It’s time for another book review! We know that the events in this book have already passed in-game, but we decided to hold off the review to prevent any spoilers.
The book in question is Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde by Michael A. Stackpole. This is the 12th WoW book but even if you haven’t read any of the previous ones you won’t be confused or lost in details since everything is explained pretty clearly. If you are interested in any of the previous installments you can read our previous book reviews if you like: The Shattering and Thrall – Twilight of the Aspects.
I read the hardcover edition (I don’t know for sure if there are other editions), and like the previous World of Warcraft books the cover and artwork is amazing. I love seeing that Blizzard respects their quality standards for all their products, including their books.
This book was provided by Simon and Schuster. We’d like to thank them, especially Kate, for this book and for any future books they will send us.
This is the first book I read written by Michael A. Stackpole, but I like his writing style already. It does not get too complicated and everything was pretty easy to follow, even though English is not my native language. I know that Michael A. Stackpole is well known for his Star Wars books and I read some pretty good reviews about those.
From the title it should be pretty clear that Vol’jin is the main character of the book. The story starts with the moment Chen Stormstout saves Vol’jin from a certain death and carries him to Shado-Pan monastery.
At the edge between life and death, Vol’jin starts questioning himself and his position within the Horde. Hence, most of the early part of the book lacks action and is filled with inner dialogues. While I’m not a big fan of that it was not too bad in the end.
While recovering, Vol’jin interacts with Taran Zhu and a human hunter, Tyrathan Khort. Tyrathan is there to heal as well. Taran Zhu has a strong personality and he guides both the troll and the human. Those of you who play the game and have set foot in pandaria have met him for sure.
On the other hand, Tyrathan was a character completely unknown to me and being placed next to Vol’jin made for a big contrast. In my opinion, adding an unknown person in this story for such a huge role was a bad choice…
When Vol’jin has more or less recovered he discovers that the Zandalari came to Pandaria and started attacking the northern villages. He sees the troops’ movements and soon understands the connection between the Zandalari, the Thunder King, and Garrosh.
Together with Chen, Tyrathan and a few Shado-Pan monks he decides to save a pandaren village and discover the true intentions of the Zandalari.
I loved seeing the relation between Vol’jin, the Shadow Hunter, and the Loa spirits. The history of the trolls and their connection with their deities is explained really well.
The Horde, lead by Garrosh, has no idea that Vol’jin survived and we don’t see many interactions between them but that doesn’t mean that there are no problems ahead. Our group gets caught in the end, but the Vol’jin’s notoriety “saved” them. Well, I won’t go into details here because I’d spoil your fun.
In the end we assist in a siege of the Shado-Pan Monastery, and eventually the balance Lord Taran Zhu was talking about, between the Horde and the Alliance, was more or less attained. That siege was pretty nicely written and you’ll encounter bloodshed and some nice action where even the Loa are involved.
In addition tot the main storyline, there are a couple of side stories as well. It was nice to see Chen’s niece, Li Li, make an appearance and to see Chen find his love. Tyrathan’s story, mainly about his past, is a bit hazy to be honest.
Usually I would write a complete section comparing the game with the book, but there is nothing notable to write about… Well, that’s not completely true: there is the “A Dagger in the Dark” scenario where players assist with the attempt at Vol’jin’s assassination.
My largest disappointment, as I stated above, is placing Tyrathan in the story. It makes sense as it allows for him to be a neutral personage, but I would have liked to see a known face next to Vol’jin. While reading the book I asked myself who should replace Tyrathan, but I had no idea either…
The previous books that I read, even if I haven’t read them all yet, were more captivating and this is another minus of this book. I feel like there are way too many unneeded elements added just to make the book longer.
Don’t worry though, there were a lot of things that I loved about it as well! First off you’ll notice is the trolls’ language. The dialogues do sound and feel troll-ish. That was a great feeling while reading the book and it added greatly to their personality. Secondly, Vol’jin, Chen, and Taran Zhu were very well presented. I’d honestly love to meet them again in some future books/novels.
And last but not least, I loved the Loa, Darkspear, and Zandalari details. I can say that this part of the story made me love trolls and even got me to make a troll alt in game.
While it is not an amazing, must-read book by it’s own right, but World of Warcraft players will enjoy it for sure.