Review: Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde, Michael A Stackpole

November 6, 2013 Reviews 1 ★★★★½

Review: Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde, Michael A StackpoleVol'jin: Shadows of the Horde by Michael A Stackpole
Series: World of Warcraft #12
Published by Gallery Books on July 2013
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository

Shadows of the Horde follows Vol’jin to the lost continent of Pandaria, where the troll chieftain's loyalties are put to the ultimate test when a member of his own faction moves to assassinate him. . .

Aided by the renowned brewmaster Chen Stormstout, Vol'jin takes refuge in a remote mountain monastery to recover from his wounds. His time there, however, is far from peaceful, as intense visions of the past assault the Darkspear chieftain, and the ancient Zandalari tribe mounts a series of attacks on Pandaria. In his struggle to make sense of what’s happening, Vol'jin must ultimately decide where his allegiances lay—a choice that could save or doom his people . . . and forever alter the fate of the Horde.

Here’s our first joint review on Tea in the Treetops – Angelya and Leila share their thoughts on Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde.

This is a World of Warcraft book, so this review was written assuming that you have some knowledge of Azeroth and the general story of the Mists of Pandaria expansion. If you don’t, this book is probably not for you, but the earlier WoW books may help you to catch up.

The events in this story take place after the betrayal of Vol’jin during the Knife in the Dark scenario and the patch 4.3 Darkspear Rebellion. The end of the scenario was all a bit dramatic, but then Vol’jin just sort of popped up in Durotar with little explanation after patch 4.3. It was nice to read about what happened to him in the meantime.

The storytelling is a little slow at times, as it’s full of soul-searching both by Vol’jin and the human hunter, Tyrathan. The two of them recognize similarities in the other and within the peaceful setting of the Shado-Pan Monastery they come to terms with the shame they feel for their perceived failures and regain their sense of identity and confidence.

When the battle scenes do come, they are rather brutal and graphic – a far cry from the PG battle in WoW itself. The battles were a nice and stark contrast to the slow and relaxing pace of the rest of the book. The war is when this book really took flight, but that isn’t to discount any other part as it is all amazing.

Vol’jin and the troll race are (in our opinion) some of the most awesome parts of the game. From the idea that they were the first race on Azeroth to the dissolve into the many tribes that we see today, the trolls have a lot of rich lore to learn about; but while Vol’jin was a great character as expected, the unexpected star of the story was Chen Stormstout. His relationship with Yalia was delightful, although a little awkward for such a fatherly figure to get some romantic action!

Tyrathan Khort was an interesting addition to the piece as well. As an unknown character both in previous lore and in the game, he has some pretty impressive depth and helps explain the idea of balance that Vol’jin needs.  It was impressive character building on Stackpole’s part all around.

The story includes familiar areas of Pandaria including Shado-Pan Monastery and the Peak of Serenity, Zouchin Village and the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. It also provides the back-story for things that are not as well known including the Rookery, the Saurok, and the Zandalari. This book provides a lot of new and exciting information on trolls, pandaren, and mogu – it makes the lore nerd inside just flutter with happiness. Familiar NPCs are also involved, such as the Shado-Pan Lord Taran Zhu, and Chen and Li Li Stormstout. It’s always nice as a reader to hear stories about people and places you’re already familiar with, either in the real world or a pretend one!

In general, we’d recommend Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde to World of Warcraft players looking for a bit more insight into Vol’jin and his time in Pandaria before the Rebellion against Garrosh Hellscream’s Horde. For anyone looking to get into the World of Warcraft novels, read this in addition to Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War & Arthas: Rise of the Lich King. Michael Stackpole’s writing reflects the style of Christie Golden so these books maintain a familiar feeling between them!

[rating stars=”four-half-stars”] – A great addition to the Warcraft library, expanding on some important lore and fleshing out the character of Vol’jin.

Anni lives in Brisbane, Australia with her young family. She loves everything fantasy and science fiction and believes sleep is really very underrated.

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