“The tall, forbidding palace perched atop the very edged of the mountainous cliff, overlooking so precariously the vast, black body of water below…” (p.1) Hitting the ground running, the opening line of The Well of Eternity By Richard A. Knaak, throws the reader into a spiraling cascade of well-executed imagery which persists throughout the epic novel’s entirety. Through the eyes of 4 different perspectives in the first chapter alone, a synchronized literary chorus cries out Knaak’s knack for writing.
Although one is led to believe that it may have once been the chief demonstration of its higher class society, the ominous edifice and its subsequent body of water transfer its properties of malevolence to the tone as Knaak illustrates: “The ebony lake was now in violent, unnatural turmoil… Lightning played over its vast body, lightning gold, crimson, or the green of decay.” (p.1) Through the imagery of the well of eternity and the personification of the lightning over it, the reader sees both the power it contains, and the deeper and corruption that is inevitably derived from that power. A wise man once said: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and the “higher class” of night elves is no exception.
From the ebony maelstrom of the well of eternity, the novel jumps to one named Korialstrasz; a red dragon of the consort of Life, who has secluded himself in an attempt to regain strength after the end of the most recent war. Through the recollections of the dragon, the reader is introduced to the history of Azeroth and its many, many conflicts to date, thus segway-ing into the second main theme: War. “And everywhere the dragon mage looked, he saw devastation…yet even that would have passed with little concern if not for the coming of the Burning legion” (p.3) Though these lines are not in direct quotations, Knaak did intend the reader to take these lines to be the thoughts of the leviathan and through his deliberate usage of short and to the point sentences at the beginning of paragraphs, he conveys this purpose.
Lastly, as if Jon Steinbeck himself had a say in the writing of this novel, the perspective changes once more as Jeffersonian agrarianism makes an appearance. “Even as [Kalthar] thought that, [he]noted the wrongness in the nature of the world, possibly the reason for the voices’ concern. Something that was that should not be.” (p.7) The syntax of this line, delving into the thought process of Kalthar, the elderly shaman of his tribe demonstrates a sense of earth-based culture found in this foreign land as he discovers the source of the land’s anguish, and also provides a suitable vehicle for the involvement of the opposing end of the race spectrum (the orcs).
The world in which this edifice, dragon, and orc all exist is in transition constantly, paralleling our world in conflict, peace, and everything inbetween. Richard A. Knaak does a marvelous job of not only creating this world before one’s own mind’s eye, but of transferring all the greatness of Earth into a planet in which peace actually does, at some points, exist.