The latest novel written by my old friend Richard A. Knaak is now on sale. Old because I have known him and interviewed him since 2003, and friend because I have grown fond of him and keep in contact often. Through that first interview I read my first Warcraft novel Day of the Dragon, and now have the entire collection of novels, manga and comic book.
Pocket Books sent me a copy of World of Warcraft: Stormrage last week for which I am very thankful. It is printed in Hardcover format, and spans a bit over 409 pages. The front cover is detachable if you wish to frame it. There are four full-colored Blizzard artworks in the first pages. Some of which I recognize such as the Cenarius with three druid disciples, and Malfurion and Tyrande hugging beneath a tree artwork seen before in the covers of the Warcraft RPG series by Arthaus/White Wolf Publishing.
The back of the book has five-pages worth of references which tell you which book, novel or comic book issue number to read for the events mentioned in World of Warcraft: Stormrage. I really love these in the Pocket Books novels. Shows how much they care about WarCraft mythos continuity. Reminds me of Marvel Comics back in the Mark Gruenwald days and some geeky editors who always planted reference notes such as: (As Seen in UXM # 266.)
I can only blame Blizzard’s Evelyn Fredericksen for this one. At the end of the novel, you will find a TOKYOPOP Warcraft Legends Vol. 5 preview of the story titled NIGHTMARES, which ties-in with World of Warcraft: Stormrage. That tie-in story reveals the worst nightmares of Thrall, Jaina and King Magni.
I have been craving this novel for over a year, because it deals with one of the most important heroes of the Warcraft Universe, the Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage and it reveals the truth about the Emerald Nightmare, and the identity of the Nightmare Lord behind it. Is it Deathwing? Is it Ner’zhul? Is it Sargeras or Archimonde? I bet many of you have wondered one or more of those questions over the past five years.
Some may have heard the spoilers already in past weeks, but I will rather hope you find out on your own. I will only say the Nightmare Lord did appear in one of the Warcraft novels. Is it a shocker? Well, I certainly didn’t see that one coming. However, there are hints here and there throughout World of WarCraft: Stormrage that will make you doubt your original guess, and push you more to believe it is another major character in WarCraft history.
There is suspension throughout the story about the identity of certain characters who appear disguised, a new human character who has an ability he shouldn’t normally have apart from other races, a female orc who oddly thinks a vision told her to slay the betrayer and assassin of Broxigar (later it slowly start making sense, and you could never have thought it possible).
This is not a Rhonin and Krasus story, but they make brief appearances. The World of Warcraft: Stormrage story is about the heroism against impossible odds to rescue Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage by going through the Bough Shadow portal. The main characters are Malfurion, Broll Bearmantle and High Priestess Tyrande Whisperwind. It is as much a heroic story as it is a love story. While you may think Tyrande had regrets about a husband who is never tending to her emotional and physical needs, she risks heart and limb to rescue her lover. This is no damsel in distress. She knows Malfurion is now dying, and thus she takes serious her mission and recruits Broll Bearmantle and Shandris Feathermoon in secrecy, hiding this mission from Archdruid Fandral Staghelm.
The novel gives you hints of where in the timeline this story takes place. The death of Saurfang, Jr. at the Wrathgate is mentioned, and Sylvanas mentions, at page 235, that Arthas the Lich King has been defeated. [thanks, BaskinRidge].
World of Warcraft: Stormrage then happens a few weeks or months after the Fall of Arthas and prior to World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
The first 130 pages are very dynamic moving the point of view back and forth between several characters and locations, and finally focus for a while with the infiltration into the Emerald Nightmare where things are truly nasty. Did you think you had slain the four corrupted Emerald dragons? Think again. You killed their physical shells, not their dreamforms. One of the many things I liked about this novel is the introduction of well known World of Warcraft NPCs and the description of certain key locations which tells you the author took his sweet time to load the game to research and those who have read the World of Warcraft comic book will have a big pay off because many references and plots from there are mentioned or continued in World of Warcraft: Stormrage.
Hopefully, I haven’t spoiled much up to this point, at least enough to spark your interest. After the break I mention all the characters and locations mentioned in the novel, and a few minor spoilers — so read after the break at your own risk. No, I don’t mention who the Nightmare Lord is, that you will have to find out by reading the whole novel.
The eAudioBook is available here.
UPDATE: Heads up. Expect this week a giveaway of some copies of STORMRAGE from Blizzplanet, courtesy of Pocket Books.
The first pages of World of Warcraft: Stormrage introduces a new character named Thura, niece of Saurfang the Elder, and Brox’s remaining kin aside from his brother Saurfang.
The continuity here sets the book parallel to the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King expansion with the mention of Saurfang Jr.’s death at the Wrathgate.
If you thought that mighty wooden axe created by Cenarius would be hanging somewhere in Orgrimmar as a trophy, you are wrong. With Saurfang, Jr. dead — err — turned Death Knight, a poweful unnamed shaman told Thrall the only family member remaining of Brox beside Saurfang the Elder worthy of the weapon was Thura the female orc.
If at least Saurfang, Jr. had had this axe at the Wrathgate … moohaha. Oh well.
Broll Bearmantle also appears in Teldrassil, as a continuation to his convocation to come by Fandral Staghelm in the World of Warcraft comic book by Walter Simonson and Louise Simonson (DC Comics / Wildstorm). Archdruid Hamuul Runetotem comes to that convocation too.
At this druid convocation held all the way down at the roots of Teldrassil attended Elerethe Renferal and Naralex. Elerethe has tried to save the fauna and flora of Alterac Valley; while Naralex has tried to bring life back to the Barrens. We know, after Blizzcon 2009, that Naralex was successful. Could this be a foretelling of some changes to happen in Alterac Valley in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm?
We get to see in this novel what many have wished to know for the past five years since the launch of World of Warcraft, through the interaction of Archdruid Fandral Staghelm and High Priestess Tyrande Whisperwind. You can sense a natural tension between both Night Elven leaders. I guess we can call this novel a payoff on that front.
While Tyrande is genuinely worried for Malfurion, you can sense an inner resentment toward him for deciding for her, and leave her to tend his duties in the Emerald Dream for thousands of years at a time, on and off for the past ten thousand years.
On the other hand, through Malfurion’s own nightmares the Nightmare Lord manipulates his mind with what most hurts him. His doubts about Tyrande’s true feelings toward Illidan.
Within the first forty pages of the book we see many continuity nods which show the author has done extensive research of not only the game, but of the established lore set by the Blizzard Creative Team, Walter Simonson, and Louise Simonson.
There’s a brief recap of the events published in the World of Warcraft comic book by Wildstorm when Broll and Varian Wrynn rescue the Idol of Remulos from the Furlbolgs in Ashenvale.
By the description of locations in this book it is obvious he takes the time to explore and research all the locations in-game walking around Darnasus and Teldrassil before starting to write.
His work for the TOKYOPOP Warcraft Legends Vol. 5 served as a preview of World of Warcraft: Stormrage, and might help those fans who read the manga understand the magnitude of how the dream is affecting people of all races all around Azeroth.
Some of these citizens appear in the novel. Marshal Dughan and the mage Zaldimar Wefhelt who are caught by the Nightmare while sleeping in Goldshire, dreaming they are trapped in the middle of Jasperlode Mine while cleansing it from the Kobold infestation.
The nice touch to this novel is the use of real NPCs which you can find in the World of Warcraft game. Both characters are indeed NPCs in Goldshire, and Knaak describes some of the creatures native to Elwynn Forest such as Kobolds, Murlocs, Spiders all the way down to their manner of speech: “You no take candle.”
Shandris Feathermoon appears in the novel. Many fans of Shandris will like to see her once more. Broll Bearmantle and Tyrande take on a mission in secrecy behind Fandral’s back, which take them to the lands of Ashenvale to reach the … Bough Shadow. One of the Emerald Dream portals around Azeroth.
Krasus is among those who are affected by the Nightmare during his sleep. His Sanctum is described to be near the crater that was once Dalaran, marking the events of this novel as something that happened after the Nexus War.
The pace and flavor of the story sounds very different to what we have seen before from Richard A. Knaak in previous Warcraft-based novels. The point of view changes and there are several plots running at once. The novel feels more like a manga or comic book shifting scenes and locations in separate panels within a chapter.
It’s more dynamic this way, and makes the story slower, and less rushed. A comfortable pace that doesn’t tire, or bore you. All the sub-plots lead to the same main plot naturally, but each feels different and keeps up you enthusiasm.
The name of the Nightmare Lord is not mentioned, but there’s enough of an atmosphere that gives you a hint at who is truly behind it. We have seen in-game many hints, such as the one posed by Ralo’shan in Silithus and Malfurion himself revealed to Remulos after you bring the item dropped from the four corrupted dragons that it is the Old gods behind the corruption.
However, there is someone we know well that is behind the Nightmare. Someone who is not directly Deathwing, but who appeared within the pages of Richard A. Knaak’s Warcraft: War of the Ancients. That revelation will certainly bring a loud “huh?” in your mind. None saw that coming these past five years.
Another continuity nod marks the Eranikus event in the Moonglade. It’s been a while since Tyrande cleansed Eranikus with the light of Elune. This is the questline that leads to the opening of the Ahn’Qiraj Gates. Eranikus appears in World of Warcraft: Stormrage and allows us to learn what happened after his cleansing.
Knaak introduced a new character named Lucan Foxblood. You will notice something peculiar about him, and you won’t be able to understand much about his nature until page 135. The intro of this human keeps that sense of curiosity and suspense building up within you. He’s a very unique human and it’s revealed why.
If anything, he is the first human to do the things he does, and spawns the question whether Blizzard will at one point add this new class among the human’s class roster.
There’s something that some fans might frown slightly upon. Many lore fans have wondered there haven’t been any acknowledgement of Tyrande in the present about Brox, specially how she didn’t recognize the orcs or the humans in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, or the fact he’s never mentioned in any of the Night Elf quests.
Tyrande remembers Broxigar (Brox), Rhonin and Krasus for what happened during the War of the Ancients. This doesn’t mean Rhonin and Krasus are prominently involved in World of Warcraft: Stormrage. They make short appearances, but aren’t deeply involved in this novel.
- You can watch Richard A. Knaak talking to us about World of Warcraft: Stormrage during BlizzCon 2009 here.
- Chris Metzen and Mickey Neilson told me details of World of Warcraft: Stormrage at the New York Comic Con 2009 (February).
Lucan Foxblood – Third assistant cartographer of King Varian Wrynn
Archdruid Fandral Staghelm
Archdruid Hamuul Runetotem
High Priestess Tyrande Whisperwind
Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage
Jai’alator – Shandris’s hyppogryph (means Noble blade of Elune)
Eranikus – first consort of Ysera
Gnarl (Ancient of War) from Forest Song, Ashenvale
Shael’dryn (mentioned by Gnarl)
Arei (Ancient of War, Felwood)
King Varian Wrynn
Prince Anduin Wrynn
Lord Edrias Ulnur (Chief Cartographer of King Varian)
Sharlindra (Sylvanas’ counselor)
Major Mattingly (Stormwind)
General Marcus Jonathan (High Commander of Stormwind Defense)
Ranger General Vereesa Windrunner
Elder Far Seer Zor Lonetree, Orgrimmar
Jasperlode Mine and Fargodeep Mine
Cenarion Enclave, Darnassus
Barrow Den, Moonglade
Bough Shadow, Ashenvale
Nighmare, Emerald Dream
Dalaran, Crystalsong Forest