Friday, October 17, 2014

World of Warcraft: Wolfheart review

    I like Richard A. Knaak's writing. This is something which often puts me at odds with myself because the two of us approach World of Warcraft very well. For one, he's a professional writer for it and I'm just a disenchanted fanboy. His WOW writings tend to be good vs. evil, I prefer moral ambiguity. He likes the Night Elves as noble, decent, good guys. I prefer them as wild savages which look down on lesser races. He likes Malfurion, I like Illidan.

    Now, after Wolfheart, I can say that I prefer Varian Wrynn as a flawed barbarian hero who is (in some ways) the worst thing to happen to the Alliance in years. While the author seems to prefer him as the messianic deliverer of humanity from darkness. It's ironic, though, since this book actually shows my viewpoint at the start but changes him into the latter. This is problematic because I was quite happy with him being the above enormous jerk and find him less interesting now that he's gotten over his problems.

    The premise is the Alliance is holding a summit at the Night Elf capital in order to debate the acceptance of the Worgen (werewolves) into the Alliance. This is controversial, though not for the reasons you'd expect. No one really seems to mind the idea of werewolves joining their faction, they are more angry over the fact they're from the nation of Gilneas. Gilneas was a member state in the Old Alliance but left it after the Second War. This is viewed as treason by many in the Alliance despite the fact they did so during peace-time.

    The thing is, the only person who seems to object to Gilneas joining is Stormwind and that's apparently enough to sink the entire deal despite the Alliance being composed of a dozen other member races. We also have a subplot about how King Varian is the chosen of the Wolf God of Azeroth, Goldrin, as opposed to one of the entire race of werewolves nearby. He's then blessed by the goddess of the Night Elves Elune.



    The funny thing is, I *LIKE* Varian. I enjoyed him in the World of Warcraft comics and most of his appearances in the game. I just don't care, much, for him being somehow the most important person in the Alliance let alone Azeroth. He might be Aragorn but Aragorn was a supporting character. Here, the focus is Varian and Stormwind's importance at the expense of many other characters. I'm doubly annoyed here because Varian as the savior of humanity intrudes on Jaina Proudmoore being such (which she was established as being in Warcraft 3).
    Despite this, I think there's much to like about Wolfheart. I enjoyed the mystery plot about who was murdering Highborne Night Elves despite the fact I figured out who was responsible early on. I also liked the new character of Jarod, who seemed like he brought some new attention to the Night Elves.

    My favorite part of the book is probably the subplot about the Horde invading Ashenvale. We get a real sense of the banality of evil watching how Garrosh manipulates patriotism and racism to abuse people who look different from them (which is funny given they're orcs).

    I will say he seemed to recover from an early trauma in the book too quickly and, frankly, think that plot could have been jettisoned. My favorite part of the book was the Horde invasion of Ashenvale and their attempt to take its resources-rich territory from the Alliance. It's rare the Alliance gets to fight the Horde in a full-scale war and this scene worked well. The characterization in the book was good, too. In truth, the only part I really object to is the attempt to sell me on Varian as such a great leader and important figure--which I just flat-out do not buy. Either before the events of the book or after.

    In conclusion, if you're not troubled by setting up the King of Stormwind to be the most important figure in the Alliance then this book will probably be very enjoyable. If you're looking for a stand-alone novel, this probably won't work either as it depends a great deal on knowledge of World of Warcraft's setting. Still, it's not a bad novel and I have nothing but praise for Richard Knaak's writing ability.


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