I have to admit, I hated the way Arthas was written. All the characters seemed weak and the style and language was distracting for me. When I saw that Christie Golden was going to be the author for The Shattering, I was a bit worried it was going to be another toiling read.
In my cynicism, I was very critical for the first few paragraphs and dwelled on her habit of overusing the same word in short periods of time (mountain was said 7 times in the first 2 pages…). But almost as quickly as I assumed this was going to be terrible, I got lost in the story.
The best part about The Shattering is the characterization, in which Golden wrote with a depth and complexity I don’t think I’ve seen in a Warcraft Novel since the War of the Ancients Trilogy. With so many authors covering the same people, sometimes it’s a little jarring to read about, say, Richard Knaak’s Jaina vs. Golden’s Jaina. But other than the hard to pin Varian, everybody seemed to translate well. So I’ll start with reflection on how the characters personalities and relationships evolved both throughout the book and in the overall Warcraft Universe.
Heavy spoilers behind jump. you’ve been Warned. 🙂
I can’t say enough how much I adore this kid and who he’s shaping up to be. I predicted that he was going to start playing a bigger part in Warcraft and I’m happy to, for once, be right.
He’s 13 now, and as he’s always been wise beyond his years, he’s developed very much into his own person already. I love the contrast between him and his father. Varian describes him as “soft”, which the king mistakes for weakness but that’s definitely not the case.
Anduin is a pacifist, perhaps naively so at the start, but as the story develops we definitely see that childish hope blossom into legitimate strength. Through his interactions with Jaina, Magni, and Baine, he can affirm that aspiring for peace isn’t foolish or naive at all.
I really love that his gentle nature is hinting that he may become a man of the light as opposed to a cutthroat warrior like his father. Currently he’s stuck between two worlds in that aspect. He wants to help and to heal but he also shows that he takes his responsibility as prince and future king seriously. He may very well end up being a Paladin which would be the perfect blend of these roles and I think would actually tie in to Arthas soundly. Anduin could be the man Arthas should have been.
It’s always tough to pin-point Varian. He’s probably one of the most heavily covered characters across all platforms. We know him in WoW, in the comics and in books. Because of this, his personality is very scattered and presented in many different ways, which works for the time being because he is literally schizophrenic.
I feel it’s a bit of a cop-out that it was decided his violent and brash actions would be blamed on “Lo’Gosh.” It’s essentially a scapegoat for his unpopular status among fans, I think, so that people can stop saying he’s an asshole and just blame it on the crazy.
His attack on Ironforge and the way he handled Moira was, in my opinion, absolutely animalistic and crude. I find it so hard to accept that the people in this world just accept his actions without question.
His relationship with his son is reaching that complex awkward stage but we really don’t see much of it expressed through him. We see this mostly from Anduin’s back-talking and talks with Jaina, and his chat with Moira (and I was soooo happy when he basically told Varian to STFU and GTFO). He’s still fervidly protective of his Anduin, and I guess the story does a good job of showing that he is bewildered and frustrated with the tensions he has with his now teenaged son.
I’ve always really wanted to look up to Jaina as she’s one of the few prominate female characters who have a solid position of leadership and is not crazy. She has become something of a joke, though, both in her world and ours, and it’s a shame because there’s always been a lot of potential in her.
In Arthas, Jaina was extremely weak as a character. She very much played the star-crossed and then heart-broken lover and was written as a typical prodigy mage. She spent half the book crying.
I don’t think she had much development in this book. She played a stronger political role and it was nice to see that she very solidly believes in peace and will go out of her way to help anyone in need. In that aspect she’s always had strong ideals. But as a person….it’s hard to say.
I was a little perturbed by her interactions with Anduin. I know a lot of people have this weird obession with the thought of them getting together, but I think as the story moved on it became obvious she was settling into a mother roll to him. Specific use of phrases like “me and your father don’t want you to grow up” seem to cement that.
Jaina is, honestly, very lonely. Losing Arthas has had a lasting effect on her. She still blames herself much of what he did. Aegwyns loss also deeply impacted her and now Thrall is gone, too. She found new friends in the Tauren but those relations will be strained once the Alliance takes over Camp Tourajo. I think Jaina really just wants to be part of a family, and so she is very attached to Anduin, even if it’s a little creepy. I think there may be a future with her and Varian but it would be a long time coming at this point.
She is quite literally pitiful. I just feel bad for her.
Thrall / Aggra
One thing I’ve always loved about Thrall is his honesty. Being a leader is not easy, and many may question his decisions, specifically that of making Garrosh warchief. When players found this out, there was an uproar. But while I may still not agree with it, it becomes very clear and sounds as to why he made that decision. After thinking back on his reflections, I agree that he is no longer needed as Warchief. This is hard to say as a Horde player. My love for Thrall is everlasting! But it makes sense.
I’m happy he’s finally listening to his needs, for once. He was raised a slave and immediately after assumed a demanding role as a leader. In neither phase of his life did he have any real chance to cater to himself. As geeky as it may sound, I agree that it really seems fitting and destined that he assume the role fully as a shaman. And makes me damn proud to be one!
Now his relationship with Aggra. It’s hard to swallow at first becuase it really was out of the blue and forced, not to mention the way everyone was heckling him about a mate for the first few chapters. It felt like the writer basically had a list of female orcs that had names in the game and pulled out of a hat. Aggra could have easily been any NPC in the game. Her setting, however, is what made her a good choice. And, forced though it was, I think Golden wrote her character fairly well. I would have rather it taken more time for them to decide they were destined to be together. It woudl have felt better if they had fallen in love during their travels during the cataclysm, but such is the way, i guess.
I have to admit, I was really expecting some huge development that would redeem Garrosh’s tarnished reputation and make people decide he was alright. I waited for this the entire book, and it, surprisingly, never came. And then I realized how damn glad I was it didn’t. The fact that he’s not likable makes him so much more relatable. He is arrogant, aggressive, impulsive, unapologetic, and head-strong. He’s everything Thrall isn’t. That didn’t change at all from day one. It was, in an odd way, a relief to have a character that was so set in his ways while everyone else was going through so much turmoil and questioning.
Even after he was duped into killing Cairne unfairly, his regrets weren’t the elder’s death but the fact that his kill was “stolen” from him by Magatha, and nothing more.
And lets face it, his little letter to Magatha telling her to basically die in a fire after he found out was really a huge highlight and it scored him some points.
One thing we learn about Garrosh that I think is his “redeeming” feature is that he learns quickly. He will make a mistake once, and never make it again. I think this is good news if he’s to be a good leader. The only mistake he seemingly continues to make is his inability to accept advisement from the other, more experienced officers. It will be interesting to see how things are played out.
Cairne and Baine
The tragedy of Carine’s death was so deeply felt throughout this book, I really wish every horde player would read it. When I admitted I got teary eyed more than once, it was mostly surrounding Carine’s death. I’ve read a few of the novels and comics, and I never felt as heartbroken as I was here.
It’s hard because he went out almost foolishly. He let his anger and stubbornness get the best of him. His challenge to Garrosh was surprisingly out of character and that moment of wavering faith cost him his life, and cost the Tauren so much.
His death is symbolic. At the end, when Thrall spends his last few moments at Cairne’s pyre, Thrall’s words that Cairne was the heart of the horde really struck home. I think that’s the point we realize that the Horde, as a faction is deeply wounded and it will take a long time to heal from these series of tragedies.
I’m so glad Baine decided to take the role as Jaina’s new horde confident. I think it’s important that this tie remain, otherwise a lot would be lost. He is a good contrast to Garrosh as a leader, since he is also young but much more in control of his emotions than the orc. This will help in the long run when, if ever, ties between the orc and tauren are healed again. We can hope that Baine and Garrosh will become old friends and keep each other in check.
Next post I’ll go into the themes and political issues presented in the book. 🙂