01/03/2010. Contributed by Kelly Jensen
pub: TOR. 320 page paperback. Price: $14.99 (US), $18.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-2409-2).
check out website: www.tor-forge.com
'The Calling' is the sequel to 'The Stolen Throne'. Both books are set in the world created by Bioware for the game 'Dragon Age: Origins'. Having professed my love of the game in my review of 'The Stolen Throne', I will get on with the business of simply reviewing this sequel here.
Set about fourteen years after King Maric re-takes his throne, 'The Calling' introduces the Grey Wardens. Formed during the first Blight, the wardens are an order of elite soldiers dedicated to protecting humanity from the darkspawn. In a secret ritual known only to the wardens, a recruit imbibes a potion made up of darkspawn blood. If they survive, they become immune to the taint and are able to sense the presence of the darkspawn. The price is great, however, as they themselves will succumb to the taint in around thirty years, when they hear the calling. A warden then journeys to the Deep Roads where the darkspawn dwell with the intention of falling in battle before the taint takes them fully.
'The Calling' introduces Duncan, the first important character you meet in the game. He has only been a warden for six months and, in the company of his commander, has journeyed back to Ferelden on a delicate mission. The Grey Wardens have been exiled from Ferelden for two hundred years and now they seek King Maric's permission to enter the Deep Roads after one of their own and they want the king to come with them.
As a fan of this world, I found this book utterly compelling. The insight into Duncan's youth and how he became a Grey Warden are enough reason to read 'The Calling', but there is so much more going on. We gain more insight into Loghain's manic obsession with the neighbouring country of Orlais and see his relationship with Maric further erode. We learn the possible cause of the first Blight to occur in Thedas in over four hundred years. There is also a strong possibility of learning the identity of Alistair's mother, a seemingly minor tid-bit of information that is likely reason enough for any fan of the game to pick up the book.
Most importantly, however, we are introduced to the Architect, the darkspawn who talks. Billed as the next great evil, players will get to meet the Architect for themselves in the next expansion to the game, 'Awakenings'.
Besides being another game tie-in novel, however, 'The Calling' is another great book. The story itself is in turns exciting and heart-wrenching as you truly get to know each member of the band that travels into the Deep Roads with Maric and Duncan. Once again, Gaider's characterisations are recognisable and spot on, and their individual stories will play out over the course of their journey.
I hope this is not the last 'Dragon Age' novel we see from Mr. Gaider and the recent announcement of a full sequel to the game (due 2011) hopefully indicates it will not be.
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