Mini-Reviews: Ascendant and Unbound by Michael R. Miller

 

Order Ascendant over HERE

 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:
Ascendant
is the first book of the Songs Of Chaos. It’s also a story that I was attracted
to because of its striking cover mixed in with dragons and epic fantasy. The
main plot opens with a teenage pot boy named Holt who helps his father in the kitchens
and has significant dreams about wanting to do much more in his life. Dragons
and dragon riders make up the cool factor in their world but also serve as a
major deterrent against the horde of monsters known as the scourge. 

Holt one day happens upon a dragon egg that’s meant to
destroyed as it is deemed weak/impure. Saving it because of pity, he soon
discovers that it hatches a blind dragon. In a bind as dragons would kill the
blind  dragon and so would the dragon riders, thus begins the bond between
Holt and the blind dragon named Ash. The story then takes off in an unexpected
direction as the Scourge make their presence felt. The main focus of the story
is the growing bond between the blind dragon who is the first of its kind and
the lowly kitchen boy who saved its life out of kindness. The story really
takes its time to showcase how and why Ash and Holt are specially intertwined.
Plus there’s other characters such as the older, ex-dragon rider Brode and
princess Talia who is also a dragon rider. Together they have to help Holt
learn his responsibilities and survive at the same time. 

This story is a big one (about 500_plus pages in both HC and
trade paperback format) and the author really utilizes the page count to give
us the readers and in-depth look at the world. He even creates personalities
for the dragons we meet and that was a huge plus. Also this world is also one
where any form of disability amidst the dragons is seen as a huge flaw. This
was the reason why Ash was almost killed in the start as per the dragon
matriarch’s choice. Another plus point of the story is how much action packed
the story is and it’s not a surprise when you mix monsters with Dragons and
politicking as well. The best part about this book is magic system and especially
why Dragons allow humans to ride them. This has been the biggest fallacies for
many dragon rider fantasy books. As why would a sentient magical bieng, allow a
frail non-magical human atop it. Here Michael Miller comes up with a brilliant reason,
which makes total sense while also powers the progression aspect within the
magic system. 

The author showcases slowly and surely how Ash and Holt learn
all about each other and their symbiotic abilities. These were some of my
favorite bits of the story. The story of course streams along towards its
climax where we get some epic action. The story is a proper classical fantasy
that feels like a comfort read. It hits all the epic and YA fantasy tropes that
we know and cherish. Michael Miller’s writing is certainly polished and so
herein even though we are reading a story that we have read before. The way he
twists certain things and plot aspects, makes it quite compelling. The story’s
biggest flaw for me was it pace as it’s a bit uneven. We get a pacey start but
then gets bogged down during the training sequences and then again picks up
towards the very end.

Overall this story was a fun read and now I can’t wait to dive
into the sequel and whose cover shows the character (and dragon) progression. I
hope we get to know more about the world history, the scourge and magic system.
Michael Miller promises an epic and I certainly think he will deliver on almost
all counts.

 

Order Unbound over HERE

 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Unbound
is a sequel that promises to take its predecessor’s energy, political intrigue and
magical action and double it to the very least. It’s a story that basically
goes from the heroes proving their worth and saving a kingdom to getting
further embroiled in a mess that’s beyond their scope. The story also goes from
a singular POV structure to a multi –POV one and this is just another step in
dialing up the epic aspect of the story.

Holt and Ash are encumbered with a special task as they  have to find the elder dragons. Princess Talia
is now Queen Talia and further enmeshed in the whole political angle as she
tries her best to get the dragon riders to heed her warnings. We get a new (and
surprising) POV from one of the villain’s Osric Agravain who (not surprisingly)
turns out be a complex character as well. All three of them are trying their
best to achieve their goals and we get a true epic in the making.

Unbound works on many levels as it is a surprisingly solid
sequel that increases the focus on the world, the magic system as well as the
myriad cast of characters. The multi-pov storyline certainly amps up the epic
fantasy aspect of the story. There’s a character called Rake who was introduced
in book 1 and here gets a bigger role. He’s very much an intriguing one and
does some questionable things. But nevertheless the readers will be emphaticizing
with him a lot due to what we learn within this book. I enjoyed how the author
made the all characters deal with the real-world complexities. Both Holt and
Ash are idealistic heroes and the author forces them to understand how grey
things can be.

The first book was a little bit more YA-ish, this book is
however a little bit darker, a little more adult and a little less tropey. It
still feels like a classic epic fantasy but the author still hits some solid
plot beats and you can kind of expect where the story is heading (but not
entirely). Lastly this is a bigger book than its predecessor (almost over a 120
pages longer) and the pace kind of falters again in quite a few sections. But
this isn’t too much of an issue, as there’s a lot of heavy lifting done within
the story and I can kind of see how that might not make for a streamlined
story.

Unbound was a sequel that really solidified the Songs Of Chaos
in my mind, it amplified the epic aspect of the story, gave us richer
characterization and also deepened the world and magic system. Now that’s what
I look forward to in a sequel. I hope you give the Songs Of Chaos a try if you
are in the mood for classic epic fantasy featuring dragons, you might enjoy it
as much as I did.

 

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