01/03/2010. Contributed by Kelly Jensen
pub: TOR/Forge. 400 page enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US), $16.96 (CAN). ISBN: 978-07653-2408-5).
check out website: www.tor-forge.com
David Gaider is the lead writer for the Bioware game 'Dragon Age: Origins'. I've played a lot of computer games, but never before has one had such an emotional impact upon me. The story is completely immersive, the characters became real (thanks to the superior voice acting) and the dialogue choices inspire a more careful thought. As in reality, there are often choices that represent the lesser of two evils, rather than a clear-cut 'this is right and this is wrong' and every one of those choices will come back to haunt you as the plot unfolds. The cinematic finishing moves in combat and the plot driven cut scenes make the game an experience you're directly involved in. Why am I talking about the game so much? Because it's the reason I picked up this book. It's set in the same world and is the first of two prequels published so far.
I've not read a game tie-in novel before. It was a uniquely satisfying experience to read more about the history of a world I've been 'living' in for the past three months. It was also a surprisingly competent book, not that I doubted Gaider's ability to write, after all, the plot of the game is un-paralleled in my experience.
Set about forty years before the game opens, 'The Stolen Throne' tells the story of how King Maric Theirin came to the throne of Ferelden, which had been stolen and held for nearly a century by the neighbouring country of Orlais. Maric is the son of the 'Rebel Queen' and his entire life has been consumed with the effort of restoring the throne to the noble Theirin bloodline. After the death of his mother, Maric gathers together the remnants of the rebel army and fights against near impossible odds to restore his line to the throne. He is joined in battle by a cast of characters that have become legend in the game's timeline. The two most important being Rowan, his betrothed and future queen, and Loghain, who becomes a pivotal figure in the game itself.
Gaider sweeps together traditional fantasy elements - dwarves, elves and dragons, but gives them a unique twist that differentiates his world from the teeming masses in our bookstores. His dwarves are scheming backstabbers who will gladly visit mayhem and murder upon those who get in their way. The elves have suffered years of slavery and servitude at the hands of the humans. I recognised Gaider's touch in the story crafting and characterisations and it was clearly apparent in the difficult and often morally ambiguous decisions the characters must make. However, it's this very element that makes the fantasy world created by Gaider and his team at Bioware a more mature place to play in; one that's not always predictable and one that will continue to inspire readers and gamers alike.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA