This review of the World of Warcraft: Wolfheart novel by Richard A. Knaak is of the spoiler-free variety.
The latest novel for Warcraft’s Expanded Universe sits firmly in the current timeline of the game, as most recent novels have. Readers are placed in a small window after the Cataclysm and the events of Lord of His Pack, but before the official induction of the worgen to the Alliance. This is notable because the author, Richard A. Knaak, tends to write in his own timeline. Nearly all of his work has been set in the game’s past, including a handful of plots that few living beings would have intimate knowledge of. Knaak’s other common trait is the inclusion of “his” characters, Tyrande Whisperwing and Malfurion Stormrage. Both of these characters play an integral role to the dual plot.
Yes, a dual plot. Interested?
Knaak weaves two distinct threads throughout Wolfheart. Not so shockingly, one tale features the struggles of the Alliance, while the other showcases the audacity of the reinvigorated Horde. Making this novel fully capable of playing a fantastic Benedict Arnold (overall, more Alliance focused).
Hit the cut to find out how the novel comes together and if Knaak has finally won over one of the Lore Hounds.
The Alliance is in shambles, combating a trifecta of problems. The Cataclysm has ravaged lands far and wide, stressing the tentative agreements, treaties and gentlemanly handshakes that have kept the force together this generation. Meanwhile, Garrosh Hellscream has renewed the Horde’s thirst for resources, one of which includes Alliance blood. To address the tenuous situation, Malfurion Stormrage calls for a summit of Alliance leaders. His intentions; to promote the people of Gilneas to the Alliance.
On the other front, Garrosh, the new leader of the Horde has set his sights on the lumber-rich lands of Ashenvale, an area of the Eastern Kingdoms that has been host to skirmishes for ages. No longer content sitting next to a powderkeg, Garrosh launches a full-on assault, complete with a band of sentient creatures from Northrend that pose issues to squads of attentive orcs wranglers.
Knaak is a skilled high-level writer. His side plots, connections to lore, fanservice, storyarcs, pacing and twists are, generally, very well planned and superbly executed. It’s the details, mainly the dialog, introspection and action sequences that his novels fall short on. Wolfheart is no exception. What saves the novel is the connection to lore and fanservice.
Wolfheart features an immense line-up of high-profile characters thanks to the summit, the murders of Highborne that interrupt it, and the clash in Ashenvale. Maiev, Garrosh, Tyrande, Malfurion, Shandris, Eadrik, Greymane, Varian, Goldrinn, Anduin and Velen are just some of the high-profile names to make a lasting impact.
Anduin Wrynn. The boy-who-would-be king. He just keeps getting more and more interesting. Knaak showcases the teenager’s adept diplomatic abilities to expose a chink is his father’s armor. The conversation, neigh, confrontation leads Varian, a stone-cold killing machine to rethink his id, ultimately opening himself to the possibilities of new ideals. Meanwhile, Anduin realizes an important lesson from the confrontation as well, and seeks to remedy it. Kudos to Knaak for keeping and future king of Stormwind as the most interesting in all of the universe.
Wolfheart fits firmly in the middle of Blizzard’s ever-growing Expanded Universe in terms of quality. The arc and plots are intriguing, but getting from one page to the next is a passable to cringe-worthy affair, mostly passable. Fans of the Wrynn family should pick up Knaak’s latest to understand just how complex the father and son relationship has become. Meanwhile, the dirty Horde players out there – can they even read? – could learn from the increasing tactical and strategic mind of their Warchief.
On second thought, maybe Horde players should just skip this one. /me queues for PvP.
World of Warcraft: Wolfheart is available now and would make a great holiday gift. Amazingly, there is no upcoming WoW novel publicly known as of press time.