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Literature / Asunder

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Dragon Age: Asunder is the third novel in the Dragon Age series. It is set in Orlais shortly after the events in Act 3 of Dragon Age II, but before Varric's interrogation, and expands upon the Mage-Templar conflict.

A mystical killer stalks the halls of the White Spire, the heart of templar power in the mighty Orlesian Empire. To prove his innocence, Rhys reluctantly embarks on a journey into the western wastelands that will not only reveal much more than he bargained for but change the fate of his fellow mages forever.

This novel provides examples of:

  • As You Know: Rhys recounts the circumstances of his first meeting with Wynne to Wynne herself, who would surely have remembered the event as well as he does.
  • Bad Boss: Lord Seeker Lambert isn't well-liked by the majority of his subordinates, personally, but he terrifies them so much that nearly all of them will submit to his orders. Those who don't meet his expectations tend to have very short careers.
  • Break Them by Talking: The Pride Abomination that was formerly Pharamond attempts several of these. None work for more than a few moments.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: At one point while Cole is rescuing him, Rhys attempts to tell him about his conversation with Lambert in which the man very convincingly posits Cole is a demon, not a mage, as there are no records of him ever having been brought to the Spire. He's too ashamed to actually bring it up, however.
  • The Chessmaster: Divine Justinia V is one of the rare benevolent versions of this trope. She's a master of Orlais' backstabbing game, but is working towards the benefit of both mages and templars despite the many people looking to remove her from office.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: This book establishes that in the "official" Bioware canon, Wynne and Shale were in the Warden's party for most of the major quests in Origins, including journeying into the Fade and battling the Archdemon in Denerim.
  • Dead All Along: One of Cole's fears is that he really is a ghost as people say, and just doesn't remember dying. In a downplayed example, as a spirit, he was never "dead" at all. But his appearance, personality, and memories come from a "real" Cole who did indeed die at the hands of the templars.
  • Deliberately Bad Example: Lambert and his henchmen treat mages abominably and view them as little more than monsters. This is to contrast Evangeline, who at least has noble ideals of protecting mages from themselves while serving the order.
  • Demoted to Extra: Leliana makes several appearances in the book and does aid the group in the finale, but is mostly left in the background for the newer characters.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: It is evidently not protocol to feed mages who are imprisoned for an offense in the Spire; Rhys spends four days in a cell near the start of the book without being given any food or water. Later, when he's imprisoned in his room for three weeks while awaiting the Conclave, he notes that the templars frequently forget to bring him his meals and Wynne is often the one feeding him. It's also integral to Cole's backstory, as he starved to death after the templars plain forgot they locked him up in one of the cells.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Cole, after figuring out his true nature, is implied (and later confirmed in Inquisition) to have slain Lambert at the end of the book.
  • Ending Memorial Service: The book ends with a funeral for Wynne at Andoral's Reach.
  • End of an Age: The book goes into detail on to how exactly the Chantry lost power and the Mage-Templar War really began one year after the events of Dragon Age II, but still a year before Varric was able to tell Cassandra that Kirkwall was anything more than a straightforward mage rebellion.
  • Evil Weapon: The Grey Warden gifted one of these to Wynne for use in emergencies, an extremely powerful staff that can influence shadows but also has a negative impact on the user's psyche and emotions. She only uses it for a few minutes before Evangeline gets freaked out by the way it's making her behave and smashes it.
  • Expy:
    • Adrian is one of Anders. She even betrays her former lover in a plot to free the mages by provoking templar reaction. However, she doesn't have the clear-cut Freudian Excuse of Vengeance in her mind, making her much less sympathetic. Made explicit in the last chapter, where Rhys mentally compares the two.
    • Lambert's a lot like a male version of Meredith, though he's ever-so-slightly more stubborn. Again, given the lack of supernatural influences, he comes off as much less justified. When he explains his Freudian Excuse of working under the Tevinter Imperium to Evangeline, his excuses actually start to sound quite a bit like Fenris' as well.
  • Fiery Redhead: Adrian, both figuratively and literally. Deconstructed when it turns out her hotheadedness is what ultimately leads her to starting the rebellion in full.
  • For Science!: One of the issues the mages bring up to support rebellion is the complete stranglehold the Chantry has on research into magical phenomena as well as more mundane sciences out of fear of blood magic.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Lambert was once a naive and idealistic templar who believed he could reform Tevinter, of all places, by helping the right mages into power. Said mages quickly showed they were just as willing to stoop to corruption to compete with their rivals, making a fool out of him. Since then, he has decided that all mages are monsters.
    • Among other things, Cole was abused and almost murdered by his own father just for being a mage and had to kill him in self defense, also losing his mother and sister in the same incident. This, on top of being cruelly arrested and mistreated by the templars, caused him to live in fear of them and just about everyone else besides Rhys, contributing to his murders in the Spire.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Despite acknowledging that Lambert's suspicion of mages is reasonable once she hears his history, Evangeline quickly decides that his past also sounds suspiciously like just an excuse to hurt others, much like with any abusive templar in the order.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Evangeline smacks Pharamond after the latter begins weeping uncontrollably. It manages to bring him to his senses.
  • Ghost Amnesia: Cole may or may not be a ghost, but he still has next to no memory of his life outside the White Spire. After being sent into the Fade and having a bad run-in with a demon, he regains a few childhood memories.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Wynne breaks down after seeing her carefully planned peaceful negotiations break into a full brawl, near the end of the book.
    • Also near the end of the book, Cole weeps and disappears after Lambert reveals that he wasn't human.
    • Rhys suffers a breakdown of his own after losing Cole and watching Evangeline get mortally wounded while he's too weak to make a difference.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Wynne gives up the Spirit of Faith, the only thing keeping her alive, to save Evangeline, happily noting that she gets to actually aid her son before she dies.
  • Hot-Blooded:
    • Even after thirty years, Grand Enchanter Fiona, returning from The Calling, is just as hot-blooded. Unsurprisingly, she's a member of the radical Libertarian Fraternity and opposed to Wynne's more moderate Aquetarian fraternity.
    • Senior Enchanter Adrian makes Fiona seem mellow. Naturally, they get on like a house on fire.
    • Rhys, though calmer than the previous two, has his moments as well; it's almost a running gag that he keeps getting very passionate or angry and having outbursts, internally cursing himself for speaking without thinking.
  • Invisible Introvert: Played With. Cole was a young mage at the Val Royeaux Circle who was so inconspicuous that the Templars managing the Circle forgot that they had locked him up after bringing him in. Somehow, this ended up putting him under permanent Perception Filter effect, allowing him to escape and to eventually join Rhys and Evangeline on their journey. However, the ugly reality was that Cole had actually starved to death in his cell, and the Templars unpersoned him to cover up their failure. Cole's suffering, however, has drawn in a Spirit of Compassion from the Fade who assumed his identity so fully that it forgot its true nature. The Perception Filter was thus actually part of the spirit's own powers.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: As with just about every Dragon Age story, the group has one major adventure in the Fade, where they see the personal nightmares of Wynne, Cole, and Pharamond.
  • Karma Houdini: Adrian. Not only does she betray her ex-lover and have Pharamond killed in cold blood, she turns the Mage-Templar war into a full-blown conflict, nearly condemning the rest of her colleagues to death. She even replaces First Enchanter Edmonde as leader of the White Spire Circle.
  • Knight Templar:
    • Lord Seeker Lambert is intent on bringing order to the Circle. Even if he has to break away from Chantry authority entirely to do it.
    • Adrian is the mage version of this. Like Anders before her, she has completely given up on solving this peacefully and actually pushes for war.
  • Line in the Sand: Fiona offers this in a speech to the surviving mages at the end of the book: they can either go back to the templars and hope for mercy or play this revolution out in full. They choose the latter, but not without a fairly close vote.
  • Mercy Kill: All of Cole's victims were people in such despair that they accepted death to escape their fate when he offered it. This concept is deconstructed, however, with Dabrissa, a character that Cole almost mercy-kills before deciding not to for Rhys' sake. She initially seems as at peace with the idea of dying as Cole's other victims, but when he decides not to, she cries in relief instead. It makes one wonder how much Cole's victims truly wanted to die if they'd been given more time to think it over.
  • Mordor: The Western Approach. A massive, cold and unnaturally purple desert wasteland created from an area that never recovered from the the Second Blight.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: A random, unnamed Templar recruit has a short moment of this when he accidentally kills one the the First Enchanters he meant to capture during the hostilities at the conclave. He doesn't get to reflect further as he's shortly killed by the now enraged remaining Enchanters.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Lambert dishes them out like candy. Rhys, Cole, and Evangeline all end up on the receiving end of these from him personally or by his many goons.
  • Odd Friendship:
    • Cole strikes up one with Pharamond, seeing him as a kindred spirit. Complicated by the fact that the latter immediately forgets the former's existence after each conversation.
    • Any of Cole's friendships in this book likely count, but his friendship with Evangeline also stands out: she's a Templar, the representation of everything he fears, and she knows that Cole is a serial killer, and possibly a blood mage or a demon. Despite this, after they experience a vision of Cole's Dark and Troubled Past while in The Fade, she becomes a lot more sympathetic to him.
  • The Plan:
    • Wynne, under orders from Divine Justina V, executes one by sending messages regarding the cure to Tranquility to all of the Circle towers. This both empowers the Circle's leadership and ensures that any attempt on the Templars' or Seekers' parts to cover the results up would be completely useless, forcing both sides into negotiation. Having Wynne do so also allowed Justina to claim ignorance in order to avoid political backlash that could remove her from office.
    • An earlier one is implied as well. Evangeline, after spending an extended period with mages of the local Circle, theorizes that the blood mage who attempted to assassinate the Divine at the beginning of the book was aided not by any Circle, but by one of the nobles vying for Empress Celene's throne in order to exaggerate tensions among the mages and templars in the capital. Both to serve as a distraction and remove the Empress' two biggest trump cards. It's also theorized that more radical elements in the Chantry may have also been responsible for the assassination attempt.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Fuck the Divine." Notably the first example of the f-word in all of Dragon Age media.
  • Power Incontinence: Pharamond theorizes that Cole's invisibility and amnesia-inducement are his own innate magic expressing itself without his knowledge. After hearing this, Cole manages to gain a measure of control over it with some effort.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Evangeline, Wynne, and Divine Justina V. By the climax of the story, they appear to be the only reasonable leaders left in this particular conflict.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni:
    • Fiona and Wynne, respectively. The former repeatedly calls for independence from the Chantry. The latter attempts to negotiate with the Divine and manages to defeat the first motion for independence.
    • Rhys and Adrian at the beginning. They're both progressively-minded Libertarians, but Rhys is calm and reasonable while Adrian is passionate and instinctive. This makes them a good team (and has made them a good couple in the past), until they start to drift apart.
  • Sacrificial Revival Spell: Happens in the end, where Wynne transfers the Spirit of Faith that's been keeping her alive for many years to the fallen Evangeline, resurrecting her, and dying in Eva's place.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Pharamond's experiments failed because he, in a feat of rationalization only a Tranquil could accomplish, successfully sealed himself from attacking anyone as an abomination, but did not foresee all of the other demons that might be drawn in by his ritual.
  • Sequel Hook: Apart from outlining the final days before the Mage-Templar War, the book continuously hints at a major political upheaval in Orlais that may lead to the empire, the biggest political player in Thedas, falling apart without any specific details being revealed. This conflict will be in the spotlight during both The Masked Empire and part of the main plotline of Dragon Age: Inquisition.
  • Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Justinia gives Lambert a speech like this when he accuses her of being too idealistic. The Chantry's stock in trade is idealism. Without it, their actions would be tyrannical.
  • Start X to Stop X: The Templars believe that blood magic is inherently evil and that mages will always dabble in it if left on their own. So they ensure they can always locate mages via phylacteries, which is itself blood magic. The hypocrisy of this practice makes Evangeline uneasy, and she eventually allows Shale to destroy the White Spire vault containing all the First Enchanters' phylacteries because of it.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Cole fades away entirely when he realizes that he was never a human.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Evangeline faces this choice several times as the situation grows more complicated and her superior as well as the mages she's supposed to guard grow more and more extreme. She chooses good each time, but not without some serious soul searching on what she believes to be a Templar's true duty.
  • Unperson:
    • Cole's normally undetectable to all but the most spiritually sensitive people, but almost all who do see or hear him slowly forget about him entirely afterwards.
    • The original Cole was a newly-discovered mage who died when the templars locked him in The Pit and forgot to feed him. They erased all records of his existence to hide their shame.
  • Undying Loyalty: Cole has his issues, but he would sooner die than allow any harm to come to Rhys.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Rhys ends up manipulated by just about everyone except Evangeline at some point.
  • When Harry Met Svetlana: Rhys, the mage, and Evangeline, the templar.
  • War Is Hell: Upon entering the Fade, the group are transported into a hellish recreation of Wynne's memories of the Battle of Denerim. She even points out to Adrian's questioning that while it marked the end of the Fifth Blight, it was still a horrific and bloody battle, and a great number of people lost their lives to achieve victory.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Cole believes that he can only keep from losing himself if he has someone's attention, or is the most important thing on someone's mind before they die. Since he is a spirit, he may or may not be right about that.