Just like when I spot a Mass Effect book on Netgalley, I can’t help myself if I see anything related to Dragon Age either! This book is actually a collection of the three current graphic novels, with extra notes and annotation. I’m going to split my review and discuss each chapter separately – but firstly I have to say how much I LOVE the cover. It’s so wonderful seeing those familiar characters in a different style of media, particularly as when I imagine them in my head, all I can see is their pixelated selves. And not only that, but I would happily frame and display the full page art in between chapters on my wall, it’s so gorgeous.
The Silent Grove
Firstly, THIS BOOK CONFIRMS KING ALISTAIR AS CANON. YES. GET OUT, ALORA. That’s the only way it should go. Narrated by King Alistair of Ferelden, a character who should be familiar to anyone who has played Dragon Age: Origins, the story follows our bumbling former Grey Warden as he investigates a rumour. Except he’s not so bumbling any more. He’s quite a different character from the one in the game, but I interpreted that as having to adapt once he became king – and losing his lover. He mentions something about how he shouldn’t ‘be here alone’, which was a nice little nod to all who chose the route of marrying Alistair, and then frustratingly found out in the epilogue that their character ‘disappeared’ months later… There is one event in particular that truly confirms how much Alistair has changed. He’s still a gentleman, shown by a moment where he gives Isabela his cloak to keep her warm, but he is now rough and rugged, and has lost his baby faced looks.
But Alistair is not the only character in The Silent Grove! He is accompanied by Varric Tethras, a party member from Dragon Age II, and Isabela, who makes an appearance in both games. The dynamic between the three was pretty great, particularly Varric and Isabela’s friendship. There was one scene where the two dismantle traps together that clearly shows how easily their friendship comes to them, despite appearances. There are also references to other Dragon Age characters, for example Alistair noting how he is unable to buy a Qunari off with cookies – a direct nod to Sten.
Those Who Speak
Those Who Speak is the turn of Isabela, who narrates the events of this particular book, which immediately captures her character. She’s a tough lady with a hidden weakness, who doesn’t find it particularly easy to make friends. She’s comfortable with her sexuality, and also comfortable flaunting it. She even likes to tease, making regular digs at Alistair’s weight (I guess he did get beefier…), which shows she is at ease with him. However, she also has a dark side that she keeps hidden from sight.
This chapter involved a ball, which was a chance to show off some formal outfits – and truly wonderful they are too. Isabela’s in particular was a fantastic design, and I just cannot emphasise how much I absolutely LOVED the artwork of this entire book. It was consistently beautiful and detailed, even in action sequences and very brief shots.
It was actually particularly interesting to read about Isabela for me, as she’s never been a character I really connected with. I turned down her ‘offer’ in the first game, and actually killed her in the second after she betrayed me… so now I feel I know her a little better, and should perhaps give her another chance during my second playthrough of Dragon Age II.
Until We Sleep
Unfortunately, my galley copy actually stopped halfway through this chapter. I did get in touch with Netgalley, who contacted the publisher for me, but they never heard anything back which is a shame. So the rest of my review is based on what I could read – I do plan on buying this book one day, so I’ll finish the story off some time! Until We Sleep was narrated by Varric Tethras, another one of my favourite characters. This story revealed a transgender character, and the situation was dealt with well – no-one batted an eyelid at Mae’s decision or lifestyle, and neither should we.
If you know Varric, you know Bianca, his beloved crossbow. This story reveals the origins of Bianca, a sad tale that I’d like to read more about – even if it makes me sob! It was nice to see the back story of someone who might be considered a less major character (although Varric will be making a reappearance in Dragon Age Inquisition, yay!). Unfortunately, it didn’t feel as well ‘held together’ as the other two, and I don’t think that had anything to do with the fact that I only read half of it. That doesn’t mean it was in anyway bad though!
This is a series that is not afraid of showing its protagonists doing bad things or making bad choices – and for that, they seem all the more real. In true Dragon Age style, it features characters that you can’t help but feel attached to, and this time we get to learn even more about them. It tips its hat to the series in every way, making frequent references back to various parts of the games (“No-one flirts as badly as Alistair!”). The extra annotation and notes in this edition add a lot of depth to the creation of the series, and I can truly say it is an absolute treat for Dragon Age fans – highly recommended. Now roll on Dragon Age Inquisition!