Whenever a new WarCraft novel comes out I am usually pretty excited. Then Malfurion Stormrage was announced as the next subject which many of us took to mean that OF COURSE the next expansion would be about the Emerald Dream, we have since discovered this is not the case. So what could ole Malfurion have to do with what was coming up? How would this new novel effect the game we play?
Richard Knaak is not one of Blizzards more popular writers for a variety of reason. However he has been instrumental in shaping much of the lore we are now guided by in game. Before you sit down to read his latest offering I would strongly urge you to pick up War of the Ancients and read them FIRST. The reason is that Knaak uses a great many of the characters first introduced in those books and assumes you will already be familiar with them when reading this one. This can lead to a great deal of confusion.
The book itself has a variety of issues. The flow is rather disjointed as he is constantly shifting from subject to subject as well as character to character within each chapter. What is interesting is what he DOES with those characters. It seems that self flagellation is something he really enjoys as almost EVERY character at one point or another wastes time brow beating themselves over SOMETHING. The book is FILLED with cameos, many of which are fillers rather than adding to the story in any way. Sadly some of the cameos are more enjoyable that the main characters who are rather flat.
From a lore perspective the ultimate enemy who is introduced only vaguely and then near the very END of the book came as no great surprise. It is this that I think will translate into the rest of the game. The rest of the book? Frankly I am worried it will be like when Varian was introduced. That suddenly Malfurion will appear "in game" along with all the relationships he has with various faction leaders with little to no explanation for those who only play the on line game. While the book DOES answer some questions (such as Fandral Staghelms obsession with Morrowgrain) since it relies so much on the reader having previous knowledge of what is going on anyone who reads it with out that base knowledge may finish more confused than enlightened.
So is it worth picking up? If you want a better understanding of the lore that will be happening "behind the scenes" of Cataclysm then yes. However you could also get by fairly well with just a inclusive summery from someone else who read the book. The actions that take place in this novel are centered in present time. Arthas is defeated but the Cataclysm has not yet broken across an unsuspecting Azeroth. Hints of what are to come are not even mentioned save the introduction of what I suspect will be one of our "final raid bosses" at some point.