Last Flight is one of a range of tie-in novels set in the world of BioWare’s excellent Dragon Age games. Experienced players, and, let’s face it, who else is going to be buying this, will instantly recognize the characters and environments. We are off to the lands of Thedas in the company of mages, Templars and the Grey Wardens and Liane Merciel makes an excellent job of making it all come to life on the page.
This is a cleverly structured novel that follows two linked adventures in different time periods. In the present, we meet the young elf mage Valya on her way to the stronghold at Weisshaupt where she hopes to one day become one of the Grey Wardens. The second narrative is set many years earlier at the end of the infamous Fourth Blight. Valya finds her own destiny tied up with the life and death of another elf mage who played a crucial role in the earlier struggle against the Archdemon.
On arrival at Weisshaupt Valya and her young companions are disappointed that their Grey Warden hosts don’t seem very keen to start their training. Instead, they are sent to the great library to help with research into how the mages of the past learned how to defeat the endless swarms of darkspawn. This involves endlessly leafing through mountains of musty old books and scrolls. A lifetime of boredom threatens until Valya stumbles across some magical text which leads her to a hidden book. Valya keeps her discovery secret and buries herself in the mysterious text. It is a book which shouldn’t exist, written by the elf mage Isseya, twin sister of the hero Garahel who sacrificed himself in a battle to end the Fourth Blight. Isseya’s story has been suppressed from all the official histories and Valya is determined to find out why.
And so the twin narratives unfold; Valya’s story in Weisshaupt is interspersed with episodes of Isseya’s life in the terrible past. We follow Isseya from her earliest exploits as a young green mage through the many battles against the Archdemon that harden her into one of Thedas’ most mighty warriors. She, her brother and their team were griffon riders who combined their magical gifts and their mighty animals in many military successes in the Fourth Blight. In Arya’s day, the griffons are all extinct but the book may hold the dark secret of what happened to them and why Isseya’s part in the last great victory has been written out of the official history books.
Liane Merciel’s novel is a resounding success on two levels. Firstly, it does a great job of bringing the world of the game alive on the page, with the added depth of great characterisation and a convincing sense of history. Secondly, it works as a novel in its own right. The two stories weave together very well, skilfully creating tension and mystery before delivering a bitter sweet ending in one timeline and a warm and satisfying one in the other.
If you’re a Dragon Age fan in need of an extra fix give ‘Last Flight’ a go, it’s well written, full of imagination and definitely worth a look.