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.
Ascendant is the initial novel in the Songs of Chaos series by Michael R. Miller. As it was often compared to Eragon, and being a book featuring dragons, which are one of my favourite fantasy creatures, reading it was a matter of time. We have a coming-of-age, epic fantasy book, which is really original in how it approaches certain of the classic tropes, which certainly deserves all the praise it got.
Our main character is going to be Holt Cook, a cleaner of pots for the Hall of Crag Order, subversing the chosen one trope, as instead of telling us the story of how this boy is somehow special, it makes really clear that Holt is not different to the rest, he doesn’t belong to that group of people who are Dragon Riders. What produces a change in his life is the decision of rescuing a defective dragon egg; in this world, this kind of egg gets discarded, as dragons consider hatching them would be something that weak their race. Holt takes care of this egg until Ash is born. A blind dragon is born.
Between Holt and Ash, a bond is formed, and meanwhile, civils gets evacuated from the land because the Scourge is rising, and undead armies are roaming; so the Order must take a step forward and fight it. While our pair survived this first trouble wave being hidden, they end up finding Brode and Talia. Not really convinced by the idea of a blind dragon, and less even because the pot boy has formed a bond with a dragon, something that nobody expected; but it marks the initial point of the journey for our main characters.
We will see how the relationship between Ash and Holt evolves, and how Holt gets trained in the ways in which Dragon Riders strengthen themselves and their bond with dragons. At the same time, we become spectators on how classism is an integral element of this world, as we are able to observe Holt being rejected due to his social origin, being even questioned if he has stolen the bond from a noble person. It is interesting also to see how being Ash a disabled dragon, the way to train him varies, and how it gives new challenges to our characters.
While most of the story is told from the POV of Holt, near the end, the narration gets divided into two different POVs (near the battle of Shansara), one for Holt, and one for Talia, helping to make these action scenes more vivid. The narration style is really well crafted, allowing you to visually get an idea of anything that is happening, something that gets even better during the scenes where Holt and Ash are battling together.
Dragons are classical fantasy creatures, but it’s really interesting to see which different twist each author choose for their story. In this case, there are different types of them, depending on which element they draw their core to (Talia’s one for example is fire), and it’s interesting how they, as species, think they should eliminate the weak one. The world is pretty much drawn from the classic fantasy tropes, leaning towards using medieval Europe.
I enjoyed greatly reading Ascendant, and observing how a classical fantasy story can be twisted in different ways, conserving some of the tropes (as Princess Talia acting as Holt’s mentor) and completely turning up others. It’s a fast read, perfect for all ages, and a delight for any classical fantasy lover.
Michael R. Miller
Michael grew up on the gray, wet, and wild west coast of Scotland.
He began writing his debut book, The Reborn King, when he was 10. Old paper copies of terrible opening chapters may still be found in a drawer back home. Thankfully those early drafts never saw the light of day. In 2015 he renewed his writing efforts and released The Reborn King in November of that year.
Since then he has sold over 250,000 books, hit numerous Amazon bestselling charts, including the top 100 of ALL books on Amazon.com and Audible.com. A scene from his first book was included in the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Arts Exam Anthology for Performance in 2019.
He has worked at Bloomsbury Publishing and co-founded the digital publisher Portal Books. He’s also spoken on BBC Radio Scotland on Self-Publishing.