Illidan by William King is a good book – not just a good World of Warcraft book. I really enjoyed it. It’s a fast paced exciting read.
Illidan Stormrage, Maiev Shadowsong, and Vandel, a demon hunter, are the three characters that really stood out for me in this book. I’ll talk about them in order and then sum things up at the end.
There will be story spoilers. If you are waiting to read this book yourself, this is your last warning.
Illidan follows Illidan Stormrage over a period of five years. It starts on the day Tyrande frees him from prison and ends with his defeat at the Black Temple.
This was interesting because you get to see inside Illidan’s head. Being imprisoned for 10,000 years left scars and killed his love for Tyrande. Illidan basically tells her he will help only because once he cared for her. There is a lot of hurt underneath this statement. He realizes his only use to Tyrande was as a weapon and that is why he was stored away.
I felt sympathy for Illidan but he is not a likeable person. He is very arrogant and doesn’t trust anyone but himself. His cause is so important that everyone and everything else fades into the background for him. I don’t think Illidan really feels any connection to people after he comes out of prison. He remembers feeling that connection but can no longer make it. The only emotions he seems to have left are anger and the need for vengeance against those who have wronged him.
When Illidan became a demon he saw the Burning Legion. The horror of it struck him much like the horror of the Void Lords struck Sargerus. Unlike Sargerus, Illidan decided to fight the destruction of all things. Everything he does is a very methodical plan to take the fight to the Legion. Unfortunately he never mentions this plan to anyone else, so his allies do not understand him at all. The only people Illidan seems to trust even a little are his own demon hunters. Everyone else is expendable.
Illidan creates demon hunters so he will have an army to take out the Burning Legion. First he finds the home world of the dreadlords and he attacks them with his demon hunters as sort of a test. Illidan’s real goal is to steal their records so he can find Argus. He wants the location of Argus so he can attack Sargerus’ generals at home and kill them once and for all.
He visits Argus in astral form and sets up a portal so he can send his demon hunters there. This is very dangerous and Illidan almost gets caught by Kil’jaeden. He is saved by an invisible naaru that is apparently observing the planet. Then things get really strange.
The naaru transports Illidan to a plain of light and shows him a vision of himself fighting the Burning Legion with holy magic. The implication is that he will find redemption and help save all worlds. Illidan’s response to this is sarcastic and wonderful. The naaru then sends him back to Outland.
Bad things have happened while Illidan was out astral journeying. The Black Temple has been breached and is in mid-fall. He expends his magic to send his army of demon hunters away in the hopes that they will be able to carry on the fight against the Burning Legion. Illidan has no real power left to fight and fully expects to die there. That is why we find him in the Black Temple staring at the skull of Gul’dan and pondering the end of his life.
His narrative ends when he falls to Maiev in the same way he dies at the end of the raid.
I don’t like Maiev Shadowsong. My opinion is colored by how she has been written in other books. I’m mentioning this because I found her story in Illidan to be boring but part of that is because I am biased against her.
Maiev is obsessed with Illidan. She has vivid fantasies where she kills him in painful ways. This is understandable because she was also imprisoned under the ground for 10,000 years as Illidan’s jailer. That time did not leave her untouched either. Maiev is a very angry and focused character. There is only black and white to her – no shades of gray. So things are absolutely good or absolutely evil, and if it is evil it must be destroyed.
We catch up with her in Hellfire Peninsula leading a troop of Wardens soon after Illidan’s escape to Outland. The land is harsh and her people are not doing well. Maiev’s focus on recapturing Illidan is more important to her than anything else. Maeiv wants him dead so badly that she contemplates a suicide attack and is only barely talked down. She realizes that none of her Wardens are driven the way she is. Maeiv needs their support though and she convinces them to stay with her.
She and her Wardens are in Outland for five years. They journey to Zangarmarsh in search of allies and hook up with Akama and his Broken. Akama is an untrustworthy ally, but Maiev is willing to take whomever she can get because Outland has steadily killed off her own people. She gradually manages to recruit young draenei and other tribes of Broken.
Maiev eventually journeys to Shattrath in hopes of securing more help. She is very angry when A’dal and the Aldor both refuse to help her. To them the Burning Legion is a much more important enemy and they are focused on fighting it. Maiev is only focused on Illidan.
The way she obsesses over Illidan is very similar to the way Illidan obsesses over his goal of destroying the Burning Legion. They are extremely similar in this way. Akama notices this and comments on it, but Maiev blows him off. They plot to overthrow Illidan in an uneasy alliance.
Akama’s treachery is discovered by Illidan and he is forced to lure Maiev into a trap. Illidan has planned a battle because he needs souls to fuel a portal to the world of the dreadlords. Illidan’s allies don’t realize that he is going to use all the souls, not just those of Maiev and her followers.
The battle is a massacre. All of Maiev’s Wardens and her recruited troops are killed. She is captured by Illidan and he gloats and has her imprisoned.
She would have probably stayed a prisoner except for Akama. The Broken felt extremely betrayed by Illidan because he saw the souls of his own people being used to fuel the portal. This pretty much severed any remaining loyalty he might have had for the Betrayer.
As the final attack on the Black Temple begins, Akama frees Maiev. She has to rush to join the attack. Maiev runs in alone because she is afraid that Illidan will get away. She encounters a lone demon hunter and kills him because she decides all demon hunters are utterly evil and corrupt.
She makes it to the top of the Temple and finally kills Illidan just as she does in the raid. Her narrative ends there but I know it picks up again in Legion. After all, she is the one who took Illidan’s body and stored it in a crystal for Gul’dan 2.0 to revive.
The last main character is Vandel and he was my favorite character. Vandel was obviously created to show the demon hunter’s side of the story and it worked well. I liked him a lot.
We first run into Vandel as he skulking around the outside of the Black Temple. The Temple is heavily guarded but he wants to get inside and see Illidan. Word has gone out in Azeroth that Illidan is looking for certain elves that want revenge on the Burning Legion.
Vandel feels like vengeance is the only thing that could give him any sort of meaning. His entire family was killed by demons. A felhound ate his son right in front of him. Vandel killed the felhound but it didn’t fix anything. After falling insane from grief he is channeling his rage into a need for revenge.
I’m guessing he is a rogue of some sort because he uses daggers and sneaks around very skillfully. Vandel manages to scale the walls of the Temple and get past all the guards. He is surprised to find Illidan up on the roof waiting for him. Vandel offers his daggers to Illidan and states that he wants to be a demon hunter so he can have his vengeance. Illidan accepts and sends him down to join the other recruits.
We see right away that something is off about the elves who would be demon hunters.
Vandel is greeted by a pair of tattooed demon hunters. One is silent and has his eyes and mouth sewn shut. He carries a lot of needles and uses them to poke himself and then suck up the blood. The other is a woman with a scarred face and horns. Her voice is so husky that Vandel thinks it was probably damaged by excessive screaming.
They lead him to a room full of demon hunter candidates. There are both Blood and Night Elves here and all of them are troubled. One is yelling about worms. Some are just rocking in corners or staring off into space. A beautiful woman is carrying her dead baby and talking to it. You get the idea that every person in the room is extremely disturbed and extremely broken by what the Burning Legion has taken from them. They are also all tough enough to get past the guards of the Black Temple without dying because that is the only way to be admitted.
Vandel starts training the next day. The candidates are trained by a demon hunter and they are drilled in combat for a while. Eventually it is time for his class to graduate into actually becoming demon hunters. Illidan tells them that he expects only a very few to survive.
Vandel is the first to volunteer. He is placed within a summoning circle and the felhound that killed his son is summoned in there with him. He must kill it or be killed. Vandel manages to kill it again and then Illidan tells him to eat its heart. Vandel does this and it is terrible. He has to fight to eat it because the flesh is disgusting. He can feel it moving within him trying to get out. He can still hear the demon taunting him.
He enters a vision which is the exact event where his family was killed. Vandel has to watch his son die again while the felhound taunts him. He has to kill it barehanded and eat its heart again. This happens several times and each time is as awful as the last.
Eventually he gets enough demon in him to see the Burning Legion. He sees them conquer worlds and destroy things. He hears them welcoming him and inviting him to join. Vandel is tempted by this. He is also horrified. The visions are so terrible that he rips out his own eyes so he won’t have to see them anymore. You realize that every demon hunter has done this because what they have seen is too terrible to bear.
Vandel wakes up blind in a room. He can feel scales on his hands and his demon is still constantly talking to him. He rips off all the scales on his body in a fit of horror and nearly bleeds to death. You learn that most transitioning demon hunters do not survive the transition even if they did manage to defeat and consume their demon. Some go mad and some commit suicide. Some succumb to their inner demon and get possessed by it.
Vandel is a survivor. He has good and bad days but manages to stand firm against his demon. He learns to use spectral sight and see again. Vandel endures the pain of tattoos because they are seals that help control one’s inner demon. He learns to use his new abilities and becomes one of Illidan’s demon hunters.
On the last day of the book, Vandel hears Illidan calling him in his head. This is when Illidan is calling all his demon hunters in order to send them away. Vandel tries to answer the call but is waylaid by Maiev and killed.
However this is not the end for him. Vandel wakes up hours later and hides himself in the shadows. He learns that the Betrayer is dead but unexpectedly hears a message from Illidan that seems to indicate otherwise. Then he sneaks away and vanishes.
After reading this, I really want to play a demon hunter in Legion.
Illidan is scarily good at magic but he has no morals. I already knew that a bit from previous stories, but this one really drove it home. He killed so many people in order to use their souls to fuel a portal. The people meant nothing to him – they were just fuel. The elves who didn’t survive to be demon hunters didn’t mean anything to Illidan either. I think his demon hunters have value to him more as weapons than as people.
I’m very intrigued by that vision of him as some sort of holy demon hunter. It reminded me of Wrathion’s vision during Mists of Pandaria. I wonder if in the final battle the naaru are going to come and make everyone who fights the Burning Legion into holy warriors of one sort or another.
I hope Maiev finds a way to get past her anger. I think the main reason I dislike her is because she is so angry about everything. She seems to have no room left for any sort of positive feelings. I’d like to see her move past her vengeance and find whatever peace she can in the world.
Vandel and the demon hunters were the best part of the book for me. I loved Vandel as a character. I liked Needle even though he was creepy as hell. I think this book is a must read for anyone planning on playing or role-playing a demon hunter in Legion.
There are some slight continuity errors that will probably bug you if you are interested in Lore. For instance, a Night Elf is said to come from the Eversong Woods and Maiev remembers Darnassus–which she likely hasn’t ever seen at this point in time–fondly. These both stood out because I knew they weren’t correct, but didn’t ruin the story for me.
Overall, Illidan is a really solid book and I recommend it.