Review: Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects by Christie GoldenA column article by: Amelia Ramstead
I was pleased when I heard that Christie Golden would be writing this next installation in the story of Azeroth. I prefer her writing to most of the other authors in the World of Warcraft novels, and as I opened the book to begin I found myself musing on that a bit and wondering what it was about her writing, specifically, that made me feel that way.
As I read on, I realized what it was. Golden is able to convey emotion and motivation in the characters in a way that the other writers simply aren't. She does a much better job of bringing the NPC characters, those pixels on your screen who give you quests with their rote lines, to life. When I finish reading one of hers, I feel inclined to log in and go visit the characters and see what they are up to. In a way, the books that Golden writes have an almost voyeuristic quality to them – you get to see what goes on behind closed doors, and you know WHY you are being asked to go out and behead 15 boars, or whatever.
Thrall's inner struggle is illustrated well in this book, and she manages to do it without making you feel like you are being browbeaten with it. It's also written in such a way so that most of us, I think, can relate to that particular struggle. No matter what our role is in life, haven't we all felt like we have no choices, that we are in fact slaves to our own decisions and responsibilities?
Another characteristic of Golden's writing is that she has a definite knack for writing strong female characters. Even though Thrall should have been the star of the show here, I really felt he took a back seat to Alexstrasza, Kirygosa, Ysera and even Aggra. When tragedy strikes the Aspects, Golden does an amazing job of pulling us into Alexstrasza's pain, which, I think any parent could easily relate to. When we learn of the terrible things that Kirygosa must endure, it's hard not to feel empathy.
I noticed this tendency of Golden's before, in "The Shattering." Aggra was a favorite character of mine in that book, and I've really enjoyed her active role in the game as well. Golden even managed to turn Moira Thaurissan into a character that was, if not likable, at least sympathetic.
I had a really difficult time trying to place this book into the timeline that the game has established. I think it takes place about a patch or so in the future, but there was no mention of recent events from the Firelands patch that just went live, which made it a bit confusing, and somewhat distracting as I tried to figure it out. Does the book actually take place prior to the Firelands patch? There was no reference of the trial that Thrall endured as you quested through the patch, but it seemed like that should have been integral to the story. There was also no reference made to Hamuul Runetotem, whose fate in the patch storyline would, I think, be something of much concern to Thrall.
It clearly hasn't already taken place – a quick trip out to Wyrmrest Accord can verify that. I'm hoping that this means we will have an opportunity to play through some of the action that took place in the book. In "The Shattering," most of the story was background and explanation as to what happened to some pretty major characters. When the patch went live, everything had already happened, and there was no overlap in play. I know that I would really enjoy playing through some of the timeline scenarios in "Twilight of the Aspects," and I would like to see, even if only in cut-scene form, what went down at Wyrmrest Accord.
Alexstrasza is one of my favorite characters in the game, and play focused around her role in this book would really be something special. I'm looking forward to seeing what the developers have in store!