Dragon Age: Asunder is the third novel set within the world of Dragon Age written by the video game’s lead writer David Gaider. Unlike those two prior works, Stolen Throne and The Calling, Asunder takes place about a year after the conclusion of Dragon Age II and almost ten years after The Warden’s triumph in Origins.
Asunder transports us to a new area of Thedas, the Orlesian Empire, with the action initially taking place within the region’s capital of Val Royeaux. Things start off at the White Spire home of the Orlesian Mage’s Circle, where we witness the latest in a series of murders. The investigation of those murders and the curious nature of the murderer are the initial threads that draw the book’s main characters together.
The political backdrop for the tale is introduced at a masked ball in the city where the guest of honour is none other than Justinia V, Divine of The Chantry. Guarding the Divine is the first of the novel’s trio of lead characters, Ser Evangeline, a Knight-Captain of The Templars, whose relationships form the human-scale core of the tale allowing us to better relate to the broader political environment.[drop2]The other two characters making up the trio are both mages within the local Circle, Rhys and Adrian. Long-time friends, and almost much more, Rhys has a unique insight into the murders taking place within the White Spire and Adrian has a fiery temperament, matching her shock of red curly hair, and is a vocal proponent of the mages gaining independence from their Templar overseers.
The murders bring the three together with suspicion falling on Rhys, leading to him being consigned to the Spire’s dungeon. However, he is granted a temporary release when events of greater import, as well as the appearance of some familiar faces from Origins, sees them all head deep into the Orlesian wastelands.
Their task is to attempt the rescue of a Tranquil, a mage stripped of their powers and emotions, who has been conducting experiments in an ancient Grey Warden fortress. What they discover there is a catalyst for dramatic political changes that set the scene for the third game.
The fact that this novel, unlike the first two, takes place after the two games means that while it is the official story of the events in the world of Dragon Age it may differ in some key areas to the story that you have created through your actions in the games. In fact, at least one of the characters returning from Origins may not have even survived your adventure in Ferelden.
How much that will matter to you is of course down to you as an individual but if you are a fan of Dragon Age then there is a lot here to like. Aside from the returning characters you will learn more about Orlais and the internal politics of the Mage’s Circles. Not only do the Templars feature heavily but there’s also a good amount about the Seekers of Truth, who have previously only only via their interrogation of Varric that frames the story of Dragon Age II.
David Gaider’s writing makes for an easy, uncomplicated and entertaining read, though there are a couple of moments when it seems as if the narration has skipped a bit of exposition leading you to do a bit of a double-take as a reader. However, any confusion is momentary and resolved within a couple of paragraphs as people and events fall back into place.
The story is well paced; there aren’t any chapters or acts that seem to either out-stay their welcome or be needlessly rushed. That said the last half dozen or so chapters seemed to flash by as the story reached its crescendo, but that is far from a criticism. Rather it is a sign of how much I was enjoying the story and was eager to find out what would happen to all the principle characters.[boxout]For fans of the Dragon Age games and the fantasy world they exist within I can wholeheartedly recommend this book. The story shows the far-reaching implications of the events at the culmination of Dragon Age II, events that many players thought of little consequence given the narrow geographical focus of the game, and sets the political scene for Dragon Age 3. For that alone it may well be worthy of your time, far more so than the previous two novels.