Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Dragon Age: The Last Flight

After probably around a year, I've finally finished the fifth book set in the Dragon Age universe, The Last Flight, written by Liane Merciel, making this the second book in the DA 'verse not written by former DA lead writer, David Gaider.

This story follows a young elven mage living as a refugee from the Mage-Templar War at the Grey Warden fortress of Weisshaupt as she reads the diary of a elven Grey Warden mage who fought in the Fourth Blight over 400 years previously.

Spoilers under the cut.

To no one's surprise, I really liked this book, much like I've enjoyed all of the other Dragon Age novels. The two main characters, Valya and Isseya, were relatable and interesting, and Isseya especially was incredibly compelling. I also really enjoyed that there were two plots: one in 9:41-2 with Valya as she reads Isseya's diary and reacts to what she finds out, and in 5:12-24 with Isseya as she navigates the horrors of the Fourth Blight. So, the amount of time it took me to actually getting around to finishing this book has more to do with my general preference for fanfiction than anything about this book.

First off, I'd like to remark on three things I loved about this book: 1.) The two main characters were female, 2.) they were both mages, and 3.) neither of them, during any point of the story, were involved in a romantic relationship. That last one, especially, was something that thrilled me.

In every single Dragon Age novel so far, the main character has fallen into some sort of romance [spoilers for the other Dragon Age novels ahead:] whether it be Maric and Katriel in The Stolen Throne, Maric and Fiona in The Calling, or Rhys and Evangeline in Asunder (I'm leaving out The Masked Empire because Celene/Briala was pre-established). Though, now that I'm looking at it, I think David Gaider might be partly to blame? I mean, the books with the romances are all the ones written by him. Of course, it could also be coincidence. I digress. It was just really refreshing to have a book where the focus was the emotional turmoil of the characters and it had nothing to do with feelings of a sexual or romantic nature (a certain dramatic Fereldan king in particular *coughMariccough*). Even when there were characters that, if in any other situation, would've totally been their love interest, it just never happened. Hell, with Valya, the other mages were practically drooling over this one guy and talking about how attractive he was, then with Isseya, her brother expressed surprise and disbelief when he found out Isseya and Calien weren't together. I was so worried, and I've never been happier for my worries to be unfounded.

Can I just talk about how much I love Isseya? Because I do. My heart breaks for her -for all she sacrificed during the Blight, for losing that close bond she'd had with her brother, for losing her brother, and, throughout it all, she remained strong. It was heartbreaking watching her go from an innocent young Warden just meeting her griffon to a desolate Warden desperate for her Calling, even more so that it was all in the span of twelve years. And, good lord, what the First Warden made her do with the griffons. I get it, it was a Blight, but have they no sense of ethics or morals? And she hated doing it, but she eventually had no choice, and watching the emotional turmoil she endures made me cry. When, at the end, she was looking forward to her Calling, I was, too, for her and the end to her misery.

Besides that, I honestly think one of the most heartbreaking aspects of her character was ho alone she was, something that I related with in much the same way. She's not stated as being aromantic, but, as I said earlier, not once was she ever in a romantic relationship, nor was she ever interested in one (something else I found relatable). So, she's not in a relationship with anyone, and the only people we see her having any kind of profound relationship with in the book are her griffon, Revas, and arguably her closest friend, Calien. Even her relationship with her own brother is distant -not strained, but they're not as close as they once were, something that she brings up in her internal monologue and it's something that she laments, but not something she blames him for because the distance is born of his own romantic relationship with someone she considers a friend and she would never begrudge him his happiness. I, too, have a sibling and he and I are very close, the thought of the two of us ever becoming distant isn't a thought I like to consider, and so seeing her relationship with her brother change over the course of the Blight was something that pained me almost as much as it did her. Anyways, she doesn't have a lot of people she's particularly close with, and that loneliness is a tangible thing throughout the book, at least from my reading of it. She carried a lot of things on her own shoulders and didn't share the burden, and so by the end of the book, she was so stressed and broken that, again, she was desperate for it all to end (and it's implied she took her Calling with Revas, oh how I cry). And then her brother told her, as he flew off to make the Ultimate Sacrifice, to "be kind to [her]self." Garahel and Isseya were no longer as close as they once were, but he still knew her and still cared for her, even if it didn't always show (so focused on being Field-Commander and basically being the Fourth Blight's equivalent of our Warden, but more stressed). You bet your ass I was crying.

Seriously, fucking Garahel. I didn't even care about him beyond the fact that he was Isseya's brother and the eventual Hero of the Fourth Blight. But when he died I sobbed. Fucking-a, man.

Which brings us to one of the main reasons I loved this book and that's just the culture of a Blight. I don't want to say "true" Blight, as if implying that ours wasn't "true," but, let's face it, we got off incredibly lucky. The Fifth Blight lasted one year and, depending on the choice of the player, you didn't even have to die to kill the Archdemon. Meanwhile, the Fourth Blight last 12 long, arduous years, where horrible choices were made in the name of victory, and Garahel sacrificed himself at the end, fighting the Archdemon alone. Good lord, the Fifth Blight was a cakewalk in comparison. Those treaties, man. After the Fourth Blight, it's no wonder we had them, and it made our lives considerably easier. And what sacrifices did we have to make? Bhelen had better policies, but was an absolute douchenozzle? We had to hear Isolde's ridiculous accent? We had to go through the Circle Tower if we didn't want to use blood magic to save Connor? We had to have awkward sex with Morrigan (or make Alistair or Loghain do it) if we didn't want to die? Meanwhile, Garahel had to have sex with the selfish Queen of the Anderfels so he could get her soldiers (while he was in a loving and committed relationship with someone else), Isseya put griffons through the Joining (which they barely "accepted" with the influence of mind-altering blood magic), they lost more friends than they could count, and finally every griffon was eventually lost to a disease that was caused by being in mere proximity of griffons that had been forcibly put through the Joining and drove the griffons into extinction. That's sacrifice, that's a "true" Blight, and that's what we missed out on. Man, I felt almost ashamed after having read this, because, seriously, cakewalk.

Another reason: just seeing the Grey Wardens in their element. We've seen a Blight and we've seen Wardens, but we haven't seen Wardens (hardened, practiced Wardens, en masse) during a Blight. So it was really cool seeing Wardens in a Blight, especially when they're being revered as they should and not vilified (Loghain). Good lord, during a Blight they're basically Power #1 in Blight-touched lands (I say this because Orlais and Tevinter didn't seem to give two fucks, while the Free Marches were resistant but eventually submitted to the Wardens decisions). Man, Wardens are just really cool -in general, not always individually (because fuck the First Warden during the Fourth Blight).

Finally: FUCKING GRIFFONS. Man, how fucking cool are they???? So fucking cool. I want one. And, guess what, WE MIGHT GET ONE!!!!! Or at least see them, because THERE ARE THIRTEEN ADORABLE LITTLE BABIES AS OF 9:42 DRAGON. (And they're babies of Crookytail, griffon of Garahel, and Smoke, griffon of Amadis, so excuse me while I cry.) And, yeah, I cried here, too, when Valya dissolved the stasis bubble that surrounded the eggs, because the last person who'd been there had been Isseya herself, 400 years previously. Talk about fucking surreal and also a great honor.

But, before I finish, I want to bring up something that this book discussed heavily: blood magic. I'm not a fan, and I'll be the first to say it, but this book made me reconsider, more than anything else has. What I loved most about it was the way it was handled. It wasn't seen as something inherently evil, but it still touched on the questionable and unethical aspects of this particular branch of magic. I just really liked how this book handled blood magic, and after having recently read the first issue of Magekiller, it was really refreshing to know there's official material that doesn't fucking vilify every aspect of mages, even blood magic.

Just, ugh, I loved this book. It's not a fun book, but it's so interesting and it's so good. I can't think of a single thing I disliked about it. There's so much more I didn't touch on (namely the characters that weren't Isseya and kinda Garahel, like Lisme, who's a fucking CANON GENDERFLUID CHARACTER!!!!) but I've said what I really wanted to touch on, so I'll end it here.

If you're a Dragon Age fan, especially if you're interested in the Wardens, I highly recommend this book. Go forth and buy it or check it out at a library or borrow it from someone, it's great.