Anyone familiar with the Bioware Dragon Age franchise will be able to anticipate what Asunder by lead writer David Gaider promises to deliver. Having played Origins and Dragon Age II myself, I opened the book prepared to delve into the fantastical political drama and Mage/Templar conspiratorial battlefield explored in the games.
Fans of the franchise will already be well familiar with Gaider’s work, and the book certainly doesn’t disappoint.
The most exciting thing I can say about Asunder is also the most important – that it was written by Gaider as supplementary lore taking place after the events seen in Dragon Age II Act 3, and before Varric’s interrogation that foreshadows your accomplishments within the game. The French inspired locals Orlais and Val Royeaux are set to be the focus of Dragon Age: Inquisition, and thus Asunder prepares the reader for the new (and I hear, massive) setting we can expect to explore in the future.
Having played as a Mage sympathizer throughout the games, I was pleased to enjoy the book through a mage protagonist Rhys – a ‘guest’ of the Chantry and victim of the oppressive measures enacted after the disasters of Kirkwall.
Rhys is simultaneously practical, skeptical, and strong. His company is comprised of several characters of varying personalities, including a serious but compassionate Templar, and a hotheaded Mage friend from the Circle. Gaider’s novel encompasses several mysteries and compounding social and political pressures that make the stories in the original games so successful.
Familiar foes and faces appear, including golems, demons, a swarthy array of races, the fade, and, without wanting to give anything away, an incredibly tantalizing dilemma involving the process of Tranquility.
Gaider handles the book in much the same way one would expect to play the games. The group of adventurers rarely see eye to eye on many of the problems they encounter, and the suspense keeps Rhys on his toes as he struggles to maintain a tenuous truce amidst rising Templar/Mage friction.
Despite having been unimpressed with Dragon Age: II, I found myself putting down the book repeatedly in favor of returning to the game for brief stints. The book succeeds in wetting my appetite, and I am eagerly in anticipation of the next installment.
Gaider possesses a skill for bringing the lore of the games alive that I’ve yet to encounter in many fan fiction lore supplements, including World of Warcraft fiction, which I often abandoned because the prose felt lacking and didn’t challenge my imagination.
It was refreshing to encounter an author capable of competing with the impressive graphics enjoyed in the Dragon Age franchise by truly breathing life into the world of Thedas, and no matter what you thought about DA:II, I’m confident that Asunder will appeal to a wide variety of Fantasy fans and reignite the spark of excitement in the Bioware soon-to-be trilogy. Asunder is neither pandering, nor fluff, and I would be remiss if I did not state that I hope one day David Gaider further explores his capabilities in universes outside that of Thedas. He has earned a fan in me, and I would like to see what more he is capable of.
Whether you’ve played the games, only casually considered the idea, or never heard of them at all, Gaider’s novel Asunder is an easy going page turner capable of standing alone, and shedding light on the exciting adventures we can look forward to when Bioware releases Inquisition.
Disclaimer: My copy of Dragon Age: Asunder was provided for review. David Gaider, Titan Books, RRP £6.99.