There are dozens and dozens of novels, comics, and short-stories in the Warcraft universe. All of these are canon. Some of these stories focus on a central character, telling their backstory or telling of a specific event in their life while others can span across years of events. In terms of overall lore, some books tell more than others. Taking place post-Dragon Soul and pre-Mists of Pandaria, Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War is one of those stories that sets the tone for an entire expansion. When the winds of war start blowing, nothing will ever be the same again.
Tides of War chronologically takes place post-Dragon Soul and before Mists of Pandaria’s launch. The story opens with Kalecgos’s perspective, showing the growing apathy of the blue dragonflight. After the events of the Dragon Soul raid, the dragon Aspects no longer have their Titan-given powers. Kalecgos is no longer the Aspect of Magic, but he still serves as the blues’ leader. He laments his flight losing their way and their purpose, feeling his own inadequacies in particular. More blue dragons leave the Nexus every day, leaving it barren and lonesome.
Kalecgos’s pondering is quickly interrupted by horrifying news: the Focusing Iris, the most powerful and treasured posession of the blue dragonflight, has been stolen. Veterans of Dragon Soul and the Eye of Eternity should recognize the Focusing Iris. Previously, it was used by Malygos, the insane former Aspect of Magic, to draw the magic of Azeroth’s ley-lines to the Nexus. After Malygos’s fall, the artifact was used to give life to a monstrosity known as Chromatus (told in Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects). In the Dragon Soul raid, it was retrieved by adventurers to help the Aspects empower the titular Dragon Soul artifact.
We soon learn that the Focusing Iris was stolen from the dragonflight while in transit to a hiding spot. Being that it was he who ordered the Focusing Iris moved from the Nexus in the first place, Kalecgos immediately blames himself both for the theft and the murders of the dragons carrying the device. After meeting with other important members of the flight and conducting an investigation of the crime scene, Kalecgos decides he should be the one to hunt it down, being that he has the strongest connection to the artifact and can sense its location.
The scene shifts to Orgrimmar, where Garrosh has summoned the various leaders of the Horde. Baine is our lense for the Horde this time. His disapproval of Garrosh’s intentions are obvious. Through Baine’s eyes we learn that he is not alone; many in the Horde are uncomfortable with Ogrimmar’s ironclad facelift and Garrosh’s unquenchable bloodthirst. Though they may disagree with Garrosh - Baine, Vol’jin, and the other Horde leaders know their loyalty is what keeps their people safe.
Garrosh’s bodyguard and right-hand orc, Malkorok, is introduced here. Baine is immediately skeptical of the Blackrock orc’s loyalties. Malkorok is present with Garrosh all throughout the Mists of Pandaria campaign, with his story culminating as the 9th encounter in Siege of Orgrimmar. He takes it upon himself to be a dark enforcer of sorts, using the Kor’kron to abduct and rough up a number of citizens that have voiced their disagreement with Garrosh. Garrosh announces his campaign to take Kalimdor for the Horde, starting with a march on Northwatch Hold and onto Theramore afterwards. This is met with opposition from all leaders except Lor’themar Theron, Lord Regent of the sin’dorei. In the end, Garrosh orders all of the Horde to prepare for war. The scene closes with an exchange between Lor’themar and Garrosh, ending with the blood elf declaring his loyalty to the Horde. Garrosh notes that Lor’themar says the Horde and not Garrosh, remarking to Malkorok “that one is worth watching”. Malkorok responds “They are all worth watching.” Garrosh and Malkorok’s paranoia lays the groundwork for Garrosh’s escalation into tyranny.
At last, the scene shifts to the titular Jaina Proudmoore’s tower in Theramore, where she is catching up with Anduin Wrynn using an enchanted mirror. Jaina leaves to secretly meet with Thrall, as she often does. She urges him to do something about Garrosh, but Thrall is resolute that his place is with the Earthen Ring, healing the world still ravaged by the Cataclysm.
After returning to her tower, we are introduced to a few other side characters: Pained, Jaina’s night elf bodyguard; Kinndy Sparkshine, her gnome apprentice; and Archmage Tervosh, a human quest-giver in Theramore. To move the plot along, Rhonin sends Jaina a message instructing her to offer any help she can to an incoming visitor. As expected, Kalecgos has sought the help of the Kirin Tor and now Lady Proudmoore to track down the Focusing Iris. Assuming his half-elven form, Kalec arrives in Theramore, sparking a flurry of activity among the resident magi as they try to figure out how the device is being disguised from the dragon’s tracking.
To add to the troubles, the Horde is seen gathering forces near Northwatch Hold. Interestingly enough, Sylvanas and Lor’themar have chosen to remain in their respective kingdoms and have instead sent proxies to lead their forces. Garrosh duly notes their absence.
Meanwhile, Jaina makes a breakthrough by identifying the type of magic used to conceal the Focusing Iris from Kalec, likening it to the costume magic of Hallow’s End. Now able to sense the device once more, Kalec departs, though he finds he is now reluctant to leave her.
The Battle of Northwatch Hold is a quick and decisive victory for the Horde. Garrosh uses dark shaman to create and enslave Molten Giants, a gross misuse of shaman magic forbidden by the Earthen Ring. Abuse of it could even lead to another Cataclysm. Baine and his tauren are horrified. In the aftermath of the attack, Baine goes behind Garrosh’s back to send the Longwalker Perith Stormhoof to Theramore to warn Jaina of the impending attack, hoping she can at least mitigate the severity of the slaughter. He sends the mace Fearbreaker with him to add sincerity and weight to his warning. Fearbreaker’s significance, and Baine’s relationship with Jaina, is explained in The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm.
The Focusing Iris proves tricky to track as it’s captors fly it in circles to wear Kalec down. Instead of continuing his wild goose chase, Kalec returns to Theramore to assist Jaina in the upcoming battle. Jaina contacts King Varian Wrynn for backup as well. While he can offer help, there is no guarantee his forces will arrive in time.
Baine’s and Vol’jin’s patience thins as Garrosh continues to delay his onslaught for days. Baine knows this gives Theramore time to gather defenses, putting his warriors in further danger. The two leaders call a small gathering of other like-minded individuals, including the commanders of the Forsaken and Blood Elf forces, to discuss the situation. When Malkorok and Garrosh himself show up, it’s obvious one of the goblins in attendance has sold them out. This serves as nothing more than an intimidation to remind everyone present that they live and die by Garrosh’s word.
Varian’s fleet is still days away when Horde ships inch closer to Alliance waters. Kinndy encourages Jaina to seek the aid of the Kirin Tor in Dalaran. While the Kirin Tor is neutral, they have an interest in keeping the balance of power between the Horde and the Alliance from tipping too far to one side. Should Theramore fall, it would only be a matter of time before the Horde claimed all of Kalimdor. Surprisingly, the Council of Six agrees to help defend Theramore, but nothing more. Even Aethas Sunreaver, a blood elf, agrees with this course of action. He personally recommends one of his mages, Thalen Songweaver, to accompany the group. Rhonin himself, along with Vereesa Windrunner, and a group of Kirin Tor members teleport themselves to Theramore a short time later. As the days pass, more and more forces arrive to Theramore. Children are transported away from the conflict on boat.
Finally, the Horde army marches onward, destroying Fort Triumph in its path. In preparation for their arrival at Theramore, the mages use their magic to fortify the gates. Once the assault begins, this works for a time, until the traitorous blood elf Thalen Songweaver sabotages the North Gate. Though Jaina subdues Songweaver, the damage is done and the Horde army floods Theramore, erupting into full-blown battle. After a bloody conflict with casualties on both sides, Garrosh suddenly calls for a retreat, receding into the Swamp of Sorrows. During the fray, Songweaver has escaped, prompting Vereesa and Shandris Feathermoon to go on a scouting mission to track him down.
As the Alliance and the Kirin Tor try to pick up the pieces left in the wake of the battle, the Focusing Iris reveals itself again. Suddenly, the attack and sudden retreat make perfect sense. Garrosh has crippled the Alliance air defenses, making them completely vulnerable to the approaching goblin airship. Strapped to the airship is a mana bomb, larger than any made before it. Rhonin spots it, and jumps into action. He meets Jaina at the top of her tower, telling her she is the future of the Kirin Tor before shoving her through a portal and drawing the mana bomb’s energies to him. Everything within the walls of Theramore is utterly destroyed. Jaina herself is infused with arcane energies, turning all but one lock of her once-golden hair stark white and causing her eyes to glow.
The aftermath of this heinous act by Garrosh cannot be understated. Check out the scenario Theramore’s Fall in-game to see the devastation. It deeply disturbs members of the Horde that witnessed it. Every person present in Theramore, including Kinndy, Pained, Tervosh, the Kirin Tor magi, and various renowned Alliance generals, was killed in the attack. Vereesa and Shandris escaped with their lives as they were outside the city walls, and Rhonin’s sacrifice kept the blast centered in the city. Kalecgos was thrown out to sea by the force, also surviving.
Now, the humans’ foothold in Kalimdor was no more. Pressing forward with his plan, Garrosh blockades all major ports, effectively cutting off the night elves from their allies. When Thrall receives word of the attack, though he is horrified, he does not act, choosing to continue his shaman work.
Jaina’s physical characteristics have altered, but not as severe as her personality. Once a staunch proponent of peace between the Horde and Alliance, she has only war on her mind. She weeps at the feet of a statue of her father, Admiral Proudmoore, saying he was right and she was wrong. She is heartbroken and guilty that she stood against him so many years ago. Jaina pleads with Varian to mount an immediate counteract, preying on his hatred of the Horde. Both Varian and Anduin are unsettled by Jaina’s fervor, though they attribute it to both the trauma of the attack and the arcane energies of the bomb. At some point, Jaina retrieves the Focusing Iris from Theramore, offering to make another bomb to raze Orgrimmar. As a reminder, Jaina Proudmoore has always been sympathetic to the orcs, ever since she first saw them for herself in the internment camps (Arthas: Rise of the Lich King). She sided with Thrall and his new Horde against her father and brother, resulting in their deaths. She became the Lady of Theramore instead of staying in the Kirin Tor. It’s not an understatement to say that Jaina Proudmoore has worked harder than any human to bring diplomacy and peace between the opposing factions. To have all of her effort blow up in her face, quite literally, has broken her.
With Varian deciding to regroup his fleet and waiting to attack strategically, Jaina seeks out the Council of Six again. Angry with Aethas Sunreaver, she specifically calls him out, saying the blood elves should be removed from Dalaran (those familiar with The Purge of Dalaran during the Operation: Shieldwall campaign would know she eventually gets her wish). Denied by the Council of Six, she takes things upon herself to retaliate. Using forbidden knowledge from Dalaran’s library, Jaina harnesses the Focusing Iris to enslave countless water elementals, forcing them into a humongous, destructive tidal wave big enough to drown Orgrimmar.
Having a vision of the elements begging for help, Thrall rushes to Jaina, begging her not to do this. Jaina is no different than Garrosh’s dark shaman enslaving the molten giants. Ready to kill Thrall, her hand is stayed by Kalec at the last moment. Snapped out of her rage, Jaina calms down enough to realize what she’s doing is heinous, and no better than Garrosh himself. Thrall departs and Kalecgos flies Jaina to Orgrimmar, stringing along her elementals. As they arrive, a battle at sea is already underway between the newly-built Alliance fleet and what Horde ships are there. Garrosh’s enslaved krakens are picking apart the fleet, but Jaina’s elementals make short work of them. Horrified, Jaina realizes she would have destroyed the fleet (again) had she fully unleashed her wrath.
The Alliance fleet is victorious and soon enough, the blockade around Kalimdor is dismantled.
The Horde is as divided as ever. Malkorok is making open attacks on Garrosh’s dissenters. Baine and Vol’jin grow restless. The seeds of the Darkspear rebellion are planted. War is inevitable.
In Dalaran, Jaina is promoted to leader of the Kirin Tor because of prophecy found in Rhonin’s desk, left to him by the late dragon-mage Krasus/Korialstrasz. Kalec decides to stay in Dalaran with Jaina and donates the Focusing Iris to the Kirin Tor. He reasons that enough blue dragons have left the Nexus that it cannot be reliably guarded enough there anyways.
Garrosh’s open hostilities towards the Alliance mean that once the lost continent of Pandaria is found again, an arms race begins to out-foothold the other faction, motivated by hate and vengeance.
World of Warcraft, centering on players and their exploits, often fails to develop the personal relationships among its lore figures. That’s not a bad thing; it’s the nature of the game. And so we turn to novels like Tides of War to explore those relationships. Jaina Proudmoore tests every important friendship she has, from Thrall to Varian and even Baine Bloodhoof. Thrall has to face the consequences of appointing Garrosh as his successor. Varian Wrynn has to be the level-headed strategist instead of the ferocious gladiator. Though Tides of War has its moments where I’m rolling my eyes or wishing the plot would hurry up, it certainly does its job: sets the stage and climate for Mists of Pandaria.
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