Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne Review

Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne by David Gaider

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!

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16 thoughts on “Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne Review

  1. Have been eagerly anticipating this game, and thanks to your review I am seriously thinking of getting it. I’m guessing I’m going to love it seeing as I read the Baldur’s Gate 2 manual completely through about 3 times. 😀

  2. Interesting, good catch. I did enjoy the first Mass Effect prequel novel but keep forgetting to get the second one when I’m at B&N. Can’t say Dragon Age the game is doing much for me, but I might be interested in reading the novel. How would you rate the world lore? Color-by-numbers Euro-fantasy or does it have some unique takes on things?

  3. I wouldn’t say the lore is the strong draw here. As I mentioned, elves are 2nd class citizens, and any dwarves seen above ground are outcasts (and there’s a band of dwarves that borrows heavily from the Slayer cult in Warhammer). Magic is more or less used as a source of healing most of the time, allowing the characters to get wounded frequently, 🙂 but not otherwise playing a major role. Beyond that it’s fairly standard stuff. Weapons are pretty standard swords, shields, bows and armor. Very much a feudal political system.

    The draw of the story is the characters, though, to be sure. Watching them all grow into their places in the world, and watching how their relationships change, for better and for worse.

  4. The author seems to be someone who’s also writing for the game? I just went and had a brief poke-around, and am now considering applying my inept self for the toolset beta. The way RL work is these days though, I wouldn’t be able to do much if they *did* pick me. (Which is ok. Right now, work >>>> any kind of beta.)

    I’ll keep an eye out for that book next time I’m on one of my Half Price Books splurges. 😀

  5. Hrm, I just had a closer look at that game the book is based on, and I have to thank you for the nudge to do that. If I understand what I’m reading, it looks like it may be similar to NWN1 (not surprising, given that it’s BioWare) — which I would LOVE to see because of the multiplayer, make your own adventure stuff. I won’t mention NWN2 because it was poo.

  6. Yeah, the author is lead writer for Dragon Age and is a Bioware employee (and has been for 9 years). As far as I can tell, this is his first published novel.

    I’m hoping the toolset will allow for a small-scale persistent world, the way the NWN toolset did! *crosses fingers*

  7. So is this supposed to be a multi-player game, since you’re mentioning persistent worlds and such? I only saw one video of it a long time ago and they seemed to be putting an awful lot of emphasis on pausing the game and scrolling the room around to plan attacks. Pausing and multi-player don’t get along well, so I was curious about that.

  8. @Scott — from what I could find out today, DA:O isn’t going to be multi-player. Whether later titles under the same franchise would or wouldn’t be is something they’re being very cagey about, unless I just didn’t know where to look. The impression I formed (through nothing but speculation) is that they may well have multi-playerishness in mind, or even being worked on, but they’re not saying anything about it and it pretty much certainly (?) won’t be part of the initial release.

    I was going to say that making such a complex toolset and limiting everyone to single-player mode kind of goes against the good stuff they did with NWN1, so I’d expect multiplayer at some point, but who knows.

  9. I am looking forward for DA:O. Love a good single player RPG. The book sounds good. It also got a few good reviews on Amazon. This part of a review stood out:

    “Full disclosure: I loathe western fantasy. Each time I read a book about complex medieval political intrigue, magical wizards, prancing elves, an ancient prophecy or some idiot dark lord- I run in the opposite direction- screaming. This book I was utterly entertained by.”

    I may need to pick this book up.

  10. That’s kinda why I asked if Dragon Age was “color-by-number Euro-fantasy” although I’d be curious, since the author specifically said “western fantasy,” what type of fantasy he does read?

  11. I *think* what he meant was that the protagonists aren’t on a quest to get the Glowing Amulet of Uberness, nor have they set off to kill Foozle the Wizard. So in that respect, it isn’t like typical “quest” fantasy. I’m guessing, of course.

    I’m not really sure what you mean by color-by-number Euro-Fantasy, but my best guess is that it is and you should probably avoid this particular book. If you mean a world with a basically feudal system where war is waged with bows and swords, then yes, it is. (But then, that same description could be applied to feudal Japan too, couldn’t it?)

  12. Without going into a dissertation, I suppose I could just say that if New Fantasy Lore #58721 is directly analogous to Tolkien (perhaps lump Forgotten Realms in there too), then it’s color-by-numbers Euro-fantasy. Elves are just like Tolkien. Dwarves are just like Tolkien. Dark Lord who is evil “just because” like Tolkien. Wizards throwing around spells willy-nilly… not so much Tolkien but pretty much ever other high fantasy setting.

    Unlike the Amazon reviewer, I do welcome the political intrigue because the subplots can be more interesting than “there’s the Dark Lord, let’s beat up his army and kill him!” However, I will also acknowledge that it seems every single fantasy novel released these days goes that route and it starts seeming like each novel is a re-hashed version of the last one, the only differences being the characters’ names and hair color. Kinda like those Harlequin Romances my mom used to read…


  13. My original point though was that when I read his statement that he specifically dislikes “western fantasy” I wondered what else is there? I naturally made the novel to game correlation and compared Western fantasy games (RPGs, whatever) to the Eastern equivalent. I’m really not sure I could withstand reading a novel about androgynous spiky-haired tween heroes who hold high ranks in the military are saving the world while swinging swords twice their height against the evil adult “I’m not bad, I’m just misunderstood. Strike that, I’m bad after all,” antagonist who killed his girlfriend who wasn’t really his girlfriend because the other girl is his true love but he can never get over the murdered one.


  14. Scott, you just made a Cloud fanboy somewhere cry. Meanie. 😉

    I might just have to check out this book as well. At least, at the library. I’m cheap. Thanks for the review, Pete!

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