Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights Review

It's been over five years since the release of the last Dragon Age game, and fans have been dying for new material to clamor over. The series is so beloved for a wide array of reasons, such as its deeply complex characters, fascinating lore, compelling storylines, and expansive scope. All these aspects are allowed to shine in Dragon Age: Teviner Nights, the latest book for the Dragon Age series. It's not exactly a novel, but rather a collection of short stories that further flesh out the universe's lore. It won't convince many who aren't already fans of the series to get into it; however, in not trying to be extremely accessible to newcomers, it ends up being more enjoyable and compelling, offering plenty for fans to get excited over until the painful wait for the next game ends. 

The end of Trespasser, the last DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition, signaled in clear terms that the next game would take place in the Tevinter Imperium. It's a land players have heard many whispers of but have never traveled to. As such, it's always been a mysterious, distant enigma most defined through being the oldest nation of Thedas and a society that allows mages to rule rather than just be imprisoned. It's hard to think of a better way of creating a painting out of the thin brushstrokes we've had of Tevinter information than through a collection of short stories showing its different people, conflicts, and politics. It explores not just Tevinter, but also nearby lands like Nevarra and Rivaini, as well as regions that we've barely heard of before, like the Arlathan Forest. 

What this book accomplishes most effectively is getting you excited for that eventual next entry. Tevinter and its conflicts feel alive in a way they never have before. Some intriguing story elements — like mysterious new enemies we've not seen previously, the increased presence of the Mortalitasi faction & their effects on the ruling class, and a certain elf intent on restoring the world he once knew even if it's the last thing he does (and whom I am most definitely not over) — are set up to play a significant role in the eventual next game. After so many years of waiting for crumbs of new material, the stories almost satisfy enough to keep you waiting just a little longer.

Though as enriching as its lore is, Dragon Age is best when it centers on its characters. The Dragon Age cast is wildly beloved because they are rarely anything less than captivating, frustrating, and interesting enough to make you want to know more about them. The format of a short story, unfortunately, doesn't allow for the nuanced character building you can find in not only the game series, but also accompanying novels like Dragon Age: Asunder and Dragon Age: The Masked Empire. However, there is at least one standout character in almost every story here, which is a notable feat to achieve considering the variety of settings and storylines. I particularly appreciated the breadth of queer characters who reflect the Dragon Age team's excellence with inclusivity. 

I would've liked to see more returning characters from Dragon Age: Inquisition or other previous entries. I also would have liked more recurring characters throughout these short stories so that these tales are more intimately connected. It's evident that at least one character from this anthology will make a major appearance in the next Dragon Age entry, but it's sad to think about how most of the characters in here likely won't play a role, especially considering the amount of effort put into making them shine in the few pages they have.

The anthology format captures what I both love and dislike most about this favorite series of mine, which is that Dragon Age frames itself around developing the world of Thedas, even if it means leaving behind some of the most incredible characters you've known. In the process of doing this, it means that not all stories in this book have a satisfying conclusion. The characters serve as a means to an end, and often that end is incomplete to signal a tease in the next game. The characters in this book and their stories are both self-contained and not, which can be a little frustrating. 

Another criticism is that the book could've used another editing pass, for I often saw spelling or grammar errors. They weren't too distracting, besides the misspelling of Qunari as "Quanari" in one part, but I counted over a dozen by the last story. 

Since there are so many short stories, they vary in quality and the level to which they gauged my interest. Some didn't pique my interest much at all by the end, so I wouldn't say each story is equally compelling. However, there were a couple I particularly adored, namely: "Half Up Front" and "The Horror of Hormak" by John Epler, "Murder by Death Mages" by Caitlin Sullivan Kelly, "Hunger" and "The Streets of Minrathous" by Brianne Battye, "The Dread Wolf Take You" by Patrick Weekes, "Callback" by Lukas Kristjanson, and "Luck in the Gardens" by Sylvia Feketekuty in that order. I'd recommend this book to any fan just to read these specific stories as they are simply wonderful. As a fan, reading these felt like opening a Christmas present during Not-Christmas.

And ultimately, that's the kind of person this book is precisely for. I wouldn't encourage someone who isn't already an invested Dragon Age fan to read this, especially because it isn't a gentle introduction to the Dragon Age universe by any means. But I'd happily recommend this to most hardcore fans of the series who are fine with an anthology format. Although the stories aren't long, aren't all riveting, and are reflective of a core aspect of Dragon Age that its fans can be mixed on, there are lovely gems in here. Reading the best stories in this anthology reminded me of why this is still the series I have invested the most time, energy, and love into. Tevinter Nights makes the wait for the next installment both a little easier and a little harder.