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

Vol’jin, the leader of the Darkspear trolls, is found half-dead and taken to a nearby pandaren monastery to heal. His wounds are grave but even more concerning than his health are his visions. They predict a grim future that could ruin not only the future of Pandaria but that of Vol’jin and his trolls as well…

Shadows-of-the-horde-cover

When Garrosh, the Warchief of the Horde, makes an attempt at Vol’jin’s life, the troll is left at death’s door. Through luck his beaten body is found by an old friend, Chen Stormstout, who carries him to safety.

Vol’jin heals slowly in the Shado-pan monastery. A human — usually a sworn enemy of trolls — is charged with taking care of him, but at least Vol’jin can trust Chen’s friendship. Vol’jin’s not quite sure who he is anymore and where his home lies now that the Horde has betrayed him, and he struggles with finding purpose once more. His visions show him the history of trolls but something darker is lurking about. The Zandalari, a tribe of trolls, wish to resurrect a mogu king and retake Pandaria.

At first Vol’jin thinks his vision are nothing but flashes of the past, but following events force him to accept there’s a war coming. And it’s a war even this Darkspear might not be able to win.

If you’re at all familiar with World of Warcraft, you’ve realized this is a WoW book by now. Shadows of the Horde takes place around the release of Mists of Pandaria (falling after patch 5.1.0 to be exact) and tells what happened to Vol’jin after Garrosh’s betrayal.

The book has Vol’jin in the title but it’s second main character is Chen Stormstout, a pandaren brewmaster. They’re both searching for a home in their own way, battling with their doubts and duties. To mix it up even more is Tyrathan Khort, an Alliance soldier who the Shado-pan monks have also taken in to heal and who’s running from his own demons.

The troll and the human should despise each other but as they heal together, they also start building respect for each other. Their relationship is one of the central forces of the plot and it helps mirror the themes of the story. As a whole the plot is more or less typical with the upcoming battle and its preparations, but with history and mythology thrown in.

Vol’jin’s thoughts and reasoning are portrayed well and you can feel a connection to his struggles. Chen’s part of the story also has deep and thoughtful parts that surely hit home for many. In addition to them we see a lineup of other characters who drive the plot forward so it never feels dull, even when the story takes time to explain the pandaren way of life, for example.

One thing I especially liked was the dialogue. It was descriptive yet flowed well, and was a good example of “show, don’t tell.” Instead of dialogue tags, the book mostly uses action to set the mood for the characters and it works.

Now, if you don’t know much about WoW and the names in this post mean nothing to you, I doubt you’ll like this book. It’s kind of a stand-alone story, but it references a lot of past lore and doesn’t take time to explain things like the Horde or Alliance.

For those with more knowledge of WoW, I’d definitely recommend this (fine, I admit I’m a little biased because I love trolls in general). The book has a solid plot, familiar characters and beautiful scenery. It’s still good to remember this story is a relatively small piece between the game’s content, so don’t expect anything too huge.

∗4/5∗

 

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