Arthas heading for the bargain bin?

UndergroundWoW have checked in with Nielsen to get the actual number of copies of Arthas: Rise of the Lich King sold in the US. At 20k copies sold it’s not looking good, and their contacts in the publishing trade reckon it’s bound for the remainder bins.

The book had been pimped by Blizzard as making the New York Times Bestsellers list, and it’s worth remembering that the bestsellers lists are compiled weekly, and are all about which books sell most in a single week.  So a book with a strong  audience who will all buy it as soon as it’s available could make a good showing, for one week at least. Especially in the hardcover fiction section.

Why did it tank? UndergroundWow  thinks it was overpriced, badly laid out, and printed on poor quality paper (this is an issue if it’s an expensive book). It’s also not inevitable that all game books will be bad — some of the Warhammer ones are great —  but that’s the way to bet.

In this case, Blizzard actually published an excerpt so you can decide for yourself:

Jaina Proudmoore hummed a little as she strode through the gardens of Dalaran. She’d been here for eight years now, and the city never lost its sense of wonder. Everything here emanated magic, and to her it was almost like a scent, a fragrance of everything in bloom, and she inhaled it with a smile.

Yes, I wouldn’t pay $25 for that either. I’ll be amazed if the winning entries to Blizzard’s short story contest don’t crush that one.


10 thoughts on “Arthas heading for the bargain bin?

  1. I happened to win a copy of the book in a random drawing; we’ll see how it turns out. Christie Golden is a decent author, and BBB seemed to like the book.

    For what it’s worth, it’s the only one that I’ve been interested in the WoW lore… but I never actually *buy* hardcover books until they are on sale anyway, no matter what they are. This is especially true in times of economic stress.

    Still, it’s cheaper than two months of the game itself, and you don’t have to seal it up when the two months are up.

    Stabs is right, though. The audience for the book probably isn’t really the average “WoW player” so much as it is a “niche segment of WoW players, with a few random folk from elsewhere”. That’s not going to be a huge number.

  2. I read a couple of the WOW books when I first started playing the game, and they were so badly written it was embarrassing.
    Not as embarrassing as the Warhammer books, though.

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  4. I got the book last night, we’ll see how it turns out. A few pages in, it’s a little… purple, but I’m more interested in the characterization, anyway. I developed purple prose filters long ago. (It’s the only way to survive most fiction, really.)

  5. Halfway through… I’ll write up a “proper book review” later, but for now, I can share some impressions.

    Christie Golden is no Rumplestiltskin. She’s a good author, and she nails some of the characterization and understands her lore. It’s just… Blizzard gave her straw to work with, and she can’t make gold out of it. Arthas just isn’t a very sympathetic character.

    Prince or no, Uther should have smacked him upside the head.

    I did play Warcraft 3, where most of these events (so far) come from, so this isn’t a huge surprise, I just had hoped for *something* to give a better sense of Arthas being more than a hotheaded, prideful moron.

    I just can’t blame this on Ms. Golden. I don’t think Blizzard gave her enough to work with. Still, maybe I’m just wrong. Maybe my desire to see something good in the old boy is misguided, and this really is just a book about the formation of a Big Bad. If that’s really all it is, though, with no tragic pathos or promise of potential redemption… I can see where it’s not really be a book with staying power. We have plenty of villains already, far too many of them real.

    • I don’t know. I was fascinated by that storyline in WC3 because it was so grandly epic.

      The story of a hero who falls from grace like that has such strong mythic resonances — it makes me think of Greek heroes who carry the seeds of their own doom within them, or some of the Arthurian villains. I don’t see why that’s not awesome material for an author to work with. He doesn’t have to be likeable, just young and headstrong and wanting so fiercely to do the right thing that the ends justify the means, etc and then one step leads to the next.

      • See that’s the thing. Such a storyline definitely *does* have potential, and I really wanted to see it realized, but Blizzard didn’t handle it well in the first place. I *want* to like the story, and to see Arthas as a fallen hero that might yet carry the day through a Vaderish last second push for good.

        Arthas goes through the motions of a hero falling from grace, but never has a plausible motivation for doing so. He’s just an angry git, like Harry Potter in the middle books, raging for little other reason than to rage and be angsty, when it’s completely out of the heroic character that they would like us to see in him. It drives the story, but it doesn’t feel true to either the established character, or true to life.

        Ms. Golden tries to give him good reasons for his “fall from grace”, but his shifts through the plot-delineated WC3 highlights don’t make much sense in the first place. He’s painted as a character who is a bit brash and arrogant, but ultimately good, who loves his people and serves them to the best of his ability. His actions in the WC3 campaign don’t follow logically from such a character, and his shifts seem arbitrary rather than organic, bent to serve the notion of a traitor that gives the Scourge an iconic leader. It’s Face/Heel by the numbers stuff, not grand mythology.

        Maybe a better author could have done more with that, but I do ultimately leave the blame for that almost bipolar shift at the doorstep of Blizzard rather than Ms. Golden. They constructed the framework for Arthas, and she could only do so much. She does tie some interesting threads together, and shows some moral weaknesses that Arthas has, but the ultimate fall from grace still feels like something plot-based, rather than character-based.

        It works well enough to create an iconic face for the Scourge and to create angst, but it’s unsatisfying from a literary standpoint. I’m not entirely sure that *any* author could have dragged much more out of the Arthas core story.

  6. Oh, and this?
    “overpriced, badly laid out, and printed on poor quality paper”

    I think all hardback books are overpriced (until they go on sale), but the layout and paper quality are on par with most other hardbound books I’ve seen. (I’ve seen a lot of books, having been an avid reader for a couple of decades and having worked in two different bookstores.) Ms. Golden’s writing isn’t Shakespeare, but neither is J.K. Rowling’s work, or many of the other NYT bestsellers’ work.

    No, I think the subject matter (an unsympathetic “hero” doing a Face/Heel turn) and the ADHD WoW player base are to blame for this one.

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