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Dragons in Context: Courtney Alameda's War of the Scaleborn

Courtney Alameda's War of the Scaleborn is the latest book in the World of Warcraft series, published 31 October 2023. It's available as an eBook and in hardcover format at present. Please, if you have a local bookstore or a local retail location of a bookstore chain such as Barnes & Noble, consider purchasing the hardcover. I, too, like the convenience of a Kindle/nook edition, but it's important that we keep bookstores open everywhere.

In brief, Alameda writes a good book that is both entertaining and adds some foundational lore to our understanding of the Aspects and the Titans. It will surely be important information for us going forward into The War Within.

In War of the Scaleborn, we get some insight into the history that predates the current lore in Dragonflight. We learn what the Aspects do after Tyr empowers them with order magic, including some of the questionable choices that will come back around to haunt them later on - specifically in stealing eggs from wild dragons and then imbuing said eggs with order magic without consent of the dragons therein.

This last bit is the main point of contention between Alexstrazza and Vyranoth, and (surprise!) leads to the rift that we were brought into during Dragonflight. Alexstrazza promises Vyranoth that she wouldn't ever impose order magic on unwilling dragons, but then she has to think of the future of the ordered dragons. Some mental gymnastics ensue. Malygos and Neltharion like the idea. And so Alexstrazza technically breaks her promise to Vyranoth.

This lesson learnt seems to be in line with the "drakonid are people, too" quest line we see in game: the ongoing education of Alexstrazza the Life-Binder.

And while, yes, the sexual tension between Alexstrazza and Vyranoth remains palpable throughout this entire book, I don't think that it is the most interesting part by a long shot.

We get chapters from Neltharion's point of view! We see him fighting the whispers he inevitably succumbs to - but we also see why he doesn't really have a choice but to succumb to them. These chapters are some of the best writing in the book.

We get better characterization for Raszageth and Iridikron. Raszageth as the impetuous young and powerful Incarnate we dispatched of in 10.0. Iridikron as a slow and steady planner, working underground and calculating each move.

We get Fyrak. Being fiery. And rash. But there is some context here for him. He feels disrespected. He feels like his fellow Incarnates don't value him. And while he's still a hothead, I guess we might see his perspective a bit better now.

The other Aspects are a mixed bag - and this isn't Alameda's fault. Their storylines have become tiresome in game, too.

Ysera is the dreamy, sleepy dragon doing her thing. I remember being heartbroken watching Ysera die in Legion. Then the quest line in Ardenweald was really touching, and then bringing her back to Azeroth in Dragonflight was... something? I think I might just be emotionally spent with Ysera. She was equally uninteresting in Dawn of the Aspects, for what it's worth.

Nozdormu is enigmatic. You can feel this even in Alameda's writing trying to figure out what, exactly, bronze dragons do other than manipulate time in ways that don't quite make a lot of sense. Even the scene in which Alexstrazza has some bronze dragon magic in the book seems confused about what exactly such magic does.

Malygos is at least interesting in his scheming and in the unbridled lust he has for the arcane. Sindragosa gets some lines and plays into the action, too. (I might just be a closet mage at heart.)

We get to revisit some iconic places in Northrend, namely Wyrmrest Temple, and these elements are sure to please longtime fans of WoW.

Like any WoW book, though, there will always be the folks who will try to argue what lore is canon v. what is a retcon. Good lore evolves. If all of the lore were still static from Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994 or World of Warcraft (Vanilla) in 2004, would most people be interested in the story? I can't imagine.

War of the Scaleborn fills in some gaps, but it also provides opportunity for new story threads that we could see brought into the newly-announced Worldsoul Saga. We know (from the Dragonflight campaign quests) that Iridikron is out there somewhere still, and the characterization of him and dialogue written for him by Alameda allow for plenty of speculation regarding his role in events to come.

Now as Vyranoth functions as an emissary to the other dragons around Azeroth on behalf of the Aspects, we perhaps are meant to have more trust in the Aspects.

We might also be more dubious of the Titans.

If you're a fan, past or present, of WoW and looking for a very enjoyable book to read, you should go and find yourself a copy of Alameda's War of the Scaleborn. You will have a lot of questions answered, but there will be new questions to keep you thinking about what comes next!

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