About the Author:
David Gaider was lead writer for the computer game Dragon Age: Origins from BioWare.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3 out of 5
Dragon Age: Asunder
Set between Dragon Age II and Dragon Age: Inquisition, this book follows a group of mages of the White Spire of Orlais and the Templar sent to guard them, on a mission for the Chantry. However, the results of the mission could have dire consequences for mages and Templars across Thedas as tensions build between the two groups.
This story serves to bridge the events of DAII, in which the mages of Kirkwall rebelled against the oppressive Templars, and the beginning of Inquisition, which opens with a disaster at a peace summit between the two sides. It also features Wynne and Shale, companion characters from Origins, and serves as an introduction to the mysterious killer Cole, a companion character in Inquisition. As a bridge between the three main Dragon Age games it serves pretty well.
It's also pretty solidly written, with Gaider's prose being easy to read and engaging. There's a nice balance struck between the obligatory action scenes that any videogame tie-in feels they have to have and the deeper philosophical and ethical questions at the heart of the conflict between the mages and the Templars.
Unfortunately, what this book doesn't have is much of a plot of its own. Sure there's a story here, but it is very much reliant on origins and payoffs that happen in the games themselves. You get no satisfying feeling of having read a complete novel when you get to the end of this book, with the issues about the impending war, Wynne's backstory and the nature of Cole being largely unresolved. It doesn't ruin the book as a reading experience for someone who's played all the relevant games, but it does stop if from feeling like a whole novel in and of itself.
3 out of 5
Dragon Age: The Calling
The second prequel to the game Dragon Age: Origins, set about a decade after 'The Stolen Throne'. A group of Grey Wardens, long banned from Ferelden, seek the help of King Maric in rediscovering the location of the lost Dwarven city of Ortan thaig within the corrupted Deep Roads. Impulsively Maric decides to join their expedition in the hope of preventing a Blight being unleashed on his kingdom.
I have to say that I found this book pretty disappointing. I had rather enjoyed 'The Stolen Throne' and was looking forward to more of the same but instead of an epic story set across a war-torn nation, here we get a small group of characters wandering around dirty corridors for four hundred pages or so.
Perhaps worse than the reduction in scale of the narrative is the fact that so little of what we see here feels original or innovative. The corrupting taint and how it affects various characters in particular feels very derivative. Even if it weren't for the fact that the Warhammer novels have been exploring this exact theme for decades, it's also been done better within the Dragon Age franchise itself. Pretty much every game in the series has some exploration of this narrative of people with noble intentions going astray because of the corrupting influence and, in fact, this book introduces a number of major characters from Dragon Age: Awakening of which that is more or less the entire plot. The other negative repercussion of this is that because the story of the Architect is resolved in Awakening, it means that here we're left with this book's main plot thread left dangling.
Gaider's actual prose remains very readable and this book's main redeeming feature is how easy it is to pick up and get back into, but it can't be underestimated just how stale the narrative as a whole feels. Also, don't get me started on the fact that this is the second book in a row where the dark, slimy, corrupted underground tunnels of the Deep Roads has an inexplicable aphrodisiac effect on Maric. The sex scenes here do not feel warranted or natural at all.
2 out of 5
Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne
A prequel to the game Dragon Age: Origins, set decades before that story begins. The fugitive Prince Maric flees his mother's betrayal and murder and falls in with the young renegade Loghain. Together they rejoin the remnants of the rebel army dedicated to overthrowing Orlesian control of the Kingdom of Ferelden and putting Maric on the throne that had once been his grandfather's.
Sometimes I, perhaps foolishly, read reviews of books just before starting them for myself and I did that here, seeing a great deal of criticism of the story of this book and of Gaider's writing in general. I can honestly say that I don't understand that criticism at all. The story here is a compelling one, with a young prince struggling his way into both maturity and control of his ancestral kingdom, and Gaider's prose, whilst not overly artful, is easy to read and perfectly paints the picture of the world of Ferelden.
I found this to be a genuinely enjoyable heroic fantasy story and although I'll admit it's not terribly groundbreaking, it tells a satisfying and engaging tale. Sure, the love quadrangle aspect was a bit trite and predictable, but the rest of the story really kept me on the hook page after page.
I suppose the real question is; does this book require being versed in the Dragon Age games to enjoy it? I can't answer that objectively because I've poured countless dozens of happy hours into Origins, Awakening, DAII and Inquisition. The world of Ferelden is one of those great fantasy creations where you genuinely feel that there is a history and a 'working' world beyond the immediate story (something pioneered by Tolkien), which gives it a true sense of depth and leaves you curious for more details. This book, then, represents some of those details, but by no means all of them.
So, I don't know if you'd like this if you haven't played Origins, but I can certainly say that you'll like it if you want to see more of Ferelden and its story than was in the games. Also, for me it was fascinating to see the role Loghain plays here, knowing what he gets up to in the game decades later.
4 out of 5