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.

Echoes of Fate by Philip C. Quaintrell

Echoes of Fate.jpgEchoes of Fate, a book series by Philip C. Quaintrell, is a very engrossing story. At first I wasn’t sure I would like it because the story follows many different lead characters, all with weird sounding names. I didn’t think I would be able to follow the many different story lines. However, it was not long before the stories intertwined, making it easier and much more enjoyable to follow.

My favorite aspect about this story is the path for redemption that two of the characters – Asher, the main character, and Galanor – are on. Each of these characters has had a tumultuous past. Whereas Asher has already turned from his old life as an assassin when you first meet him, Galanor is conflicted between duty, which calls him to perform unsavory actions, and his desire to be a good person. While you get to see Galanor in the before-and-after stages of his path to redemption, you meet Asher after he has turned away from the life of an assassin. However, trusting and friendship are two things foreign to Asher, and it is fun to watch his relationship with the characters develop as he struggles to live life as a better person while carrying the guilt of his past life.

Due to the content of this series, I would say it is rated R. There is intermittent use of the F-word and some fairly graphic violence (at least by my standards). However, it is the scenes in which the Darkakin torture/rape the queen of the elves that is primarily responsible for my rating the book as R. It is hard to describe these scenes; they are not graphic but there is enough description and allusions to what is going on that it is bothersome. While this did not stop me from reading the book (as you can easily skip those scenes), it does make me hesitant to recommend it to anyone but a mature audience.

Note: I continued reading the book despite the scenes with the Darkakin because I am enjoying (I’m on the last book) the path to redemption of Asher and Galanor. I also enjoy the internal struggle of the other characters who, after experiencing horrendous torture or loss, fight to retain their virtues and moral beliefs. The characters in this book experience very real, human emotions. You see them struggle to be the people they want to be despite the torture they’ve experienced or the losses they have endured. For that reason alone, the book is worth reading as you see that no matter how horrible life can get, you should always strive to be the better person, even if you don’t always succeed.

P.S. I will be adding this to my favorite books for adults.

Age of War by Michael J. Sullivan

Age of War.jpgI eagerly awaited the release of Age of War by Michael J. Sullivan. It is the third book in the Legends of the First Empire series. The book is well written, but a little slow. The characters are well developed, but overall I was disappointed.

As the title suggest, there is a lot of war and death in this book (not graphic though). There is also a lot of scheming among many characters, and no humor like in Riyria Revelations (his first, and by far his best, book series.)

Will I continue reading the book series? Yes. Will I buy the books/audio? No, I will wait for it to arrive at the library. It will also be removed from my top-10 list of  favorite book. It just doesn’t live up to the standards he created when he wrote Riyria Revelations.

Fatemarked by David Estes

Fatemarked.jpgFatemarked by David Estes is the first in The Fatemarked Epic series. It’s been a while since I’ve come across a book that I couldn’t put down, but Fatemarked had me hooked. I couldn’t and didn’t want to put it down.

The book is well written and the characters are multi-faceted. Each character has its strengths, and none are perfect. Even the characters you don’t like and want to hate have a human side to them that makes you empathize or at least recognize they weren’t always the monsters they were portrayed to be.

If you are looking for an enjoyable escape and you’ve got several hours to spare, check out Fatemarked. But be prepared, you won’t want to stop reading.

I would say this book is PG-15. There is a sex scene in it, but its no more than what you would see in a PG-13 movie, and you can skip over it. However, there is cruelty and violence in the book which is why I gave it the PG-15 rating. I would not want my young teen to read the book. The cruelty is by no means graphic, but it is enough that some people may be uncomfortable.