The Silent Grove Vol.1

 As a huge Dragon Age fan, it was brilliant to come across a graphic novel that continued Alistair’s story.  He is absolutely my favourite character in the game and having more of him in an official and visual story makes me very happy.  The Silent Grove is set ten years after Dragon Age: Origins which keeps the timeline straight with Dragon Age 2.

If you have never played the game (and I highly recommend it), choices you make throughout means you can have several different endings/epilogues. I really liked the ending David Gaider decided to go forward with; Alistair Theirin as the King of Ferelden.  The nice touch is that you don’t get much more information than that, so it still leaves you with the mysteries and daydreams of ‘what happened next’.  Also, because I am an utter fangirl, I have to say the outcome where Alistair becomes King, with or without your character involved, is my favourite.

I loved the direction of this story, looking at the legend of King Maric, Alistair’s father.  It was good to see Alistair being more confident in himself but intrinsically still the same character I fell in love with.  Since you can’t have a Dragon Age story without companions, I think I might have squealed a little seeing Varric and Isabella involved, two of my favourite characters from Dragon Age 2! The interplay and banter between them was brilliant and true to character from the games.

Now I’m not an artist, nor a huge reader of comics and graphic novels but I thought the artwork by Chad Hardin was really nicely done.  A more mature version of Alistair (but still keeping the trademark hair!) sat well with me and both Isabella and Varric were just as I would have hoped for.  There were a couple of panels that didn’t follow on as I expected but I quickly figured out the right order.  The rest was smooth reading and my only other complaint is it wasn’t long enough!

I can’t wait for volume 2, and The Silent Grove Vol.1 is a must read for any Dragon Age fan.

Book Information
  • Author: David Gaider
  • Illustrator: Chad Hardin
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

 

Dragon Age: The Calling

The Grey Wardens are an Order of peerless warriors from all nations and walks of life, who sacrifice themselves to protect the continent of Thedas from the all consuming Darkspawn Blights.  200 years ago, the order was expelled from Ferelden after a rebellion and now are seeking to return.  This is their chance to restore their lost honour and to once again do their duty and prevent Ferelden from becoming a tainted wasteland.

King Maric knows more than most, how vital the the Grey Wardens are, and when they appeal to him for entry to Ferelden and explain their mission, he unexpectedly agrees to accompany them.  Something once told to him by the Witch of the Korcari Wilds means he must go, but in truth since the death of his wife two years earlier, he hasn’t really been alive.  Neither his love for his young son, Prince Cailan, nor the bond that remains between himself and Teyrn Loghain can hold him back. The Grey Wardens live on borrowed time, because of the taint they take into their bodies.  When their Calling comes, they go to the dwarven Deep Roads, seeking death amongst the darkspawn.    Even the most senior Grey Warden can’t avoid it and there is a strong suspicion that the former Commander might have been captured or turned traitor when his time came.  He was one of the few privy to knowledge that could have devastating consequences and the Wardens must find him before the threat of a new Blight could rise.

Just a small recap about what I said about tie-ins from the review of Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne.

I think this is the first time I’ve ever read original stories based on a game.  Let me touch on the game as it has had such a big impact on me and my imagination.  The game is Bioware’s Dragon Age and is a single player RPG (on PC/PS3/Xbox).  It comes from the same people that made Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic among others and something Bioware is very, very good at, is creating a game that immerses you not only in the story but the characters as well.  Dragon Age is quite simply one of the best games I have ever played (and still playing repeatedly because of the many different outcomes you can get through different choices!).

The Stolen Throne is an original story written by one the lead story writer of the game, set earlier than Dragon Age: Origins but featuring people you know about through the historical snippets you learn in game.  A very nice touch.

As I mentioned when I reviewed Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, I feel I can’t really view the book impartially and separate it from what I would say was a good fantasy novel, because of its connection to a game I happen to love.  However, since I was extremely engaged and entertained by it, I felt it deserved a review just as the first one did.

The Calling is technically a sequel to The Stolen Throne, as it takes place a number of years after the liberation of Ferelden and Maric is still King.  That it focuses on the Grey Wardens is the exciting part as in Dragon Age: Origins, you play a Grey Warden and are faced with direct consequences from this book as well as meet some of the same characters.

I actually felt this book was the more emotional of the two, knowing the hard choices that Grey Wardens must make to keep people safe yet never be thanked for it.  It did have all of the heart, action, sacrifice and heroism that both the first book and the game do and it was extremely gripping on top of that.

My complaint from the first book about overuse of certain phrases was much less prevalent in this one, although it did still crop up occasionally.

The characters again were wonderful, it was good to be back with Maric once more, although bittersweet as he had lost his zest for life.  You felt for him as he went through the motions but it was great seeing him come back to life again.  You meet Duncan as a young man of about 18, which intrigued me no end.  If you’ve played the game, you will know who Duncan is and why it made me very excited.  If you haven’t, then he is still a wonderful and integral character you will come to love.  This book made me laugh quite a lot from the comments and banter between the characters and also want to cry as certain events came to pass.  I felt it was well written and had enough twists and turns to keep you gripped yet simple enough to follow even without prior knowledge from the game itself.

I do have to touch on the ending.  Okaaaay, didn’t see that coming!  Although there are no names attached, you know who it has to be and well… woah!

Just like Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, if you are a fan of the game, you really have to read this.  If you aren’t, read it and hopefully it will get you into the game.  It really is that good!

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gaider
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne

The Rebel Queen of Ferelden has fought the occupying Orlesians for the entirety of her lifetime in exile, raising her son Prince Maric to know the uneasy life of regularly moving camps or relying on sympathetic Fereldens to help shelter what army they could gather together.  With a mad Orlesian placed on her Throne, the unstable Usurper King Meghren, is obsessed with bringing Ferelden to her knees under his Iron Fist and destroying the rebel forces.

When betrayal strikes from within, Maric is lost, alone and reeling from anger and grief. Trying to survive and find his way back to the remnants of his mother’s army, he finds the most unexpected of things.  A friend in the form of an outlaw, Loghain Mac Tir.  With Loghain’s help, Maric is reunited with his betrothed, the Lady Rowan and together the three of them set about achieving the impossible.  Freeing their beloved Ferelden.

I often read movie or TV Series tie-ins after watching them, I like to see more in depth what is going on in the character’s heads along with what we see on screen.  Sometimes I will also read original stories that are based in the universe of the series or film and while some are spot on, others can be a bit ‘off’, as well known and loved characters do something that is completely out of character.  Thankfully those are few and far between.

I think this is the first time I’ve ever read original stories based on a game.  Let me touch on the game as it has had such a big impact on me and my imagination.  The game is Bioware’s Dragon Age and is a single player RPG (on PC/PS3/Xbox).  It comes from the same people that made Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic amongst others.  Something Bioware is very, very good at, is creating a game that immerses you not only in the story but the characters as well.  Dragon Age is quite simply one of the best games I have ever played (and still playing repeatedly because of the many different outcomes you can get through different choices!).

The Stolen Throne is an original story written by one the lead story writers of the game, set earlier than Dragon Age: Origins but featuring people you know about through the historical snippets you learn in game.  A very nice touch.

As a fantasy book in its own it is probably okay, but it is very hard for me to be impartial, because I love it so much due to its connection with the game.

There were a few things that niggled me and would in any book I read, the main one being the overuse of certain phrases.  Yes they have dramatic impact the first couple of times, but the fourth or fifth time, not so much.

Having got that out of the way, I can quite simply say, I loved it.  So many things I love in a book were present – heart, love, heroism, sacrifice and most importantly, solid believable characters who you can not only empathise with but grow to love.  Another nice touch was how alike some of the characters are to their relations that appear later in the game.  It made me giggle a few times.

Technically the plot is one you already have an idea about (if you have played Dragon Age) but I was surprised at how many things got there in unexpected ways.  Reading as the events unfold are very different than reading it as part of history.  The not so nice things tend to get left unmentioned.

Something I did think was clever were events that looked like they would create an imbalance between book and game, maybe not such a big deal to some but to me it felt that if the telling of the story would make something that happened in the game impossible, then that was not a good thing.  I felt the clever part came in how the writer got from a to the correct b and the time-line preserved.  It surprised me a couple of times I admit.

I think all I can say is, if you are a fan of Dragon Age, I can’t recommend The Stolen Throne enough.  If you have never heard of it before, it could be a bit confusing but I still think it would be a good read.  And then play the game!

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gaider
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)