"The Purifying Fire" is a well thought out story that supplements what we know about the main character, Chandra Nalaar, quite nicely. This is the second Planeswalker novel and after the hype of the first, "Agents of Artifice", this one shows the promise that the series could potentially have.
As a standalone story without having any knowledge of Magic: The Gathering, one can enjoy the colourful rich characters of the novel. Only a few references to other MTG characters are made. Jaya Ballard gets mentioned a few times as having been to Regatha (the plane most of the novel is set in) before Chandra appears there. Jace Beleren makes an unnamed cameo, but readers of the web comics will know of the epic battle between Jace and Chandra. A new planeswalker by the name of Gideon is introduced showing very white mana tendencies. I doubt we will ever see Gideon in a printed planeswalker card form, but his character is well developed to allow such a card to be imagined.
Stereotypic Magic and/or fantasy races are represented in the novel adding to the ability for a non-MTG player to really get a feel of the setting. Apart from pyromancers, we have elves, goblins, vampires (although not named as such which really helps the plot from degrading - they are blood magic mages) and ouphes (gremlins for most people). The novel also sparks up some excitement for the upcoming MTG release in early October 2009 by mentioning Zendikar by name more than once.
Bottom line: Definitely worth a read. Easier to pick up than "Agents of Artifice" (which requires more Magic knowledge). Would suggest reading both Planeswalker Novels for the best in recent Magic publishing.
Side note: Avoid "Alara Unbroken" as it can best be described as (and is) the author's first attempt at writing a book. Cohesiveness is absent throughout most of the novel.
Love the book, but I've had to buy it again for Kindle instead of the paperback I wanted. My seller Smaller World Future used a terrible courier service, I still haven't received it and the estimated delivery date is the 19th OCT, nearly a month after I made the purchase.
Now with that out in the open, This book is good. If you're a fan of Magic: The Gathering, and you're interested in the story behind some of the characters, these series are phenomenal for that, they go into a lot of detail and get very personal with the characters. If you don't know Magic: The Gathering, I'd still recommend the book on the base of Laura Resnick being a fantastic fantasy writer. Story is probably something you've heard a thousand times, rather a cliche'd storyline. However if you can look past that then this is a fantasy novel that will capture your interests for sure.