As a separate article from my recent Shadows Rising review, I wanted to focus more on the relationships highlighted in the novel. Please, do not read further if you are sensitive to spoilers. There are heavy spoilers ahead and explanations. You are warned.
As mentioned earlier, there is a lesbian marriage in this novel between two Zandalari female trolls. Queen Talanji gave her blessing approving the marriage, and attended the ceremony.
There had been hints of other female Zandalari relationship — I think in Vol’dun within the video game; but this novel pretty much confirms it was not a unique and stand-alone relationship. It is widely accepted among the Zandalari culture.
Matthias & Flynn
In my earlier review, I mentioned vaguely a second relationship among two known characters.
This is the first time that I can recall in the 15+ years of World of Warcraft that a gay couple is openly revealed.
Matthias Shaw and Flynn Fairwind get closer as they speak of their past while drinking. Each of them talk about their childhood and their mothers.
Something they had not been able to discuss with any other person. Not even close friends.
Talking about their mothers was very personal, and they felt comfortable enough to open up to their most intimate stories.
It wasn’t until Matthias is captured by the Zandalari, that both of them realize how much the other means to him.
Flynn desperately sailed back to the Alliance to inform Matthias had been captured, seeking help to rescue him.
On the other hand, Matthias had plenty of time to meditate in solitary confinement in a prison cell. He had imaginary conversations with his friend Flynn.
You can read at least three times throughout the entire novel how Matthias curiously remembers Flynn’s smell: Whiskey and soap. The warmth of his… coat. That was the first sign I noticed that something was going on.
A straight man never remembers the smell of another man, 3 times, unless there is some intimate interest. Matthias and Flynn never openly talk about their feelings for each other, but there are plenty of signs throughout the novel that you know they are starting the first steps of a relationship.
They love each other. They have simply not made the first step to let the other one know.
However, toward the end of the novel, there is a scene where Matthias is delivered to Stormwind in a ship. Flynn literally ran toward Matthias and shoved King Anduin to the side to reach the one he wanted to hug.
I mean, you even forget about protocols and manners toward your King? If that doesn’t say there is a reciprocated love going on here, I don’t know what else to say to convince you.
Right after this, Matthias formally invites Flynn to a bar, and sets … what seems like a date later in the evening. Matthias has something to tell Flynn. This meeting never takes place in the novel. It is left to our imagination.
It is plausible to think that we might learn more about this newborn relationship as it evolves either in-game and/or in other printed or digital media.
NOTE: I shared privately some sentences of this book with two gay fans. Both agree that Matthias and Flynn are presented in this novel as gay. It is not just my interpretation here. It is backed by these two fans.
There is a scene in the novel that was difficult to understand. It wasn’t until I went back and ran a search for the keyword: “grass” that I came to a realization of what the scene meant.
When Matthias was in prison, he had this childhood memory of his grandmother wearing a red string around her ring finger. When child Matthias asked her grandmother what it meant, she slapped him across the face with no further word. He never asked again.
As he remembered this memory, he had been playing with a blade of grass and visualized it as a circle while thinking of Flynn.
I searched for the keyword grass because later toward the end of the novel, Matthias gives Flynn this blade of grass, and Flynn’s cheeks turned red looking at it. Then Flynn accepted the invitation to the Gold Rose Inn to drink and talk in the evening.
Basically, there is a lot of secretive signals here which may confuse some readers. So let me clear it up. Matthias’ grandmother was obviously a late-in-life lesbian and the red string around her ring finger symbolized her love and commitment to another woman.
Matthias playing with the blade of grass and visualizing it as a circle symbolizes the engagement ring he plans to give to Flynn. The meeting in the evening is likely to tell Flynn, about his feelings for him.
Talanji & Zekhan
The third relationship that seems to be brewing in this novel is between Talanji and Zekhan (zappi boi).
Talanji simply dislikes him, and finds him too… beneath her. Zekhan shows several signs throughout the novel that he likes Talanji. It is expressed in how nervous he is when she is around.
Even Bwonsamdi seems to have a liking of Zekhan, and basically it was Bwonsamdi who made possible that Zekhan got close to Talanji, and indirectly causing him to become ambassador of the Horde posted in Dazar’alor.
It isn’t until something happens to Zekhan, that Talanji shows how important Zekhan is to her. How much she truly cares about him.
Is she in love with him? I wouldn’t say it is openly said that way, but there are signs that she cares. There is enough there that one can expect this platonic something to evolve into a relationship at a later time.
We will have to wait and see how the creative team plans to make this happen organically, in-game, via general chat conversations between the two of them, and between each of them and close friends (maybe). In the case of Zekhan, he might talk about Talanji with Thrall or be teased by Rokhan.
On Talanji’s side, maybe we get to witness a conversation between Talanji and one of her close friends or even Bwonsamdi. Who knows how the story developers might show this in-game.
There could be short stories or comics with these two — the way we got the Thalyssra and Lor’themar short story.
Either way, it feels good to all the spectrum of players to finally see new relationships starting up, and that Blizzard is borrowing from the Overwatch team the sense of inclusiveness of LGBT+ characters in the Warcraft mythos.