on December 20, 2011
Alas, David Gaider goes a bit George R.R. Martin, as all of the three Dragon Age tie-in books so far, including this one, just has to involve a group of people traveling somewhere in order to do something. Which I suppose is fitting for a book based on a video game world--you go off and do quests and whatnot. It's a very fun read though.
Fans of the game series (and if you're reading the book, you probably are one) will probably enjoy:
- The backdrop - centered around the Templar/Mage conflict, with a healthy (unhealthy?) dash of demons thrown in. You'd be surprised (or maybe not so surprised--more details-oriented fans have debated this for a while actually) who they can possess.
- The events of Dragon Age 2 are mentioned. This book begins approximately one year after the finale in Kirkwall.
- A little more background info about what we had previously only seen in in-game codices and brief mentions, including some interesting but not really in-depth tidbits about the more powerful Chantry figures.
- Cameos! Yay. It takes place in Orlais, so you might be able to guess who makes an appearance. Someone else does too, at the same time resolving a small but quite long-standing debate about a detail in the "canon" Dragon Age storyline.
If you've never played the game then I don't think this book will stand out at all. It is well-written, but those who come in not already knowing a bit about the world of Thedas would probably feel a bit lost.
Another little tidbit in the Kindle edition that I found annoying is that apparently the book refuses to write the verb "lie" (as in "lie down") in past tense. Numerous times I see things along the lines of: "Her head hit something hard. She lie there, the world spinning..." and "Then, in the darkest moments when he lie there starving and thirsty...". Not sure if this is in the print version as well but it bothers me. Still, this is an excellent book if a flaw such as this bears mentioning.
I did read the other two tie-in books as well, Stolen Throne and The Calling. I was pretty excited about this book being released, and I pre-ordered it. It's a pretty quick read, and I finished it in a day.
As this book is obviously intended to be a bridge between DA2 and DA 3, read it if you loved Origins, maybe-liked-a-little-bit DA2, and still have high hopes for Dragon Age 3!
on December 31, 2011
Dragon Age: Asunder is probably the more nuanced of the three Dragon Age books thus far. I had a more difficult time putting it down and I enjoyed it the most. A major inherent reason is because the book is a sequel to the current Dragon Age chronology, as it is set after the events of Dragon Age II. One strength of the book is Gaider's strong characterization of the protagonists, some of the major characters, and what was by far the most lovable-to-hate villain in the Dragon Age franchise thus far. The ending was the most climactic of the three Dragon Age novels released to date. It also gives the sense of build up to events and characters that I hope will be part of the Dragon Age III story tapestry. One negative aspect of the book is the presence of some graphic violence and immersion into the disturbing point of view of a major character who is essentially a serial killer. In the end, these elements are more palatable given the plot developments. The struggles of one of the protagonists to understand the motives of the killer seemed weak. On the other hand the author's apparent intent to portray moral tension gives a complexity to said protagonist, ultimately making the character more human. Gaider does an excellent job with the evolution of another protagonist, a Templar whose perspectives and beliefs are challenged as the story develops. So while Dragon Age has some disturbing themes, it is a Dragon Age story, a fictional setting that is officially dark fantasy geared to mature audiences. On the other hand, the strength of Dragon Age is its intensity that retains the elements of good fantasy stories we grew up with and played through. Dragon Age also provides the extra juice for those of us past childhood and perhaps of an age to have families of our own... the Atari via Baldur's Gate generation that will still look for a good fantasy story and RPG. Dragon Age: Asunder is a welcome taste of Dragon Age awaiting Dragon Age III, best appreciated by Dragon Age fans and players familiar with the setting. Asunder is a good read and a welcome addition to the best fantasy franchise since D&D's Forgotten Realms.
on February 6, 2014
Time to write another review.
Welcome to Asunder, and a world that has received the news of what transpired in Kirkwall and is, understandably, none too happy about it. As you may recall, in Dragon Age 2, our psychopathic companion known as Anders decided it might be a good idea to stuff some TNT in the Chantry because "fireworks are cool." The templars, however, didn't get the joke and decided to put everyone through the blade.
If I'd had my way, the Qunari would be ruling Kirkwall now.
Anyway, this event has served to rile up the mages throughout Thedas and put the templars on high alert in case anyone tries for a repeat. The mages, as usual, demand more freedom, even if some of them don't know what that is, while the templars would be more than happy to tighten the noose all the way to the Maker. Between them stands the Chantry and Divine Justinia V who has her own agenda to try and bridge the gap between the two and is at least ten times more proactive than Elthina, thank the Maker!
In this volatile situation, Wynne, one of the Warden's companions from Dragon Age: Origins, recruits mages Rhys and Adrian, along with a reluctant templar by the name of Evangeline, to find a Tranquil that may or may not have found a way to undo the Rite of Tranquility. As if the templars didn't have enough on their plates already.
First, let's talk about the Templar v Mage conflict. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author actually addressed this subject quite skillfully. Yes, you do have the expected zealots on both sides but, and this is the important bit, you can empathize with them even if you don't necessarily sympathize.
Lord Seeker Lambert is dead set against giving the mages more freedoms but he makes his case to Evangeline and it's a good one. He tried to help them initially and got burnt for it by the same people he was trying to help. To be sure, I felt that, in his own way, he was trying to prevent events coming to a head. Naturally, within the constraints of his own beliefs.
On the part of the mages, Adrian is an easy character to hate though perhaps hate is too strong a word. Adrian is Lambert's mirror, in the sense that she is a zealot as well, a strong advocate for the mages' freedom and she's willing to do anything to achieve that goal no matter the cost. Indeed, she comes across as very manipulative and eager to forego the only friend she has for the sake of "the cause." So even if I didn't particularly like her as a person I can understand where she's coming from because she's giving voice to a group of mages that feel the same way.
To counterbalance these characters we have Evangeline, the templar, and Rhys, the mage. Initially, their views resemble those of Lambert and Adrian somewhat but, as the story progresses, they realize that things are not quite so black and white and they acknowledge something needs to change if war is to be averted.
Personally, I think I liked Evangeline more than Rhys, even though I liked them both. Rhys' character, while very perceptive, isn't quite sure what he believes in until, perhaps, the very end of Asunder. I suppose it's understandable given how both Adrian and Wynne try to win him over to the Libertarians and the Aequitarians respectively. His occasional outbursts, which he blames on his temper, only seem to be there in order to drive the plot. Evangeline, on the other hand, is a character who knows who she is (if that makes any sense). She sincerely believes in what the Templar Order stands for and, confronted by the reality that its purpose has been corrupted through time, she forges her own path, always clinging to that core belief.
Nonetheless, there are a few things that disappointed me somewhat.
First of all, I truly wanted to know more about Pharamond's research. I understand nobody really cared about that beyond the Divine, but I was intrigued. There seemed to be a connection to what happened in Dragon Age 2 when Anders tried to rescue Karl. Will it play a part in Inquisition? I hope so.
Second, the attempt on the Divine. Unless I missed something, it is never explained how a mage managed to get so close to the Divine. It is hinted at that he could have been helped by the templars so they'd have an excuse to beat the crap out of some mages but the issue of how he got there is never resolved. I suppose in the large scheme of things it matters little but I would've liked to know nonetheless.
Finally, and this really took me by surprise, there's the small matter of what transpires between Evangeline and Arnaud when Wynne and company exit Adamant fortress with Pharomond in tow. Considering Lambert had given Evangeline strict instructions to ensure Pharomond's demise (and possibly everyone else's), and seeing as he didn't trust her enough that he sent Arnaud with a bunch of templars, I honestly expected a fight to ensue. Truly, it could not have gone any other way and I fail to see how it did. Arnaud wasn't exactly reasonable throughout the story and he certainly shared in the Lord Seeker's views so it would have made more sense if he'd decided to kill Evangeline and the mages rather than let them go. This was probably the only moment where I felt the author had done something out of character.
Asunder ends with a conclave where the mages decide what's to become of them. Like I said before, Rhys' character comes together at this point and, consequently, it's a shame we don't get to read more of the aftermath of said meeting. For the templars' part, they decide they've had enough of the Chantry's platitudes and break apart together with the Seekers.
War is coming, there's no doubt about that. Will we read some more of it before Inquisition or will it become Inquisition? Only time will tell. For now though, if you're a fan of Dragon Age, there's no doubt in my mind you should read this book. This is Dragon Age 2 as it should've been: a nuanced and balanced approach to the conflict between templars and mages with strong, relatable, characters whose actions make sense within the narrative.
There's also this guy named Cole...
on May 1, 2015
I am a die hard Mage Libertarian, the belief that power always corrupts and the punishment of the many for the actions of the few is unconscionable, especially when it done so on the basis of religious tradition, and fear of the unknown. I never knew this had ideology had a name until I read Asunder though, and I was content to just play through the games siding with mages more often than not (exception: Anders). So when I read this book and I learned about the Rite of Tranquility, demonic presence, and all of that other fun stuff that makes mages feared and controlled, I was extremely emotionally invested; so my thoughts on this book are probably a little biased.
That said, the pace was exhilarating, almost to a fault (there was a Game of Thrones level of betrayal, but without the flawless execution), and the internalization of the Templar-Magi struggle through the eyes of Evengaline and Rhys was flawless. Watching these two characters grow from a Templar-Apologist and Mage Moderate to separatists in support of the disbandment of the Circle of Magi was a real treat. Cole, however, was a disappointment. He was such a delight in Dragon Age: Inquisition, but while insight into his background was great, the writing depicting him was decidedly lackluster.
The plot and setting of the book made up for the lackluster Cole, however, and I was quite taken aback by just how much Thedas history was crammed into this book; it could (and probably should) stand alone from the rest of the Dragon Age book series as it has nothing to do with Maric or his adventures.
All-in-all, if you've played (and enjoyed) all three games of the Dragon Age saga, then this book will rank a solid five stars, but if you haven't you'll be so lost to the events of Kirkwall and other historically referenced, but never defined, actions and locations that you'll find it a two star work. On its own, objective, merits though, I'd give the book a solid four stars.
on September 10, 2014
One of the most intriguing struggles depicted in the Dragon Age universe is between the Circle of Magi and the Templar Order. The basic premise is that mages are kept locked up in the setting, forbidden from using their talents save under the careful supervision of the anti-magic trained knights of the Chantry (Thedas' equivalent of the Catholic Church). The mages, naturally, resent this treatment as they can't help how they were born.
What saves this from being a clear-cut metaphor for oppression is that mages, unlike real-life minorities, are a threat to the common good. They are haunted by demons and possess powers which could easily result in the deaths of thousands.
One of the earliest missions in Dragon Age: Origins deals with the discovery of an eight-year-old who, in a moment of desperation, makes a pact with a demon and unleashes a horde of undead on his hometown. There are also mages who brutalize and abuse normal human beings, the latter who are helpless to resist.
It's basically the fantasy version of the X-men, only Henry Peter Gyrich and Senator Kelly are given a sympathetic portrayal.
Dragon Age: Asunder focuses squarely on the Mage versus Templar issue. I'll be honest, when I first heard about this, I was of mixed feelings. Dragon Age 2 devoted a great deal of time to this issue and I came away hating both factions.
It was like being forced to choose between Magneto and the Sentinels. Neither side came out smelling like roses and there was no sign of a reasonable third option. I decided to side with the mages in Dragon Age 2 but I came away feeling that the Templars were being given the short end of the stick.
Asunder avoids most of these pitfalls. It has the remarkably unique idea of giving both sides likable members and showing the dark side of each side too. As a result, it feels like a much more balanced group and while there's an air of triumph to the ending--you also feel like events have escalated to a point which they didn't have to.
The premise of Asunder is Senior Enchanter Rhys, a high-ranking mage, has long supported independence from the Chantry. His estranged mother, Origin's Wynne, believes this attitude is foolish and invites reprisal from numerous sources. After the events of Dragon Age 2, tensions between the Templars and mages have reached a boiling point. You don't have to have played the aforementioned games to understand the game but, frankly, why are you reading tie-in fiction if you haven't?
An assassination attempt on the Divine, the Chantry's equivalent of the Pope, escalates matters further as does the discovery of a mystical ritual which has the potential to permanently alter the balance of power between the two factions. Thrown into the mix are liberal Templar knight Evangeline and the mysterious yet sympathetic serial killer Cole (who may or may not be a ghost). I'm also fond of the Lord Seeker, Lambert, who appears to be a one-dimensional hardliner but turns out to just be the wrong man for the wrong time in the worst way.
I've read all of the Dragon Age novels and I have to say that Asunder is my favorite of the ones released so far. Everyone is likable, sensible in their actions, and entertaining to read about. We get a good look into their mindsets and there's even a few unexpected moments. Mages, for example, fail to realize the Templars don't just keep them locked up but also protect them from the bigotry of the common people. They also miss how blessed they are to live in a community where race, nation, sexuality, and social status don't matter. Every mage is allowed an education and never has to worry about where his next meal is coming from where, in Thedas, these are fantastic luxuries.
But are they worth freedom?
Fans of Dragon Age 2 may dislike the fact the book does a light retcon of the setting's timeline. It was implied a war between the Templar and Mage factions began immediately after the events of the game. This shows events took a great deal more to turn them into a full-scale war which also spoils the ending of the book. I'm, largely, okay with this retcon but it does seem to make the actions of certain characters in the game seem less meaningful.
In conclusion, I strongly recommend fans of the Dragon Age game series pick up Asunder as a lead-in to Dragon Age: Inquisition and because it's a very fun book. I don't recommend this book to people who aren't familiar with the franchise as the emotional resonance will not be the same. It's entertaining but this was written with fans of the game in mind and doesn't quite work on its own the way, say, The Stolen Throne does.
on September 14, 2014
Asunder is indeed a fitting prelude, showing events that happen in Orlais after the great debacle at Kirkwall portrayed in Dragon Age 2, leading up to the next game, Inquisition. I am a fan of the computer game series and I am among those who liked Dragon Age Origins much more than Dragon Age 2. After Kirkwall, in which psychopath Anders blows up the Chantry and the insane Knight Commander Meredith of the Templars has all the mages there put to the sword, relations between the mages and templars elsewhere in Thedas became more strained to say the least. Orlais, the most powerful country of Thedas, is no exception.
The story opens in the White Spire, in which some mysterious person or being is killing mages. One of the mages, Rhys, is the only one who sees this killer, so suspicion heads his way. An assassination attempt is made on the Divine (head of the Chantry) and the Seekers become involved as well. Enter Wynne, one of the heroes of the Blight, who gets Rhys and a templar named Evangeline to head out to an old Grey Warden outpost in the western wastes of Orlais to investigate a report about a Tranquil who may have found a way to reverse the Rite of Tranquility.
The book shows a society in upheaval and is filled with interesting characters and solid plot lines. It certainly helps to have played the games but this book can essentially stand alone. It is suspenseful and I definitely cared about the characters. The ending was MOST satisfying and I will leave it at that.
For fans of the game and those who enjoy fantasy, I definitely recommend this book.
on February 21, 2013
Very enjoyable and easy read.
This is a very good standalone book particularly if you enjoy the fantasy world type thing. The book to me centers around the politics of the Dragon age world, the uneasy treaties and alliances. If you take your time and read the book with an open mind you will find the book very enjoyable and may even be able to draw parallels to workplace, local or even international politics of the real world that we live in. To a lesser extent this book also reminds me of the movie The Sixth Sense with a fantasy world/political tilt. If you enjoyed the movie (The Sixth Sense) you will enjoy this book.
If you have read The Stolen Throne and/or The calling it would help you understand some of the background for this book. As for any tie in with the games I think the book will bring an added dimension to the game play, I don't know how much the game play (especially Dragon age 2) will add to the enjoyment of the book.
on March 4, 2015
First game tie in novel I have ever read because like most believed it involved events and people in dragon age inquistion. I was not disappointed but I was not impressed either. I thought it was pretty slow paced and other minor issues that I'm not going to get into because it's been mentioned in previous reviews numerous of times. But overall it was enjoyable I guess because I just love the dragon age series andeverything about the world. If you like the game most likely you will like the book as well. I probably will read all the other tie in novels someday to satisfy my love for dragon age >.<
on July 17, 2013
When I read David Gaider's first Dragon Age novel, The Stolen Throne, I was completely blown away. From the heartbreaking "love quadrangle" between Maric, Rowan, Katriel, and Loghain, to the Deep Roads, the darkspawn, and the ever-ominous Witch of the Wilds, Gaider's characters, plotting, and world building stand head and shoulders above most game novelizations. The Stolen Throne was a good read on its own merits, and it didn't hurt that Dragon Age Origins was 70 hours of awesome.
But since The Stolen Throne was published, both BioWare and your humble reader have changed. Dragon Age 2 was released to critical acclaim, but considerable player frustration. Completely removed from the events of Dragon Age: Origins, the game trapped fans in an unremarkable city, forcing them to play as a predefined character, and through a story they had limited ability to change. In other words, it felt like a pale reflection of the first game's rich lore, conflicts, and setting. In many ways, Asunder is no different.
Limiting itself (for the most part) to a single location, a Mage tower in the capital of Orlais, the novel fails to bring its setting to life, leaving readers to fill in the blanks. For example, from the novel you would never guess that the Orlesians have a unique culture, manner of speaking (i.e. French-inspired accents), and general aristocratic je ne sais quoi. There's less world building here than in a single conversation with Leliana in Dragon Age: Origins--beyond a scene where the nobles wear masks, and a brief discussion of the Orlesian "game," anything that would meaningfully set the city apart is quickly forgotten in favor of the broader mages vs. templars conflict.
The novel's protagonist is ostensibly Rhys, a Senior Enchanter (read: mage) suspected in a string of impossible murders. But he never really develops into a well-rounded character. Instead, 100 or so pages into the novel, the spotlight moves from him to a series of familiar faces from the first game. Suffice it to say, be prepared to be told that YOUR version of Thedas is no longer canon. Depending on players' actions, at least one of these characters could already be dead (and another is DLC)! This is a step back from Gaider's first two novels, which focused exclusively on characters that players would never (or could not yet) control in the games.
Also paling in comparison to Gaider's previous efforts is Asunder's half-hearted love story. Gaider telegraphs who Rhys will end up with from the first time you meet him. There is never any tension, so all of the story beats devoted to romance largely fall flat. Beyond that, there are very few moments where Gaider sticks a knife into your gut and then slowly TWISTS, like, well, every decision made by Loghain in The Stolen Throne. What used to be a hallmark of the franchise (it is, after all, DARK fantasy), is present only in the broader atmosphere. Add in lackluster battle scenes and action, and there is very little to recommend the book to all but the most hopeless Dragon Age addicts. It's more of what you love, but somehow less than what you would expect.
Fortunately, if the previous novels are any indication, you can expect to see more of Rhys, Cole, and their friends in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Here's to hoping that the Mage/Templar conflict can be resolved there, paving the way for more compelling stories in the future.
on November 8, 2014
The world of the Dragon Age franchise is absolutely fascinating and this book's focus on the Templar-Mage conflict cements the strength of the tension. David Gaider's writing style is a bit immature, and there are times where it is obvious he hasn't done any research on subjects that could severely impact the plot--such as the effects of dehydration, starvation, and internal bleeding. The plot specifically would do better as a 2-2.5 hour movie than a text-based medium.