I do like me some books about dragons, and this had dragons galore! The dragons themselves are adorable characters, and I might actually have preferred them over the humans (go figure). Still, it was a good tale, and the worldbuilding was lovely, and I’m actually curious about what’s going to happen next!
by Michael R. Miller
Monolith Books, September 2020
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies
e-ARC provided by Reedsy Discovery for an honest review
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.
But then 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.
When reading epic fantasies, I find myself often seeing the same tropes within the epic fantasy enough that there’s a potential of getting sick of them. I mean, who hasn’t seen the “teacher-mentor” figure and the overall results of that plot? Who hasn’t seen a human bonding with a dragon in a book about dragons? I could probably name a number of books with these tropes (coughEragoncough coughTemerairecough) that I’ve liked to varying degrees, but I won’t get bogged down too much on that thought.
What I did like was that, despite these tropes, Ascendant was a fun ride.
“But night is when you’re with me.”
The story revolves around a pot boy–someone who works in the kitchens–with a heart of gold. Unable to bring himself to see a dragon egg perish, he chooses instead to break the law and save that particular egg. Which results in him forming a bond with a dragon that doesn’t typically showcase the best in any dragon ability. Because, like it or not, Ash wasn’t supposed to live. Ash is a weakness to all dragonkind. But Holt and Ash can fight the scourge, and suddenly all of the order within the small kingdom of Feorlen has been sent to chaos.
Yeah, the plot takes a turn, though I will admit a lot of it was predictable. However, my enjoyment fell mostly in the way the characters are introduced and how they dealt with the problems headed their way. A personal favorite was definitely Rake, even though he shows up in a very brief moment, akin to Tolkien’s Tom Bombadil or Sanderson’s Wit. As for the main characters, Talia and Holt are two different characters who bonded with their dragons, and each of them brings a perspective into the conflict at hand. While I did adore Ash and Holt and their bond, Pyra is totally the dragon I would have loved to have been bonded with (Talia, that lucky girl…). But ya know, I’m partial to the element of fire.
I also loved getting immersed into the magic system of the dragons. A lot of it was displayed later on in the book, and I was a little sad that much of the “wild flight” is yet to be fully seen as far as the other types of dragons go. In time, I know succeeding books will give us a taste of the other types of elements, so I’m not too bothered by that.
“Why are you hitting your tail like that?”
“To make noise. Sound changes depending on what’s around me.”
Also, can we talk about Ash for a moment? I absolutely love Ash. It’s actually a little sad that the dragons in this book get rid of their weak ones just from a scanning of eggs. It makes sense that Holt would sympathize and end up grabbing Ash from what could have been a tragedy. But one of the things I actually love about Ash is that he works around the weakness that all the dragons look down on him for. Yeah, he’s blind, but his other senses become heightened in the process, and throughout the book he actually works around this disability–to a point where Holt sense-shares through dragon flights. I just wanted to squee on that point here.
Magic flowed across the bond. All he felt was the grip of his sword; all he smelled was the acrid scourge blood; his only thought was to not let any of them pass. He would stop them.
The only thing that made my eyes roll somewhat was the way it was constantly pushed on us that Holt and Ashe are special snowflakes. In almost every. Single. Chapter. I get that there’s something special about a bond like theirs, but then to have it be mentioned every single time Holt and Ashe do something new just got awfully repetitive. It doesn’t help that this all takes place within the span of weeks; where Holt achieved much in the span of weeks, others took years to master.
“This is the quickest bond to develop I’ve ever known.”
Don’t get me wrong, there are instances where seemingly impossible feats can be achieved by those we underestimate. But to have it done with Holt, someone we’re supposed to relate to? I don’t know. I loved the idea of Holt and Ashe, I really did, but there is no point in the book where we aren’t reminded that the two are meant for great and powerful things, because they were naturally lucky to have fallen into place together (why Ashe’s egg, why now?). And honestly, it’s hard relating to characters like that; pure hearts of gold and even purer senses of righteousness.
That being said, I did enjoy the book. I hope to see what Talia and Holt are up to in the next book. Though, with how the end of Ascendant went, maybe more so on Holt’s side, because I do love me some adventures with dragons.
4 out of 5 cookies!