Author: David Gaider
Publisher: Tor Books, 2009
Rating: 5/5 stars
Dragon Age: The Calling dives into the lives of some familiar characters we otherwise didn’t have in the video game, Dragon Age: Origins. It continues the story of Maric, but we also spend more time with Duncan and experience what he was like before he was Warden Commander in Origins. There is also Alistair. While Alistair does not have a major role in the book, you learn that his relationship with his father, Maric, was a rather distant one as Maric continued to grieve the death of Alistair’s mother, Rowan.
Loghain also surprisingly takes a backseat in this story. While he had a major role in the prequel to this book, he makes an appearance in the beginning but doesn’t have any role whatsoever in the adventure that would take place. (Of course, this is because Maric secretly leaves the castle to go on the quest the Grey Wardens requested of him.)
We also learn more about Fiona, whom we don’t meet until Dragon Age: Inquisition. She is a powerful Grey Warden elven mage who has a sour attitude toward King Maric in the first part of the book. Strangely enough, she and Maric develop a romance. Maric seems to have that effect on elven women.
The story is rather dark and gory. It begins when Genevieve, Commander of the Grey Wardens, petitions King Maric to give aid on their adventure to the Deep Roads—the dark infectious tunnels filled with the darkspawn that Maric and his comrades had fought through in the previous book. This is not a typical request from any Grey Warden Commander for several reasons.
The first is that the Grey Wardens are apparently lowly esteemed in the world of Thedas at this point in the story of Dragon Age because of their role in the most recent Blight. The second is that what makes Grey Wardens unique warriors is that they are immune to the taint of the darkspawn since they drink it in their initiation ritual (at least those who survive).
The third reason relates to the title of this book in the series: The Calling. During their initiation ritual, what they call “the Joining,” they speak these words in their liturgy:
Join us, brothers and sisters.
Join us in the shadows where we stand vigilant.
Join us as we carry the duty that cannot be forsworn.
And should you perish, know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten.
And that one day we shall join you.
Grey Wardens are immune from the taint of the darkspawn, but only for a time. Eventually, they will begin to hear the same strange, insidious music the darkspawn hear and will be drawn to the enigmatic “calling” to the Deep Roads where the Grey Warden is either killed by the darkspawn or becomes one of them. Whether a Grey Warden dies in battle, during the Calling, or becomes part of the enemy they gave their very souls to fight against, their morbid fate is one and the same. They will all join each other in death eventually.
Genevieve’s request is strange in this third way because her brother, Bregan, left on his Calling. Yet this is a unique case because Bregan knows the location of the Old Gods as the former Commander of the Grey Wardens. She wants to find him and kill him because if the darkspawn somehow discover who he is and get the location of the Old Gods from him, this will spark another Blight; for whenever an Archdemon spawns, this in turn spawns a Blight (an Archdemon is an Old God—and a dragon—tainted by the darkspawn). This sparks Maric’s interest because of the witch’s prophecy in the previous book that he would die before the next Blight comes (which we experience in Origins).
The story is a dark and twisted one as Maric ventures into the Deep Roads with the Grey Wardens: Genevieve, Duncan, Fiona, Utha, Kell (and his warhound, Hafter), Julien, and Nicolas. They dive into the Deep Roads with the intention to prevent another Blight from happening, that is until they learn of an even more twisted scheme being planned by a darkspawn with the odd ability to speak, who calls himself The Architect.
While The Stolen Throne was along the lines of a “historical” reading of the Dragon Age universe, The Calling is a dark story that has the reader struggle with morally debatable issues. The Architect’s desire and plan for Bregan left me indecisive between siding with him or with the few who opposed him. The Architect’s plan is rather practical and logical, especially along the lines of the Grey Wardens’ pledge to prevent a Blight at any cost.
The other side of the issue is more of the moral side, though not as practical and logical. (We could compare this to the Renegade and Paragon options with Commander Shepard in Mass Effect.) In the end, I found myself agreeing with Maric, Fiona, and some of the others’ decision, but still I was left with the question, “Is my emotional reaction truly what’s best for Thedas?” Perhaps other readers will find themselves agreeing with the talking darkspawn instead, the Architect.
I highly recommend this book for any Dragon Age fan who wants to know more about who Duncan was before we meet him in Origins as well as Fiona’s backstory from Inquisition. I also recommend it for anyone who would simply like to read a book involving Grey Wardens.
Application from the Book
As the story brings the reader to face many morally questionable situations, especially at the book’s climax, this experience is indicative of the many morally questionable situations we face as Christians in a world corrupt with sin. Just as the corruption of the darkspawn brings the characters to face difficult ethical and moral situations, so the corruption of sin in the world brings all of us to face difficult ethical and moral situations. How do we make such difficult decisions when the ethics of the situation are not as black and white as we’d like them to be?
There is no silver bullet answer, really. Not every situation is black and white. We deal with sin as best we can. We need only to pray that God guide our conscience in the Holy Spirit to make the ethical decision that best lines up with His Word. That is what Maric and some of the others did (well, the Word of the Maker). They went with their conscience, which is all we can do in some situations.
How to deal with sin is black and white in many situations, but in others, it’s not so clear. We need not only pray to God to guide our conscience and give us peace, but we also look toward the Last Day when God will end sin’s corruption and create a new heaven and a new earth. Until then, let us pray for the Spirit’s continued sanctification in us begun first in our Baptism.