Admittedly, I don't belong to the elders, but I rub up against the boundaries of that name quite a bit and maybe that's why Awakening of Shadows evokes mixed feelings in me. On the one hand, it's another "new chapter" of an epic story from my favourite universe and it's a pretty well told story with some well-drawn characters. On the other hand, it's a proof of the passing of time, which I feel more and more strongly as the years go by and the candles on the cake are getting older, and a bit of a wasted potential for an even better novel. Why? I will discuss it below.
The book takes us back to the events that took place just before Sylvana Bieżywiatr's march (or rather walk, as it's clear she's in no hurry) to the Citadel of the Crown of Ice, at the top of which, in a heroic (and a little bit cheated by a supernatural buff) duel, she defeated King Lish Bolvar and shattered his Helmet of Domination, linking us to the Land of Shadows. What awaits us in the dimension of the dead? We don't know exactly, but judging by the problems the characters in our book are facing - it's not good.
On the cover we can see the newly minted queen of Zandalar Talanji and Nathanos Herold of the Plague, who look like demonic parents deciding how to punish their offspring for bad grades at school. In the role of the sad child we see Anduin Wrynn, the king of Wichrogrod with not much more seniority than Talanji. This image is somewhat misleading. Anduin, although he appears as a foreground character in a few chapters, is not in the forefront of the main characters. Nathanos similarly. Both play an important role, but the lead is Talanji and Bansamdi, her loa graves with a pendulous humor. Unlike, among others, Jaina Proudmoore: Winds of War or Vol'jin: Shadows of the Horde, Awakening of Shadows has a number of protagonists, each of whom gets their five minutes. So we have Turalyon and Alleria, Thrall, Zekhan (zappy boy!) and Rokhan, Jaina Proudmoore, Tyrande the Whisper of the Wind, and the duo of Matias Shaw and Flynn Fairwind, famous even before the premiere.
The main plot of the novel revolves around the problems of the crown of Zandalar. The pact the late King Rastakan made with the loa of death was not to the liking of his subjects, who now fear that the corpse Bansamdi will bring a series of disasters to their country. Add to this the fact that Nathanos is in Zandalar with Sylvana's dark pursuers on an important mission for her and as the former leader of the Horde has become the most hated creature on Azeroth, Zandalar may suffer even more.
I mentioned passing at the beginning and in my opinion the main message of the book flows to older players. Players who know Thrall from the days when he was in black armor with a warhammer shouting "For Doomhammer!". That Thrall we loved and he was the heart of the Horde. The current Thrall is an orc who may not be broken, but is clearly in his prime. Tired and discouraged by the many campaigns of war, the reminder of which are the scars visible on his body and mind. He is torn between his longing and desire to return to his home in the countryside, i.e. Nagrand, and his duty to maintain unity in the Horde. A Horde that is no longer the old Horde as we see during the deliberations of its Council. It is hard to find another group so diverse, probably in all respects. From the vixens to the great tauren. So it is no wonder that quarrels are the order of the day there.
Although it's hard for me to accept another description of my former heroes, it's understandable, because the years fly by, we don't get younger and there are various consequences of that. The old generation is giving way to the new one and this, in turn, promises to be very interesting.
In addition to the characters we know well, there are new ones or those who have not been given due attention in the Warcraft literature so far. The famous Zappy Boy, or Zaurzyk³'s young protégé, the troll Zekhan, is one of the most likable characters in the book. The leader of the pandaren in the Horde, Ji Fire Fist, is equally good, reminding us of the wonderful months spent on Pandaria and the "almost main" character of the book, Talanji, although I don't like her as much.
Of all the characters in the book, in my subjective opinion, however, Tyrande takes the lead. The burning of the World Tree and the death of many night elves in the flames pushed the high priestess to perform a dark ritual that transformed her into the Night Warrior, the avatar of Eluna's vengeance. Remember Maiev's anger and hatred from back in W3:FT? That's nothing compared to what Tyrande feels now. The parts of the book dedicated to her are by far the best, and I sincerely regret that she was not given the main role in the novel. We would have had possibly the best book in the universe with a dark fantasy atmosphere.
Before summing up, in order to make the review complete, one more thing must be mentioned, which was loud before the book's release. Overall, I don't understand the publicity given to the chapters where we see Matias Shaw and Flynn. There's nothing particularly hot or surprising about them, except maybe the reason why Matias became Wichrogrod's spy master. The whole plot doesn't stand out as anything special.
Maybe Awakening of Shadows won't be on the podium of Warcraft's literary universe in my personal ranking, but it's still closer to the top of my list. A big plus for the development of so far overlooked characters and an even bigger plus for the fragments devoted to Tyrande.