REVIEW: ‘Shadows Rising’ (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Shadows Rising Cover Art

As World of Warcraft: Shadowlands looms, so does new lore for the World of Warcraft universe. The newest expansion in the sixteen yeared franchise is set to release later this year with the alpha version in full swing and the beta soon to follow. Those looking to scratch their itch for new adventures before they delve into the darkness that Shadowlands will provide can look no further than Shadows Rising (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands).  Pre-expansion novels have been a staple for World of Warcraft for some time with some being viewed more fondly than others. Author Madeleine Roux takes her first crack at bridging the gap as she takes readers through a very volatile Azeroth following the events of Battle for Azeroth. 

For those in attendance at Blizz Con 2019, the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands cinematic trailer shook the fans to their core. Following the events the “Reckoning” cinematic, where former Warchief Slyvanas Windrunner betrayed the Horde, she fled to Ice Crown Citadel where she defeated Bolvar and destroyed the Lich King crown. Her actions split the skies, opening the veil between Azeroth and the Shadowlands. While Sylvanas believes that she is setting the people of Azeroth free from their prison, it up to the heroes of the Horde and the Alliance to make sense of what is to come and stop Sylvanas before she reeks more havoc.

While Shadows Rising is not very long, just shy of 300 pages and 10 hours and 43 minutes for the audiobook, it is jammed packed with content. The book follows essentially three main perspectives that take the reader through how the major players are handing the post-battle for Azeroth events. King Anduin Wrynn and the Alliance try desperately to find  Sylvanas with the aid of her sister Alleria Windrunner and Turalyon while also dealing with the splintered relationship with the night elves. The Horde, now led by a Council rather than a Warchief, struggles to find themselves again while attempting to unravel plots to eliminate allies to the Council. All the while, the ever cunning Sylvanas plans to kill the troll loa of death Bwonsamdi which would be a devastating blow to the Horde’s effort to reestablish themselves.

Despite these storylines intermingling and the enormous cast of characters, the writer, Roux balances it all extremely well. The shift back between perspectives might be jarring for some, however, they all flow together like a movie. The novel is slightly more Horde focused but that is too be expected given Sylvanas’s actions against them. The characters are portrayed as any fan of the franchise would expect with their dialogue showing through very clearly.  Newer characters to the Warcraft universe like the troll Zekhan, a.k.a, and canonized as Zappy Boy, get plenty of time to shine while more established characters continue to grow and adapt to changing tide. In addition to the characters that we have come to love (or hate depending on which side you favor), Roux also introduces new characters to the universe that will surely spawn fanart galore. A character like the Zandalari witch Apari brings a new layer to the enemies that reside even within Azeroth.

Roux is certainly a steward of Warcraft lore and the books the precede her as she interlaces easter eggs and callbacks throughout the novel. She places them in nicely and provides enough exposition that if you did not read something the like Before the Storm, lead-in book for Battle of Azeroth, that has some events that do not transpire during gameplay, you won’t be left out too much. With the vast amount of lore throughout the sixteen years of World of Warcraft and even further back with Warcraft, I appreciate this kind of attention to detail greatly as someone who is returning to the franchise after a hiatus. The refreshers are nice and it seems to me that Roux is intentional to not only cater to the diehard WoW Heads but is welcoming of all comers to this new adventurer.

While it is largely uncertain as to what will happen during  World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, I believe that is the perfect prequel for the upcoming expansion. The events of the story, albeit exciting and dark at times, is nothing that the average player will feel as if they missed out if they do not read this novel. As the story progresses, I get the sense that timeline may overlap with gameplay so there very well be events that transpire in the game that we don’t even know about yet. To me, that provides the kind of expanded material that other franchises can look to as the standard; give the reader a sense of backstory and not necessarily a leg up on the average consumer. While I enjoyed Before the Storm, there were events in the novel that I wished would have played out in the game and not in the quest exposition, moreover, I wish I would have read before playing the expansion. After completing, Shadows Rising (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands), I definitely do not get that feeling.

Overall, I really enjoyed Shadows Rising. I do not believe that is required reading for the average player but that is not a bad thing. If you do, you will certainly enjoy the ride as our heroes on both sides struggle against one of their own in a way that is much more compelling than we have seen before. The shadows are rising and Roux has my interest piqued as Shadowlands draws ever closer.

Shadows Rising (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands) is available now wherever books are sold. Releasing at the same time as the novel is the audiobook, narrated Susan Wokoma who voices Queen Talanji of the Zanadalari in the video game.

Shadows Rising (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands)
5

TL;DR

Overall, I really enjoyed Shadows Rising. I do not believe that is required reading for the average player but that is not a bad thing. If you do, you will certainly enjoy the ride as our heroes on both sides struggle against one of their own in a way that is much more compelling than we have seen before. The shadows are rising and Roux has my interest piqued as Shadowlands draws ever closer.