I have often wondered how the idea of nostalgia effects our memories. We look back fondly and think about how great something was. Was it truly? Is the simple fact that something brought us joy at one point in our lives enough to justify calling it fantastic? Or are we deluding ourselves about the true nature of it?
Let me give you an example to illustrate my point. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was my childhood. My brother and I had a locker full of the figures, played the video games, and watched the cartoons. Then, the event of a lifetime: the movie(s). The first movie, entitled simply Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, falls under the category of being truly great. It maintained the classic silly humor while adding a dark edge. The second movie, The Secret of the Ooze, was awesome at the time and great now simply for the sheer joy it brought to my childhood. The jokes got a little too silly and it lost the little bit of seriousness it needed. The third movie was… well… I loved it as a kid, but looking back, it is just awful. The turtles go back in time to ancient Japan, don’t even fight Shredder, and make horrible jokes while doing it.
What the heck does this have to do with a book called Stormrage, you ask? Well, back in high school, I was handed this book called Firedrake by Richard Knaak. I was enthralled and instantly hooked on the fantasy genre. I have talked about this series before in my meme, and I like to think that Mr. Knaak single-handedly reinvigorated my interest in reading, since YA books were scarce in my time. Then, about five years ago, I started playing World of Warcraft. As the type of person I am, I delved into the lore of the game and was pleasantly surprised when I saw Knaak’s name on some of the novels. And I was delighted to find out I enjoyed almost all of the novels that Warcraft produced. Why then, after reading this most recent Warcraft lore book, by Knaak, do I question the true nature of him as a writer?
There is a lot of information you need in order to truly process this book, but I will give a short run down for those who might have no idea what Warcraft is about. Many races dwell in the land called Azeroth. The races are split into two factions who are constantly at war with one another. Other creatures inhabit the world, including dragons. One matriarch, the green aspect Ysera, presides over the Emerald Dream. This is most easily described as a spirit world. It is here that the druids, who enter a sleeping state, help the green dragons guard Azeroth through multiple realms. Malfurion Stormrage, the first night elf druid and leader, becomes trapped in the Emerald Dream. As his body lies deteriorating in Azeroth, his spirit becomes incapacitated by the Nightmare Lord. His lover, leader of the night elves and High Priestess of Elune (moon goddess) Tyrande, receives a warning from her goddess that Malfurion must be saved or all of Azeroth is doomed. The Nightmare attacks by taking those who fall asleep. Then, as their bodies lie prone in their beds, their souls bombard the remaining defenders of the realm. Tyrande and her few companions must travel to the Emerald Dream, find Malfurion, and help him save the world.
A complicated mess really, especially for those who haven’t read The War of the Ancients lore trilogy, which is referenced in the book and provides a much needed back story for most of the characters. The plot is made even more complicated by the writing style and structure. One human, Lucan Foxblood, meets up with the travelers. He has the ability to move in and out of the Emerald Dream without leaving his body. He can also take people with him. There are several parts in the story where they are constantly moving in and out of the Emerald Dream, and it seems very unnecessary. Since I was listening to the audio book, I found it very hard to stick with what was happening.
There are many times that as I read a book, I pronounced a name in my head a certain way only to find out a friend, or even the author, might think differently (Drizzt comes to mind). Blizzard, the maker of Warcraft, has a very established cast of characters. After playing the game for many years, reading almost all the books, seeing numerous cut scenes, and speaking with other players of the game, the pronunciation for the names of the main characters is universally known. Yet the narrator, Richard Ferrone, did not seem to get the memo. He pronounced many of them strangely, such as stressing syllables in the wrong place. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it really bothered me. Otherwise, Ferrone did a very decent job with the voice acting, and his very solemn voice lent an eerie feeling to the story.
The premise is very intriguing, even outside the lore. Many of the Warcraft books are great on their own. Unfortunately, the writing in general was lackluster. I started counting the amount of times he used the word “macabre.” I stopped doing this at around twelve. Since I was listening to the book, I may have picked this up more easily, but it is such a specific descriptive word, and I feel like it should be used in moderation. With the writing style and random plot jumping, I began wondering if Blizzard gave Knaak a specific structure to stick with, or maybe I was just trying to shift blame off of someone whom I had always admired.
Clearly, I didn’t care much for this book. So what could I rate it? I will give this book a 4 out of 10, which is very disheartening. With a lore based novel and the addition of Knaak, I really wanted to like it. I just can’t get past all the flaws. I am giving it points for the idea behind the book, since I did find it interesting. I think only those who play the game and want to know more about the NPC’s they interact with should read it. Otherwise, don’t bother. Pick up a different Warcraft novel, Rise of the Horde by Christie Golden.
I would like to think that nostalgia has nothing to do with how I feel about Knaak’s previous works. I can’t recall many parts of Firedrake, but I remember the feeling it gave me to read it. I read his War of the Ancients trilogy a few years ago, and I liked those a lot as well. But I am just baffled as to why this book is so awful with such a great idea behind it. Should one terrible book by an author, who inspired me to become enthralled by a new genre, cause me to question everything he has ever done? Even if my memories do give more weight to his writing than he deserves, is there anything wrong with that? I mean, I could go watch the third Ninja Turtles movie right now.