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Literature / Arthas

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Correctly called Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, this novel chronicles the events of Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion pack Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. It also includes the early childhood of Prince Arthas Menethil and events that tie it directly to Wrath of the Lich King. As such, it takes place in the Warcraft Expanded Universe. A novel by Christie Golden, it resolves several plot issues nagging from the World of Warcraft game.

This novel contains the following tropes:

  • A Father to His Men: This is how Arthas is able to convince his nation's entire fleet to pull up anchor and follow him to the North.
  • Action Girl: Sylvanas, right up until she becomes a Dark Action Girl.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: A very small one for Arthas as a death knight. When Uther tells him that the magic urn he means to steal contains his father's ashes, Arthas is briefly stunned by some faint feeling of disgust or shame. In the original game, his reaction was to chuckle at this.
  • Adaptation Expansion: In general terms, it does a magnificent job fleshing out many of the lore figures who take part in Wrath of the Lich King. Arthas himself goes from a fairly likeable, but jerkish Paladin early on, to a charismatic and sympathetic figure as a Paladin
  • Anti-Hero: Arthas starts off as a Pragmatic Hero, becomes a Nominal Hero, and by the end has fallen to a Villain Protagonist.
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  • Arranged Marriage: Arthas' sister is almost married to Lord Prestor and is horrified for it. Arthas is horrified at the prospect for himself. Subverted in the fact that his father was entirely happy with his courtship of Jaina Proudmoore because she was a perfect choice.
  • Better as Friends: Arthas gives this speech to Jaina, because he's worried that he's not ready for a long-term relationship, and fears that he'll mess it up. Jaina is heartbroken by this but realizes he was correct once they both become busy with their respective life choices.
  • Badass in Charge: Arthas - of Lordaeron's army and later the Scourge.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Arthas and being betrayed.
    • Or hurting his horse
  • The Cameo: There are too many minor characters to list, considering the nature of the storyline. However, not many expected Tiron Fordring to make an appearance. And surprisingly without a speaking role.
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  • Chekhov's Skill: Muradin Bronzebeard's favorite trick — kicking his opponent's abdomen — managed to save Arthas' life during his fight against Kael.
  • The Chessmaster: Much like in the game, the Lich King Ner'zhul masterfully manipulates Arthas into walking down the path of darkness and taking up Frostmourne, then turns him against Mal'Ganis, thus freeing himself from the Dreadlord's gaze and earning himself a powerful champion in the mix. After Arthas comes over to The Dark Side, he resumes his role as Archimonde and Kil'jaeden's lackey, providing the undead muscle that facilitates the Legion's invasion of Azeroth, right down to Kel'Thuzad (as a lich) serving as Archimonde's summoner at Dalaran. From there, he sends Arthas to alert Illidan Stormrage to the existence of the Skull of Gul'dan, knowing he would do exactly what he did (kill the Legion forces corrupting the forests of Felwood and Tichondrius, the Dreadlord who led them) right under the noses of his supposed masters. Even when Illidan's forces march on Icecrown, Ner'zhul successfully calls his forces home for a timely counter-offensive.
  • Cool Sword: Frostmourne and Felo'melorn.
  • Compressed Adaptation: An unfortunate consequence of needing to fit in an original backstory and the storylines of two games into slightly less than 400 pages, many of the events of the games are covered quickly or skipped entirely. Arthas' encounters with the demon worshipping orcs are mentioned but not depicted, and his seizing of their portal happens off-screen. Arthas' invasion of Dalaran and his killing of Atonidas also occurs off-screen. The first undead mission in The Frozen Throne where he, Kel'Thuzad and Sylvanas purge the remaining defenders of Lordaeron doesn't happen, and the blue dragon Sapphiron doesn't appear. Perhaps the most regrettable omission is that Arthas' journey through Azjol-Nerub and his encounters with Baelgun, the Faceless Ones and the Forgotten One is skipped entirely.
  • The Corrupter: Mal'Ganis and Ner'zhul, who plot to bring Arthas over to the dark side. Its partially Justified by the fact that many of the events are recounting tales by Jaina and Sylvanas, who know large portions of their journey, but not the whole thing.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Arthas to Ner'zhul in the standing-up position within the mind of the Lich King at the end of the book.
  • Dark Messiah: Which Arthas eventually becomes, at least for the Scourge.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Arthas is an excellent practitioner.
    "Ah, Kael, even your insults are unnecessarily complicated. Glad to see you haven't changed - as ineffectual as ever. Which raises a question, why weren't you at Quel'Thalas anyway? Content to let others die for you while you sat snug and secure at your Violet Citadel? I don't think you'll be doing that anymore."
    "I must say, I'm rather disappointed in these elves you lead. I had hoped for a better fight. Maybe I killed all the ones with spirit in Quel'Thalas."
    "After how you cowardly fled during our last confrontation, I must say, I am surprised to see you here, Kael. Don't be so upset that I stole Jaina from you. You should let that go and move on. After all, there's so much left in the world for you to enjoy. Oh wait... No there isn't."
    "You look different, Illidan. I guess the Skull of Gul'dan didn't agree with you."
    "Show your appreciation by getting out of my way, then."
    "[to Uther's displeasure at seeing him return] I'm a bad copper, I just keep turning up."
  • Disappointed by the Motive: Sylvanas, having watched Arthas slaughter his way through Quel'Thalas, turn her people (herself included) into undead abominations and corrupt their most sacred artifact, is aghast to realize that he did all this just to raise one long-dead necromancer as a lich.
  • Dramatic Irony: Kael'thas believes that since the Orcs made deals with demons and became addicted to demonic blood that they deserve no sympathy because anyone stupid enough to do that is an idiot. This is exactly what starts to happen to Kael'thas and his followers in the Warcraft III expansion, and what ends up happening in World of Warcraft.
  • Evil Mentor: The Lich King, alias Ner'zhul, for Arthas.
  • The Evil Prince: What Arthas transforms into.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Dreadlords could make a living out of this trope.
    • Arthas' voice is described as being a baritone.
    • Also, Illidan becomes distinctively more bass as a half-demon.
  • Fallen Hero: Lets see: Arthas goes from a contested example of The Wise Prince to The Evil Prince hiked up to eleven, Sylvanas Windrunner is killed and forcibly raised from the dead, turning her into a Dark Action Girl who struggles to have morality after being released from Arthas' grasp and Kael'thas goes from a prince with divided loyalties between his surrogate home city of Dalaran and his actual homeland of Quel'Thalas to a revenge-and-blood magic-addled lunatic. Ner'zhul, who was once the orcish people's spiritual leader and an all-around nice guy and is now the Lich King, and Illidan — where to even start with Illidan? — carry over their status as this from previous works.
    • Anub'arak is this in the eyes of the still-living Nerubians, because he was their king in life and is now their conqueror in undeath; Kel'Thuzad, meanwhile, may be a necromancer-turned-lich by the novel's time, but he was once a member of the Six, Dalaran's ruling council, so he must have had some integrity beforehand.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Now I wonder if there are such things as ghosts, too. If there are, our prince will be ten thick in them." The Lich King eventually meets his demise in World of Warcraft when Frostmourne gets shattered, and he becomes overwhelmed with the ghosts of all those he had slain before.
    • Bonus: That quote is credited to Uther the Lightbringer, who just so happens to become one of those ghosts.
  • The Good King: Terenas, Arthas' father and King of Lordaeron, or at least he tries to be. While not much is known about his reign, one could make the assumption that Anub'arak was this before his undeath set in.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Everyone but Kael'thas seems to think Arthas is a hero in the making. In fairness, he presents a good case for it.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Discussed by Jaina who theorized The Plague might not affect children the same way. It was then defied by Arthas, who made it clear that he was going to kill every last person in Stratholme — adults and children alike.
  • It Gets Easier: Averted. Killing the infected citizens of Stratholme doesn't get easier for Arthas, and he is haunted by it until he becomes a Death Knight.
  • The Heartless: Arthas after he takes up Frostmourne. In more detail, the sword absorbs his soul, which removes his last scraps of empathy and remorse — making him the perfect mold for the Lich King.
  • Kick the Dog: Arthas' first act of this was killing all the mercenaries who helped him sink his ships in Northrend. Then he left Muradin Bronzebeard to die (though to be fair by all accounts Muradin appeared dead). Finally, he killed his own father before unleashing a plague of undeath on the world.
  • Killed Off for Real: Ner'zhul.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Most believe Arthas is this.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Arthas gets quite a few moments of this.
  • Knight Templar: Arthas slowly develops an obsession against Mal'Ganis that justifies everything.
  • Light Is Not Good: Arthas is a paladin of light, despite eventually making choices that seem to go against the code of being a Paladin.
  • Meaningful Name: Subverted. Uther the Lightbringer remains a nice guy right up until his death. Arthas, named undoubtedly for King Arthur, becomes an Enemy to All Living Things.
    • On the other hand, Uther was the name of Arthur's father, and one could argue he was closer to a father figure for Arthas than his actual father.
  • Morality Chain: Jaina is unwittingly Arthas' morality chain. When she turns against him, things take a turn for the worse.
  • Motive Decay: At the start, Arthas wanted revenge and to protect his people; before the book's end, he's turning them all into undead. Of course, by the time he does, he's literally lost his soul, so this is no surprise.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Kel'Thuzad. Practically word for word.
  • Mythology Gag: The book lingers for a while to tell the reader that Thrall's escape from Durnholde Keep spawned quite a bit of Wild Mass Guessing over how he actually managed to accomplish this, with some rumors going as far as "A Dragon Did It". Of course, people who've read Lord of the Clans would know that Taretha, the local servant-girl mentioned earlier was the one who helped him escape.

  • The Necrocracy: The Scourge, an army of The Undead served by the Cult of the Damned and ruled the Lich King, who is the soul of an orc shaman sealed within a magic helmet.
  • Ojou: Jaina Proudmoore starts as one.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: It's clear that the Lich King intends to turn the entire world into truly loyal undead slaves.
  • One-Man Army: Arthas.
  • Out-Gambitted: Ner'zhul does this to Mal'Ganis. And then does it again to Kil'jaeden and Archimonde.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Deconstructed. Arthas and Jaina by all accounts appear to be this way when they begin dating, with their parents openly supporting them, and the realm generally loving the two. However, Arthas also realizes he isn't ready to settle down with Jaina yet; by the time they break up, they were only young adults who have their whole lives to settle out first. So while it seems perfect at a glance, the two still aren't mature enough to make that choice.
  • Precision F-Strike: One particular case carries through from Warcraft III.
    Sylvanas Windrunner: Give my regards to hell, you son of a bitch.
  • Prince Charming: Arthas is believed to be this by Jaina (and everyone else). Kael'thas thinks he is, but fails utterly in convincing Jaina of it.
  • Prince Charmless:
    • Kael'thas held a torch out for Jaina, but she thought it was creepy rather than flattering due to their titanic age difference.
    • It certainly doesn't help that Kael throws a fit upon discovering her initial courtship with Arthas, nor that he later snarls at her for having ever loved Arthas after word reaches them of the destruction of Quel'Thalas.
    Kael'thas: Arthas is a butcher! He has slaughtered thousands of innocent people! There is so much blood on his hands that a whole ocean could never wash them clean. And you loved him? Chose him over me?
  • Real Men Love the Light: Uther, and Arthas before he switches religions.
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: Hilariously, what Arthas seems to be despite being a Prince and legendary hero-in-the-making.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Arthas' reaction to the events of Stratholme that drive him insane.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: How Arthas begins.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Justified by the fact that Arthas is clearly traumatized and borderline insane even before he picks up Frostmourne, and Mal'Ganis and the Lich King fully intend for him to go bad and manipulate him in that direction with great care.
  • Start of Darkness: For Arthas and various other major Scourge personalities, and Kael'thas to to a lesser extent. It's something of an inversion for Ner'zhul; not only was he bad before, but the book actually offers an explanation for why he isn't around afterwards.
  • Troll: Arthas can't figure out why Tichondrius kept smirking while instructing him to steal a "very special urn". Turned out said urn contained the ashes of Arthas' father.
  • The Virus: The cursed grain that Kel'Thuzad made.
  • We Can Rule Together: Ner'zhul makes an offer of this to Arthas within the mind of the Lich King, arguing that they should merge and become one glorious being. Unfortunately for him...]]
    • I Can Rule Alone: Arthas sticks him in the gut, deciding he's better off without anyone else.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Again, subverted. Everyone assumes that Arthas is actually the loyal and doting son of his father. In fact, Arthas has greatly mixed feelings about his father, right up until Arthas kills him.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Arthas genuinely wants to save his people, and fights to protect them from the undead. However, once he leaves for Northrend, it becomes both to save his people, and to get revenge on the Scourge. Eventually, he drops this entirely.
  • White Prince: Arthas has all the appearance of one.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The main threat posed to the heroes and the Kingdom of Lordaeron as a whole. Arthas spends the first half of the novel trying to fight against it, then eventually brings it about.