Review by C.J. Bunce
If your only exposure to Orcs is in the J.R.R. Tolkien Middle-earth stories, be prepared for a different look at this fantasy species in Christie Golden’s new novel Warcraft: Durotan, prequel to the upcoming Legendary Pictures Warcraft movie. We’ve reviewed many franchise tie-in novels over the years here at borg.com and plenty of prequels. Warcraft: Durotan is a surprisingly original novel, giving us a unique, sympathetic look at what you may otherwise only know as brainless, barbarian fantasy monsters.
Warcraft is of course the film adaptation of the megahit series of videogames. It opened this weekend internationally to some early box office success. Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), director of the film and son of the late David Bowie, star of Labyrinth and fan of fantasy films, has said he previewed the film for his father, who was excited about the movie. We previewed the movie trailer earlier here at borg.com. It stars Vikings lead actor Travis Fimmel, along with Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Paula Patton, Dominic Cooper, and Ben Foster.
You don’t need to have any background with the video games to enjoy the prequel novel. It will be familiar to fans of the games, but deviates from the video game story. Some fans of the games will like it, some won’t. Durotan is the son of a chieftain of a clan of Orcs. When Durotan steps into the leadership role of his clan he must learn to balance the traditions of the past with the very survival of his clan. Warcraft: Durotan is a solid fantasy story, but it could easily be the story of an actual Native American tribe, a Viking or Highland clan, an Aztec tribe, ancient Spartans, a band of Mongols, or even a family in a Louis L’Amour Old West novel. Durotan’s trials are the trials of any leader whose people are plagued with crisis after crisis. Loyalty, bravery, sacrifice, tradition, mythology, and folklore all come into play.
Unlike Fimmel’s Vikings chiefton, Durotan is not a knee-jerk, warring thug of a leader. He is thoughtful and willing to learn, steadfast but not intransigent. Despite what could be another re-hash of the Vikings or Klingons, Durotan’s Orc clan, called the Frostwolves, are fierce but intelligent, close to primitive but logical like the proto-Vulcans of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Durotan’s world, literally the environment of Draenor, is crumbling. Vegetation is dying, the ground is swallowing up his home, and a volcanic mountain further challenges his ability to gather the necessities of what could be a peaceful nomadic life. He has one option all along: Join the Horde under another clan leader who possesses magical powers, but that means obedience and uncertainty for his clan. How long can he seek alternatives before there are no clansmen left to protect?
You’ll meet Durotan, played by Toby Kebbell in the film, Horde leader Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), a warrior returning from exile: Durotan’s wife Draka (Anna Galvin), Gul’dan’s slave Garona (Paula Patton), Durotan’s second-in-command Orgrim (Robert Kazinsky), and the notorious, bloody Red Walkers. It all leads up to Durotan’s encounter with the humans, the focus of the film. If Warcraft is about choosing sides, Warcraft: Durotan will make it difficult to cheer on Mankind.
Fans of the strong and capable women in The Huntsman: Winter’s War will appreciate the well-crafted warriors Draka, Durotan’s determined mother Geyah, and the brave Garona. Author Christie Golden also wrote the novelization of the film.
A good standalone fantasy and prequel to the coming fantasy film, Warcraft: Durotan is available now here at Amazon.com. Warcraft is in theaters June 10, 2016.