After the Kingdom of Stormwind is conquered by The Horde in the First War, its surviving people flee with ships to Lordaeron, led by their champion, Anduin Lothar. After the northern nations hear of the disaster, The Alliance is founded, consisting of the humans, elves, and dwarves. Lothar is appointed the Grand Marshal of the Alliance's armies and is joined by a group of other heroes such as Turalyon, a young paladin, Alleria Windrunner, an elven ranger and Khadgar, a wizard.
Meanwhile Orgrim Doomhammer, the self-promoted Warchief of the Horde, has rid his people of The Magocracy led by demon-worshipping warlocks. He immediately begins preparations for a continuation war, allying himself with the trolls, enslaving dragons, and creating undead sorcerers. After assembling his army, he sets off to make history.
During the war both sides suffer casualties, betrayal and loss.
It is part of the Warcraft Expanded Universe.
This book contains the following tropes:
- The Alliance: Guess which.
- Armies Are Evil: The Horde is violent evil scum, despite Doomhammer's attempts to provide some moral ambiguity.
- Badass Army: The Sons of Lothar.
- Battle Couple: Turalyon and Alleria Windrunner.
- Battle-Halting Duel: The next-to-last battle between The Alliance and The Horde takes place near Blackrock Spire, the orc stronghold. The Alliance besieges the stronghold, when the orc warchief Orgrim Doomhammer leads a counter-attack. During the battle, he encounters the Alliance supreme commander Lord Anduin Lothar. After Lothar's death, his lieutenant Turalyon picks up his broken sword and knocks out Doomhammer. The defeat of their warchief sends the the Horde into a full retreat.
- Black-and-White Morality: Orgrim Doomhammer and Kilrogg Deadeye are pretty much the only orcs who get portrayed positively at all, and even they openly want to commit genocide on all Azerothian races to prevent themselves from suffering a death by starvation.
- The Brigadier: The fantasy version. Lothar is the only one capable and willing to handle the burden of leading the heroes.
- Call-Back: When Khadgar first meets Magni, Magni points out that his name means "Trust" in Dwarven. "Young Trust" was a nickname given to Khadgar by Medivh, who pointed out the same thing.
- The Captain: Daelin Proudmoore is at his most heroic and awesome here. It's terribly ironic that he dies in such an ignomous and pointless manner.
- Continuity Porn: Despite the removal of a lot of specific missions and the gnomes/goblins, there are ALOT of cameos in the book.
- The dialogue between Gul'dan and his minions in the Tomb of Sargeras is quoted verbatim from the flashback in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne.
- Church Militant: Paladins don't exist before this war but are introduced by the Church of the Light
- Civil Warcraft: Occurs with Doomhammer and Guldan. Also the Alliance has to deal with its own traitors, though no human-on-human fighting happens at all.
- Colonel Badass: Turalyon fulfills this role for much of the book
- Darkest Hour: The Siege of Lordaeron is this for the Alliance
- Deus Exit Machina: Lothar spends half the book hunting Orcs in a distant forest in the Hintherlands because had he been there for the battles that happened during that time, he'd have defeated the Horde single-handedly
- Dramatically Missing the Point: Turalyon spends a lot of the book in religion induced doubt, as he can't reconcile the fact that the Light (specifically its capacity for goodness) resides in everyone with the way the orcs are Always Chaotic Evil. He resolves these doubts not by realizing that the orcs are not as bad as he thinks they are, but by finding a (later established to be fundamentally untrue) loophole that lets him denounce the orcs as purely evil without compromising the Light's inherent benevolence.
- Fantastic Racism: After the death of Lothar, Turalyon realizes the Orcs are not from Azeroth and are not of the Light. He considers them nothing more than creatures that have no good in them and need to be slain. This is the catalyst needed to access his Light powers- before, he had trouble believing the orcs could be part of the Light, since it binds all creatures on Azeroth.
- He gets better in Beyond the Dark Portal.
- Fate Worse than Death: Ogrim Doomhammer's capture at the hands of the Alliance to stand trial for his crimes.
- Honor Before Reason: During the Horde's siege of the capital of Lordaeron, they are very close to breaking through the city gates and razing the city to the ground, which would likely spell doom for the Alliance, as Lordaeron is the glue holding it together. Just then, Gul'dan decides to make his move, taking two clans on a personal quest for power. Hearing of this, Orgrim Doomhammer is faced with a choice: he can continue the siege and secure victory, or he can send a full third of his remaining forces to hunt down and punish the traitors at the cost of victory. Being an (more or less) honorable Orc, he goes with the latter. Not only is he left with an insufficient force to break through the gates but the Blackrock clan he sends to punish the renegades gets massacred at sea by Kul Tiras forces (who knew that ships needed to be armed?).
- The Horde: Guess.
- Karmic Death: Gul'Dan is destroyed by the guardians of the power he sought to wield; him dying alone realizing that he's been a pawn all along was just the icing on the cake.
- Number Two: Turalyon is Lothar's most trusted lieutenant and the one who takes over for him when he dies. aka the player character from the game.
- Messianic Archetype: Lothar. Also Turalyon
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The dragon riders make their first appearance. The gryphon riders take off to engage them in battle for the first time. The scene cuts to Turalyon getting his men out of the fire.
- Planet Looters: Pretty much the role of the Horde in Warcraft 1 and 2.
- Proud Warrior Race: Doomhammer tries to get the Orcs back into this.
- Early in the book, Khadgar tells the Kirin Tor about how Garona told him that the Orcs used to be a much more peaceful race of honorable warriors who never fought with one another. In The Last Guardian, what Garona told him was that Orcs were a race of violent savages who were in constant conflict and razed unused land just so rival clans couldn't use the resources.
- In Warcraft II, Anduin Lothar was killed when he attempted to parlay with Orgrim Doomhammer. Here, he got annoyed when Perenolde suggested they should try to negotiate peace with the Horde.
- The Quisling: Aiden Perenolde
- The Siege: Lots, but the most notable and most detailed is the one the Horde lays to the capital of Lordaeron
- Straw Civilian: Aiden Perenolde.
- Supporting Leader: Lothar can be argued to be this, despite being close to a main character.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Zul'jin disappears with little resolution or mention.