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The Masked Empire

(Dragon Age #4)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  3,454 ratings  ·  261 reviews
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 templars and the mages, even as rebellion stirs among the downtrodden elves To save Orlais, Celene must keep her hold on the throne ...more
Kindle Edition, 381 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Tor Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,454 ratings  ·  261 reviews

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Sean Barrs
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star-reads, fantasy
It was international women’s day yesterday, so I thought I’d review a fantasy book that displays a very powerful woman!

Meet Celene, Empress of the mighty Orlesian Empire.


The story begins with a typical clash for power. Celene is a very clever woman; she manoeuvres her way through political opposition with subtle grace. To her Lords and Ladies, she appears to do absolutely nothing. In reality her touch is so stealthy they miss it entirely: they have no idea they are being manipulated. As such
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2014, dragon-age
The Imperial court of Orlais is filled with parties, ornamented masks and the intrigue-filled contest for power known simply as 'the Game'. But behind all this, the threat of full-scale civil war is looming. The mages and the templars are already fighting. The elven alienages simmer with discontent. And the nobility is rallying behind Gaspard de Chalons, a powerful chevalier critical to the rule of Empress Celene.

Dragon Age books have a tendency of starting out incredibly weakly, and this one is
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
How very disappointing... This novel has left me with a bittersweet aftertaste, more bitter than sweet, in what started as a very interesting and complex story about Orlesian politics and the "Game", and ended, well, to quote another Game, with my joy turned to ashes in my mouth.

The first third of the book is great, with Empress Celene of Orlais in the midst of preventing a civil war, moving strings and winning battles with words, rather than swords, and her spy and elven lover Briala being her
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: four-stars, fantasy
‘How are the Dalish?’ she asked. 'You have not spoken of your people.’
Beneath his cloak, his face lit up with enthusiasm. 'They have a wonderful new plan! It ends with the shemlen killing each other off, leaving the Dales free for the elves to rule.’

'Felassan plucked off a bit of bark, popped it into his mouth, and chewed.
“What are you doing?”
“The Dalish know many medicinal remedies that the humans have forgotten,” Felassan said, chewing. “Certain types of bark can be chewed to ease headaches.”
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle-copy
It seems I'm one of the few who loved this one, but so far it's my favorite of the companion novels. It's because the whole story is painted in shades of grey. While it's easy enough to say what what's morally right, it's harder to follow that path while keeping your empire in check.

Celine is backed against a wall, and though she seems like the least terrible option for the elves in alienages, she's also the best option for the rest of her people. She cares about Orlais, versus Gaspard, who rea
Walt Reams
Apr 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: garbage
After reading the first three DA books, I picked this one up and was tremendously disappointed. Complete garbage. Expected another great adventure in Thedas, but all I found was a poorly written romance novel.
I think this book pretty much lived up to my earliest expectations, that is to say, it was an okay read, enjoyable at times but mostly dull. Personally, I blame the subject matter more than the author but let's start from the beginning.

"The Masked Empire" takes place around the same time as the events of "Asunder." While Wynne and company went off to find the answer to the Rite of Tranquility, trouble was brewing in Orlais. Empress Celene is slowly (very slowly) trying to incorporate the Alienag
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This Dragon Age book is set during the time before Dragon Age Inquisition, the video game. Perhaps because the book really revolves around the intricate world of Orelsian court politics, it wasn't as exciting as the other DA books. The gist shows the relationship between Briala of the elves and Celene, Emperess of Orlais. It also details the conflict between Gaspard and Celene. For those that have played the game, it is interesting background information, for those who have not played the game t ...more
C.T. Phipps
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grimdark, fantasy
One of the major problems I had with Dragon Age 2 was the game had something of a monomaniacal focus on the Templar and Mage issue. The Qunari were also present, thank the Maker, but it seemed to make the setting smaller rather than larger. One of the most appealing elements of Dragon Age: Origins was it illustrated the staggering number of issues which were plaguing the continent: elvish bigotry, dwarf classicism, mage oppression, religious fanaticism, Qunari totalitarianism, Tevinter slavers, ...more
May 19, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a slightly more enjoyable read than the previous ones. Writing style is more to my liking. I was mostly underwhelmed by the plot (though it had some fun points), but that may be due to my high expectations based on what happens in games. It took me five months to get to reading it till the end. If you are not madly interested in game franchise, I would not recommend you read this book, it won't do much in realm of convincing you to start playing the games. ...more
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Tricksy masked Orlesians dancing and making cutting remarks, incipient civil war -- wait, what comes after incipient?, hair's-breadth escapes, ancient magics and long-leggity beasties -- everything I need to make me even more excited about the impending release of Dragon Age: Inquisition. ...more
Crossposted at The Bibliosanctum.

I joked that this was going to be the first review that I wrote using only emojis, but then I realized that I almost wasn’t joking. Discussion of this book with other people mostly involved me using varied emojis, from agitated to mildly amused, to get my point across. When I started writing this, I had to chew on what I wanted to say about this book. Then, when the words started coming, they wouldn’t stop!

As with The Stolen Throne, I read The Masked Empire to le
Jeannette Nikolova
Jan 17, 2021 rated it liked it
Also available on the WondrousBooks blog.

The Masked Empire tells the story of Orlais, the strongest force in Thedas, the empire which conquered, albeit briefly, Ferelden, and which can afford the most cultured and lavish life in the continent. An empire ruled by a powerful and cunning empress - Celene.

Strictly speaking of Dragon Age Inquisition, The Masked Empire is the book which is most crucial to the game's story, among all five companion novels. Unaware of the book series when starting t
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it

If you're about to read this, do not get fooled by the title or the cover: it's not a story about Orlais or the political Game you find out about in the Orlesian Ball quest in the thirst game: besides the very first quarter of the novel, the rest is specifically focused on the elves and the romance between Briala and Celene. This being something that didn't bother me at all, I still found it worth mentioning since everyone expects actual info about Val Royeaux and the people from there.
To sum
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, high-fantasy
This was sort of a surprise for me! I recently started playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. I was looking for a high fantasy book and picked up this one, number 4 in the series, because it deals with characters I'm familiar with from the game. Turns out it has a lot of things I like in high fantasy: multiple complex female characters, interesting politics, a dash of humor, and a bit of magic.

The last 20% of the book got a little bit slow and repetitive for me because of the continued fight scenes, s
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, fantasy, gaming
Normally, Dragon Age books are at the top of my to-read list, yet for some reason, I let this one slide for a long time because, as much as I love the world of Thedas, fantasy France just didn't appeal to me, even after I played Dragon Age: Inquisition and got all wrapped up in the intrigue that directly follows the events of this book. You'd think playing and winning the Grand Game, even as an elf whom the court considers to be worth little more than a slave, I'd at least want to find out why I ...more
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zachary Taylor
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I'm aware of the criticism and comparison to Asunder that this book receives. This book feels less like a Dragon Age book of the past and more of an evolution. For example, you see very little in regards to cameos from party members of the preceding games and/or novels. It aims to stand on it's own and tell you the other side of the turmoil in Orlais leading up to DA:I.

It is important to note that the characters in this book are much more compelling than the characters in Asunder. It's not even
Jen Hoskins
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sff, fiction, queer-lit
The Masked Empire is the first published (and first I'd read) Dragon Age tie-in novel that wasn't written by David Gaider—but the story is in safe hands with Patrick Weekes. By the time this book was released, Weekes was already a published SFF author in his own right. Though I've never read anything else of his, I was excited to see what he would do in this book. I wasn't disappointed!

The novel's driving force is the relationship between Celene, empress of Orlais, and her elven handmaid and spy
Soukyan Blackwood
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
all reviews in one place:
night mode reading
skaitom nakties rezimu

Wow, this was one damn well written book, with character dynamics and development that I’ve not yet seen. The story pacing was perfect, the intrigues were tightly knitted, but allowed the reader to figure things out on their own too, if they paid attention. On top of that, I believe the Dread Wolf, Solas, himself made a very prominent appearance. All you have to do is watch for the details, the acts, the views, and you’l
Jenny T
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2019
God, Orlesian politics are an absolute train wreck, and it makes for some great reading. Certain aspects of Dragon Age, especially the fight between Empress Celene and Duke Gaspard and the rocky relationship between the Dalish and the city elves, are given more depth and background, and I won't be able to play the game the same way again. Folks who seem fairly benign in the game are more complicated here (I need to have words with Ser Michel de Chevin...) and one side character in particular, Fe ...more
Emily Woodbeck
Feb 01, 2020 rated it liked it
While I enjoyed all the tie ins to Inquisition, I spent a lot of this book thinking “ugh, Orlesians”.
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Made me want to play Dragon Age again. And now I guess I know what the best decision is in wicked eyes and wicked hearts.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Not the best, not the worst. The story was pretty forgettable and didn't really add much to what was happening within the game. ...more
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well. This book needs more Felassan. Also, if I ever cared about Orlais even a bit, I don't anymore. ...more
Chanda Panda
Jun 30, 2014 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what to expect from the first Dragon Age book not written by David Gaider. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. The book is still firmly rooted in the world of Thedas, but feels distinct from the other Dragon Age books both in setting and tone.

Like Asunder, the book is set in the Orliesian Empire, though rather than bound to the realms of the Chantry and Circle, this novel explores the politics and power struggles of the noble caste. The setting is differen
Feb 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Usually I'm wary of extended universe books, as their quality is in most cases... well, questionable. But The Masked Empire has been a pleasant surprise; it's well written, focusing a lot on what goes through each character's mind, which is appropriate given that the story is set in Orlais and deals with the great Game.

I love the idea of Orlais, a country and culture based on 17th and 18th century court life in France, as a novelty among the usual Medieval-ish theme of fantasy settings. I loved
Mmmmk. So. I really liked this book up to the point that I read it, and really loved how when I played DA:I, I knew so much about the background of the Orlesian court and what was going on.

However, I'm not going to finish it. The point that I stopped is where shit is starting to go bad, and I have read so. many. tumblr posts about this book and how fucked up it is... how it's just a long, gross, detailed account of yet another instance where the elves were victimized and treated like shit. And
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Patrick Weekes lives in Canada with their non-platonic life partner Karin, their children, and an ever-increasing number of rescue animals. By day, Patrick currently works at BioWare, where they are lead writer on the Dragon Age franchise. By night, they write novels whose feel usually boils down to “Absurd premise executed faithfully.”

Patrick enjoys Lego, martial arts, musical numbers, and chocol

Other books in the series

Dragon Age (6 books)
  • The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age, #1)
  • The Calling (Dragon Age, #2)
  • Asunder (Dragon Age, #3)
  • Last Flight (Dragon Age #5)
  • Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights

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“My name, among our people, means ‘slow arrow.’ It comes from a story in which the god Fen’Harel was asked by a village to kill a great beast. He came to the beast at dawn, and saw its strength, and knew it would slay him if he fought it. So instead, he shot an arrow up into the sky. The villagers asked Fen’Harel how he would save them, and he said to them, ‘When did I say that I would save you?’ And he left, and the great beast came into the village that night and killed the warriors, and the women, and the elders. It came to the children and opened its great maw, but then the arrow that Fen’Harel had loosed fell from the sky into the great beast’s mouth, and killed it. The children of the village wept for their parents and elders, but still they made an offering to Fen’Harel of thanks, for he had done what the villagers had asked. He had killed the beast, with his cunning, and a slow arrow that the beast never noticed.” 5 likes
“We are always in battle,” Celene said. “It is only that some of us do not always realize it. A bard named Marjolaine once told me that. I heard she met an unfortunate end in Ferelden.” She sighed. “Isn’t that sad, Nightingale?” 0 likes
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