Story of Shadows Rising, the Shadowlands Prequel Novel, with Nobbel87
A brand new
book has been released,
, written by Madeleine Roux. In this month's lore collaboration with Nobbel87, we'll go over the major points of the story. As with every book, a recap doesn't do the details justice, so if you want all of that, dive into the story yourself! You can also get the
voiced by the actress of Queen Talanji herself, Susan Wokoma.
Regular Book OrderAudio Book Order
As this article discusses the plot of
, there are major spoilers.
The Characters of Shadows Rising
Below is a list of major characters in
, although one of the neat things about the book is that it weaves in minor characters like Katherine Proudmoore and Ji Firepaw that are usually sidelined in larger narratives:
, High King of the Alliance, leads the Alliance mission to track down Sylvanas. Throughout the novel, Anduin struggles with the best way to meet his goal, torn between Jaina's compassionate approach and Turalyon and Alleria's questionable use of Light and Void. Parallels are drawn between Anduin and Talanji dealing with the challenges of being young and oprhaned rulers, as well as Anduin and young Arthas hungry for vengeance.
serves as an adviser to Anduin, cautioning him about taking harsh measures, as she would have once done in the past, to learn more about Sylvanas' whereabouts. While her brother is not present in the novel, off with Calia Menethil in the Undercity, we do see Jaina reunite with her mom, including a hilariously-awkward dinner scene with Katherine, Jaina, Alleria, and Turalyon.
, together with Turalyon, interrogates civilians for any sign of Sylvanas' allies. While her relationship with Turalyon looked doomed after the comic "Three Sisters" as the voices kept urging her to kill him, they now seem to be on better terms, working together to use the powers of Light and Void in questionable ways to draw out information.
High Exarch Turalyon
has been named High Commander of the Alliance forces by Anduin, who passed over Genn Greymane. This decision may lead to future Alliance rifts, especially if the
datamined Shaw dialogue is true
, after Anduin is imprisoned in the Maw and Turalyon essentially sits on the throne.
is the spymaster leader of SI:7. An enigmatic secondary character throughout much of Warcraft's story, Shaw finally gets some character growth as we learn more about his family's past and his personality outside of SI:7. Captured by the Zandalari when investigating the suspicious activity, Shaw comes to terms with his feelings for Flynn Fairwind during his imprisonment--Flynn meanwhile has braved the magical storms surrounding Zandalar to alert the Alliance, who in turn shares their intel with the Horde, leading to both factions working together to thwart Nathanos.
has been removed from the in-game story for a few patches, following her transformation into the Night Warrior. Here, she continues to be frustrated by the injustices suffered by her people, and wants more than simple apologies from old friends like Thrall. While it's clear the magic of the Night Warrior has given her a hunger for vengeance, her frustration is understandable and for the first time, we see some Horde characters express regret for their complicity in Teldrassil.
, the ruler of Zandalar, is distrustful of the Horde following the death of her father in the Battle for Dazar'alor. She also has her hands full with Zandalari unrest and rebellions against Bwonsamdi, which Nathanos takes full advantage of. Over the course of the novel, she grows as a ruler, learning how to compromise and accept aid from allies. There's a touching moment towards the end of the novel, when Bwonsamdi allows the spirit of Rastakhan a few words with his daughter, in which he inspires her to be a leader of action instead of paralyzed by perfection. There's also some interesting parallels between Talanji, feeling wronged by the Horde, and Tyrande, frustrated with the lack of Alliance help at Teldrassil, representing the extreme ends of their factions that want justice for the atrocities they endured.
is sent to Zandalar to help rebuild diplomatic relations between the Horde and Queen Talanji, following an assassination attempt. Zekhan is earnest and heroic, even being called "Zappy Boy" by Bwonsamdi, and his heroic sacrifice towards the end of the novel, when he temporarily dies and experiences the Maw, reveals how dark Sylvanas' plan truly is.
struggles with his new role as a member of the Horde Council, learning how to compromise and unite instead of calling all the shots as Warchief. He has a notable scene with Tyrande where he comes to her with apologies for Teldrassil, and misjudges how inappropriate and hollow his words sounded.
is hunted by Nathanos throughout the novel and towards the end, the motivations are clear: Bwonsamdi has been saving Troll souls, preventing them from going into the Maw. Bwonsamdi ultimately appears as a sympathetic character, aiding Talanji, saving Zekhan, and revealing his noble plan to save Trolls--but because he relies on manipulation and trickery, we're never 100% sure of his plans.
continues to be completely devoted to Sylvanas--loyalty is his one defining personality trait. As he organizes a plan to defeat Bwonsamdi, loyalty to Sylvanas is the driving force behind all of his questionable actions. Even if he's not particularly likable in the novel, Nathanos rejected by Sylvanas in the epilogue is still a poignant moment, as we've spent so much time following his elaborate plans to please her.
, no longer the Warchief, remains enigmatic throughout the novel, only showing up in the epilogue. We see her frustrated with Nathanos' failure, but also mostly unfeeling, as she has her eyes set on her future in the Shadowlands and has no need for past attachments.
is an original character introduced in the novel, a childhood friend of Talanji. As a daughter of Yazma, Apari could have easily joined the rebellion against Rastakhan and Talanji, but did not. However, Apari went down a path of vengeance after Talanji, seeing her seriously injured during Dazar'alor, ignored her friend in favor of finding her dying father. In the novel, Apari serves as the leader of the Zandalari rebels working together with Nathanos to unseat Bwonsamdi.
, turned to Undead during the Battle for Darkshore, assists Nathanos during his plans. At the end of the novel, she is captured and brought before Tyrande, where she shockingly reveals that she did not choose to be undead, it was forced upon her--and now she feels nothing but vengeance. It is uncertain whether she will rejoin Night Elf society, and if similar raised elves like Delaryn were also brought back without consent.
The Plot of Shadows Rising
takes place at the end of the Fourth War, after Sylvanas disappeared and N'Zoth was defeated. There are two main threads to this story: the Alliance and Horde sorting out the aftermath of their conflict, and Sylvanas sending Nathanos to defeat Bwonsamdi, viewed as a threat to her plans.
The Alliance and Horde
The Horde no longer has a Warchief as we already saw in game. They now have a council with many different voices representing their people, even minor characters like Ji Firepaw and Allied Race leaders. A Forsaken leader hasn't been chosen following Sylvanas' departure, but currently Lilian Voss acts as the interim leader while Calia Menethil concerns herself with aiding the dark rangers abandoned by Sylvanas. While the council is a good idea, it initially leads to growing pains and chaos with so many differing opinions--something Nathanos takes advantage of in his early plans.
Queen Talanji has been absent from the latter half of
Battle for Azeroth
, following the Zandalari joining the Horde. She's been struggling with the death of her father, and finds it difficult to accept peace with the Alliance when they attacked her city. After a heated argument with other members of the Horde Council and failed assassination attempt, Talanji leaves Orgrimmar. Zekhan, aka Zappy Boy is sent to stay at the queen's side as an ambassador.
Meanwhile, the Alliance isn't doing well either, as they are also fractured in disarray. Tyrande does not want to accept peace as an option, following the loss of Teldassil at the hands of the Horde. After going through the Night Warrior ritual, her hatred burns and will not be sated until she claims vengeance. Genn Greymane, another leader with a rocky history with Sylvanas, has also lost his homeland and son to the Forsaken, and so he too agrees with Tyrande. This puts a lot of pressure on Anduin to bring the undead Windrunner to justice. The book sets up some interesting parallels between Anduin and Talanji struggling with the pressures of being young leaders and making mistakes, even though they are on opposing sides.
Turalyon and Alleria are tasked with finding Sylvanas Windrunner, using any means possible. They take these words to heart, using Light and Void in questionable ways to extract the information they need, regardless of the pain and suffering they inflict on those interrogated. While their methods get results and vital information, it also creates mistrust. Jaina finds out what they have been up to and reports back to Anduin, expecting him to be equally appalled. Instead, Anduin thinks they must do whatever it takes to bring murderers to justice, and we cannot forget Teldrassil, Lordaeron, the Mak'gora...
While the Alliance and Horde may seem fractured in the novel, things have actually mended since the events of
Battle for Azeroth
. If you took a break during the expansion, you can catch up on the tragic events of the Fourth War with these highlights:
Story of Before the Storm
Story of the Burning of Tedrassil
Story of the Battle for Darkshore
Story of Dazar'alor
Story of the War Campaign Finale
Sylvanas and the Plot to Defeat Bwonsamdi
Onwards to the second major part of the book which is the main conflict, taking place shortly before Sylvanas' confrontation with Bolvar at the top of Icecrown. We don’t know the exact motivations behind Sylvanas’ actions, but we do know she’s going to get us into the next expansion, the Shadowlands, by opening that rift at the top of Icecrown. She is in league with the Jailer, sending a whole bunch of souls directly to the Maw to get the power needed to set him free and in exchange, increase her powers which allows her to take on Saurfang and Bolvar. There will be forces and obstacles in her way, trying to stop her. Amongst them is the loa of Death...Bwonsamdi.
Zandalar in Chaos
Battle for Azeroth
, Rastakhan made a deal with Bwonsamdi, tying his bloodline to the Loa of Death. He would elevate Bwonsamdi in return for power to save his city. While this worked in defeating Zul, it did not save Rastakhan from the Alliance in the Battle for Dazar'alor, as Bwonsamdi sounded a bit tired of Rastakhan and more interested in Talanji ruling.
The novel opens with Talanji struggling to rule, bound by her hatred of the Alliance and frustration with Bwonsamdi, which makes her an easy prey for her enemies. First her father was too proud to accept aid from outsiders, and now Talanji is going down a similar path, refusing to swallow her pride and accept aid. This situation allows Nathanos and Sira to work with the rebel Widow's Bite faction, led by Talanji's bitter childhood friend Apari. Obsessed with revenge after Talanji didn't help her during the battle, Apari now turns her magic to helping Nathanos.
Sacrifices and blood rituals allow them to cast a mighty storm to surround Zandalar, making travel and spying eyes extremely difficult. Her magics also allow her to assault Bwonsamdi's shrines, weakening the loa’s power. Their forces attack not just with open assaults, but also whispers amongst the people turning them against their queen. Increasing the doubt they already had about a queen following the whispers of the loa of death. Fires are raging around the Queen of the Zandalari--with her bond to Bwonsamdi, as her powers weaken, so is her life draining away. She wants to get out of the bargain, so Bwonsamdi promises that she may be freed when he's strong again.
If you're interested in learning about the backstory between Rastakhan, Talanji, and Bwonsamdi, check out the following:
Story of Bwonsamdi with Nobbel87
Rastakhan Dazar'alor Cinematic Analysis - Let's Make A Deal
Who Won the Battle of Dazar'alor?
Story of Dazar'alor
Horde War Campaign
Zandalari Troll Allied Race Unlock
Story of the Afterlife and Shadowlands - Who Touched Vol'jin's Spirit?
Bwonsamdi and Zekhan
Bwonsamdi wants Talanji to remain on the Horde Council to strengthen the Zandalai. While he seemed skeptical of Rastakhan's ability to rule, he's invested in Talanji and wants her to succeed. When Apari's forces attempt to poison Talanji, Bwonsamdi even gave Zekhan a little push to save the queen.
Once Zekhan is sent to Zandalar on a diplomatic mission, Bwonsamdi tries to get into his good graces by awarding him with a vision of the afterlife. He sees Saurfang at peace, on the hunt with his son Dranosh while his beloved wife Remda waits at home. (In an
interview with Madeleine Roux
, this was confirmed to be an illusion.)
Later in the story, Zekhan himself is gravely injured, headed to the Shadowlands. He starts to experience the terror of the Maw, but Bwonsamdi isn’t done with him yet and yoinks him out of there. Bwonsamdi then reveals that yes, his soul would have gone to the Maw without his intervention. Bwonsamdi has been busy saving all Troll souls like this, keeping them away from hell, even King Rastakhan...but it's taking a toll on him. That's why Bwonsamdi needs Zekhan's help in stopping the Zandalari rebels and Nathanos Blightcaller. Without Bwonsamdi's aid, nothing will stop all souls from entering the Maw for good.
Learn more about Zekhan and Saurfang in Battle for Azeroth:
Lore of Varok Saurfang
Lore of Zappy Boy
Story of the War Campaign Finale
Zekhan Dialogue in Orgrimmar After the War Campaign
Zappy Boy Nickname Now Canon
The Fate of Saurfang 8.1 Questline
It's not only Bwonsamdi who can sense a disturbance--the Shaman of the Earthen Ring bring similar concerns to Thrall. The spirits are in disarray, lashing out instead of communing peacefully. This leads to a meetup at Nordrassil between Thrall and Tyrande, where the Night Elf priestesses have made similar discoveries. While Tyrande is hesitant to meet with Thrall, she is willing to meet with him if he brings what is owed--but it's soon clear that she wants more than a heartfelt apology and mere words, she wants Sylvanas' head. While nobody is successful at tracking down Sylvanas, due to the efforts of the Alliance and Horde, Nathanos' schemes in Zandalar are revealed.
Spymaster Mathias Shaw travels to Zandalar together with Flynn Fairwind, continuing their adventures that we saw during Battle for Azeroth. At the end of the Fourth War we already got a conversation between Valeera and Shaw, letting us know that there’s someone he would like to get to know better. Now in
we see Flynn and Shaw grow closer on their travels, sharing stories of their families' dark pasts and insecurities. When Shaw gets taken prisoner by a Zandalari patrol, Flynn is his only hope and chance at rescue, sailing through the magical storms of Zandalari to reach Stormwind quickly, sharing Shaw's fate and the needed intel about Zandalar. The Alliance then share this information with the Horde, who in turn bring it to Talanji.
With the full scope of the threats surrounding her apparent, Talanji finally accepts the aid of the Horde in the final confrontation against Nathanos' forces. While Nathanos escapes, Apari is slain and Sira is taken captive. Talanji is grateful for the aid of the Horde and agrees to rejoin the council. She even decides to continue her bargain with Bwonsamdi, who was willing to let her go after he was saved. But now Talanji is wise enough to know that she needs his power, and in turn, she renegotiates the deal. He will still be the Loa of Kings, but he'll work with her in a mutually-beneficial partnership that also has room for Talanji to embrace the wisdom and power from other loa.
Sira Moonwarden is sent over as a gift from the Horde to the Alliance, specifically Tyrande. It's not what Thrall had promised her, but hopefully it will be a start.
Anduin interrogates Sira first and the boy king does not hold back. He wants to know where Sylvanas is and throughout the story you can tell that Anduin is struggling. He’s not the boy that we once knew. The Dark Warden gives him no answers, taunts him and then something interesting happens.
Anduin made a soft sound of disgust and stood, hovering over her, considering her for a long and tense spell. A wisp of purple energy traveled down his arm, gathering in his palm. It happened in a blink, coming and going, but Sira noticed and laughed till she was hoarse.
Tell me, she mocked in a singsong voice. How does it feel to know you have lost? For time will prove it so. Ah well, take heart, Falling Lion, you will serve well. You will serve well.
She’s imprisoned within the stockades where Tyrande, escorted by Shandris and Maiev, has a go. Here we find out more about Sira. You might recall how she was part of the Darkshore campaign in Battle for Azeroth, before losing her life to Nathanos and the Horde heroes. Back during the Darkshore campaign we wondered why these recently-resurrected night elves would choose to serve the one that brought them so much pain and suffering. Fair enough that they feel hatred towards Elune or even their leaders for abandoning them, but still quite a jump to go and then serve the one that inflict that pain to begin with. Now in the novel we learn that there was no real choice about being brought back and that she’s suffering.
Elune abandoned me. You abandoned me. My sister-warriors, and you did nothing to save me. I did not choose to return. I would never choose to return. Everything inside me is ugliness and rage, and the only thing that quiets the scream is death. For what was done to me, I will see a hundredfold done upon this cursed realm!
Tyrande, fueled by the fury of the Night Warrior wants to claim her life. But Shandris speaks about mercy, and even Maiev, who is normally hostile, adds her voice. Tyrande decides to spare Sira, but is frightened by the strength and will inside of her to consider killing one of her own.
You can relive the fall and resurrection of Sira Moonwarden in the
Battle for Darkshore
playthrough, which also unlocks the Night Warrior appearance for Night Elves.
Tyrande's story continues in Ardenweald, where she'll try to
free the Night Elves from the Maw
and learn about the unstable power from
past Night Warriors
You can only experience this new questline with Tyrande if you join the Night Fae covenant. Learn more about this covenant, including armor, soulbinds, and cosmetic rewards, in our
Night Fae Guide
Based on the achievement criteria for
, it looks like the Ardenweald story will also feature Bwonsamdi, which sets up nice parallels between Tyrande trying to protect the Night Elf souls and Bwonsamdi saving the Troll souls.
Nathanos manages to escape the final confrontation, using a vial gifted to him by Sylvanas. He seemingly leaves the perilous scene, disappearing in black smoke, and lands right at the top of Icecrown Citadel. It's not a happy reunion with Sylvanas though, as he has to break the news that his mission as failed. Sylvanas, impatient, quickly dismisses him and fades into the shadows. After we've followed Nathanos chapter after chapter trying to please Sylvanas, the harsh dismissal hurts.
While Sylvanas isn't present for much of the novel, the epilogue drives home that she's changed from her time as Warchief, as she looks to the Shadowlands, not Azeroth, for her destiny:
And so it did. And so she continued, for power sought power, and she would have more of it, not for its own sake, but to wield it. The unjust ladder of their lives must be dismantled, not rung by rung, but all at once. All of it. She had been the plaything of a self-righteous cosmos long enough. The jailer, too, understood what must be done. She did not know if or when Nathanos left, it mattered not – she had merged entirely with the shadows there already, part of the darkness at last.
Nobbel interview with Madeleine Roux
, we learned more about the dynamic between Sylvanas and Nathanos she was trying to convey.
We analyzed the
cinematic and the build-up in great detail in
Sylvanas in Shadowlands - Edge of Night, Jailer of the Damned
If you want to see what happens next in Icecrown, check out the
Shadowlands Intro Questline
, which takes us into the Maw from Icecrown.
Further Story Threads for Future Expansions
As we learned in
Nobbel's interview with Madeleine Roux
was intended as a supplemental book to set plots in motion that could later see in-game payoffs. Here are some of the points which could be explored further in the future:
Anduin, our boy king is struggling. The desperation of bringing Sylvanas to justice reminds me a lot of the desperation another blond light wielder felt when he tried to bring Mal’ganis to justice. Will he too ignore all council and walk his own path or allow others to help him carry the weight of the crown? How do his actions relate to the Whispers of Il'gynoth?
Turalyon and Alleria show a much darker side amongst the Alliance. Will she be able to keep the void under control or will the hunt for her sister tear her apart?
Same question for Tyrande, will she ever be able to find balm for the pain inflicted, is there anything that can be done that would make Teldrassil right or will the Night Warrior tear her apart?
Will Talanji hold on to the lessons learned in this story or let her thirst for vengeance cloud her judgement? Is Bwonsamdi an ally to us, or is he using us for a greater purpose?
Our boy Nathanos got sent to the dog house for failing Sylvanas, how will that play out? Is he going to remain at her side or are these the first signs of cracks in their relationship. He once said that he wouldn’t mind spending all eternity in damnation if it was with his beloved. Could he change his mind about her plans with the Jailer?
How will Shaw and Flynn's relationship develop? They'll be used as a framing story in the upcoming art/lore compendium
World of Warcraft: Exploring Azeroth: The Eastern Kingdoms
So far on the
beta, we don't have answers to any of these questions but we do have hints how they will continue:
Anduin is imprisoned in the Maw
and while we rescue Baine, Thrall, and Jaina--it's too dangerous to rescue him.
Turalyon sits on the throne which creates
tension in datamined dialogue
if he or Greymane is more worthy of the throne.
Tyrande's story will continue in Ardenweald and we've datamined some story hints. It looks like
Tyrande will try to free
the Night Elves from Teldrassil trapped in the Maw, and we'll meet
past Night Warriors
from other realms, who may have some insights into this unstable power.
Nathanos is an
on the beta, and his encounter ends with a mysterious cinematic.
Blizzard hasn't been the greatest at diversity and representation in the past, but they seem committed to doing a better job in
, through actions like
changing your gender at the barbershop
diverse character customization options
updating guards and city NPCs
. This past week alone Blizzard included a
thoughtful dialogue on identity
from the trans character Pelagos and we also learned that the
Flynn / Shaw relationship
was a mandated plot point by the company. It's a good step for LGBT+ representation to see Flynn and Shaw end up in a happy relationship, instead of feeding into the
Bury Your Gays
trope, but more casual representation is needed across Azeroth.
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