Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne

Dragon Age Stolen Throne Cover

With BioWare's new epic, Dragon Age: Origins, only about a week away from release, it was about high time to finish the prequel novel I had sitting on my coffee table, Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne. BioWare is doing some massive world-building for the series and The Stole Throne is about a major political event that happened about thirty years before the events of the first game. It follows three heroes: Maric, Loghain, and Rowan, and their tireless quest to overthrow the usurper that has stolen the throne from the rightful family. And as the book opens with the death of Maric's mother, the Rebel Queen Moira, the role of rightful king falls right onto Maric's soldiers.

The Stolen Throne spans a few years of time from the death of the Rebel Queen to its climax. It spends its pages not only trying to establish a few corners of Ferelden, but also to characterize the young heroes. We watch them all grow up, especially Maric, who starts out as a foolish prince and ends as a man who would make for a fine king. And since our heroic trio seem to be in that hormone-raging age of the late teen years, there's no lack of love triangles (or even quadrangles?). This is by no means a romance novel though, but more of A Game of the Thrones-lite.

Here's my review of Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, the prequel novel to the video game Dragon Age: Origins.

Similar to the Mass Effect novels, The Stolen Throne focuses on characters who will not be the main heroes of the video game. This is done for a variety of reasons, and I suppose the most likely is that they want the player to be able to tell their own stories without having it already written for them. Additionally, they won't feel like the novels are required reading to play the game. This leaves me with a certain disconnect though, as once I finished the book and checked out Origins online, I was disappointed to see that probably only one main character will be featured in the game and you most likely will never have him in your party. I understand that they're trying to establish a setting and a major event in that world's history, but you get connected to these characters and want to see more of them. I suppose it doesn't help though that the book's epilogue is set somewhere between the book and game and quickly sums up the lives of our trio including a sad death of one of them.

The differences between the hard science fiction universe of Mass Effect and the light fantasy world of Dragon Age become quite apparent after comparing their novels. In Mass Effect, everything has an explanation, but in The Stolen Throne, wizards can use magic for no apparent reason. The book just says there's a circle of wizards and they all have magical powers, and its swept away. I just finished reading the Mistborn trilogy which spent chapter upon chapter exploring its magical system, and I'm also a huge fan of The Wheel of Time series and its One Power, which I could write a thesis on it's so deep. So maybe I'm just expecting way too much, but at least throw us a bone. If you're trying to be like A Game of Thrones, then just do it and don't have any magic at all (egad, imagine a fantasy video game without magic!). Hopefully the game has some explanation for the magic of the world.

BioWare's world of Dragon Age doesn't take many risks in terms of races and locations, it's almost a strict copy of Lord of the Rings featuring dwarves, elves, and the Mines of Moria-like Deep Roads. This is standard fare for many fantasy worlds though, so it's not entirely unexpected. Elves aren't the high and noble race we're mostly familiar with though, and are instead considered second-class citizens and relegated to slums of major cities. It's not played out too much in the novel besides them acting subservient, but I am interested to see if it's a major plot point in the game.

The Stolen Throne is a well paced book, and its growth of the main characters really drive it along. There's plenty of action, light-hearted jokes, and a bit of young adult romance, but I'm still trying to decide how necessary it is to read before playing the game, or ever. It's pretty unoriginal material and the Dragon Age world isn't as fleshed out as I would like to have read. The book could basically be a stand-alone novel in some other fantasy world for all I know. The world's most interesting concept, the Grey Wardens, aren't mentioned in the book at all as far as I can remember, even though the main character of Dragon Age: Origins is a member of their rank. Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne is a missed opportunity, in my opinion, hopefully the game isn't either.

Note: The second Dragon Age book has just been released, titled Dragon Age: The Calling. It is set about 15 years after the events of The Stolen Throne, and deals with the Grey Wardens, might be just the book I need to quench my thirst before I pick up the game around Christmas.

Dragon Age Stolen Throne Loghain
Loghain from Dragon Age: Origins