Blizzard continues its trend of books that tie into World of Warcraft with its latest novel, Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War. This book takes place after the events in Cataclysm and after the last cinematic of the Dragon Soul raid. Deathwing is well and truly dead, and the world is a better place for it -- but for how long? Given the explosive nature of the Alliance/Horde conflict in Cataclysm, it's readily apparent that we're not about to go striding into the sunset, holding hands and singing songs of peace and harmony.
Tides of War revolves around Jaina Proudmoore and the events at Theramore Isle, which we'll see in game when patch 5.0.4 hits live servers. Jaina's been noticeably absent during Cataclysm; while we see Theramore forces out and about in the world, Jaina herself remains firmly ensconced in her tower abode on Theramore Isle. But there's a change on the winds, one that's been hinted at ever since the novel The Shattering was released. In The Shattering, Jaina was told that eventually, some day, she was going to have to choose a side. In Tides of War, she makes that choice in a spectacularly dramatic fashion.
But there's far more to this novel than just Jaina Proudmoore.
For those wondering, given Golden's previous novels The Shattering and Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects, if we're going to see an overabundance of a certain green-skinned orc, you needn't worry at all. While Thrall does make a couple of appearances in the novel, he is far from the main character or even what I'd call a supporting role. However, because of Jaina and Thrall's peculiar friendship that has spanned the years since the Third War, his appearances are definitely needed and warranted for the purpose of the story being told here.
As for the rest of the world, first and foremost is the question of the Dragon Aspects. In the closing cinematic for Dragon Soul, we saw the Aspects lose their powers and give way to the Age of Mortals -- but just what the heck does that mean? What is an Aspect, if they no longer have their powers? For that matter, what is the purpose of a dragonflight, when their purpose has been fulfilled?
All of these questions and more are answered over the course of the novel. And while we may not get a definitive answer as to just what powers have been lost, we do have a better idea of the eventual fate of the dragonflights by the novel's end.
But the tauren and trolls are not the only Horde races unhappy with Garrosh's reign. Shown too are appearances by the Forsaken and the blood elves. Lor'themar Theron takes only a token appearance in the novel, but his appearance is a noteworthy one that has me hoping we see more of him in the future. Sylvanas is equally absent; however, her presence is absolutely felt over the course of events.
Lest you think this is a Horde-centric novel, I should point out that it definitely is not. There is equal time spent between Alliance and Horde as both sides ramp up to the devastating climax of the book itself. And major players on both sides are highlighted throughout the course of the novel, deftly written with development in mind. I was surprised to see the direction that Varian's character is taking post-Wolfheart, but it's a good direction for the character to take. Anduin also makes an appearance in Tides of War, and it's apparent that he is, above all else, not deserving of the goody two shoes label he's been slapped with.
Jaina has to make some major decisions in Tides of War, and they don't come cost-free. Like The Shattering, Tides of War features death and grief in a very stark, shocking manner. And like The Shattering, the death in Tides of War is meaningful and with purpose. There is no killing characters for the sake of killing characters; each death bears a significance that pulls the story along. With a name like Tides of War, it's inevitable that we'll see some death come into the picture -- the names of the deceased however, were a shock.
The only faint sour note that the novel strikes is an attempt at introducing a romance, something that was hinted at by Dave Kosak on Twitter. It wasn't that the love story wasn't convincing -- in fact, Golden did a much better job handling the tale here than with The Shattering and Aggra's sudden appearance and relationship with Thrall. There was a gradual nature with this romance; it made sense.
Golden did a fantastic job introducing the situation and building up to the romance without overwhelming the reader. She did a wonderful job of making the relationship an ultimately believable one that worked within the context of what we knew about the characters involved. The problem lies in the fact that with so many other events going on that the romance was overshadowed. It could have been left out entirely, and the story still would have remained intact and none the worse for it. It was nice to see, but it felt unnecessary.
It's also the story of an orc gone terribly, terribly wrong, one who has learned precisely all the wrong lessons from his father -- and it's the story of a Horde being torn apart by his decisions. It's the story of a leader who stood at a crossroads of potential and chose to lead by threats and fear rather than understanding and compassion. It's the story of a son who in the end, though some glimmers of hope appeared for his character, chose to ignore the light and instead embrace the dark.
And it's a story of loss, of grief so utterly overwhelming that it threatens to devour the soul. The grief of a leader whose kingdom is wiped out in an instant, the grief of a woman who sees with stark certainty the pointlessness of the path she's chosen, the grief of a daughter who finally understands the words of her father, entirely too late to do anything about it. It's a tale of learning to cope with that grief and rise above it, a story of coming to terms with a chaotic world, of learning to adapt like water against the stony face of fate. It's a beautifully written addition to Golden's host of Warcraft novels, and I can't recommend it enough.
Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War is slated to release Aug. 28. You can preorder the hardcover edition on Amazon for $15.37 or the Kindle edition for $12.99. In addition, there's an audiobook version available for $23.95 on Simon & Schuster's website.
Golden once again demonstrates a remarkable grasp on the characters of the Warcraft universe and writes a book that stands right up there with her previous works in quality. As with those works, I fully expect to see Tides on the New York Times Bestseller list as well. Pick this one up, whether you're a Jaina fan or you're wanting to see more of the explosive conflict leading into Mists of Pandaria.
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