Wow. What a surprise.
This is a prequel novel to the upcoming video game Dragon Age: Origins, by Bioware. I was reading it more to ‘get in the mood’ for the game than anything, and I had very low expectations, to be honest. And I was blown away.
I’m giving it 4 stars, and that is judging it against all fantasy, not against “pre-generated world” fantasy (novels based on games, movies, tv series, etc). Within that sub-genre it’s a 5 star book, easily.
As the story begins, a cruel usurper sits on the throne of Ferelden, and the Rebel Queen has been betrayed and murdered. The only member left of the royal family is young Maric, a charming but slightly inept princeling, now on the run for his life. He soon teams up with a young commoner named Loghain, and the two set off to reunite with the rebel army, and begin the daunting challenge of trying to push the usurper from his ill-gained throne.
There’s a bit of game-ness to the book here and there as character classes are mentioned, but it isn’t very intrusive and if you didn’t know it was a game-prequel novel, you might not even notice it.
The story has everything you could ask for in a fantasy. A noble, seemingly impossible quest, great battles, characters who feel very real, and who interact in ways that also feel very human. A smattering of magic and strange creatures. Joy and pain, victory and defeat. All written with genuine emotion.
A nice change of pace is the way elves are handled, who are definitely second class citizens in this world, scraping by working as servants and living in squalid quarters of most cities.
All in all, a very, very enjoyable read, and a very ‘self-contained’ novel. You aren’t left with a cliff-hanger ending that is going to require you to play the game or read another novel. You can download a sample chapter from http://dragonage.bioware.com/noveltst.html
I hope the author, David Gaider, focuses on more novel writing, and less game writing. I’d love to read more from him!