June 19th, 2009

Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne coverI am not ashamed to say it: I like books based on video game universes. Reading Fall of Reach was integral to my enjoyment of the story told in the Halo trilogy. So too did having read Revelation bolster my appreciation for what occurred in Mass Effect. My want for Mass Effect 2 after reading the second book, Ascension, could not be greater. I don’t need to see trailers or hear about how the graphics engine and gameplay have been changed for the sequel; I’m invested in the fiction. That is all the hype that I need. I was an understandably easy sell, then, when I heard earlier this year that Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, a novel based on Dragon Age: Origins and written by the game’s lead writer David Gaider, would be released.

David Gaider, the author.You might be asking yourself, “is the name David Gaider supposed to mean something to me?” Maybe, but I won’t blame you if it doesn’t; it didn’t to me, at first. But I did some research. It turns out that he’s a BioWare veteran, having worked there as a staff writer since 1999. Gaider has written for Baldur’s Gate II and its expansion, Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic (for which he wrote Carth Onasi), and also for Neverwinter Nights. That kind of resume earns him instant and plentiful respect as a writer, as far as I’m concerned; Carth Onasi alone is one of the most interesting characters to ever come out of a video game. Although writing back-story and dialogue for video game characters is something different from writing a novel, David Gaider has delivered with Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne.

The language used in the marketing for Dragon Age: Origins has made strides to popularize certain terms such as “low fantasy” and “dark heroic fantasy”, so I made a point of keeping these terms in mind during my reading of Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne. I don’t think they’re lying; many of the events in this story are messed up. Rebel Queen Moira, the mother of Prince Maric (the book’s main character), is violently murdered on the first page. Within the next eight pages, Maric is smashing the head of one of her attackers into a tree root repeatedly. From that point forward, Maric is on the run for a good portion of the story. He meets new companions along the way and eventually reunites with and takes charge of his mother’s rebel army; their purpose is to remove the Orlesian usurper, King Meghren, from Queen Moira’s former throne, so that Prince Maric may take his place.

Much of what occurs in Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne will likely be used referentially, for the most part, when it comes to the video game. I would surmise that Dragon Age: Origins’ story picks up at least twenty years after the events in The Stolen Throne, based on what’s known about some of the game’s characters. But I can say with confidence that David Gaider, with this prequel novel, has succeeded in crafting, introducing me to and familiarizing me with Ferelden and its history. If you are one of the many who is planning on playing Dragon Age: Origins, I would urge you to do yourself a favor and consider giving Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne a chance.