BioWare's newest game Dragon Age: Inquisition will expand the universe of their epic series in profound ways. This comprehensive book of lore features exclusive art and information, exploring every corner of this dark fantasy masterpiece! Newcomers will appreciate how this volume covers everything they need to know about the world and characters of these smash-hit games! Dedicated fans will revel in the abundance of never-before-revealed secrets, the perfect companion to Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 1! From heroes to villains, to songs and food, and everything in between, this book puts the breath and depth of this inimitable fantasy at your fingertips.
At first glance it seems there's a lot to like here. Layout's the same as last year's book; artwork features those frescoes we've come to know and love. Scenic paintings are lush and vivid; some we've seen already, but still nice to look at and adds atmosphere to the text. You even get a two-page mural of all the personages that helped shaped the Dragon Age, with a listing to help identify who's who, because honestly- some of these folks are unrecognizable. Could've done a much better job on that. The one major complaint I have about the art is for the individual character renderings- they have a cartoonish, almost anime quality to them that was putting me off.
Sten, Oghren, Wynne, Zevran, Nathaniel, Loghain, Maric, Alastair[/caption]
As to the book itself...
1- Legends of Thedas: Chantry leaders such the Divines, Dwarven Paragons, Orlesian nobles, Tevinter mages, Andraste, Maferath, Shartan- it's a historical overview of how modern Thedas came to be. A few things about legendary Wardens- Garahel, Isseya, Corin and Neriah, Sophia Dryden and the Hero- but other than a quick note about the Second Blight there's little on any of the others or the ones who defeated them. There's also a passage on Bregan and Genevieve and the events at Kinloch Hold during the Calling novel which, of course, lead to the Fifth Blight and Awakenings.
2- New Cumberland Chant of Light: all the texts, scrolls and missives regarding the Maker and it's both good to have it all together in one place and very informative.
3- The Hero of Ferelden: This is where it really starts to go south. It mostly focuses upon all the Companions, including Duncan, and is predictably generic and vague regarding the character. Odd, given that the 'official' narrative is that of a female Dalish Elf who made the Ultimate Sacrifice and put Alastair on the throne. There's a subtle acknowledgement of this as Tamlen has a paragraph with details that'd only be known by the Warden.
There's a good deal of fleshing out for many of the party's backstories- Sten's bio was pretty interesting- but it also shows how much waffling and fudging Bioware is still doing. There's a kind of abbreviated passage referring to when he lost his sword, but then it states it's unknown if he died in the fight. Then the next paragraph speaks to the rumors of his becoming the new Arishok! Did they forget something... again?
The story of Cailan and Anora going off together to slay a giant is... odd. The tale of Bryce and Eleanor Cousland balloons into almost comedic proportions. Loghain and Cauthrien's fates are studiously avoided, as is Isolde and Connor's- yet it's definitively stated that Eamon stepped down from Redcliffe after what transpired there.
Another thing is the note regarding Ariane and Finn; canonically they wouldn't have met the Hero, but the Orlesian Commander who replaced her. All this nickle and dimeing over what parts of the story to tell are annoying and ridiculous. What's so hard about simply putting their stamp on an official narrative? Most everyone already knows what the canonical version is, and it'd help out those that don't.
4- Andraste's Bookshelf: The life and legacy of Andraste- via approved sources- along with insights into the various 'interpretations' of Andraste's message and omitting/editing the role of Shartan in the uprising and brief notes on religion and spirtuality in other places, such as the Seers of Rivain, Nevarra and the Tal-Vashoth. There's also notes on lands and areas of Thedas beyond what's well known, astronomy- thanks to the introduction of the astar
5- The Champion of Kirkwall: More of the same as the Hero's section. Lots of background info on the supporting cast and the city, which is good to know, but gets ridiculous with it's lack of consistency regarding Hawke and the outcome of the Mage/Templar conflict in Kirkwall. A side note on the first page shows this, as it reads: "...details of Hawke's identity, gender and abilities differ depending on who's telling the story."
Really? Even ignoring the utter stupidity of that statement did they forget the Inquisition trailer showing Hawke to be a female mage? Or how the default storyline for DA2 is the Human Noble Male marrying Anora and taking the throne? How's any of that fit with Alastair being king? If you're gonna pull a stunt like this, then why couldn't we get to play Hawke as an elf or a dwarf?
Other than what's absolutely known to happen- Meredith, Red Lyrium, etc- everything's vague and sketchy again. Merrill, Fenris, even Anders, have no resolution to their stories, no true narrative to build from. This stuff really starts to make your head hurt after a while.
6- The Seer's Yarn: Children's tales from all over Thedas, including Seheron. What's not to like?
7- The Inquisitor: Remember what I said about the Hero and Champion sections? I found Iron Bull and Sera interesting, but overall your headache's gonna get worse.
8- The Whole Nug: culinary delights from all over. I actually wondered if I could try a few of these out... with appropriate substitues, of course.
9- Bestiary: what it says.
10- Erratum: remember all the dumb mistakes from the first book? The corrections are here. Thanks.
Second time around, it's still more of the same. Lots of filler on the stuff you already know and very little on what you don't and would like to, and a complete avoidance of anything resembling a canon arc for the main characters. Guess we'll have to wait for the fourth volume to finally learn something about Arlathan and where the Qunari originated from. You'll like it because it exists, not so much for what it contains. 3.5/5.