Friday, December 20, 2013

Speculation: World of Warcraft: War Crimes by Christie Golden

Warning: Spoilers

The official cover hasn't been released yet, but there has been talk about the next World of Warcraft novel, War Crimes, which will be written by Christie Golden. 

Release date: June 3, 2014

The brutal siege of Orgrimmar may be over, but Garrosh Hellscream, the most infamous orc on Azeroth, has yet to face justice. Now in chains, his tyrannical leadership of the Horde has been ended by his many enemies, and he must answer for his crimes. You will bear witness, along with the renowned leaders from across Azeroth, to his long awaited trial. 
Visions of his past atrocities are presented in vivid detail for all to see. But as history is revisited, old grievances and bitter memories come to light, and those in attendance begin to wonder if anyone among them is truly innocent. Mounting tensions and rising enmity steer the court to the brink of chaos… as the world waits with bated breath for the verdict on the war crimes of Garrosh Hellscream. 
Touching on many characters in Azeroth, this new novel highlights events and even delves into secrets from the past. 

The main arc of the story will center around the courtroom. I've read Golden's work before, and she is a master at switching perspectives so that we can see some drama outside of the trial. In her interview with Anne Stickney of WowInsider, the author mentions that there will be a huge cast of well-known WoW characters. I look forward to seeing all the faction leaders, including the lower-profile ones, come together to condemn Garrosh. Tensions, old and new, will run high. 

Other important details about the upcoming novel revealed in the interview include:

1. Sylvanas will occupy a large subplot in the War Crimes. 
Photo credit: A-n-j-u-n-A
The lore of the Forsaken is rooted in tragedy, loss, and memory (as well as forgetting). The Forsaken have largely been ignored in WoW novels. There are snippets of scenes involving Undercity's experimentation with live subjects in Golden's other novel, Arthas, but that is far from the undead faction having a novel to themselves. A subplot devoted to their leader is a step in the right direction.

We know her political goals, which involve taking over Gilnean land and preserving the Forsaken population with the help of the Val'kyr. Her leadership methods and war tactics are similar to those that the Lich King had employed. The only difference is who she serves. On a moral level, she and Garrosh don't differ much either, but she is a lot more cunning than he is, and knows at least to maintain the minimal diplomatic courtesy to her Horde allies. If the Alliance and Horde weren't so distracted by Garrosh Drama, then she'd be under more suspicion for "war crimes," especially for the experimentation of captive Alliance members.Since she has her eye on conquest, I can see her becoming an enemy of both the Horde and the Alliance, but only after she is confident that the Forsaken are strong enough to push back both factions. That might take a while, but biological plague weapons can be used to hasten the time table. 

She is indeed hard to like. I want to get to know her on a more personal level, one on which I could empathize. She was the sister of Alleria (still missing) and Vereesa. Vereesa, who lost Rhonin to the horrific decimation of Theramore, should be at the trial. 

What would it be like, the two sisters seeing each other again for the first time in years? 

How will Sylvanas react? Hell, how would Vereesa react, seeing (with her own eyes) her sister in an undead form?

That would be interesting, and I hope to see the sisters reunite in some form in the novel. Come to think of it, since Vereesa had twin sons with Rhonin...Sylvanas is an aunt. 

2. Baine will defend Garrosh at the trial. 

Baine should look like this in the game.
Photo Credit: Blizzard
Golden's explanation for this is: 
"Through a very slight clever manipulation, poor Baine is stuck defending Garrosh Hellscream. Because he's the only one that they can trust to really try to do what's right and give him a fair defense." 
Everyone else is too emotionally invested: Vol'Jin nearly died from an assassination attempt and now has to live with a hideous scar on his neck and a rough voice, Sylvanas has been at odds with Garrosh since the beginning (he also called her a "bitch"; I imagine it'd be hard to remain objective after that), Thrall was willing to smash Garrosh's brains after the successful siege of Orgrimmar, and Gallywix and his fellow goblins are in an awkward situation because they clearly profited from Garrosh's cruelty as the ones who designed and sold Garrosh the weaponry. Lor'themar of the blood elves was put under surveillance after he made it known to Garrosh that he supported the Horde as a faction, but not its leader. 

To be honest, I was a bit weirded out by the fact that Baine would be defending Garrosh. But it's true that Garrosh wasn't the one who poisoned his weapon before the fight against Cairne. 

3. Tyrande will prosecute, not Varian. 
I don't think Tyrande has the spare time to swing around Teldrassil, but okay, whatever. :)
Photo credit: Min-hee Kim
While the defender had to be someone who didn't let their hatred of Garrosh cloud their neutrality, the prosecutor can be as angry as they like. After all, there is no way you can dispute what happened in Ashenvale, with night elves being skinned alive. 

However, it's a bit strange seeing the leaders actually working at the trial, especially when it's for show. At this point, everyone knows Garrosh has been a big prick. Azeroth really needs some sort of international court, held over by some neutral faction. Maybe having this trial will make the leaders realize a need to hold international court so that different leaders and factions can resolve their differences in a neutral setting. However, the enforcement of international law won't happen unless there are several powerful leaders on board--usually in instances like this, united against a common enemy. 

4. Instead of video recordings of Garrosh's deeds, we have the Bronze dragonflight. 
Why would a giant dragon want to be one of the shortest races in the world?
I suppose there isn't much difference between a human and a gnome to a dragon.
Photo credit:  WowWiki
This is really cool. "We're going to be using the bronze dragonflight's abilities to literally go back in time as a display." The jury will be able to "see" this, so I assume the bronze dragons won't actually be teleporting the jury back in time to witness them.

I hope the display will feature things that we haven't seen before, in addition to the "key moments" that we've seen already in game or in the other novels. I'd love to know some sort of secret conversation that Garrosh had, regarding Garrosh's dealings with the Blackrock orcs. 

5. We won't be seeing too much of Garrosh's mind. 

Puberty done wrong. Very wrong.
Photo credit: Blizzard
This one is a little disappointing for me. 
"I've made great care to not get into his head. Because my desire was to -- you know, this is the payoff for having been through dealing with Garrosh through this whole expansion ... And it really is a little deceptive, because you think ;Oh, it's all about Garrosh,' and it's really -- Garrosh is more of a mirror to what is going on with everyone else." 
I don't want a mirror. I want a three-dimensional villain. And why can't he be both? 

After dealing with Deathwing's destructive temper tantrum, I wanted to see a villain with a soul. Deathwing in Cataclysm was not at all like his cunning, manipulative self. He was brutish and angry, and well, let's face it: crazy. With Garrosh, I had wanted to see an imperfect leader more fleshed out. Maybe he had noble goals once, like Arthas, but at some point, greed took over ambition and warped his desires. 

Out of all the WoW villains, Arthas and Illidan resonated with me the most, because they were once imperfect people with good intentions. With those characters, in Arthas (Golden) or in the War of the Ancients trilogy (Knaak), you could look into their soul and see their insecurities (Arthas with his failure to connect the Light; Illidan with his ambition and unrequited feelings for Tyrande). 

With Garrosh, I don't see anything that I can relate to, and from Golden's statement, I'm not supposed to try to relate to Garrosh. He is a plot device, and that is just too bad that we can't see him as a person with fears, loves, and desires (aside from the political). I can see him being a flatly unlikable character, just like he was in Proudmoore: Tides of War

6. We will be seeing a lot of Anduin. 

My favorite piece of Anduin fan art.
Photo credit: GamersGlobal
He's still a teenager so he'll still be soul-searching for where he stands, morally and politically. He's been insistent on staying in Pandaria to help out, and we'll probably see him deciding on where to go from now. Anduin seems to be stuck between his obligations to Stormwind and his tasks in Pandaria. 

7. Jaina is getting some major author love and character development. Oh, and she is having relationship problems with Kalecgos. 

Photo credit: Wu Dejian
Well, things just aren't going very well for Jaina this expansion, are they? I've enjoyed seeing the changes in Jaina's personality after she suffered traumatic losses at Theramore. She seemed oddly chirpy and light-hearted in the Dawn of the Aspects, but Knaak's strong point lies more with writing epic battle scenes and less with character portrayal. Christie Golden's Jaina is fierce and very angry and I look forward to seeing her character again. 

As with any human-dragon couple, there is a ridiculous age difference between Jaina and Kalec. However, they have many things in common: their careers in magic, and their feelings of failure as leaders who couldn't keep their people together. Jaina experienced a more dramatic version of that, while Kalec feels insecure and pretty crummy about himself and his role because his flight basically disbanded voluntarily. Jaina and Kalec keep important secrets from each other while trying to protect each other, so there's a trust issue in the relationship. They can bond because they have a lot in common, but because their agendas are so different, their bonding will have to take place after work. And they're both very busy people. 

UPDATE 3/15/14: Check out this teaser excerpt for World of Warcraft: War Crimes, which also contains a Twitter post by Christie Golden in response to criticism of the history research that went into making this book. 


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