World of Warcraft: Illidan (Book)
Long ago, the night elf sorcerer Illidan infiltrated the demonic Burning Legion to ward off its invasion of Azeroth. Instead of hailing him as a hero, his own kind branded him the Betrayer, questioning his intentions after he appeared to aid the demon lords. For ten thousand years, he languished in prison—vilified, isolated, but never forgetting his purpose.
If you're looking to dive deeper into the World of Warcraft lore, especially with an all new expansion on the way in a few months, a new book chronicling the adventures of legendary wizard Illidan is here to help. It's a solid fantasy romp, but it doesn't delve too deep into the characters. Come inside to check out my full review!
Lots of Lore
MMO games have largely passed me by for a variety of reasons. As such, I never got into World of Warcraft, and even throughout it's long gaming history I've not really dallied in it too much. That said, I'm a huge fan of the original Warcraft game series (the RTS) and the rich lore involved within it. As such, I was pretty interested in reading Illidan, despite not being caught up on anything WoW related.
Seriously, I had to read up on some Wiki pages about certain events/characters that were mentioned early on so I wouldn't feel entirely lost. Fortunately, I don't think that will be an issue for fans of the series who will be picking up the book. Frankly, though, I don't think it's exclusive for fans either, and there's plenty of room for general fantasy readers to enjoy this book as well. In this way, author William King has done a great job of keeping it interesting enough for newcomers (like myself) while still offering plenty for hardcore fans to dive into.
Illidan seems to pick up in the middle of big things going on in the world, picking up where the sorcery has been imprisoned for several thousands of years, only released in order to help fight back against the Burning Legion. From there, the story jumps forward in time, and begins referencing things that happened in the time between. At first, it's kind of jarring and threw me for a loop. Especially as I was being given a ton of names and locations for which I had no frame of reference for.
The events you seem to be left in the dark on, however, are covered in the game itself (I found out), so if you've played through the game, this book acts as a "story you never saw". Think of it like what the Maleficent movie did for the Sleeping Beauty story, and you get the idea. For fans, this is pretty awesome and a neat way to tie everything together. For newcomers, it may seem hard to swallow and that you're lost, but stay with me for a bit.
A few chapters in, however, and things feel like they smooth out and I was able to feel caught up on all that was happening around the characters. The book obviously puts the focus on Illidan Stormrage, but also puts a large amount of time on Maiev Shadowsong (Illidan's former jailer who's hunting him) and Vandel, a Night Elf looking for vengeance against the Legion for his slaughtered family. Each of these characters bring their own little subplots to the story that are fun and interesting, while providing some exciting extra action sequences to enjoy.
All of these things play against the background of the larger threat of the Burning Legion. The primary idea being that all of Illidan's machinations are geared towards their destruction, even if others don't recognize it. Seeing his behind the scenes plans give you an idea of how powerful the Legion is and truly leaves you rooting for him by the end (if you've played through his WoW missions, you know how it ends).
Action and More Action
As I was reading Illidan, the most common book series that kept springing to mind was Dragonlance. If you've ever read, or enjoyed, anything from that LONG series you know it incorporates a ridiculous amount of lore into the stories. It can feel overwhelming at first, but it's set up in way that you can jump in at virtually any "sub-series" (Dragonlance has MANY individual trilogies set in different time periods, etc) without having to read everything else first to enjoy it. Hell, even now I may pick up one of the new Dragonlance books and enjoy myself, without being caught up.
This Warcraft book seems to present itself in much the same way as the Dragonlance series, and I think that's a great thing. It's a way to provide fun stories that everyone can enjoy, while giving game players a deeper understanding of the story in general. I think it’s a great type of compromise.
Sure, there’s a lot of lore that you feel lost in initially, but what Illidan does great, is thrust you right into the action with some massive battles. The action comes quickly and often within the book, leaving you with plenty of “eye-candy” to have fun with. There’s virtually never a dull moment in Illidan and the pacing of the story keeps things moving along at a quick pace. As such, it feels like a fight/battle is never far away.
What this means, is even if you ignore all the lore and backdrop stuff going on for the larger story, it’s a damn fun and quick book to read through. It has a fun magic system, so there are spells being thrown all over the place, giant monsters to slay, and everything in between. Better yet, William King does an excellent job of making each fight feel epic but not convoluted. It’s easy to keep up with the flow of the action, and makes for some seriously quick reading.
Sometimes I felt like there was a little too much action going on, and that it trumped the overall plot of the story. That said, it was wonderfully laid out.
Plot over Characters
While all this action makes for a quick and fun read, the characters seem to suffer from it. The story moves at such a quick pace, there's no real opportunity to get attached to any of the characters within the book. In truth, the guiding light behind Illidan seemed to be putting the plot over the characters.
I get it, there's a lot going on in the book and it's not an overly long novel either. There's a TON of story and action to cram within the pages, but in doing so they really lose any emotional connection. Sure, World of Warcraft players might not be affected as much, having spent some time with these characters already. I enjoyed the action and think the story was pretty solid, but since I wasn't invested in the characters certain major events didn't have an impact on me. I was just kinda meh when characters died or something else happened to them.
This is where I think they'll lose newcomers to the books. Without the character connection for readers, I can't see myself ever coming back to re-read this title. It was fun while it lasted, but much like "popcorn" flicks during the Summer movie season, it's all entertainment value. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I was hoping for a little bit more (especially as this is incredibly well written).
It's well written and has a story that's easy enough to follow even if you've never cared about Warcraft or World of Warcraft before. It's just a fun little fantasy novel, that's a pretty easy recommendation (even if it's only a one-time read from the library).