The Talon Saga

To take her rightful place in the powerful Talon organization, hatchling Ember Hill must prove she can hide her dragon nature and blend in with humans. Her delight at the prospect of a summer of human teen experiences is short-lived, however, once she discovers that she must also train for her destined career in Talon. But a chance meeting with a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught.

– Excerpt from Amazon description (https://www.amazon.com/The-Talon-Saga/dp/B074C8YNK1)

Talon is the first book in The Talon Saga by Julie Kagawa. While I devoured the first book, aspects of it reminded me of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. There are two male characters who are in love/infatuated with Ember Hill (the main character). She, of course, has feelings for both of them, and these feelings complicate their already difficult life. Romance aside, I really did enjoy the first book and couldn’t wait to see what happened. I eagerly borrowed the second book, Rogue, from the library.

The second book, however, has not impressed me. While I really want to know what happens with the story, there is too much repetition in the second book. The internal dialogue between characters is the same in almost every chapter, and the conversation between the characters is essentially the same, just different circumstances surrounding the characters.

During their internal dialogue, the characters frequently reference the same events and thoughts they had during the first book. I did not mind in the first couple chapters because I think too many authors forget to provide context for people who perhaps haven’t read the first book or for fans who had to wait a year for the book’s release. However, aside from a brief reference for context, the information does not need to be frequently repeated. The same can be said for the romantic internal dialogue. Yes, the characters are struggling to understand their feelings for each other, but they apparently obsess over it every chapter or two.

The conversations between the main characters are repetitive as well. It usually consists of the two guys – Garret and Riley – expressing dislike for each other or Ember and Riley arguing about Ember’s reckless ideas. I admit, I’m on Riley’s side. I started getting frustrated with Ember because of her recklessness. While her character makes decisions based on her emotions, it still seems like she could use a bit more reason and common sense knowing the dangerous circumstances they are encountering.

In terms of Ms. Kagawa’s writing style, she is a good writer. The book is easy to read and draws you in. For those who loved Twilight, I definitely recommend this series. But if you are like me and get board when romance starts to take up a huge chunk of the character’s time, The Talon Saga won’t interest you.

Sensitive reader alert: There are a few instances of the F word (and some other profanity). So between that, the intense romantic infatuation, teen drinking, and an attempted sexual assault, I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone 14 and younger.

The Portal Wars Saga (Book 1)

When I started listening to The Portal Wars Saga (Book 1), I was optimistic that I’d found my next series. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The Hidden Tower is the first book in The Portal Wars Saga by James E. Wisher. The story follows Otto, the third son of a country baron, who desires to become an Arcane Lord. The problem? Magic is illegal. When an arranged marriage allows Otto to become a friend of the prince, Otto decides to use his new connections to advance the status of wizards and ultimately become one of the most powerful wizards himself.

The book itself is well written, albeit a little slow. However, as things begin to ramp up in the story, you begin to wonder if the main character is a hero or a villain. One might say Otto becomes obsessed with magic and power, an obsession that sees the initially considerate, somewhat likeable teenage boy quickly transform into a scheming, vengeful, power hungry individual.

As I prefer stories whose main characters are either heroes or are on a path towards redemption, this is not a series I will continue to read.

Ascendant (Songs of Chaos, Book 1)

Finding good books can be a challenge. Good books for me usually mean – clean (no sex and limited to no profanity), an engaging storyline, and believable characters. I really think it says a lot about an author who can craft a story without feeling the need to include “adult content”. Because of my unusually high standards, I often find it hard to discover good books. So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Ascendant (Songs of Chaos Book 1) by Michael R. Miller. It meets all my qualifications and is story I can recommend to anyone (child and adult), without reservations.


Synopsis:

“Holt Cook was never meant to be a dragon rider. He has always served the Order Hall of the Crag dutifully, keeping their kitchen pots clean.

Until he discovers a dark secret: dragons do not tolerate weakness among their kin, killing the young they deem flawed. Moved by pity, Holt defies the Order, rescues a doomed egg and vows to protect the blind dragon within.

But the Scourge is rising. Undead hordes roam the land, spreading the blight and leaving destruction in their wake. The dragon riders are being slaughtered and betrayal lurks in the shadows.

Holt has one chance to survive. He must cultivate the mysterious power of his dragon’s magical core. A unique energy which may tip the balance in the battles to come, and prove to the world that a servant is worthy after all.”

©2020 Michael R. Miller (P)2020 Michael R. Miller
https://www.michaelrmiller.co.uk/books


Miller describes this series as “combining the best of Eragon/How To Train Your Dragon with eastern inspired magic systems of Xianxia and cultivation fantasy”, and I would agree. However, I would take it one step further and say that Miller’s style of writing is far more developed than Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. (Don’t get me wrong, I loved Eragon and read and re-read it as a teen.) However, Miller’s Ascendant delves more deeply into the characters; you see the character’s internal struggles, which makes them more relatable and even more courageous because you know their fears and insecurities.

What I liked most about this story is that it affirms the dignity of life, even that of the unborn. Holt is tasked with destroying a dragon egg because the Matriarch sensed an imperfection in it. However, Holt is unable to follow through with the task because it “just feels wrong” (Chapter 5). Later, when an opportunity presents itself, Holt rescues the dragon egg, intending to protect it until he can release it into the wild. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and the dragon egg hatches before Holt can release it. The dragon inside is blind.

As the story continues both Ash (the dragon) and Holt face many obstacles, one of which is the hostility of the other dragons who believe Ash should not be allowed to live. Holt feels increasing guilt for the struggles Ash faces, both because he is blind and because he is ostracized by the other dragons. When Holt mentions this to Ash, Ash sums it up quite nicely saying “Never worry about my eyes – I’m glad to experience the world as I do rather than not at all. As for others of my kind, they can accept me or not as they choose. I will not allow my own worth to be determined by them.” (Chapter 54)

In today’s society where we can abort the unborn simply because we do not want the responsibility of raising a child or because the child is going to be born with “imperfections” (disabilities/deformities), this book provides a reminder that all life has value. Whether or not the author intended this, I do not know. However, I will say it is refreshing and one of my favorite aspects of the book. I look forward to the second book in the series and in the meantime will enjoy his other book series – The Dragon’s Blade.

I will be adding this book to my Favorites list, and it has even made it in the top-10.

Sufficiently Advanced Magic

Adventure awaits in this land of magic and mythical gods!

Five years ago, Tristan Cadence disappeared during his Judgement – a potentially fatal quest to earn a magical attunement. Now, it is Corin Cadence’s turn to enter the Serpent Spire for his Judgement, and Corin has only one thing on his mind – find his brother.

By completing the Judgement, Corin hopes to earn a powerful attunement that will enable him to find his brother. As with all heroes, things never go as planned. While Corin does survive the Judgement, the attunement he receives is not one he was hoping for; furthermore, his actions in the Spire may have put him on the wrong side of the gods. And the last thing any teenager wants, is to be an enemy of the gods.

Sufficiently Advanced Magic, book one of the Arcane Ascension series, by Andrew Rowe quickly draws readers in with it’s easy to read (or listen to) writing style and well developed characters. Once you start, you won’t want to stop.

Arcane Ascension is one series I will be adding to my “favorites” list for teens and adults.

In terms of content, I give book one, Sufficiently Advanced Magic, a PG rating and book two, On the Shoulders of Titans, a PG-13 rating. The series contains some brief references to LGBTQ issues/topics. For the most part these references are quick and almost feel like they were thrown in there for the sake of being politically correct. However, because the second book has a few more references and contains some innuendoes, I would be hesitant to recommended it to younger children. (I will note that books one and two did not contain any sex. I have not read book three yet, but I hope it continues to remain relatively clean.)

Rockslide by Michael Wisehart

Rockslide2Michael Wisehart is one of my favorite authors, alongside Michael J. Sullivan, John Bierce, and Brian McClellan. So, I was extremely excited to be part of the “review team” for Rockslide, the third installment of the series Street Rats of Aramoor.

In this book, Ayrion finds himself responsible for a group of outcasts from the various street tribes of Aaramoor. Starving and harassed by the other tribes, the outcasts are struggling simply to survive. Feeling the burden of leadership, Ayrion and his friends Reevie and Sapphire endeavor to save the outcasts as well as the members of Hurricane by earning entrance into the Guild. However, nothing is ever easy, and several members of the Guild are eager to see the demise of Ayrion and the Hurricane tribe, so they ask an impossible price, one that Ayrion cannot pay without extreme risk to his life.

If you have not already done so, I suggest re-reading Hurricane (the second book in the series). It has been a long time since I read it, and consequently, when I started reading Rockslide, it took me a while to recall who the various characters were and how they related to one another.

As I said before, Michael Wisehart is one of my favorite authors. I enjoy the way he writes. Personally, I thought Rockslide was a little slow, but that may be due to the fact that I know where the story is going. I have read, and truly love, The Aldoran Chronicles and know the role that Aryion plays in that series. Consequently, I am very eager (one might say impatient), to see how he gets there. However, Rockslide, like the other Street Rats books, primarily still deals with Aryion’s life on the streets of Aramoor. So, I guess I will just have to learn to be patient while I wait for Aryion to grow from being a street rat to the character he is in The Aldoran Chronicles.

A little bit of waiting never hurt anyone….right?