Beckett: Review – Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne

Author: David Gaider
Publisher: Tor Books, 2009
Rating: 4/5 stars

The Bottom Line

Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne begins the tale of the entire Dragon Age video game franchise. The book takes place prior to the video game, Dragon Age: Origins, which the gamer plays as the Hero of Fereldan during the Fifth Blight. Some reviews complain of Gaider’s lack of explanation of certain lore in the Dragon Age universe, such as: What is the Chantry? What are Darkspawn? What is a Blight? And other complaints.

However, I would argue this book—and those that follow—is primarily written for a specific audience, particularly the Dragon Age community. I do not think this book and its sequels were intended for just anybody to pick up as a new fantasy novel to read. I believe it was written for the Dragon Age audience—those who are already fans of the universe and are familiar with its lore. So, it would make little sense for Gaider to spend extra time explaining nearly every lore piece. The book is long enough as it is (450 pages in the edition I read), and such pedantic writing would make the book annoying to read. If such extra lore reading is desired, perhaps there could be endnotes, but even that is still pedantically annoying. I myself hate the use of endnotes in academic writings (I prefer footnotes).

Overall, I highly recommend this book to Dragon Age fans who have a high appreciation for its lore, especially for those who would like to learn about the famed King Maric and his story of how he came to be known as “Maric the Saviour.”

Review

The Stolen Throne is essentially the origin story of Maric Theirin. It begins with throwing the reader into the high tensions between the kingdom of Fereldan and the empire of Orlais. The Rebel Queen, Moira Theirein, is assassinated by the Orlesian King, Meghren, who usurps her throne. The young Prince Maric narrowly escapes and begins his long journey on his duty to become the king of Fereldan—to fill in the large shoes of his now dead mother.

Approximately the first quarter of the book deals with Maric’s hesitation and lack of desire to fulfil his expected duties as king, as well as to continue Fereldan’s rebellion against the oppressive Orlais. Early on in his journey, he also meets the abrasive Loghain Mac Tir, infamous for his betrayal against Maric’s son, Cailan, which we witness in DA: Origins. We meet Loghain as a hotheaded outlaw who saves Maric’s life. The large gap that is between Maric’s and Loghain’s personality types can be quite comical at times.

Loghain could be described as the type who makes decisions based solely on facts and logical reasoning, whereas Maric relies more on his feelings and experiences. While this gets Maric into trouble a lot, their two personalities help balance each other out. Although the two of them often butt heads and disagree a lot with each other on important matters, they both have a deep respect for each other.

As I learnt more about Loghain’s history and personality, I actually developed a certain respect for him in spite of his massive betrayal at the start of the gaming franchise. Having had to deal with him “personally” as the Hero of Fereldan, I had a deep hatred for the man. Regardless how you might feel about Loghain, he is a man of duty. He takes his duty seriously, which is odd for a former outlaw. He had a deep sense of duty not only to Fereldan, but also to his close friend, Maric. Having experienced Loghain’s deep sense of duty in the book, I can somewhat empathise with his actions that take place in DA: Origins.

After Maric was lost at sea on a voyage to Wycome and was later presumed dead (in spite of rumours that he was alive as a prisoner in Orlais), his son, Cailan, assumed the throne. Cailan was inexperienced and naïve. I think Loghain still felt a deep sense of duty not only to Fereldan, but also to his king and close friend, Maric, with a deep respect for his aspirations. Not living up to his father’s legacy, it is possible that Logahin’s frustration with Cailan led him toward such drastic actions as to betray the very kingdom he loved. Then again, in Loghain’s perspective, he truly believed he was doing what was best for Fereldan. While I despise what he did in DA: Origins, I can respect his sense of duty to king and country.

Another character can be respected for her duty to king and country: Rowan Guerrin, Maric’s close friend and betrothed. Maric and Rowan were close friends before his mother’s assassination, but they were betrothed to one another at a young age. After Meghren usurped the Rebel Queen’s throne in the wake of her assassination, Rowan’s sense of duty was thrown upon her. She stayed true to her duty even in spite of the love triangle between her, Maric, and Loghain.

The romantic side of me said, “Loghain and Rowan are made for each other!” However, the other side of me that respects honour said, “She should stay true to her king and country by fulfilling her duty as the future queen of Fereldan.” Whether fortunate or unfortunate, future kings and queens are not granted the same freedom as us knaves when it comes to falling in love and choosing whom you marry. In spite of her obvious feelings for Loghain, Rowan decides to remain true to her duty—to marry Maric and become queen of Fereldan and bear a child for him to carry on his lineage. This is why, I believe, Loghain didn’t take it so hard when she decided to fulfil her duty, since he is also a man who takes his own duty seriously.

Application from the Book

As Maric, Loghain, Rowan, and others strived to free Fereldan from the oppressive hand of Orlais, I stopped to consider my own duties, which is something I believe we Lutherans can appreciate. Each of us have certain duties that come with each of our vocations. Fathers, mothers, siblings, friends, bosses, employees, pastors, doctors, lawyers—no matter what the vocation is—we all have duties we ought to fulfil, even duties we must do in spite of how we might feel about it, which Maric quickly had to learn.

At the beginning of the story, Maric was extremely reluctant to fulfil his duty as king. Whether he liked it or not, it was his fate to be king of Fereldan. Through the deep respect he gained for Loghain and Rowan and their deep sense of duty to their respective vocations, Maric learns to respect his own duty, and out of this respect he develops a desire to fulfil it.

I believe we all can learn from Maric’s example, especially in our culture today that often views duty as a burden, such as the duty of motherhood and fatherhood. For some mothers, when they first get pregnant, they view the duty of motherhood as a burden to be carried, so they kill the infant in their womb to relieve themselves of this duty. Fathers likewise will abandon his child and its mother for the same reason. Even in the workplace, many bosses feel their duty to have a cohesive workplace for their subordinates is a burden, so they bend the law to pay women less money or they don’t create opportunities for job growth and skill development.

There are some duties we actively seek out, such as my endeavour to become a pastor. Yet even though I seek this out, the duties that come along with being a pastor are forced upon me that, like Maric, I respect and develop a desire for it. For example, I might sit down with time allotted to prepare and write my sermon for the upcoming Sunday, but then I’ll get a call to visit someone in the hospital because of an accident or an illness. The old me would’ve been angry, and like the abortive mother, inconvenienced. Instead, I respect and thereby accept my duty, and it is now my joy to close my laptop and visit the person who is in need of the Gospel.

Then there are duties we don’t seek out—duties we don’t choose are seemingly forced upon us, much like Maric’s duty to be king and Rowan’s duty to be queen and marry the man she is arguably not in love with. For us, again, this duty is often motherhood and fatherhood. My siblings and I were not planned. My parents did not decide to have three kids. Yet in spite of their struggles that came along with suddenly having to care for and provide for tiny human beings, they accepted their parental duties. As soon as we exited the womb, a deep love filled their hearts and they could no longer think of having a life without us. This is how it should be for every mother and father, whether a pregnancy is planned or unplanned.

What we can learn from Maric, then, is to love and respect our duties, both those we seek and those we do not seek. It is not the end of the world when a new vocation with new duties is placed upon us with no choosing of our own. Like Maric, we can learn, adapt, and overcome its struggles, and then learn to love our duty to whomever we are called to serve.

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