Dragon Age: The Calling, by David Gaider, is the second prequel novel set before the events that take place in the game, Dragon Age: Origins. Like the first novel, The Calling again follows Maric Theirin, this time years after the events of Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne. Maric is now King of Ferelden. One day he receives a visit from the Grey Wardens, who return to the country after the order was exiled for two hundred years. They come seeking his help in navigating The Deep Roads, which Maric traversed all those years ago. They want to recover one of their number who has been corrupted and has allied with the enemy they were formed to destroy. This man holds a secret that the Darkspawn want, and it could start a new Blight. Dun dun dun!
This novel is particularly interesting because it introduces a young Duncan, a newly drafted Grey Warden. In Dragon Age: Origins, Duncan is the highest ranking Grey Warden in Ferelden, and the person who recruits your player character into the order. A bulk of the novel is told from his perspective. Young Duncan is quite different from the older, wiser, battle-hardened warrior in Dragon Age: Origins, so it was a treat to learn about his background and how he became a Grey Warden.
One of the things I really liked about this novel is that there are a few women who play major roles. In The Stolen Throne, there were two women who had major roles, and one of them didn’t come in until the second half. In The Calling, there are more women present from the get-go, and they are part of the main adventuring group. One is a front-line warrior, another a badass hand-to-hand combat fighter, and the last, a mage—and in the Dragon Age world, mages do both high damage offensive spells and healing spells. Having said that, men still outnumbered women in the party: three women, five men. I would have liked it to have been less imbalanced.
Another thing I liked about The Calling is that it features an established, loving, romantic relationship between two men, portrayed in a positive light. The relationship is presented naturally, respectfully, and they are fully accepted by the other characters.
The Calling is focused more on other characters besides Maric, as there’s a larger cast and we now have Duncan’s perspective. As with a lot of stories with big casts, I’m left wanting to find out more about the secondary characters, and I got a bit of what I wanted in the second half of the book. Still, I would have liked to have learned more about the secondary characters.
Again, like the other novel, the material is quite dark. It’s filled with more bitterness, sadness, and depressing shit than the previous one. All of the characters in the Dragon Age world are deeply flawed in some way, and sometimes those flaws have more impact on the world around them than others, and this story is no exception. Like Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, Dragon Age: The Calling would be appreciated most by avid Dragon Age fans. As this novel features the Grey Wardens, it’s a bit more relevant to the Dragon Age games, and if you’re interested in finding out more about the order, The Calling is one to check out.