Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects by Christie Golden (Book Review)

When last I was in the WarCraft setting, I’d just finished reading Christie Golden’s excellent The Shattering: Prelude to the Cataclysm. It is the novel that preceded World of WarCraft‘s expansion Cataclysm and set up many of the stories and plots that were later revealed in the game itself. As someone who stopped playing WoW a few months before the expansion, this was an excellent read in part because it allowed me to re-connect with the game I’d loved so much and been invested in to an equal amount. Of course, once I was set on reading more WarCraft novels, I couldn’t really stop, and I’ve even gone on to get WarCraft II and WarCraft III, to play those games once again.

Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects is a book that follows on from The Shattering and is set after the events that changed the face of Azeroth, what with the former Earth Aspect Neltharion bursting out of his prison deep in the world’s core and wreaking havoc everywhere. Now known as Deathwing, he has put into motion many different plans to bend the other Dragonflights of Azeroth to his will and has allied with the Twilight’s Hammer cult for that purpose. The novel follows the former Warchief of the Horde, Thrall as he tries to move towards healing the wound in Azeroth, the wounds in his soul, and the wounds being suffered by the Dragonflights.

Thrall - Twilight of the Aspects

There are two distinct plots in this novel. The first of these deals with Thrall himself and the other with the divisions between the Dragonflights following the end of the war against the Scourge and the death of the Magic Aspect, Malygos. The two stories intertwine in the second half of the novel and they are both quite fascinating to read, as the various events unfold and a new era begins for all the denizens of Azeroth.

The World of WarCraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King was one where we discovered that Malygos had finally gone insane and that he considered the reckless use of magic by the lesser races to be a personal affront and a violation of his charge as the guardian of the arcane energies. So he declared his own war over the mortals everywhere and this necessitated that we, as the adventurers and players, had to go in to the raid instance known as The Nexus to defeat Malygos, to kill him and eliminate the danger that he represented. Now, with the Dragonflights free to focus on the healing of the world, they all have a moot to figure out who the new leader of the Blue Dragonflight will be. In essence, they have to choose who will be their new Aspect, for Malygos had been elevated to his position by the long-forgotten Titans themselves, and to recast those same magics is seen as an impossibility.

And that’s what we spend a lot of the page-time for this novel on. There are two contenders for this responsibility, Malygos’ wayward son Arygos who sided with his father in the Nexus War and the calm and thoughtful Kalecgos who sided with the lesser races and with the other Dragonflights. The divisions within the Blues are deep, especially since they are leaderless like never before, and many of them still struggle with the events of thousands of years past, when Neltharion first went insane and tortured Malygos into insanity. Watching this entire plot unwind was one of my favourite things in the novel because of the chance it gave me to experience the politics between the Dragonflights.

But that’s not all because we also see how the Wyrmrest Accord, the pact between all the Dragonflights to come together and fight against the Scourge, is shattered. We see how the Dragonflights are terrorised by the events that lead up to this shattering, and the grievous loss that they all experience. While delivering an intensely action-packed story, Christie Golden also provides some really gut-wrenching moments in this story that leave you reeling, whether from the magnitude of these events, or because of the emotional rollercoaster that they appear to be where the Dragonflights are concerned.

With regards the other half of the novel, the story that deals with Thrall, that is a continuation of threads from The Shattering. Thrall is no longer Warchief, but simply a shaman of the Earthen Ring, and part of an effort by all the other shaman of that illustrious organisation to heal the wound in the Maelstrom where Deathwing broke out of his prison. Following that cataclysmic event that shattered all of Azeroth and redefined the geographical layout of the world, the Elements are in complete disarray. There is a severe imbalance in nature and Thrall is working to heal that imbalance, to make things right again. But it is not working for him because he is unable to find the center of his being, he is unable to connect with the Elements and seek their aid despite his prodigious powers as a shaman, and indeed the first Shaman of the Horde since Garrosh Hellscream swore away the Orcish people to the service of the demon Mannoroth.

Much as in The Shattering, Thrall takes an epic journey throughout Azeroth at the behest of Ysera, the Green Aspect, who has finally awoken from her long millennia-long sleep. The Aspect of Life has seen the “Hour of Twilight”, when the world will be in grave peril once again, and she has recognised that Thrall is going to be a major force when that time comes. So, to help him heal himself and heal the world, she sends him on quests.

Thrall’s journey takes him to all the different Dragonflights, to their Aspects and more. Most importantly, he is also charged with finding Nozdormu, the Bronze Aspect who is also the supreme guardian of the rivers of time. Thrall’s journey in this novel, as a character and as part of the story, really help him to explore the world and his own self, and this is where Christie Golden proved to be exceptional in her writing. Despite all that he learned in The Shattering when he visited his homeworld and reconnected with his distant kin, he is still a novice in many ways and also one set in his ways. Part of his journey here is recognising his faults and correcting them, all of which ultimately help him in healing the divisions between the Dragonflights in turn.

Thrall isn’t the character I’ve known through the games. In fact, he is much more than that, and that’s the beauty of the novel, because it shows a very different side to the character and that has immense value to me as a reader and a player both. More of this would indeed be welcome.

As much as I enjoyed Christie’s writing in this novel, at times it fell short of the mark. There are certain narrative repetitions, especially whenever Thrall visits a different Dragonflight, and some of the dialogue can be rather stiff at times too. The Shattering was a much more cohesive novel in that regard and while Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects isn’t the same, it does come quite close, as far as I’m concerned.

In the end, what it all comes down to is the fact that Christie writes some really great action, whether we are talking about the Dragonflights fighting against their enemies or Thrall having a throwdown with the mysterious warrior who tracks him through the various portals in the Caverns of Time (oh yes, that happens and is glorious!) or even just the verbal action. I loved all of that. Plus there are some great twists and turns in this novel, truly worthy of the WarCraft setting, and this novel certainly ends up being a favourite, though I wish that it had been that much better.

Still, it proved to be a solid read, and that was my main concern, and Christie didn’t disappoint.

Rating: 8.5/10

More WarCraft: The Shattering, The Tides of Darkness.

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Posted on May 20, 2014, in Book Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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