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.

Wizard’s Alley

I tried. I really tried! I listened to seven chapters of Wizards Alley by James Haddock and still haven’t figured out what this story is about! The narrator – Daniel Wisniewski – is superb, but the story leaves much to be desired.

Wizard’s Alley starts out promising. Two wizards duel in an alley. A stray bolt of magic knocks a street urchin unconscious. When the boy awakes, he discovers he can do magic. After that, however, the story takes a less than promising turn as Scraps, the street urchin turned wizard, goes around town, stealing, healing, and fighting various people. While his intentions are good – to provide for those less fortunate – his actions are somewhat questionable.

The main complaint I had with the first seven chapters (because I’m not reading anymore of it) was that there was no conflict. Scraps was “blessed” with magical powers, and he doesn’t even have to learn how to use them! He can simply wish for something, and it comes true.

Concerned I was jumping the gun prematurely, I looked at reviews on Amazon to see if I simply needed to be more patient. Unfortunately, many of the reviews observed the same things I did – lack of conflict/plot being the main one. A review left by “Jo” on Amazon described the book perfectly: Wizard’s Alley “reads like a history book”. Imagine reading someone’s autobiography, and you pretty much have a feel for what reading Wizard’s Alley is like.

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.)

Worst Witch Season 4

*Minor spoiler.*

I just finished season 4 of Netflix’s Worst Witch. Although I was disappointed (and surprised) to learn that the role of Mildred Hubble was no longer played by Bella Ramsey, Lydia Page does an excellent job of stepping into the role of Mildred Hubble. Fans of the show will find that, despite the change in physical appearance, Mildred Hubble is still the same “worst witch” we’ve grown to know and love. So be sure to check it out and join Mildred on her fourth year at Cackle’s Academy. You won’t be dissappointed!