Regular readers may remember my enthusiasm surrounding the first Dragon Age novel, The Stolen Throne, by David Gaider. I found it to be an entertaining stand-alone fantasy novel and its tie to a video game irrelevant. So it was with great anticipation that I picked up Gaider’s second DA novel, The Calling. I’m sad to say, this second book lived down to the general reputation of books based on games.
A lot of things went wrong here. My guess is that Gaider was under a lot of pressure to get the book out before the game, and it shows in sloppy editing leading to cringe-worthy sentences like “Holding up his hand, a surge of black energy surged out of him and lanced toward Fiona.” There are also lots of incongruous shifts in POV and characters reading each other’s thoughts via steely eyed glances and such.
Second, the plot is extremely one dimensional and honestly not very interesting. This is the most basic of “Quest” novels. A group consisting of Human/Dwarf/Elf Fighters/Thieves/Mages have to enter the Deep Roads (a series of tunnels first encountered in The Stolen Throne) to stop a Foozle. *yawn* The book was so clearly designed to showcase the races and classes of the game that it felt like one long chunk of marketing copy. The vast bulk of the book has our Group roaming through the underworld fighting Darkspawn.
Thirdly, even if you can get past the lack of editing and wafer-thin plot, the characters’ motives often make no sense. Without spoiling anything, one character in particular suddenly betrays the group and we never understand why (or at least I never did, perhaps I missed the one nuance in the entire book).
The epilogue is equally bizarre and I have to assume will make sense once I play the game.
Mike Stackpole says everyone has one novel in them and the real challenge is being able to go back and do it all over again once that first novel is out. Here’s hoping David Gaider has more than one in him and that he just faltered here due to time pressures (after all he is lead writer on the game and so must have had a very busy year; The Stolen Throne came out only last March). I’m not ready to give up on him yet!
Read The Calling only if you’re a huge fan of Dragon Age: Origins and want to dig deeper into the lore of the world, and in particular the Gray Wardens. But don’t read it for the story; it’s just not worth your time.