Three months ago, I discovered Dragon Age: Origins, a dark epic fantasy video game set in the kingdom of Ferelden. I will likely review it at length later to share the extent of my feelings on the game, but to put it in perspective, I’ve played through it three and half times (well over 200 hours) in three months, along with its two sequels. The world, characters, and story are so captivating that I easily get lost in it even after playing it so much in quick succession.
The Stolen Throne is a prequel to Origins, depicting the adventures of Prince Maric Theirin as he unites a rebellion to overthrow the Orlesian usurper to the Ferelden throne (SPOILER WARNING). I was particularly excited to read this book to get a taste for the expanded lore of the Dragon Age universe and to get better acquainted with some of these legendary characters. As a tie-in novel, it certainly plays a key part in adding to the experience of playing the game, particularly with its portrayal of Loghain. He and Rowan are easily the best and most interesting characters in the novel.
Sadly, that doesn’t say much for the other characters, including the unfortunate protagonist, Maric. Rowan and Loghain are the only ones who get the semblance of a character arc and undergo any believable, gradual growth throughout the story. Everyone else either comes across as flat, cartoonish, or in Maric’s case, shifts character so rapidly and drastically that I felt as though there were a few chapters missing. Gaider’s use of multiple perspectives also felt unnecessary, with the reader gaining little value from Severan’s perspective that they couldn’t easily get from the rebels eventually. I may have forgiven Maric more for falling for Katriel like a blockhead if I didn’t know from the start that she was a bard plotting his demise.
But the real seed of disappointment blooms at the novel’s conclusion, in which Gaider somehow forgot how to write a climax. Knowing a little about Dragon Age lore prior to reading the book, I understood that the events that should have taken place at the end of the book were the most crucial for the rebellion, and therefore should have been the most exciting. But just when you get ready to push the awesome button… it all stops. The climax is glossed over in an epilogue of Mother Ailis (who I was pretty sure should’ve been dead by that point) telling the story to Prince Cailan, Maric’s son. I can think of no logical reason why you would throw away the most important and exciting part of your story, and it made me want to scream. Unfortunately, given the ending of Dragon Age: Inquisition, I’m not surprised. In both cases, I felt like I was back in high school reading the end of Breaking Dawn and questioning what I was doing with my life.
Now, it’s been a while since I’ve finished writing something, but I’ve seen and heard enough about good writing to know that you don’t waste your ending. It’s one thing to build a cliffhanger to lead into a sequel, but it’s another thing entirely to walk away and leave it to die because you got distracted by something shiny.