This review of World of Warcraft: Stormage is of the spoiler-free variety. We’ll discuss the deeper meaning of the book in a follow-up post(s).
It’s no secret that Richard A. Knaak is not my favorite writer in the extended universe of Warcraft. The man has penned numerous books for Blizzard, across all their franchises, and has had characters he created become integral parts of World of Warcraft. I’ve enjoyed his story arcs, but balked at his dialog, characters and — here’s the clincher — his lack of understanding the universe he’s contributing to.
When I found out that he’d be tackling World of Warcraft: Stormrage, a book about Malfurion Stormrage (the most famous druid in the universe), I was excited and terrified. On the one hand, it’d be difficult for Knaak to bring in his pet characters to a book about Malfurion Stormrage. But on the other, he could turn Malfurion into an annoying twit just as easily. With much trepidation, I cracked open the second hardcover WoW novelization and dove in.
Hit the jump to see how my swim went.
Stormrage begins with Tyrande Whisperwind, Broll Bearmantle, Fandral Staghelm and the other druids of the Cenarion Circle trying to save Malfurion from his slumber, while simultaneously working on a new world tree, Teldrassil. Each futile attempt to recall the druid to the realm of the living is meet with failure. Distracted, the night elves fail to notice a growing ailment among all the sentient races of Azeroth. The same ailment that afflicts the powerful archdruid, the Emerald Nightmare’s trap of eternal slumber. The Night Elves only discover the global malady (with earmarks of the Scourge) when Tyrande and Broll venture beyond their homeland.
It was very apparent to me that Stormrage was written for a wider audience. During the opening sequences, Knaak goes into deep detail about each of the main characters, the setting, and their place in the world. Numerous in-game and extended universe references keep the reader that is in the know interested during this time. Knaak could have roped in his pet characters – Krasus, Rhonin, etc – but he didn’t. Instead he created two new beings to flesh out the hunt for Malfurion. Thura is a determined Orc female set upon a blood oath to kill Malfurion, whom she believes murdered her uncle Broxigar. Her insatiable desire to fulfill her blood oath is the only side we see of her. Lucan Foxblood, a cartographer for Stormwind, is given far more attention because of a unique ability he has. Much like the characters of Heroes, Lucan is bewildered by his power, and possesses little control over the ability. The servant of Stormwind is one that grew on me as the novel progressed. The first character created by Knaak to do so.
This is a tale penned by Knaak, so you can expect him to go into great detail about everything. His zealous use of details, character introspection and explanation gives the reader a great frame of mind. Unfortunately, it’s over done at times, leading the story and even battle sequences, to come to a standstill. Being spoon-fed all the information isn’t everyone’s idea of a good story, as it leaves out much of the comprehension.
Another complaint many people have with Knaak is his portrayal of characters that aren’t his own. It would be remiss of me not to touch upon Tyrande and Malfurion in Stormrage, as compared to their use in the War of the Ancients trilogy. The two most powerful Night Elves, in a novel that focuses on Night Elves, act as previously written. They’re not torn by hard choices. There’s no ‘good of the people’ vs ‘personal desire’ moment. When push comes to shove, it’s all about saving their loved one, again.
I’ve torn into it so far, but Stormrage is far from a bad novel. It just has the same trappings as most of Knaak’s work. Yes, it’s obviously a Knaak novel. It can be slow. And it possesses a pair of distraught teenage lovers and a one-dimensional orc. However, the opening of Stormrage was superb. If it displayed one thing, it is that Knaak has finally begun to understand, to absorb, to participate in creating true Warcraft lore. He was no longer just penning characters and fitting them into Azeroth. He took Broll, a character created by someone else, and matured him in a most appropriate fashion. The Emerald Nightmare, the antagonist of the novel, was also genius. The simplicity of its devilishness was fearsome. I didn’t even care that it wasn’t an original idea. Knaak’s execution of it was impeccable.
Most importantly, the story arc covered in Stormrage is original. It’s not a recanting of the past that leads to the present such as Arthas: Rise of the Lich King. It’s not a time-traveling, paradox-inducing, demon-hunting adventure. It’s not retconning, or adding backstory to a well-known character. It’s a plot that has been in the making since Warcraft III. It’s the first major storyline to be resolved in the extended universe. A plot that’s been ignored during World of Warcraft‘s lifetime. A plot that is a bridge between now and Cataclysm.
I highly recommend Stormrage to any lore nut for one simple reason: it may be the only way to ever see this major storyline resolved (more on that in a later post). Fans of the Warcraft monthly comic should pick it up to partake in an excellent portrayal of Broll Bearmantle. Even Knaak haters, that’d be you Heartbourne, should grab the hardcover to see just how far Knaak has come. Overall, one of the better Warcraft novelizations, even if the second half doesn’t hold up to the opening.
You can (and should) pick up World of Warcraft: Stormrage from Amazon for the deeply-discounted price of $16.50. Knaak is currently working on the first installment to the new manga trilogy, Warcraft: Dragons of Outland: Shadow Wing Volume 1, and a one-shot class-based manga in the vein of Warcraft: Death Knight, entitled Warcraft: Mage.