Review: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War

Heads up: This turned out to be an extremely long post. This is the most epic nerd rant I have produced since I saw the JJ Abrams Trek movie, at least.

jainafireballReview: Tides of War:

I have very strong feelings about this book, both positive and negative. For this reason, I will be putting aside my usual spoiler-free policy.

You’ve been warned.

We all know the story by now. Garrosh Hellscream launches an unprovoked assault on Theramore Isle as part of a bid to conquer all of Kalimdor. But this attack is merely a cover for his true plot: using the Focusing Iris to create a mana bomb of overwhelming power that turns Theramore into the Azerothian Hiroshima.

It’s a calamitous event that shatters everything Jaina Proudmoore ever believed in. Her selfless desire for peace is rewarded with the grizzly death of all her friends and countless innocents, and it changes her forever.

“Tides of War” is Christie Golden’s take on the events we will also play in-game in a few weeks.

Will the real Jaina Proudmoore please stand up?

Once upon a time, Jaina was my favourite Warcraft character. If you never played Warcraft III, you’ve never seen the real Jaina.

Jaina was such a refreshingly unique character in the Warcraft universe. Before, Warcraft had been entirely dominated by martial characters, usually male. Everyone was a badass fighter.

Jaina was different. Jaina could handle herself in a fight — her first appearance involved her killing two Ogres twice her size without breaking a sweat — but she was a scholar and peace-maker at heart. She was wise and humble enough to realize the Scourge couldn’t be defeated, open-minded enough to put aside her prejudice and ally with the Horde, and strong enough to stand against the madness of her lover and the bigotry of her father.

And she did it all with a smile on her face. Even in the darkest moments, she still had a joke and a quip.

Compare that to her portrayal in World of Warcraft, where she’s done nothing but cry, and you’ll want to cry.

I had a little hope “Tides of War” might restore Jaina’s character, but I also feared it might screw her up even worse, making her just another warmonger — the Alliance Sylvanas.

In the end, neither is really the case. Jaina did go psycho for a while, attempting to wipe Orgrimmar from the face of Azeroth, but she is eventually talked down by Thrall and Kalecgos — more on him in moment. She’s probably going to be a more interesting character now than she’s been in a long time, but it’s also clear the character I once loved is now dead and gone.

Kalec, and why he’s a problem:

I was a bit surprised by how big a role Kalecgos played in this book, though I shouldn’t have been. As the leader of the Blue Dragonflight, the Focusing Iris is his responsibility.

I like Kalec. He’s a solid, likable character. But I don’t enjoy the role he played in “Tides of War” — namely, Jaina’s new love interest.

Jaina may be an extraordinary woman, but she’s still just that: a woman, a human. Kalec is a Dragon. An immortal being empowered by the Titans to safeguard Azeroth. Perhaps more importantly, he’s a giant lizard.

Let me say that again:

Giant.

Lizard.

Why is he falling for a human woman? Yes, he’s got a humanoid form, but that’s all it is: a form, a guise. Even putting aside how improbable it is for him to be able to connect to mortals on an emotional level, let’s think about this from a practical, physical perspective. He’s a lizard. His ideal of beauty would probably involve good scales and strong talons.

I always worried that giving Dragons humanoid forms would make them just humans with wings, but it didn’t happen until now. Say what you will about Richard Knaak, but his Dragons always felt like Dragons, no matter their form.

Aside from that, the whole romance is just poorly handled. I really, really hate it when characters start falling in love in the face of constant peril. The Horde is literally breaking down your gates; why are you spending your time taking romantic walks on the beach?

Ugh.

Overkill:

My other big problem with “Tides of War” is how much of it feels like overkill. First of all, we already had an event where the Horde did something utterly unforgivable that launched a world war. It was called the Battle of Angrathar, and it didn’t happen that long ago. It makes the whole destruction of Theramore feel a little redundant.

Christie Golden lays the emotion on a bit thick, as well. The destruction of Theramore is itself a heartbreaking event. The heroic sacrifice of Rhonin even more so. And that is the best thing about this book; it is powerful.

But all that wasn’t enough, apparently, because Golden also had to introduce a new character: Kinndy Sparkshine, Jaina’s new apprentice. Kinndy is the daughter of a beloved Dalaran NPC, an adorable young Gnome girl obviously designed to be as lovable as possible, and I knew she was destined for a grizzly death the moment she appeared.

Kinndy’s death was overkill — no pun intended. The book was already brutal and heart-wrenching. We didn’t need a gruesomely killed adorable Gnome girl on top of everything else.

Taking the wider view:

The best things about “Tides of War,” oddly enough, are those that don’t deal so directly with Jaina or Theramore.

I make no secret of my unhappiness with the Horde’s current story arc. It feels like a blatant retread of the plots of the early strategy games. Horde goes too far, gets its ass whooped, and learns its lesson.

And Garrosh is a poor character to lead it. There are many members of the Horde who’ve suffered terribly at the hands of the Alliance and have good cause to hate them. Garrosh isn’t one of them, which makes his hate for the Alliance seem artificial and contrived. Not to mention how scattered and confused his portrayals have been.

But “Tides of War” gives me some hope. It seems they’ve finally chosen a clear direction for Garrosh’s character: he’s arrogant, reckless, brutal, and plain evil. It may be cliche, but it works.

Perhaps more importantly, “Tides of War” makes very clear he does not speak for all of the Horde. Virtually every race is shown to question his leadership and goals, with the Tauren and Trolls being outright disgusted by his blood lust.

But there’s nothing they can do, as Garrosh has established a secret police that will silence any opposition to his iron-fisted rule.

This shows that Blizzard is not letting Warcraft slide back into completely black and white factions, and that’s a great relief. Now, if only we could get them to stop making the Alliance look totally perfect all the time…

Speaking of the Alliance, this book has reaffirmed my belief that the Wrynn men, Varian and Anduin, are the best thing to happen to Warcraft in many, many years. Seriously, these guys are my heroes.

Actually, Anduin reminds me a lot of old school Jaina…

But perhaps the greatest thing about “Tides of War” is the sense of these being truly world-changing events. Despite a slight feeling of redundancy in regards to the Wrath Gate, the destruction of Theramore does feel like a truly massive event with an epic impact on the world. It brings the sense of scale that I so desire from Warcraft.

Other little things:

Christie Golden is a pretty good writer, and I have a lot of respect for her, but this book felt rushed and unpolished in a lot of places. A lot of times, I literally didn’t know where a scene was taking place because she didn’t bother to describe the setting. And there were other rookie mistakes, like far too many adjectives.

Makes me wonder if she was working under a tight deadline or something…

Another thing that was a little odd was that she clearly put a much stronger effort into making the book feel like the game. The Alliance doesn’t have archers and scouts; it has hunters and rogues. You’ll recognize a lot of spells and abilities from the game.

I don’t really know how I feel about this. It’s great to see a bigger connection between the books and the game, but it’s odd to read about Horde characters being ganked by rogues.

If you’re still reading…

…I’m impressed. This blog has gotten a bit away from me, but as I’ve always said, the lore is far and away the most important part of WoW for me, and I don’t know any other lore fans, so I need to vent somewhere. And “Tides of War” touches on many things that have long been sore spots for me.

In the end, the best thing I can say about “Tides of War” is what I said at the beginning: I have very strong feelings about it. Warcraft has lacked an edge, an emotional punch, a controversy lately.

Warcraft’s always been at its best when it’s a little shocking. Look at the most memorable moments from the franchise: the Wrathgate, Arthas murdering his father, the fall of Lordaeron, the Deathbringer encounter. These are all shocking, calamitous, brutal moments.

And that’s what “Tides of War” is: shocking, calamitous, and brutal. Even if there are parts of it I ardently dislike, it’s true Warcraft. I’ve been feeling a little blase about Warcraft lately, but after reading this book, I feel some of the fire of my old passion again.

The worst thing I can say about it is that it’s a book about Jaina Proudmoore whose least compelling aspect was Jaina Proudmoore.

Overall rating: 8.1/10 Ask me again in ten minutes, and I’ll give it a different rating.

New article:

If, by some miracle, you’re still reading, I do have another article to plug: New to MMOs: Where to Begin. It’s sort of intro to the genre for those whi are thinking of starting on MMOs or have just started.

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19 thoughts on “Review: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War

  1. My husband is always into the stories behind the games. Just ask him about Final Fantasy and probably a mcnth later he might be done lol! He felt the story for Cata was stupid – he always felt Arthas should have been the boss of Warcraft and instead they pulled Deathwing out of no where. Great review, I read it out loud to hubby as he’s online playing Mass Affect 3 rounds lol. Going to go check out the other article as he’s been looking for a decent MMO…lotta crap out there.

    • Yeah, but Arthas is dead. They gotta do something.

      I didn’t mind Deathwing, but I don’t think he was main boss material. He would’ve been better as a secondary boss, like Ragnaros was. And they didn’t make enough use of him; we should have seen more of just how absolutely bat**** crazy he is.

      • I don’t know about other folks, but Deathwing didn’t work for me as a main boss because I had zeeeero emotional connections to “OMG CRAZY DRAGON GONE CRAZY.” Also, oh, he’s crazy? That’s nice.

        (I didn’t even figure out that he nuked the Park in Stormwind for the longest time because I never actually needed to GO to that area for ANYTHING EVER. So for quite awhile I was rather confused, because he broke the gates and he’s a boss now? Ok, yeah … p.s., hit the Keep next time and I might notice.)

        Wrath of the Lich King remains the top expansion for me because of Arthas – it really capitalized on previously built story and emotional capital. Plus, I have a thing for expectations dashed, so the whole fallen-from-grace aspect was more powerful than a fallen from grace Aspect turned out to be.

        But as you say, they had to come up with something.

  2. She seems to attract men with abnormally long lifespans (or huge issues, or both).

    I suspect Blizzard really wanted to give the Alliance a love interest “in the interests of balance,” since the whole “Thrall and Aggra Sitting in a Tree” thing started Hordeside. Still, too many people would have had an issue if they stuck her with Varian, who happens to both be human and technically available (even if he is still seems obsessed with the memory of his dead wife). Who else do we have that’s both Manly and Major? And by Major, I mean it’s got to be somebody who’s well known enough that even somebody with only a mere smattering of Alliance knowledge Knows Him. Um … hmm. Limited range of options, there …

    “Let me say that again:

    Giant.

    Lizard.”

    Best objection ever. If this is a balancing move (“FALL IN LOVE GET MARRIED HAVE BABIES LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER LIKE THRALL AND AGGRA”), there’s a bit of a biological problem with it – what are they gonna do, have dragonbabies? This gives every “I’m part dragonkin!” RP-er ever a “BUT IT’S IN THE LORE” defense. God help us all!

    • Oh, God. I didn’t even think of the RP implications…

      If they did do this for balance’s sake, they didn’t really need to. The Alliance already had Malfurion/Tyrande and Rhonin/Vereesa. Honestly, giving the Horde a major couple was just them playing catch-up.

      Also, for the record, Varian totally needs to hook up with Lorna Crowley. They’re perfect for each other! They’re both fiery and intense, they both hate the Horde…

      • Speaking of Tyrande/Maulfurion, I’ve never bothered to attack the Alliance leaders as I have a thing for Not Dying, but I had a friend tell me that if you attack Tyrande, Malfurion stands there and does nothing since he technically also leads a neutral faction.

        Oh my GAWD, Tyrande, GET A DIVORCE. Neutral faction or no, him standing there while the Horde murders you is just SAD.

        While Varian and Lorna (how is she not cursed?) would be fun, I sometimes think that Blizzard’s a bit obsessed with evening Varian out in one way or another. Tiffin made his sadface happy and that’s why they worked so well! He went through a ceremony and now he’s not schizo! etc. etc.

      • I suspect you’re simply being tongue-in-cheek, but the people who actually complain about Malfurion not defending Tyrande drive me crazy. Yes, it’s an oversight that should probably be fixed, but it’s just a random game mechanic. It doesn’t have any relevance to his character or the story.

        Lorna’s not cursed simply because she never got bitten. A lot of Gilneans never were. Again, it’s just a game mechanic that you can’t play an uncursed one. And she was born before her father was infected, so it wouldn’t be passed through the bloodline.

  3. I know I am a few days late on this (backlog on blog reader) but having read the book I thought I would chime in. I do want to preface this by saying this is the only WoW book I have read (as of today.)

    I read a LOT of romance novels, A LOT, and honestly I liked how Christie portrayed the romance between Kalec and Jaina. As for her being attracted to long lived men, the way I look at it is she is such a powerful mage that the only ones who are able to connect with her on the same level are going to be immortal type guys. Arthas is a slightly different story but in that case it was more of what would’ve been expected of her and her station in life.

    The only part I was not happy about in reference to the romance portion was where Jaina remembers about the first time her and Arthas became lovers. I don’t think it was needed at that point in time. But that is just my opinion.

    As for the whole “He is a lizard!” You are forgetting this is a world where magic exists. ANYTHING is possible with magic.

    Plus he already fell in love with a “human” woman in his history. The dude has a history of not being into dragons.

    I didn’t have too much of an issue with the whole dragon/human thing because such a point was made to show how different Kalec was compared to the other blues. It was almost a given that he would fall for Jaina.

    • As I’ve said in other posts, the fact that magic means anything can be possible doesn’t mean anything should be possible. I really object to the idea that you can explain anything away with magic, because it cheapens the genre. That kind of thinking is exactly why fantasy gets a bad rap in mainstream culture.

      Besides, even if we accept that a relationship between a lizard the size of a fortress and a human woman could work psychologically and mechanically, it’s still something of a breach of canon in regards to how Dragon relationships are supposed to work.

      I don’t think Anveena really counts, either. She may have looked human, but she wasn’t. Not even remotely. She was an incarnation of pure magic. It makes sense that a being whose entire existence revolves around magic might fall for her.

  4. Well, I read the book and luckily for Blizzard, Jaina didn’t become the new Sylvanas of the Alliance. Otherwise, I would have sold off my considerable Blizzard Collection and said goodbye to WOW once and for all. Which, for those who know me, is a pretty crazy thing to even contemplate. A couple of things. Firstly, I agree that the romance between Jaina and Kalec was poorly handled. I like that they got together (a giant lizard aside, they are both deeply entrenched in the arcane so it makes sense that they would see eye to eye) but for god’s sakes, walking down the beach during preparations for a nasty battle and having little romantic interludes on the balcony when a hugely important artifact is missing is a little ridiculous.

    I love Christie Golden. She is often given inane matter to deal with when she is writing about warcraft characters and she somehow manages to turn it into a highly emotional, epic, and interesting tale. That being said, when compared to say “Arthas” or “Lord of the Clans” this latest offering feels rushed and badly in need of polishing in some places.

    All that aside: Garrosh. I’m a Hellscream fan from the Grom redemption days and I have to say, I’m not happy with the trite and somewhat sloppy writing that seems to surround this character as a whole. I could be wrong, but to me, it feels like some execs at Blizzard said, “Ok well fans don’t like some of our suggestions for a potential Mists of Pandaria boss so let’s go with choice number 3 as a scapegoat for all the bad things that are going to happen”. Garrosh was a jerk, no doubt about it. He was also overly passionate, like Arthas, and easily manipulated. Fine, I could see how that could lead to disaster. He is also, if you read *all* the lore, at times compassionate, a great leader, and prone to moments where he holds honor above all else. Like his father, he is a multilayered character whose potential to make mistakes and learn from them (though yes, Grom learned his lesson a little late) and I don’t see why he suddenly has to become Mr. One-sided evil doofus.

    That being said, the handling of Garrosh and what happened to Theramore was very well done. He’s pretty much screwed the pooch on this one. There is very little he can do to redeem himself and he’s gone down the path of no return in committing one of the worst atrocities in recent Warcraft history. I liked the potential of Garrosh maybe *NOT* going down the path of all evil but Golden handled the story well, including it’s effect on Jaina and the rest of the Alliance. I cried quite a bit reading this book so it definitely evoked an emotional response. Darn. Now I posted a huge nerd rant to echo the author’s rant. Sorry about that guys.

    • I heard an interview where Christie Golden described her interpretation of Garrosh’s character, and I thought she had it about right. She said he has a “weak personality.”

      Think about it. When we first met him, he was crying into the fire because his grandma was dying. It took Thrall telling him about his father to get him to develop anything resembling a spine, and then he went to the opposite extreme and become an arrogant blowhard.

      Basically, he’s too susceptible to outside influences and filled with an insecurity that makes him need to constantly prove himself. That would be fine if he were just a soldier or a lieutenant, but they made him the leader of the whole damn Horde, and now he’s essentially gone mad with power. He’s viewing the Horde as an extension of himself and using it to prove he really is as awesome as his dad, ironically growing to embody all the flaws of his father in the process.

      While I will agree that he has occasionally been shown to have good traits (really only in his “Leaders of Azeroth” story), I must take issue with his supposedly being a good leader. If you pay close attention, you’ll note that all of his victories (barring Theramore) have come as the result of the player’s actions and/or Saurfang’s meddling, and he’s had numerous failures as a commander. His invasions of Ashenvale both ended disastrously, the oldest Orc settlement on Azeroth fell under his command, he completely botched the Highlands invasion, he lost much of the Barrens (though did later retake that ground), and his invasion of Gilneas ended in a costly stalemate without any gains for the Horde.

  5. Points taken, you have solid arguments and what Christie Golden says about Garrosh’s character makes some sense. I’m at times too hasty when I type in replies and don’t explain what I say, so I think I should clarify what I meant about Garrosh being a good leader. What I really meant to say was that, over time and with help, he has developed the basic charisma and skills a leader needs to have people follow him. He has an innate ability to get things done and get others believing in him, as well, when he isn’t being an arrogant jerk (which he definitely became later in his story arc). At the same time, he is not a *successful* leader, as he has not used his innate skills to great advantage. And you’re right, he is at this point definitely into “using” the horde to further his own ends. I just wish that instead of having him do something this terrible at what is still a fairly early stage in his career, Blizzard had been willing to have him make some mistakes and learn from them, instead of going all evil right away to the point where he can not necessarily be redeemed. But, he is friends with the Blackrock,, who are obviously influencing him…and they are nasty.

  6. Warning: this post may seem off topic. Just so you know, i’ve tied in my post with the subject matter of your original one above.

    Just read your “5 ways People Take MMOs Too Seriously”. Uhh…regarding the “lore nut” section. Just for clarification, I’ve been playing this darn thing for years on and off and reading all the books, much like yourself. I also write, draw, and create stories that pay alot of attention to fine detail and I like lore to be consistent and properly written….also much like yourself, given what I have read of your forum, and your (from what I have seen) often excellent reviews posted there. I also design games in my spare time, work with game designers, attended art college with the intention of going into game design, worked in a comic/gaming store where we all discussed storylines in books, games and comics that we liked and disliked because, well, we were working in a gaming store filled with gamer nerds (all awesome people, i must add) and it was our job.

    I, like so many, have played pretty much every Blizzard game there is save Lost Vikings and I have noticed an irritating consistency in Blizzard character writing over the years: the tendency to “Arthas” alot of their characters. As in, “you start out cool but for a number of reasons you end up being an evil badass”. The great thing about this is that you often end up with a surprising twist in the story and a character with a fair amount of depth and an interesting personality to boot. The annoying thing about this is that it gets a *little* tired after you’ve done it twenty times in all your games. Garrosh Hellscream has been going down the same darn path as his dad and this seems to demonstrate to me that Blizzard has an unwillingness to deviate from their tried and true formula. I really feel that they are showing a lack of imagination here.

    That being said, one thing I am grateful for in “Tides of War” however, is that Jaina did not become a raging avenge monster but rather became more realistic as to the chances of peace between the Horde and Alliance at this point. I’m grateful that they did not entirely ruin her character, in other words.

    Yes, I am a defintely a lore nut. :) I’m a writer and a creator like many and working with others on starting up a gaming company in the future. I am likely overly passionate about the WOW universe at times but it’s because I feel that the story they originally created in Warcraft 1, 2, and 3 was beautiful, deep, very unusual and epic and I have rarely seen a game with lore that even comes close to matching it. Funny thing is, for the most part I feel like this game has maintained alot of its’ integrity despite having changed so much. That’s why I still play it even though I miss *some* aspects of vanilla wow. Hell, they killed off my favorite character of all time in this game and I was cool with it. Doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with everything in the story. It’s what i’m passionate about, I am a paying Blizzard customer and while I’m cool with the fact that this is definitely Blizzard’s story and not my own I am still not going to like them “Arthasing” every character of dubious leanings that they put into their lore.

    • This definitely extremely off-topic, but I am most definitely a lore nut, too. I placed in Blizzard’s fan fic contest, and the only reason I don’t speak fluent Thalassian is because Blizzard hasn’t provided enough info on the language yet.

      What I was referring to in that article were people who’ve become so obsessed that they have their own personal ego and value as a person tied into the story. I don’t know if you’ve hung around Blizzard’s official story forum, but there are people who take any loss on the part of their faction as a personal insult. They don’t want a dramatic story; they just want their side to win every single time. Heck, I had one guy call my contest story “utterly offensive” because I offered the possibility that one (likely dead) Alliance character could come back as a Forsaken.

      • Oh, wow. No, I hadn’t hung around the story forums so I had no idea how bad they could get…..I’m kinda glad I haven’t, from what you’re saying. Sorry I deviated so badly from the topic at hand >.< On the other hand I didn't realize there were so many lore nerds who took this crap to a whole different level.*embarassed for mmo players everywhere*

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