Review: Dragon Age The Masked Empire [Spoilers]

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WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. YE’VE BEEN WARNED, YE HAVE!

When I saw an announcement saying “You could win a chance to voice a character in Dragon Age Inquisition” I was excited, but I didn’t win (c’est le vie). I did get to read a few lines of dialog which talked about Celene, the Empress of Orlais, Gaspard, a Grand Duke and Orlesian politics called “The Game” in which one is expected to make truces, break them when necessary and cleanly assassinate rivals. It seems likely these characters and The Game will be important to the Dragon Age Inquisition‘s story

DA-The Masked Empire

DRAGON AGE: THE MASKED EMPIRE by Patrick Weekes is the first novel set in Thedas since David Gaider released ASUNDER, which also dealt with politics in the nation of Orlais.

Sometime later, while searching for something to read, I came across a title called Dragon Age: The Masked Empire written by Bioware senior writer Patrick Weekes. The back cover referenced a Gaspard led coup attempt against Celene. Knowing these two characters would be in Dragon Age Inquisition, which I await with great eagerness, I decided to give it a read.

The focal characters are:

  • Celene, Empress of Orlais and trained Bard;
  • Ser Michel de Chevin, male, the Chevalier and Celene’s chosen Champion;
  • Briala, Celene’s female elf handmaiden, lover and accomplished Archer;
  • Felassan, Briala’s male elven mentor and mage;
  • Gaspard, male Chevalier, Grand Duke of Orlais.

The plot hinges on a several coup attempts by Gaspard to assume the throne of Orlais, the last of which forces Celene to burn down an elven alieanage (think: elven ghetto) and puts Celene on the run along with Briala, Felassan and Ser Michel making them a very Dragon Age party. The burning of the alienage also serves as a potentially interesting wedge between Briala and Celene

The road back to Val Royeaux and the defeat of Gaspard is a long journey which presents the characters with many opportunities for growth. Unfortunately, the author allows only Briala to do so.

Briala, a combination of handmaid, lover, political operative and spy, begins the book as Celene’s secret lover, a nod to Bioware’s diversity seeking crowd. While Briala is politically savvy she seems to be blinded into naiveté where Celene is concerned. It takes Celene ordering the burning of the Alienage for Briala to see Celene for who she truly is – the flawed Empress who will “do the right thing” if it’s politically expedient. Briala is a changed woman by the end of the book.

Celene, Gaspard, and Felassan display no character growth despite overcoming several obstacles anyone familiar with Dragon Age will recognize (undead, Revenants, Varterral.) The author hints at Felassan being something more than he lets on several times (a’la Flemeth) but he’s killed before the “more” is revealed. As his character lacked true depth, I felt little for his loss. Ser Michel is removed from his bond of being Celene’s champion through no fault of his own. He ends the book by beginning his search for the demon he unleashed on Orlais rather than resume his honor bound oath to Celene.

Celene and Gaspard end the book as the same characters they are in the beginning. Despite the adversity they overcome they display no introspection, no adaptation, and no behavior changes. They will continue the Game as soon as they returned as if nothing had happened.

CONCLUSION:
Have you ever watched someone else play a video game? Have you noticed that you’re not as invested in the characters when you’re not the one playing? That’s how I felt while reading this book.
Backlog Priority: I give this book a 4/10 on the priority scale. Put it below the middle of your backlog. If you eventually get to it, that’s fine. If you miss it, that’s fine too.

– Vrin

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