Posted on March 14, 2011 by Matt-M-McElroy
Available at Amazon.com
When I first read Dragon Age: The Calling, I hadn’t played any of the Dragon Age video games (although I did start playing Dragon Age: Origins for my PS3). My experiences with the Dragon Age setting was from playing a few sessions of the Dragon Age RPG that is published by Green Ronin and reading a few of the IDW Comics. The setting was what hooked me enough to pick up this novel and dive into the world.
David Gaider had written a previous Dragon Age novel, called The Stolen Throne, which I haven’t read yet. From reading the synopsis, my understanding is that story pre-dates the Blight, so it provides a different type of background for the series. There’s a gap between the two novels as well; this one focuses primarily on King Maric and how he came to power. I’m guessing readers who’ve read that novel might get more out of this story, but Dragon Age: The Calling stands up well enough on its own to be a fun read regardless.
The story starts out strong but then drags in the middle. This style of writing gives the reader a chance to get to know the primary characters, a band of Grey Wardens along with a few others, before jumping into more steady action scenes. For me, the somewhat slower pacing at the beginning of the story allowed me to explore the world of Ferelden as I went along. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything (which sometimes can happen with tie-in media).
The strong character development and distinct personalities of Gaider’s protagonists is the best part of this novel. Duncan, one of the youngest Grey Wardens at the start of the story and King Maric, not a Grey Warden, but important to the mission the group is undertaking, are probably the best developed characters in the story. Duncan’s efforts to avoid anything resembling actual work, as well as sneaking around a bit to see what he can steal, are entertaining. King Maric getting the Wardens to tell tales and share some nasty Dwarven brew around a campfire was one of my favorite scenes early on.
If you’ve played Dragon Age: Origins, you might be interested in picking this up to learn more about Duncan, Loghain and King Maric. Mind you, these events take place several years before the start of the game, so really, the narrative is more back story to flesh out your knowledge of the Grey Wardens and how they came back to Ferelden. If you like Leliana, there’s also a few characters in the novel from Orlais, like Fiona and Remille. Going back through this story, it’s interesting to read how Gaider describes some of the places and fight scenes that are so vivid on the screen.
As far as tie-in novels go, the structure and the thought that went into this series was done pretty well. Since these are prequels, the continuity is strong and linear and really helps flesh out the time period leading up to the Blight. So, if you like dark fantasy with an epic feel, then I think you’d really enjoy Dragon Age: The Calling.
Review by Matt M McElroy