all dragonkind in a literal sense, or in a far more figurative fashion?

Perhaps most importantly, at the dawn of the Age of Mortals, does any of this information really matter at all? If you're at all interested in the history of Azeroth, the answer is a resounding yes.

Review of Dawn of the Aspects, part one by Richard A Knaak

If there is one person who ought to have written this book, it is Richard Knaak. He began his Warcraft novel career with Day of the Dragon in 2001, long before World of Warcraft saw the light of day. And in that novel, he defined dragonkind -- who they were, what they were, the Aspects, how they interacted -- all of these were originally penned by Knaak. In Day of the Dragon, Knaak introduced us to the Aspects and dragonkind; in Dawn of the Aspects, Knaak finally gets to tell the tale of how it all began, at the very dawn of Azeroth's history.

Part one of the tale is a confusing cavalcade of visions witnessed through the eyes of Kalecgos, the final Aspect of Magic who barely began his career before it met an untimely demise at the moment of Deathwing's defeat. It's an almost dizzying blur of visions that don't quite make sense, given what we know of dragonkind so far. But I found myself just as easily pulled into the tale as I have with any other Warcraft novel, if not more so -- frankly, the promise of finally seeing some of the oldest events in Azeroth's history is something I've been waiting for, for a very long time.

But we really have to begin at the beginning of the book, which is also an end, in a way. Kalecgos has been struggling with the definition of the dragonflights and how, exactly, the flights fit in with the rest of the world ever since Deathwing's defeat. Part of this struggle was highlighted in Tides of War, but we really begin to see it come to a head in this novel. And within that first chapter, several questions that have been brought up time and time again since Dragon Soul's end cinematic are finally addressed.

Review of Dawn of the Aspects, part one by Richard A Knaak

It's pretty much what we've already been told, only this time, with finality -- the Aspects are no more. They are nothing more than dragons, the same as any other you'd find around Azeroth. Any duties the flights may have had have now been turned over to mortal hands. Watching the timeways? It's a mortal thing now. Guarding the Emerald Dream? Mortal thing. Cataloging priceless magical artifacts and keeping them safe from prying eyes? Mortal thing. It's blatantly pointed out in the book that even the titles the Aspects used to carry are no longer applicable. There is no more Lifebinder, Spell-weaver -- these things have ceased to exist.

Given that, what is a world without dragons like? Kalecgos seeks to answer that question even as old draconic traditions like the Wyrmrest Accord come to an end. Yet that answer really isn't a simple black and white, and before it can even begin to be addressed Kalecgos discovers an artifact buried beneath the skeleton of Galakrond, one which sends him on a vision quest through the eyes of Malygos at the dawn of time -- but Malygos and his fellow Aspects are not Aspects at this point in time.

The book may seem confusing, but I suspect it's because we've only seen part one of the tale so far. The journey has only just begun, and the significance of what Kalecgos has yet to witness has not yet been wound into the tale as a whole. As with any time Knaak has written a tale involving dragons, the characterizations of the Aspects and their kin are excellent. You really get a sense of the enormity that Kalecgos, that all of the dragons are facing -- the enormity of their eventual extinction.

Review of Dawn of the Aspects, part one by Richard A Knaak

And you really feel for Kalecgos in the process. Here he is, young for a dragon, having just come into his own and found his destiny as the new leader of the Blue Dragonflight, only to have that bright future ripped from him mere moments after he ascended to that new role. He didn't even get a chance to settle in or think about what to do as the new Aspect, it was simply handed to him, and then taken away just as quickly.

But even more interesting is the development of the proto-drakes from mounts we happened to obtain in Wrath of the Lich King to a full-fledged species. Yes, they are primitive, but they are primitive in the ways of the vrykul, the kvaldir, or any of the other ancient species roaming Northrend. Seeing their existence in primordial Azeroth is fascinating, as is the promise of seeing how they came to be the dragons we saw today. We're getting the story of a missing link, and I couldn't be happier about that.

Does this merit addressing in the game itself? Not really. Everything we needed to be told was addressed at the end of Cataclysm; the future of the dragonflights after that point in time doesn't really merit definition at this point in time. Mists of Pandaria is that first step into the Age of Mortals, and as such we should concern ourselves with mortal matters -- the duty of the dragonflights is over, and doesn't really factor into in-game events.

Review of Dawn of the Aspects, part one by Richard A Knaak

But for those that wonder what happens to dragons after dragons cease to have a purpose, for those interested in the history of Azeroth, history that doesn't really pertain to Pandaria or its events, Dawn of the Aspects offers something new to read. It's a break from the back-and-forth of the Alliance and Horde war, of the machinations of the mogu and their Zandalari allies. You don't have to read Dawn of the Aspects to understand what's going on in Pandaria -- it's simply a well-written side piece that addresses some questions that players might have after the events in Cataclysm.

That said, while I did not have any problems with the book itself, no qualms about character development or the validity of the tale, I wasn't entirely happy with Dawn of the Aspects. Part of this is because the book is only available in ebook format at this time. This means that instead of curling up on a couch with a few pillows and the satisfying feel of pages in my hands, I have to read it at my computer -- unless I'd like to go out and spend the money on a Kindle or a Nook. Needless to say I am settled in my ways and I'm not even remotely interested in such things.

More jarring, however, is the fact that this is a multi-part series being released over time. I'm not sure what, exactly, led to this decision, but I'm not a fan of it. The fact is, part one ended on a cliffhanger and now I'm really wanting to read the next chapter -- but I can't until part two is released in March. Instead of being delightfully frustrated until the next section is released, I find myself simply frustrated, the wait tinged with irritation rather than eagerness.

Review of Dawn of the Aspects, part one by Richard A Knaak

It's not that I don't appreciate the story. It's that I appreciate the story so much that I would very much like to have the whole thing in my hands, complete, right now. I suspect this is largely because I'm used to reading Warcraft novels in one complete chunk. Clocking in at 90 pages, part one had just enough to get me really drawn in before abruptly ending and forcing me to wait for part two. I'm guessing that I'm just missing the point of whatever this exercise in staggered story release holds -- it may become clearer as the story moves on.

Even though I find myself annoyed by the format and the release schedule, I'd still recommend purchasing part one of what is shaping up to be a fascinating story. Those that had questions about the Aspects, those that are interested in exploring Azeroth's unique history, those that still wonder where the dragons fit in in today's Azeroth will be more than satisfied with what's been presented so far. And even though Dawn of the Aspects part one has raised a multitude of questions, it's answered many, many more in those first 90 pages. I can't wait to see what the rest of the story holds.

Dawn of the Aspects part one is available in several different ebook formats for a wonderfully low $1.99. For Kindle users, head to Amazon -- for all other formats, including PC, iPod, Nook or Android, head to Simon & Schuster. Part two should be available on or around March 18.