I've been on something of a lore kick recently in World of Warcraft, including running the Siege of Orgrimmar for the first time. And that was great, because I did it just before I started reading this, and timeline-wise, yes, that's the way it goes.
Aye. A raid in World of Warcraft is the prequel to this book.
Two factions - the honor-in-battle Horde and the order-by-law Alliance, have just come together to put an end to the tyrannical and some say mad warchief of the Horde, Garrosh Hellscream. (I love WoW names). As he was brought low in battle, his old mentor, Thrall, is about to deliver the killing blow when - to everyone's surprise - King Varian, leader of the humans and, in many ways, the Alliance, stops him. It's not right for Thrall to take justice into his own hands, according to Varian - Garrosh has hurt far too many.
So this book, in the aftermath of that, is a trial being held by the four celestials (it's more complicated than this, but they're kind of like gods) to determine the proper punishment for Garrosh - death, or imprisonment, or something else entirely. It's part clipshow of the recent past in the world of Warcraft, part character study of a good variety of characters and part uncomfortable accusation at the reader themself.
Yeah. I'm pretty sure part of the goal of this book, or at least an unintended consequence of how it was written, was to make me-the-reader uncomfortable about enjoying the very book I was reading. An interesting choice, and I'm not entirely sure a bad one. :)
The unique part of the trial here is that the Bronze Dragonflight (basically, they control the timestream) have created a sort of Time TV that lets the two sides show in full, actual detail moments from the past, when testimony alone isn't enough. So we get to see a bunch of major moments (or at least hear about them) from books, from raids and dungeons in game, even from fairly inconsequential quest lines. There's everything that happened with Theramore. There's the whole thing with Alexstrasza and the red dragonflight's eggs. We see the moment Thrall asked Garrosh to take the reins of the Horde - and what he did with it as time progressed. (Were you ever in Orgrimmar during Mists of Pandaria? Then you have some idea what this entails).
Garrosh early on refers to this whole trial as being akin to Darkmoon fair - basically an indulgent, voyeuristic show being put on for an audience. And as the book goes on, you start seeing more and more characters coming to that way of thinking as the device shows [personal, private moments, private pain that makes some people uncomfortable but others just fascinated. And after a while, it sort of felt like it was extending to me - I felt a little awkward reading those flashback scenes and welcomes a return to the story's present day. It's more consideration than I expected to give a video game tie-in novel.
The subplots give is little glimpses into a variety of characters - weirdly perfect human teen Anduin Wrynn gets some spotlight time, both for some decisions he made in the past and one big one he makes in the present. His friendship with Wrathion, of the Black Dragonflight, also gets a nice little frame here, showing both its good side and potentially it's not-so-good.
Two of the Windrunner sisters, longstanding figures of import in the game world, also get their own subplot where they come together in their separate but equally deep pain and loneliness and attempt to repair old rifts in perhaps the worst way imaginable. Baine, tasked with defending Garrosh, has to search his heart and figure out who and what he wants to be as the Horde moves forward. And Jaina, still raw from the losses she has suffered, has to make some deep and terrible decisions for herself.
All in all, this book was given a tall order. After all Garrosh has done, the main target audience - the people who play the game - aren't all that keen on cheering for him and they already know a lot of what's talked about in these pages. But it's portrayed with such a focus on the characters in the present that it worked quite well for me. I imagine some people will find it a little too procedural after some of the previous books but different tastes and all that.