The aging orc shaman Ner'zhul has seized control of the Horde and reopened the Dark Portal. His brutal warriors once again encroach upon Azeroth, laying siege to the newly constructed stronghold of Nethergarde Keep. There, the archmage Khadgar and the Alliance commander, Turalyon, lead humanity and its elven and dwarven allies in fighting this new invasion.
Even so, disturbing questions arise. Khadgar learns of orcish incursions farther abroad: small groups of orcs who seem to pursue a goal other than simple conquest. Worse yet, black dragons have been sighted as well, and they appear to be aiding the orcs. To counter Ner'zhul's dark schemes, the Alliance must now invade the orcs' ruined homeworld of Draenor. Can Khadgar and his companions stop the nefarious shaman in time to stave off the destruction of two worlds?
This novel contains examples of:
- Anti-Villain: Kilrogg Deadeye remains the Noble Demon he was in Tides of Darkness.
- After the End: The situation on Draenor in a nutshell.
- Armor-Piercing Response: Alleria asks why Khadgar cares so much about how someone else spends their life. His response; because he didn't have one himself due to being magically aged and doesn't want to see someone who has a chance at life throw theirs away.
- Badass Boast: Deathwing gives one that doubles as Prepare to Die. Gruul gives his own as introduction to Deathwing."I am Gruul, greatest of gronn! This my land, my mountains! And you will not take them! You leave or you end up like children!"
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Turalyon and Alleria's relationship, although at the start of the book, she outright despises him for his not sharing her desire to exterminate the orcs.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Ner'zhul and Deathwing. The former is nothing like the Lich King who destroys Arthas' sanity and unleashes the Scourge on the world. He's a weak, broken, and half-sane shell of a once great man. While Deathwing is the more powerful villain and is only helping Ner'zhul for his own gain, Deathwing is beaten first.
- Blood Knight: Alleria, as well as every orc in the Horde.
- Bolivian Army Ending: Kilrogg Deadeye dies in a fight with Danath Trollbane in Auchindoun to buy Ner'zhul time to escape. As he dies, he says with satisfaction that the Horde will live on because of him.
- Broken Pedestal: How every orc more or less reacts to Ner'zhul, seeing how far he's fallen.
- Bullying a Dragon: Literal example. The gronn attack Deathwing's younger children and intend to kill Deathwing himself. The heroes of the Alliance aid the gronn, while worried the gronn will will kill them otherwise. Once they actually see Deathwing they start to consider that fighting him was a mistake as the gronn are powerless against him.
- Calling the Old Man Out: King Perenolde's son gives one to him after learning of his dealings with the Horde.
- Cherry Tapping: Khadgar uses what he calls a "simple parlor trick" to help drive off Deathwing by ripping away a part of his armor.
- Cool Old Guy: Khadgar, although unfortunately, he's not old enough to be one.
- Death Seeker: Alleria almost completely loses the will to live in her quest for revenge. Khadgar and Turalyon call her out on it.Khadgar: You don't want to fight, Alleria, you want to die.
- Defiant to the End: Gruul is incredibly powerful, but Deathwing outclasses him easily. Despite this, Gruul keeps fighting, and lives since Deathwing wants to make him suffer.
- The Dragon: Gorefiend. Also doubles as a Names to Run Away from Really Fast.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Draenor.
- Enemy Mine: Turalyon's group allies with Gruul and his gronn against Deathwing and the other dragons.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Deathwing takes the mass killing of his children very badly.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": As covered elsewhere, Deathwing's real name isn't Deathwing at all. It's Neltharion. Deathwing is just what he goes by.
- Everyone Has Standards: Turalyon has no love for the orcs, but is disturbed by Alleria's obsession with vengeance (which drives a rift between them, and which he fears will get her killed), as well as an orphan child who wants to grow up and kill orcs.
- Eviler than Thou: After Ner'zhul thinks the deal with Deathwing is concluded but asks him if he wants anything else, Deathwing states he hands Gul'dan's skull. When Ner'zhul isn't ready to hand it over, Deathwing warns him that he will take the skull by force and realizing the orcs wouldn't be able to stop him, Ner'zhul hands it over.
- After Ner'zhul escapes from Draenor, he runs into Kil'jaeden. The old orc is terrorified of the mighty demon and quickly begs for mercy. He doesn't get any.
- Evil Old Folks: Ner'zhul dances around this trope for a while before eventually becoming it in full.
- Fallen Hero: Ner'zhul goes from being one of the wisest and most celebrated orcs in recent history to a selfish, ultimately uncaring old jackass.
- Fantastic Racism: Alleria positively drips this. Turalyon was pretty racist in the previous book, but has gotten over it by now.
- Fate Worse than Death: Ner'zhul. He escapes the destruction of Draenor, only to run into Kil'jaeden, who subjects him to a much worse fate.
- Faux Affably Evil: Deathwing acts polite in his interactions with orcs, but between his theatrics keep leaving them think he might turn on them at any given moment. When he asks for Gul'dan's skull, when Ner'zhul doesn't hand it over right away, Deathwing makes it clear he will take it by force if it's not given to him.
- Foregone Conclusion: Ner'zhul will become the Lich King. The expedition never gets home. Alleria and Turalyon have a child in the Outlands.
- Forest Ranger: Alleria, the high elf ranger.
- Gaia's Lament: Draenor has most of its plant life wiped out.
- Heel Realization: Ner'zhul has one of these. It allows him to give into his inner evil fully and completely.
- If I Do Not Return: Alleria asks Verana to give a message to Sylvanas and Vereesa, as well as two of the pendants made from their family necklace, if Alleria does not return. While Alleria has become a Death Seeker, she does correctly point out that it's reasonable to consider the possibility that she might not come back (especially since she doesn't actually return until the Legion expansion of World of Warcraft).
- I Have Many Names: Deathwing lists some of the names he's been called as a Badass Boast.
- Jerkass: Alleria is extremely harsh with Khadgar at the orphanage, lashing out at him for not sharing her desire to exterminate the orcs.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Alleria took several after Lirath's death and the destruction of much of her homeland.
- The Juggernaut: Deathwing proves unstoppable for most of the book. Not even Gruul is a match for him. He's only defeated because Khadgar breaks off parts of the armor that holds his body together instead the dragon or the plates.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: Grom and other orc cheiftains save themselves and their clans when it becomes apparent that Ner'zhul has abandoned them.
- Kryptonite Factor: The Death Knights naturally are weakened even by slight amount of the Holy Light. When Turalyon takes advantage of this on Gorefiend, it turns him to dust.
- No-Sell: Gruul delivers a huge punch to Deathwing that knocks everyone him down from the shock of it, and Deathwing isn't even phased. Khadgar used some of his most powerful magic against Deathwing and was met with this as well.
- Only Sane Man: Rexxar points out that the Horde has been so decimated by war that they could settle on Azeroth without displacing the native races. Grom Hellscream asks where's the glory in that.
- Oh, Crap!: Turalyon and Khadgar this reaction to seeing Deathwing after they and the gronn attacked a number of his children.
- Ner'zhul is terrorified when he runs into Kil'jaeden, realizing what the demon is
- Our Giants Are Bigger: This book goes into details on how big the gronn are, and that Gruul is even bigger.
- Papa Wolf: Deathwing goes absolutely berserk after his eggs were smashed and his children slaughtered by the Alliance and Gruul. He attacks Gruul, and the horrified Alliance realizes the only reason the gronn isn't dead is because Deathwing was toying with him.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Gruul doesn't really give a damn about being moral; he just doesn't want the black dragons muscling in on his territory.
- Retcon: With regards to the gronn driving out Deathwing and his children. The earlier lore stated their sheer power and greater numbers drove them out. This novel changes so that the dragons they killed were extremely young (full grown ones that appeared in the rest of the Warcraft Expended Universe are MUCH bigger than them), and Deathwing mopped the floor with them with the gronn. They only surviving because Khadgar break some of the metal plates holding Deathwing's body together, forcing him to retreat.
- Riddle for the Ages: Deathwing wanted Gul'dan's skull in exchange for helping the orcs, along with allowing a caravan full of black dragon eggs to pass into Draenor. The novel is told from Deathwing's point of view so what his plan with it was is never intended.
- Shoot the Dog: Turalyon has to destroy black dragon eggs to eliminate the future threat of black dragons on Draenor.
- Smug Snake: Deathwing, so much so that the orcs often can't tell if he's insulting them.
- Suicidal Overconfidence: Gruul, thinking picking a fight with a dragon that's big enough to play with him like mouse is a good plan.
- The Quisling: King Perenolde to a despicable degree. His own son gives him a What the Hell, Hero? speech about it.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
Ner'zhul: Gul'dan and his twisted schemes — they reach out and destroy lives, even from beyond the grave! You and your plans! And how much power would you gain from success? Power is all you Shadow Council bastards care about!
- Before he's convinced to follow The Plan, Ner'zhul lambasts Teron Gorefiend with one of these, growling that he and the Shadow Council are the same power-hungry jerks they were in Rise of the Horde.
Khadgar: You don't want to fight, Alleria, you want to die.
- Khadgar gives one to Alleria as a friend.
Alleria: What do you mean?
Khadgar: We've all seen it. You rush out there, on fire for blood. On fire for your revenge. That's why Turalyon keeps ordering you to stay close, and sometimes not even go out at all. He's afraid he's going to lose you.
Alleria: I am not his to lose. I belong to no one but myself.
Khadgar: You don't even belong to yourself. You belong to the dead. Joining them won't bring them back, Alleria. There's a good, kind, intelligent man right here in this keep who could teach you a thing or two about how to live. You should try living for a change- opening yourself to something rare and wonderful instead of slamming doors.
Alleria: How dare you say such things to me! It's none of your business! Why do you care how I choose to live my life?
Khadgar: I care because I don't get to choose!
- Ner'Zhul gets one from Kil'Jaeden, mocking Ner'zhul for thinking he could escape his master, using magic he doesn't understand and claiming to care about his people.
- The So-Called Coward: Turalyon, according to Alleria.
- Villainous Breakdown: Ner'zhul, when he comes face to face with Kil'jaeden. He ends up begging for mercy, but is tortured and turned into the Lich King.
- We Have Reserves: Ner'zhul sees the entire Horde as expendable, and abandons all the other orcs in his quest for power.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Khadgar gives Alleria a scathing one, calling her out on her obsession with revenge and desire for death resulting in her closing herself off from the pleasures life can offer, Turalyon in particular.
- The Worf Effect: The Gronn are built up as huge and menacing, getting through rocks on the way to Deathwing's lair by smashing them... and when Deathwing shows up, he knocks them around by beating his wings. This justified, though by the fact that Deathwing is the greatest of all black dragons, and thus a little more powerful than his