Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!).
Who I Recommend This To: World of WarCraft players would probably enjoy this. Even if you are not into WoW, this is still an interesting fantasy adventure.
Narrator: Scott Brick
Publisher: Simon&Schuster (2013)
Length: 11 hours 42 minutes
Series: Book 12 World of WarCraft
Even though this is Book 12 in the series, it mostly worked as a stand alone.
The story opens with troll Vol’Jin, who was once the leader of the Darkspears, and human Tyrathan Khort injured and in Pandaria, tended by Pandaren monks. Much contemplation is given to how they ended up where they are and where they will go from there. Bwonsamdi, some sort of inner deity (a loa), enjoys deep, contemplative questions. While Chen, a Pandaren, enjoys making questionable alcoholic brews that remind you of specific places and times in your life. While I have not read any of the other book in this series, it is clear that Vol’jin and Tyrathan came through some sort of major battle from which they were swept away after receiving serious injuries.
This book wasn’t what I expected, being full of long passages of inner contemplation and philosophical discussions between characters, occasionally interrupted with action scenes. Since this series of books is based on the game, which is more action than contemplative puzzles, I expected an action-driven fantasy adventure. I will say that at times the inner contemplation, etc. seem to go on a bit long or was rehashing ground previously covered in the book. Still, the character development was mostly interesting, and if you were playing WoW while listening to this book, I think that would be quite fun. While I do enjoy my dungeon crawl or barbarian smash adventures, I have not played WoW. As it is an on-line world, and as my phone/internet line is not stable, I have not ventured into this particular game.
And there are pandas! The dork that I am was not expecting pandas! So, this was an extra bonus for me as pandas are one of my favorite ridiculous and evolutionary unviable beasties on the planet. Picturing some martial arts panda monks always brought a smile to me.
OK, Enough of the cuteness. Back to the serious review. Vol’jin and Tyrathan spend A LOT of time contemplating their warrior lives and if they have done right by whatever higher powers they believe in. They also discussed at length their natural inclinations and natures, how good they are at killing many in a short amount of time, and just what they will do with their abilities and consciences in the future.
Firmly laced with the Pandaren society, ways, and cuddly warrior pandas, this book also had a few action scenes that were well choreographed and a treat to listen to. Late in the book, Micheal Stackpole has Vol’jin face an old foe, and more inner contemplation ensues. I looked up some fan art on the WoW site just to see what this red-headed troll looked like. Fierce!
Overall, I after the first few bouts of philosophy/contemplation, I was ready for the rest of the book to be action. The repetitive nature of those quieter scenes meant that I could half tune out the story while I held a small conversation of my own and I didn’t miss anything that was important to moving the plot forward.
The Narration: Scott Brick was engaging as always to listen to. I loved all the fun accents he gave these characters. I assume he was confined to some extent to the accents portrayed in the game, but I might be off in that assumption. All the trolls had a Caribbean accent and the Pandarens had a non-specific Asian accent.
What I Liked: Pandas!; Pandas imbibing alcoholic drinks!; Pandas expressing themselves through hand-to-hand combat; Vol’jin’s red hair; initial bouts of contemplation; the action scenes.
What I Disliked: After the first few chapters, much of the contemplation became repetitive; very few female characters, all secondary or less.
What Others Think: