Entire post is spoiler ridden. Do not read if you care. You’ve been warned.
While for the most part The Shattering was lighter on the action than other novels, it was still enticing because of the political drama and feeling of impending doom we get throughout the book. We know the Cataclysm is coming. We know the shifts in power that are happening. We know who dies and who takes their place. Shattering takes us on the journey to these ends and keeps us hooked because it builds up to what we already know is inevitable but aren’t sure why and how.
Part of that drama is the almost-but-not-quite butterfly effect of the major events. Almost all of them could have been avoided and it’s very clear at what points in the story certain characters made the decisions that would seal their fate and that of others. That’s part of what makes this book one of the best in all of Warcraft’s lore. It was expertly written to reflect how this group of individuals, some powerful and some not, had lasting impacts on the entire world of Azeroth, and beyond.
It starts early. Drek’Thar’s visions of the cataclysm and desperation to talk to Thrall, and his attendant’s choice to ignore it was the first turning point in the story. Had Polkar done as Drek asked, Thrall would have taken the visions very seriously, gone to Nagrand much earlier and could have possibly stopped the cataclysm, or at least better prepare for it.
Had Cairne taken more time to think about his challenge, perhaps he would have never died. If Garrosh hadn’t been so absorbed in his reputation, he may have noticed his weapon was laced with poison. What if Thrall had listened to Cairne and never made Garrosh acting warchief in the first place? What if Jaina had never given Anduin that hearthstone?
It brings a level a frustration, but each decision and the series of consequences after have all attributed to setting the entire stage for what we get in Cataclysm.
The only thing that I wish could have been avoided was the coup of Thunder Bluff because of its brutality. Dozens of innocents were slaughtered helplessly in their sleep, and the Tauren being one of the most peaceful races makes it all the more difficult to bare. But even in it’s ill-fated conclusion, this event has a clear place in the theme of this next chapter of Azeroth’s lore.
Likewise, Moira’s claim of the throne in Ironforge is an important lesson. Despite her morally questionable tactics, she and her son are the future of the Dwarven people. Her claim is her right, and her marital situation makes her child the unifying element of the separated clans. It feels unfair, sudden, and selfish, and in many ways it is. But that’s exactly the point. It’s a difficult catch-22 for the Iron Forge dwarves.
I think the tragedy of Thunder Bluff, the coup at IF, the slaughtering at the Druid peace meeting, and the loss of Cairne and Magni are symbolic to the death of innocence, peace, and stability in Azeroth. It all lends itself to the chaos of this new world. The Tauren have always exemplified the ideals of peace and respect in it’s most basic forms, holding everything the world offers to the highest regard and as a blessing. And the dwarves have been the pillar of perseverance, honor, and overcoming odds without losing sight of humor and celebration. Both cultures celebrate life to the fullest in different ways. Both leaders were deeply loved by their people, and highly respected by their allies and even some of their enemies. I think it’s no coincidence that this is why they were the ones who suffered the most while the impulsive and arrogant races and leaders were left to continue their participation.
The shifting of power within the factions is one of the most important changes to take into account, largely because the three new leaders and one future king all stepped up to the plate. As Thrall said, the wars have left the orcs, and likely all races, with large numbers of the old and young but missing many of those in-between who have died in battle. Thus, the contrast between old and new, age and youth, experience and novelty is a powerful influence.
Each situation was different: Thrall and Garrosh, Cairne and Baine, Varian and Anduin, and Magni and Moira, but they all result in the young trumping the old in one way or another. Not all were hostile. Some were tragic. But the younger generation have finally taken their places in the world. They are the future and the future is theirs; as such they have made it clear that they, not the elders, will be the ones to choose what that future will hold. Which leads me to the last part.
The final of the three big themes was accepting who we are and what we are meant to be despite what the world expects or demands of us. This was the journey that Thrall, Anduin, and Stormsong among others took personally, and one that Jaina, Baine, and the Dwarves took politically.
• Thrall accepted his role as a humble shaman and formally stepped down from being warchief. It was both what was best for him and what was best for the world.
• Anduin discovered his true desire to heal, not harm. Tended by Mangi’s warmth and support, he was able to bestow that wisdom to Baine and hopefully set himself up to follow his own path even if it’s against Varian’s wishes.
• Stormsong, despite his loyalty to Magatha, was able to realize what the loss of Cairne meant and chose to side with the Bloodhoof, both saving the Tauren people and securing a place for the Grimtotem among them.
• Jaina and Baine’s pact to do what they could to uphold peace is significant. While Thrall’s efforts with Jaina were important, Baine’s could possibly be even more so because the Tauren, as a people, are more willing and desiring of peace than the orcs ever were.
• The Dwarves willingness to accept Moira and try to unify their race even in light of their loss and the circumstances was a brave and honorable decision.
• Even Gazent, the goblin who helped supply Baine’s troops with bombs, surprised us all when he only took the money he needed to provide them because he supported their goal.
The book was somber, dark, bloody, and depressing. There is a lot of loss, and a lot more frustration. But the events are there to help us realize and toughen up for what’s to come. Once Deathwing’s dark reign comes to fruition, there will be chaos all over. Innocents will die. The world will crumble.
But at the same time, hope refuses to be shut out. The political and personal stories all end with hope. Anduin and his father are reconciled. Baine has taken back his home and forged a quiet alliance with Jaina. Thrall has set the stage for a new future with Aggra and to fully realize his potential. Among the chaos, many positive seeds have been planted.
Magatha’s words, brutal as they were, could be applied to all the world: “Like a child, Thunder Bluff would be reborn in blood.”
So will Azeroth; but the key word to all of this, of course, is rebirth.