Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects

Since when did orcs get noserings?
I finished reading Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects the other night. It was a good enough read. First, I'll share some proper thoughts that might be called a "review" with the meat of the post, that might be called "spoilers" appearing after the break.

Warcraft stories in general are paced much more like action movies than real books, and I routinely wish, when reading them, that they would slow down and say a bit more about relationships. They rarely delve much past the most glaringly obvious of "feelings."

Yah, yah, Thrall is totally in love with Aggra(vation). Who cares. Tell me something I didn't know, like how Farseer Nobundo can stand to be in the same room as the leader of the creatures who decimated his people and severed his personal connection with The Light with their fel corruption. In this book, all we get is Nobundo patting Thrall on the back and being glad to see him, and are left to imagine the intense conversations that should have happened before such a thing could be possible. Stuff like that would tell us so much more about Thrall then reading about him getting all gloopy over the chick he's fallen for.

Twilight of the Aspects is a moderately decent chunk of plot for Warcraft, taking place between the start of Cataclysm and the launch of Patch 4.2. The real meat of the story has to do with Deathwing's attempts to remove the Dragonflights from his quest to destroy the world.  Deathwing has a minion called The Twilight Father attack Wyrmrest Temple and for some reason, they are all coming after Thrall as well. Ysera has had visions in which Thrall is important to the future of the dragons, though I'm not sure how Deathwing or the Hammer would be privy to such information.

Thrall has a good romp through time, trying to locate the Golden Aspect Nozdormu. The Twilight Hammer also goes about trying to revive Nefarion's plan from Blackwing Lair to make a Chromatic Dragonflight.

There is a subplot in which the Leader of the Infinite Dragonflight siccs an Adelus Blackmoore from an alternate timeline on Thrall which is completely pointless other than to have Thrall get sidetracked with an arch-enemy who he must eventually kill (again). I really wanted Adelus to yell out: "Durnholde Keep was merely a setback!" Really, why not make... a new enemy for Thrall to face, rather than recycle an old one again?

I'm actually not the biggest fan of Christine Golden. I think her characters move more like paper dolls through the familiar scenery we know as Azeroth than they should and what amounts to Deep Insight (TM) in her stories are fundamentals of eastern religion that I learned the first time somebody taught me about meditation. I wish she'd give us something that we haven't really seen before. Her heroes are mighty, her villains craven. The stories go from point A to point B to point C without much else going on in between.

Anyway. It's a lot of plot and a relatively upbeat ending that suggests the Doom of the Aspects may be averted. I'm not a slobbering Thrall fanboy like some (cough, Chris Metzen, cough), but I do basically like the guy and it is good to see him in the world. I just think it'd be more interesting to see him really challenged. Aggra(vation) seems to have been inserted into his story just to push his buttons, but she's in love with the guy and still ranks with all the rest of the backslappers that surround Thrall.

Follow the jump only if you are not offended by spoilers and analysis as to what these plot points bring to our Azeroth.
You have been warned.

Korialstrasz is Dead!
I sorta resent that a character ostensibly introduced to us in a slew of Richard Knaak books gets killed off so magnanimously in a Christine Golden book.

Using magic and stuff that is not otherwise explained, Twilight Hammer agents sneak into various Dragonflight Sanctums at the base of Wyrmrest Temple and infect all the eggs there with some sort of gnarly corruption. Korialstrasz, who was down there by himself while just about every other dragon in the world was being drawn away, also becomes corrupted and in his final act blows himself up in a massive burst of life magic that kills all of the corrupted eggs and himself. It's a massively sacrificial and heroic act that significantly thwarts the Twilight Hammer machinations, though nobody realizes it til the end of the book.

Korialstrasz (also known as Krasus) was one of those characters I was looking forward to seeing more of in the future and I'm sorta disappointed that he is gone.

Kalecgos is the new Aspect of the Blue Dragonflight!
This is not entirely a surprise. I just thought there was a storyline surrounding that worked into the game somewhere.  I've always found Kalec to be a bit whiny, but he's had good adventures and it's good to sort of see how a "normal" dragon could ascend to become an Aspect in absence of a Titan to make it so. The process suggests that the Titans sort of had less direct impact on such decisions and rather that the individual Aspects themselves may have grown into these rolls and were sort of recognized by the Titans.

Nozdormu was Lost! And he is (will be) the Leader of the Infinite Dragonflight!
Nozdormu basically forgot to be present in the moment and thus got lost in time. I figure that is may be more difficult to "be in the present," when you can speed up time, slow it down, and go jumping around in it at leisure. But really, "being in the present" is the simplest explanation of what you do any time you sit on the floor, close your eyes and meditate. Thrall's great realization is not something that makes me very impressed.

Nozdormu says he has realized that the leader of the Infinite Dragonflight is himself, though he's really unclear what will happen to cause him to make such decisions as that.  I guess that'll have to wait for another novel.  There is fun here though: Nozdormu knows the instant and circumstances of his own demise, but not what will cause him to forsake his Azerothian mission and corrupt the world. OH, SWEET IRONY!

The Twilight Father is Archbishop Benedictus of Stormwind Cathedral
Last summer during Cataclysm Beta, datamined soundfiles pointed to the fact that this guy was up to no good. Suggestions were that Benedictus was involved with Alliance quests about the city unearthing Twilight Hammer. But that story line was abandoned at some point and now proceeds as it is in game and Major Samuelson is the sleeper agent. Merinna is wondering why it is that between Benedictus and Fandral Staghelm, all these Twilight Hammer higher-ups are from the Alliance.

Nozdormu reveals that all these things breaking apart the Dragonflights are all ... Connected!
The madness of Malygos and Deathwing, the Emerald Dream turned into a Nightmare, the Twilight Cult... everything-- it is all intertwined! I have discovered who is behind this vast and dreadful conspiracy.
[Nozdormu's] eyes gleamed, brilliant with righteous anger in the coming dawn. "It ... I can barely ssspeak of it, even now. It is"-- his mighty voice dropped to a low whisper-- "the Old Gods!"
Well, Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh!  I had that one figured out a long time ago. I can't believe that these so-called "wise" dragons are just now making this realization. For shame!

Thrall is not the new Aspect of the Earth
At last year's Blizzcon, Metzen pointed out, astutely, that with Neltharion acting more like Deathwing and not a Protector of the Earth, the Titan Dragonflight Defense Initiative was kind of broken. He went on to point out that the Dragonflights could only really effectively do their job if all Aspects were working together. He then said something incredibly stupid to suggest that Thrall might be the one to fill that role.

I don't think I was the only lore nut who rolled their eyes and cursed under their breaths when he said that. I would really love to know all the conversations and discussions that went into resolving this situation. In the book, it looks like a very weird compromise. Thrall does join the other four Aspects in a ritual that enables them to be "together" in a way that never happened before. But the description suggests that Thrall was sort of a replacement ingredient in that mix and that, well, Merinna, as a shaman who talks with the spirits of the earth from time to time, could have done the same.

I'm sure that Metzen would jump up and down in his seat saying "no, no, you don't get it, only Thrall..." but I'm not sold on this and that whole thing was very unsatisfying.

But let it be said that Thrall has become more powerful, becoming a better shaman, not by attaining mystical dragon-like powers. Though frankly, I read Thrall's growth in this book to be from a moderately a great warrior and so-so shaman to becoming a "pretty good" shaman. Somebody has been calling him the "World-Shaman" in patch 4.2 and that is thoroughly unwarranted in my estimation. People have also been referring to him as the leader of the Earthen Ring, and that's wrong too.  Thrall has already been an incredibly successful leader of the horde. He doesn't have to graduate to demi-god status in order to remain an interesting character. I wish Metzen et al. could figure that out.


  1. After completing the Mystery of the Infinite questline, http://www.wowhead.com/quest=12470, few would be surprised by Nozdormu being the leader of the mysterious infinite dragonflight.

  2. Yeah, Noz didn't manage to accomplish much of anything that players hadn't mostly worked out before. The problem with Nozdormu, which actually makes him leading the Infinite Dragonflight kinda interesting still, is that he can move up and down and in and out through time with no serious effort whatsoever, but essentially, having narrowed down the Nordormu of the present, the Leader of the Infinite Dragonflight is still something that will come into being in... the future. Noz can't figure out what will precipitate it.

    What if it's us? What if player action causes this to happen? Along the same way killing Loken in Ulduar precipitated the Algalon event.

    Regardless, it's kinda interesting to have a different sort of mystery. They've been forshadowing on this Infinite Dragonflight thing for years and I guess I never properly expected a non-corrupted Nozdormu to ever show up in WoW.