1st, a small disclaimer...
At the time of this review, 12/13/12 I have not finished reading or studying this book yet; as a matter of fact, I challenge any person or reviewer saying he or she has finished the book, as frankly speaking would be difficult or impossible to believe. However, I decided to jump ahead and give my honest review from what I've read so far. I have no business relationship with any of the authors whatsoever.
Having said that, I like this book so far. It is way, way better than its previous version. It goes more in-depth and gives a more holistic approach to T-SQL. I'll explain that in a few.
So far, i've read: Chapter 1, which is an intro to what set theory is. Chapter 2, which is about SELECT statements. Chapter 15, which is about Indexes and Chapter 17, which is about optimization. All those cover the basics and more about what you need for your day to day job and to fully understand T-SQL and their proper usage. The Index and Optimization chapters have plenty of illustrations and the concepts are exposed in a clear but concise manner.
Each chapter, as the typical MS cert books, has questions an answers but there are also lot of labs with exercises and T-SQL queries to play with. You only need a SQL2012 instance (any flavor) to practice.
I consider this book a hybrid between Itzik's bestseller, T-SQL fundamentals and previous SQL query book from Microsoft. This new version keeps its simplicity while going more in detail and giving a non proprietary and holistic approach to what T-SQL is or should be.
I've been reading Itzik's books for several years now and he has improved his writing skills a lot. He knows his stuff, no doubt about it, but somehow he has learned how to write to "masses" and being less set based or math oriented.
Another key difference to SQL 2008 or SQL 2005 versions of this book, which is actually a nice one, is that this 2012 MS series of T-SQL books is now more DBA oriented. Not sure if this is because the new authors or the MS cert. requirements itself, but the exercises and lessons are more realistic and performance oriented. The book is no longer about obscure T-SQL syntaxes but how to write code that will run fast and efficient on SQL2012 database engines.
Will this book alone help you pass the test? No, it will not. I think that if you have been working as a full time developer for a year or more, maybe it will. Is this book a good source or test material? No doubt about it. As a matter of fact, this is one of the 1st MS cert. books that actually teaches you proper and clean T-SQL. And giving the awesome writing style, the 15% exam discount and the ANSI oriented code or advices, this is a book that deserves a space In your bookshelf, regardless if you are planning to take the cert. or develops a stronger T-SQL and coding skills.