After far too long a wait, I’ve finally gotten around to reading the latest Warcraft novel, War Crimes by Christie Golden. It’s a very unusual story for a Warcraft novel, but also an intriguing one.
Eschewing action, adventure, and bloodshed almost entirely, War Crimes is instead a courtroom drama about the war crimes trial of Garrosh Hellscream. Held at the Temple of the White Tiger in Pandaria, the trial is officiated by Taran Zhu, with Tyrande Whisperwind serving as the prosecution and Baine Bloodhoof drawing the proverbial short straw and being assigned as Garrosh’s defense.
War Crimes could be viewed as a lead-in to Warlords of Draenor, and certainly it does serve that purpose, but ultimately I feel War Crimes would be much more accurately viewed as an epilogue to the events of Mists of Pandaria. Not only does much of the “action” take place in Pandaria, but more importantly, it continues the themes and tone of Pandaria, being an often introspective and thought-provoking tale.
There is never any pretense that Garrosh is not guilty — even he freely and proudly admits to all of his many crimes. Instead, the question of the trial is what should be done about it. Should he be put to death, or allowed to live in the hopes he may one day see the error of his ways and redeem himself as his father did?
It’s a very fascinating debate on the often blurred lines between good and evil, whether people can change, and when and if wrongdoers should deserve a second chance. It could have gotten preachy, but I personally didn’t find that to be the case. Most of the time, the author seems happy to let the reader draw their own conclusions.
Ultimately the trial ends up serving not just as an examination of Garrosh, but of many of the major characters from throughout Warcraft lore, and there are a lot of strong performances. Anduin Wrynn once again proves himself to be quite thoroughly awesome, and Baine actually manages to be pretty interesting this time around. The conflict between his personal loathing of Garrosh and his honour-bound duty to defend the former warchief to the very best of his ability is quite interesting to see play out.
This book is also noteworthy for finally bringing us a reunion of the sisters Windrunner. Despite falling on opposites of both the Horde/Alliance conflict and the divide between life and death, Sylvanas and Vereesa find themselves united by their common hatred of Garrosh. The story is a bit odd and ultimately doesn’t come to much, but a reunion of the Windrunner sisters was long overdue, and I’m not sure what could have been done to make it more interesting.
Overall, I thought War Crimes was a very strong book, but it does have a few flaws. The ending is quite strange and random, and ultimately quite unsatisfying. This is necessitated by its connection to the events of Warlords of Draenor, which seems to have strange, random, and unsatisfying as its calling cards.
War Crimes is also another chapter in the endless ruination of Jaina Proudmoore’s character. This book once again paints her as a weepy, over-emotional mess of a person, and it also reaffirms the absolutely dreadful romance between her and Kalecgos.
I’m starting to think it’s time to give up hope of Jaina ever resembling her original incarnation or being remotely interesting.
Still, hiccups aside, I found War Crimes a good read. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual Warcraft bombast, and for a book that’s little more than three hundred pages of people talking in a courtroom, it’s quite a page-turner.
Overall rating: 8/10