My overall impression of Shadows Rising by Madeleine Roux is that it’s a good story. I’m not even playing WoW right now and it grabbed my attention enough that I am poking this blog for the first time since Legion. Hopefully that is a good omen for Shadowlands!
The characters are treated really well. It’s a fun read and I recommend it. One part was sort of cringy for me and I will expand on that down in the spoiler section. Shadows Rising has some good character development in it and threads that will tie into the new expansion.
The book starts some time after the defeat of N’Zoth. Not a large amount of time afterwards but definitely between that and the Shadowlands trailer.
The main characters are Queen Talanji, Zekhan (Zappy Boi), Bwonsamdi, Nathanos Blightcaller, and Mathias Shaw. We also have scenes involving Jaina, Anduin, and Thrall, plus other Alliance and Horde leaders including Ji Firepaw. Sylvanas is mentioned but only shows up at the very end.
The basic conflict happens on Zandalar. The Horde and Alliance are trying to hunt down Sylvanas while also dealing with the aftermath of Battle for Azeroth. Meanwhile, Nathanos is trying to kill Bwonsamdi for Sylvanas and this stirs up even more trouble.
A lot more happens but that is pretty much the main thread of the story. Spoilers and a full description can be found below.
The Alliance and Horde have signed an armistice but all is not going well politically for them. Both sides are searching for Sylvanas and want to bring her to justice.
The main story involves a conflict on Zandalar between Queen Talanji and a dissident group of trolls calling themselves the Widow’s Bite. The Widow’s Bite want to kill Talanji and get rid of Bwonsamdi as the Loa of Kings. A troll named Apari leads the Widow’s Bite. She is the daughter of Yazma and has a very personal grudge against Talanji.
Nathanos Blightcaller and Sira Moonwarden are hanging out in Nazmir working with the Widow’s Bite. Sylvanas wants Bwonsamdi out of the way so Apari’s goals also work for Nathanos. Together they are causing a lot of political unrest in Zandalar.
The Horde is having a hard time keeping Talanji in Orgrimmar because she is very angry at Jaina and wants vengeance instead of peace with the Alliance. After an assassination attempt, she refuses to join their council and goes home to Zandalar instead.
Tyrande and Malfurion (and I assume a bunch of Night Elves) have pretty much left the Alliance and gone to Nordrassil in Hyjal. They are refusing to speak to Anduin or any messengers from the Alliance.
Alliance scouts have been found dead with Zandalari arrows in their corpses. It is suspected that Dark Rangers have used the Zandalari arrows on purpose to confuse things. This casts doubt as to whether the Zandalari are harboring Sylvanas or not. Anduin sends out Alleria and Turalyon to go search for clues using whatever means necessary.
The Horde leaders decide to send Zekhan to Zandalar as an ambassador to both spy on Talanji and hopefully woo her back to the Horde. Zekhan wins her over and manages to help save her from yet another assassination attempt. Bwonsamdi decides he likes “Zappy Boy” and he advises him that Talanji needs to go back to the Horde.
Talanji is having a very hard time because she is losing the confidence of her people. She is too full of pride to want to call upon the Horde for help. The Widow’s Bite is terrorizing the city and surrounding areas. Apari uses a blood sacrifice to summon what sounds like a ring of hurricanes around Zandalar because she wants to prevent the Horde from coming to Talanji’s aid.
Turalyon and Alleria find some Horde civilians in the Arathi Highlands. They torture them with a combination of Light and Void magic in a way that is pretty terrifying because of its utter lack of empathy. Jaina finds them doing this and is disgusted by their methods.
The torture yields intelligence stating ships only have six days to get to Zandalar before it is locked off somehow. Anduin sends Mathias Shaw to Zandalar to scope out whether Talanji is hiding Sylvanas there. He is (understandably) worried that the Horde is double crossing them again.
Mathias Shaw is traveling on Flynn Fairwind’s ship. This part is entertaining and cringe at the same time. By now you probably have heard that their “ship” is now sailing canonically. Though I like the idea, I wasn’t sold on it with this book. The romance felt very out of place amidst the tone of everything else happening in the story. I think it would have worked better to set up their friendship and eventual attraction over a longer amount of time and make them a couple in a later book. It was too fast to be a satisfying romance for me.
I think my issue is I really don’t know anything about Mathias Shaw other than he is the spymaster. I got to quest around with Flynn so I have a good idea about his personality. This is told mostly from Shaw’s point of view though and I don’t know him well enough to know if sudden attractions are the norm for him or not. I might have been sold on it more if Flynn was the main focus. But then all of the fun of observing Flynn in a crisis would be lost so I can see why Shaw tells this part of the story.
Anyway, the entertaining part is their reactions to the boat voyage. If you like Flynn at all, you will enjoy how he deals with magic storms of doom. They manage to get through the storm wall and land. Shaw gets off the boat and finds arrows and documents written in thalassian at an abandoned camp site. He hands them to Flynn for safekeeping and then they are attacked by a bunch of trolls. Shaw stays behind and surrenders while yelling at Flynn to get on the ship and run.
Flynn doesn’t want to restart the war by firing on the Zandalari, so he does what Shaw tells him to. He is very upset to leave Mathias behind. The arrows and the documents imply that Dark Rangers are actively working with the Zandalari. The Alliance strongly begins to suspect they are being betrayed.
Meanwhile, we follow Thrall around a bit. He is not real happy about being in Orgrimmar away from his family. He seems to have anxiety about being a leader and has to constantly remind himself that he is just one voice among many. Aggra and the kids are still in Nagrand and he misses them.
The Earthen Ring have noticed that the spirits are acting weird and they want Thrall to do something about it. He decides to try to talk to Tyrande to see if the Night Elf priestesses know what is going on. After a lot of negotiation, an Earthen Ring shaman gets permission to bring Thrall to her if he “brings what is owed”. He takes Baine and Calia Menethil along because the Horde council doesn’t want him to go alone.
Tyrande, Malfurion, Maiev, and Shandris are all waiting for him stone faced. Thrall awkwardly apologizes for what the Horde did to Teldrassil because he feels they are owed that apology. He then asks his question and waits. Shandris is kind of willing to help him. Maiev is not.
Tyrande just glares at him and doesn’t say anything. Malfurion speaks up and tells them to go. Tyrande, the Night Warrior, then gets real scary and basically tells Thrall to fuck off. She states that death and vengeance will eventually come for the Horde and no armistice will save them. She ends by telling him to not ever speak to her again unless he brings her Sylvanas’ head. Thrall and company sensibly leave.
Back in Nazmir, Nathanos wants Apari and the Widow’s Bite to attack all of Bwonsamdi’s shrines. He intends to weaken the loa and then kill him. Apari refuses to help until Nathanos gives her something precious to him. Nathanos gives her his ranger badge from Sylvanas that he has been wearing around his neck.
As the Widow’s Bite begin destroying shrines, Bwonsamdi’s power starts to fade. Tilanji starts to get sick as well. Bwonsamdi tells her their bond will kill her if he dies.
Thrall and Ji Firepaw meet up with Jaina and Anduin on a wrecked ship off the coast of Zandalar. They have arranged a secret meeting in the hopes of somehow preventing another war. Basically they are comparing notes and making sure Talanji isn’t harboring Sylvanas. The arrows and notes that Flynn brought them makes it seem like she is. Anduin also mentions that he would like his spymaster back. Suddenly the magic hurricane which was off in the distance comes straight for their ship.
Jaina ports Thrall and Ji into Dazar’alor and gets herself and Anduin away before their ship is destroyed. They were attacked because the Widow’s Bite spotted them and Apari hates Jaina as much as Talanji does.
After a scuffle with the Widow’s Bite in Dazar’alor, Thrall and Ji meet with an angry Talanji. She is shocked to learn that Dark Rangers are in Zandalar. Talanji realizes the Widow’s Bite have been attacking the shrines of the loa of death because they are working with Sylvanas. She dispatches troops to Bwonsamdi’s remaining shrines and agrees to let the Horde help. However she will not wait for them.
Briefly we dip in on Mathias Shaw. He is in prison and is being treated well. He is mooning over Flynn and trying to make friends with his Zandalari guards.
Then we are back to the main plot. Zekhan is leading some Zandalari troops to one of Bwonsamdi’s shrines. Troll children have been taken prisoner and Dark Rangers are shooting arrows at them. It is an obvious trap but the Zandalari go in anyway to save the kids. Zekhan has to jump into a tar pit to rescue them and he succeeds but gets badly burned in the process.
Zekhan dies from his wounds and starts to go into the Maw. Screaming souls are all around him. He feels like something has his foot and is pulling him down. Bwonsamdi then grabs his hand and pulls him back into life. Bwonsamdi tells Tilanji and Zekhan that something has gone wrong and all souls now go to the Maw except for a few he has managed to keep safe.
Nathanos, Sira, the Widow’s Bite, and several Dark Rangers are getting ready to attack Bwonsamdi’s last stronghold, the Necropolis. This is where Nathanos intends to kill Bwonsamdi. They capture some of the loa’s worshipers with the intent of using them to make Bwonsamdi manifest. This works and the final attack on Bwonsamdi begins.
Talanji and the Horde arrive in force to protect him. Eventually they prevail and Bwonsamdi comes out of it stronger than ever. Apari is killed along with most of the Widow’s Bite and a few Dark Rangers. Nathanos escapes with a vial of Sylvanas’ purple magic. Sira is left behind and she is captured.
Tilanji decides she will officially join the Horde council. The Horde sends Mathias Shaw home with Sira Moonwarden as his prisoner. The only catch is that she is to be delivered to Tyrande Whisperwind along with a sealed letter from Thrall.
Tyrande comes to the Stormwind Stockades to see Sira. Maiev and Shandris come with her. As the Night Warrior she wants to kill Sira. Maiev and Shandris talk her down. I assume Sira remains a prisoner after they are done questioning her.
The last scene from the book is basically the Shadowlands trailer. As soon as Sylvanas breaks the sky, Nathanos appears via her dark magic. She is glad to see him until he tells her that he wasn’t able to kill Bwonsamdi. After hearing that, Sylvanas considers him to be a failed tool and tells him to go away. It is obvious that Nathanos is upset by this but she does not care. Sylvanas doesn’t even notice if he leaves because she is too busy contemplating the power she wants to acquire. She has now become one with the darkness.
My final thoughts:
Shadows Rising has made me more hyped for the Shadowlands expansion. I so hope it is good!
I like that Zappy is being set up as more of a major character. He is a likeable dude.
I love Bwonsamdi. I hope we see a lot of him in Shadowlands.
Tilanji has some nice character growth. If you liked her in BfA, you will enjoy her story arc. She gets a really sweet moment with the spirit of her dad at the end.
I loved seeing Ji Firepaw get a speaking role. He is a character I have loved since Mists and finally he got used again.
Alleria and Turalyon are ominous. Their willingness to do anything to accomplish their goals is not good. It smacks of Yrel and what she became. I’m pretty sure this is setting up a story arc for Shadowlands or the expansion beyond.
Tyrande is extremely ominous and scary as hell. It is pretty obvious that Shandris and Maiev are with her at all times to keep her in check. The power of the Night Warrior is not good for her. I think she is in danger of completely losing herself. I’m positive this is setting up her story arc for Shadowlands.
Anduin is not holding up well to the pressures of being a king. This concerns me. He is still running away from his guards like a kid and he needs to stop that. (It happens twice in the book, but neither time warranted a place in the summary because he wasn’t really a main character despite being on the cover.) Anduin really needs friends his own age instead of only advisers his dad’s age or older. He needs a friend badly.
Thrall is also not handling having to be involved in government again well. Why aren’t Aggra and the kids with him? He either needs to train up another orc to be the orc representative in his place, or he needs to have his family near him to give him more support.
Jaina is better than she has been in years. She is the most emotionally rational person in the book and the only one who is even close to understanding how Anduin feels. If she still wants her lame blue dragon, he would probably be able to handle her “emotions” now.
Nathanos is the same bloody bastard he was throughout BfA. He doesn’t seem to be driven by a hatred of life or even a dislike for it. Instead it is a nuisance to him. Everything he does is for Sylvanas. The only things precious to him are the things she gave him. I guess that is as much love as he can feel. I imagine being thrown away by her at the end caused him an equal amount of pain.
Sira is a nasty piece of work. She is mad at everything and hates everything. She truly wants to kill all life because she is so angry. The way she thinks is very similar to Sylvanas. It makes me wonder if she feels that way because that is how Sylvanas felt when she raised her as forsaken.
Sylvanas isn’t in the book long enough to really explain why she became so focused on power, the Jailer, or anything else during BfA. I am hoping answers to this will come out during Shadowlands. She is very angry and is still bothered by Saurfang telling her she failed. She feels nothing but anger towards Nathanos because he caused her plan to fail. All she wants is more power so she can dismantle everything.
I’m sure she is going to cause us a lot more trouble going forward.