Warning: If you have not read “Dragon Age: The Masked Empire” by Patrick Weekes. If you have not read the book and wish to avoid spoilers, don’t read the review.
I am back with another book review! Here I have “Dragon Age: The Masked Empire” by Patrick Weekes! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“Empress Celene of Orlais rose to the throne of the most powerful nation in Thedas through wisdom, wit, and ruthless manipulation. Now, the empire she has guided into an age of enlightenment is threatened from within by imminent war between the emplars and the mages, even as rebellion stirs among the downtrodden elves To save Orlais, Celene must keep her hold on the throne by any means necessary.
Fighting with the legendary skill of the Orlesian Chevaliers , Grand Duke Gaspard has won countless battles for the empire and the empress But has he fought in vain? As the Circle fails and chaos looms, Gaspard begins to doubt that Celene’s diplomatic approach to the mage problem or the elven uprisings will keep the empire safe. Perhaps it is time for a new leader, one who lives by the tenets of the Chevalier’s Code, to make Orlais strong again.
Briala has been Celene’s handmaid since the two of them were children, subtly using her position to help improve the lives of elves across Orlais. She is Celene’s confidante, spymaster, and lover, but when politics force the empress to choose between the rights of Briala’s people and the Orlesian throne, Briala must in turn decide where her true loyalties lie.
Alliances are forged and promises broken as Celene and Gaspard battle for the throne of Orlais But in the end, the elves who hide in the forests or starve in the alienages may decide the fate of the masked empire.”
As far as I’ve figured out where in the timeline of Dragon Age it takes place, this definitely takes place before the game “Dragon Age: Inquisition” for sure. Leilana makes an appearance early on, though disappears later on to who knows where, and the plot of “The Masked Empire” reveals some much-needed background on how intense the struggle for power between Gaspard and Celene really was. I was hoping that there would be more scenes taking place in the actual palace where they lived rather than on the battlefield given how much politics is involved with their conflict, so I found it a little strange that about seventy-five percent of the book was mainly about Celene and Gaspard duking it out on a battlefield.
I really liked Briala as a character. She wants to do good things for her fellow elves, and yet there is only so much she can do, even as Celene’s handmaid. Eventually when she does realize that she can’t compromise between going along with Celene’s plans and helping her people, the struggle Briala faces when making her choice feels real. She wants to help her people, but doing so would probably end up getting in the way of Celene’s plans. It doesn’t help that Briala is close to Celene, either, and that Briala is the one person Celene probably trusted the most throughout the book.
Sir Michel also stuck out to me. Being technically half-elf himself but having hidden his secret for so long, he knows that he can’t hide the truth forever. It picks at him so hard that he can’t help but repeat his claimed name to the opponents that go try to insult him about his real origins.
The demon Imshael, though his appearance was only for a few chapters, was perfectly in character with how he makes these tempting deals and so on with the other characters, especially when he’s interacting with Michel.
Gaspard and Celene paled a little bit in comparison to Briala and Michel when it came to the development of their characters. Gaspard, for most of the book, was more like some mustache-twirling villain that snickers and pretends he’s some great mastermind when he in reality just likes to get what he wants with brute force, but at least he had some development close to the end of the book when he and Michel somewhat make amends with each other in the book. Celene, however, felt static to me. I didn’t feel like she had much development, whatsoever.
Celene and Briala’s romance was actually written quite well despite the few scenes they had together in the book. When the time came at the end of the book for their falling out between each other, I could easily see that they still loved each other very much. The only thing standing in their way was their different views, and neither of them were going to let their views be subdued anymore. It perfectly sets up for the situation Celene, Gaspard, and Briala all face in the game Inquisition later on.
However, where was Florianne de Chalons in all of this? I expected her to show up in the book, like she did in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Given that she has ties to Celene and Gaspard, I was disappointed that she didn’t show up anywhere in the book, and she wasn’t even mentioned by other characters. That leaves a little bit of a plot hole as of where or what she was doing during “The Masked Empire.”
Overall, I’d give the book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars because of some lack of character development and the plot hole I just pointed out, but otherwise this was a nice read for the Dragon Age series, and worth reading to understand some parts of the actual “Inquisition” game.