I managed to pick up an early copy of the Stormrage novel, due to be released tomorrow. I read through most of it on Saturday and finished yesterday after coming down with a nasty case of the stomach flu.
By early copy, I mean that my local Barnes and Noble accidentally stocked it early on their shelves and I happened to wander by. “Hmm, is that supposed to be out yet?” I wondered. I checked my handy iPhone and confirmed that the release date was not until the 23rd. I excitedly snatched the book off the shelf and purchased it, hoping that no one would notice their error. Apparently the release dates of novels based on video games aren’t important to everyone else in the world. I felt a strange satisfaction at taking advantage of their mistake.
I figured I would take this opportunity to write a quick review.
The novel is written by Richard A. Knaak who has written several other Warcraft novels, such as the War of the Ancients trilogy, Day of the Dragon, and Night of the Dragon. I have read all of his previous novels, as well as quite a few others by authors Christie Golden, Aaron Rosenberg, etc. There have been a lot of complaints throughout the community about his writing in the past. His characters are rather two-dimensional, with pure evil villains and over-powerful heroes single-handedly saving the world. The time travel-element of War of the Ancients is most often criticized as being a poorly contrived way to introduce a character of Knaak’s own creation, Rhonin the mage. He uses plot devices in a predictable way, and often inserts unnecessarily floral language. Despite these flaws, his books are fast-paced and enjoyable reads if you don’t come in expecting much. I wouldn’t recommend them to fantasy readers who aren’t interested in the Warcraft universe, but for fans they are very valuable. They have provided extensive lore, and have even shaped the future of WOW with introductions of the dragon aspects Ysera, Nozdormu, and Malygos, and other characters that Blizzard has since incorporated in to the game like Rhonin. His previous novels have helped create a rich background of the history of Azeroth, and have deepened my immersion into the game.
Stormrage is obviously about the great night elf druid, Malfurion Stormrage, who has been a savior to his people, and to Azeroth several times over. Last we heard of him he was trapped in the Emerald Dream, as described in several quests in-game. This novel reveals what has happened to him, and details the epic struggle against the encroaching Emerald Nightmare, a corrupted area of the Dream. Main characters include Tyrande Whisperwind, Broll Bearmantle, and Fandral Staghelm. Many other prominent characters in the Warcraft universe also make an appearance.
Knaak mentions the occurrences in the War of the Ancients novels rather frequently, and although not necessary, I would recommend reading them prior. There were also references to the events in the Warcraft comic concerning Broll Bearmantle and his relationship with Varian Wrynn and the blood elf Valeera. These felt incredibly forced and led to some very awkward dialogue.
I don’t want to spoil the plot too much as I know that very few have read it yet. Perhaps I will return to discuss it’s impacts on the lore in a few weeks or months. Suffice to say that the events in the book do change the world as we know it. If you care about lore at all you should read this book or find someone to give you a summary.
It is your typical “save-the-world” story, with our heroes struggling against seemingly insurmountable odds. The Emerald Nightmare hides an evil foe who tortures Malfurion, and foils the plans of his rescuers every step of the way. Many sacrifices are made as all of Azeroth fights to save itself from utter destruction, again. Several characters that we know meet their demise, and others are drastically changed by the experience.
It was a very quick read – the 400+ pages of the book simply flew by. The story was fascinating, and the imagery was quite vivid. He does a good job of making the reader understand how dire the situation is, and the fight against the Emerald Nightmare feels very epic in scale. The characters sometimes fall flat, but this is hardly unusual for fantasy novels. Malfurion is pulled from the sidelines to the spotlight as an amazing Alliance-side hero, rivaling, if not surpassing Thrall’s greatness. His relationship with Tyrande is quite beautiful, and I was glad to see more of it. I also enjoyed the random scenes with other major lore figures, such as an especially touching moment with Sylvanas. Knaak even wrapped up plot points from in-game quests, proving that he does pay attention to details. Did you ever wonder what Staghelm was doing with all of that Morrowgrain? This is your chance to find out.
There were only occasional cringe-worthy moments, such as when Knaak described that “Malfurion realized his mistake” far too many times. He is still only an average fantasy writer, but the book is enjoyable (although I’m sure you’ll see many forum trolls calling him Knaak the Hack or other such QQing).
I am extremely interested in how Blizzard is planning on incorporating the contents of the novel into the game. This is the first Warcraft novel that is actually set in the present. Will this be another storyline that runs alongside the Deathwing one, or will they act as if the events have already occurred when Cataclysm launches? This seems like it will be a challenge for Blizzard, and I’m crossing my fingers that they will execute it well.
TLDR: The book contains lore you’ll want to know about, and is an enjoyable page-turner despite Knaak’s flaws as a writer.