Hard In Hightown by Varric Tethras (with Mary Kirby)

There was a part of me that thought I was never going to get my hands on a copy of this book because our local Booksamillion is… often lacking, and as much as I wanted to read it, I wanted a physical copy I could lovingly caress while curled up in bed. So, color me incredibly surprised when the aforementioned BAM store in our mall had not one, but two copies of Hard in Hightown on the shelf last weekend. Despite there being a pile of other books I really wanted to read, that one flew to the top of my list, and well, let’s just say I came home and immediately devoured every last page in a gluttonous frenzy because those who know me even just a little bit have been made well aware over the years that I LOVE DRAGON AGE! And, those who know me a little more intimately know that of all the Dragon Age games, Dragon Age 2 is by far my favorite (despite its many obvious flaws), and one of the reasons is because as a tale it is told from the perspective Varric Tethras, of a roguish bard type with a high-powered crossbow named after the love of his life: Bianca.

Well known for his flare for extravagant tales, Varric made known the deeds of his best friend Hawke, who fled to Kirkwall with his/her family during the Blight in Ferelden only to be forced into the twisted politics and religion of The City of Chains. Varric told Hawke’s story and eventually became known for a series of books he wrote called Hard in Hightown, which featured the adventures of a hardened guardsman named Donnen Brennokovic, who for all intents and purposes seemed to be a mash-up of Kirkwall’s actual guards Donnic Hendyr and Brennan Evighan.

When I heard Bioware was teaming up with Dark Horse to create an illustrated novel version of Hard in Hightown, I’m not gonna lie. I squeed a little. Okay, a lot. And though the book itself came out in July, I didn’t get my hands on it until, as I said above, last weekend.

As a story, it’s campy, the prose intentionally purple at times, and the characters within are quite obviously meant to be ‘inspired’ by Varric’s companions, from Ferris, the broody elven bartender at the Hangman, and Maysie (an obvious blending of Merril and Daisy) to the sultry pirate, Captain Belladonna and the dour blond chantry clinic mage. Even Donnen’s new partner, Jevlan, seems to have been modeled after Hawke’s younger brother Carver, with Hawke herself (and honestly more squee because Marian Hawke is my favorite Hawke,) playing the roguish Chantry spy, Lady Marielle.

I loved everything about this book except its size. The story was fun, the illustrations added a nice touch, and for about an hour I had that glorious nostalgia of beating feet through the streets of Kirkwall trying to solve another mystery, but the fact that it only took me about an hour to read saddened my Dragon Age-loving little heart. I want more, Bioware and Dark Horse and Mary Kirby. I want all the Varric Tethras stories and more adventures in Kirkwall that are so silly, they make my heart swell, so I hope they get on that and make it happen.

Without hestitation and because I’m a thousand percent biased, 5 out of 5 stars for Hard in Hightown!

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