I recently got my hands on the two latest Warcraft books: “Woflheart” by Richard A. Knaak, and “Curse of the Worgen,” which is a hardcover compilation of the comic mini-series of the same name. Since I read them back-to-back, I might as well review them together, as well.
Both books are available to buy on my Amazon Affiliate.
Curse of the Worgen:
If you know me, you know I’ve never been a big fan of comic books. It’s not that I don’t like the stories, or the characters, or anything like that. I feel that comics themselves are simply an inferior medium for telling stories. I’m a heretic, I know.
“Curse of the Worgen” is a great example of why I feel this way.
Not that it’s a bad story. Anything but. “Curse of the Worgen” is an epic tale covering thousands of years of Warcraft lore. It introduces us to an entirely unknown period of Night Elf history, the War of the Satyr, and manages to tie it all in to the modern crises plaguing Gilneas.
It’s a sweeping tale of love, loss, madness, and revenge packed with action and emotion. It covers a vast and interesting cast of characters, including recognizable lore figures like Malfurion Stormrage and Genn Greymane as well as new personalities such as the mad druid Ralaar. If it had been fully fleshed-out in a novel or even a trilogy of novels, it would have been one of the crown jewels of Warcraft lore.
But it’s not. Instead, all that epic story is crammed into a few short comics, and it ends up feeling horribly rushed and scattered.
And this is what always frustrates me about comics. They’re great stories, but they could be so much more if they were put into a medium where most of the space and resources didn’t go into artwork that does little if anything to advance the story — as an aside, this feels like a good time to mention I didn’t care for the artwork in “Curse of the Worgen.” Not that I ever much like comic book artwork.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed reading this. But nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder what could have been.
Overall rating: 7.3/10 I recommend it to any and all fans of Worgen and Night Elf lore, provided you don’t mind if the story is a bit rushed.
After the surreal, time and space-bending, Doctor Who-esque craziness of recent Warcraft stories, “Wolfheart” is a refreshingly simple and mundane story, focusing on Alliance politics and the war with the Horde.
Much like “Curse of the Worgen,” “Wolfheart” tries to cram a great deal of story into a relatively small space. It covers the rocky attempts to integrate the Worgen into the Alliance, the Night Elves coping with their newfound mortality and the reintegration of the Highborne, the personal demons of Varian Wrynn, and the ruthless ambitions of Garrosh Hellscream (may a thousand demons rend his black soul).
And as with “Curse of the Worgen,” this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it creates an epic and engaging story with many different angles and storylines to appreciate. But on the other hand, it makes things feel somewhat muddled and hectic, and certain parts of the story don’t get the attention they deserve. In particular, I would have liked to see more of the Night Elves coming to grips with the loss of their immortality.
Oddly, despite the book billing itself as being about King Varian, he doesn’t play a particularly large role until the end. This isn’t really a problem, but I did find Richard Knaak over-simplified his character somewhat. Varian isn’t just some angry guy; he’s two separate people who have been smashed together and whose minds are constantly at war with each other. Knaak doesn’t address this.
But there are plenty of other characters he does do well. “Wolfheart” sees the return of Maiev Shadowsong, Illidan Stormrage’s killer, and her lesser known but infinitely more awesome younger brother, Jarod. I particularly enjoyed Maiev’s portrayal in this book; I don’t want to give too much away, but all you Illidan fan boys and girls should feel just a tiny little bit vindicated by “Wolfheart.”
And if Knaak deserves credit for nothing else, at least he gets Tyrande out and doing things, unlike Blizzard’s internal lore people.
Richark Knaak gets a lot of flack in some circles, and while I don’t think he deserves it all, I must admit he’s not on the same level as, say, Christie Golden. Mainly, his writing itself — his prose — is rather mediocre and features simple mistakes that even an amateur like me can pick up on.
Still, there’s a lot to recommend this book. It feels like a return to Warcraft’s roots: just a bunch of badass people beating the snot out of each other, and maybe learning a bit about tolerance and forgiveness along the way.
Overall rating: 7.5/10 A very entertaining and enjoyable read, if a bit crudely presented.