Sons of the night...

In the spirit of continuing to catch up on series I've started, I decided to read the third available book in the Songs of Chaos series, mistakenly thinking it was the last. 

4/5 In spite of my incorrect belief that this was the last book in a trilogy, I had a great deal of fun with the third entry into the SONGS OF CHAOS series. 

NOTE: While this review does not contain major spoilers for DEFIANT, it does mention specific things about ASCENDANT and UNBOUND that could be considered as such.  

As with the previous book, this adventure is told across multiple points of view. Holt, Talia, and Osric all return as key persons of interest and are now joined by others like the half-dragon Rake as well as Paragon Adaskar at different points. Even though each had their own mission, I felt like their stories were much more connected this time around. This might be because they were each trying to combat the Scourge in their own way. We essentially follow different battles within the same war, although Talia's story does take a bit of a detour at one point. I also liked that their arcs weren't completely separate in that each of them spend some time together within the same chapters. Each of them goes on their own journey of personal development that felt like it expanded upon who they are in meaningful ways. These still aren't going to be the most nuanced or complex characters to ever grace fantasy, but I found myself really enjoying them for what they are. 

In addition to the main cast, I also enjoyed some of the side characters quite a bit. The fire dragons were an interesting lot, though I didn't fully understand why they are the way that they are. There is a new type of magical creature introduced and his backstory was rather interesting though I don't think we got the full picture of what was really going on with him. Amaranth was a fun character from the first book, but he really won my heart this time around. Where things faltered a bit for me was with the antagonists (other than Thrall who looms largely in the background of this story). I just didn't fully understand the motivations of the Paragons of the Rider order. It's not so much that their motives are all that complex, it's more like their plans were convoluted and their actions didn't always make sense to me. It was sort of like they were supposed to be bad guys who aren't actually all that bad, but then the end result is just a little messy. Maybe I just missed something important though, that's always possible, especially on audio. I also noticed that most of the characters from Talia's arc in the previous book were largely absent. The Riders who join her were interesting enough and it was fascinating to see her kind of manipulate them into things their code doesn't strictly allow, but I think not following up more on other members of the side cast was a bit of a miss. Fortunately, Fynn is still such a fabulous part of her story though he is really put through the ringer this time. Some members of Holt's party are also largely missing, but I frankly didn't miss them as much, so this was fine for me. 

Before saying anything else, I need to call out that this is NOT the end of a trilogy. I don't know where I got the idea that it was, but for some reason I was dead-set that this was the case when there are, in fact, at least two more entries coming in the series. Because of this incorrect expectation, I found myself getting rather anxious at the end of the book and while the ending would certainly have served as a deeply unsatisfying conclusion to a trilogy, it works quite well in the context of leading into the next installment. I knew coming in that this would not be going back to the tight party-based adventure that I enjoyed from the first book. There's not really any putting the cat back in the bag when a series expands in scope, if anything, things only tend to get more expansive and that was definitely the case here. While I still miss that tighter, more focused form of storytelling, I appreciated the multi-threaded narrative that is woven together here. Like I mentioned before, I think the different character arcs were tied together much better than they were in the previous book and that made the experience much more enjoyable for me. There are still a number of tropey bits that took things down a little for me though. Chief among these were rather obvious fake-out deaths or deaths that were real, but sort of unceremonious (too sudden). Sometimes characters would  also just do things, seemingly for the sake of creating drama within the plot, especially when it came to the story's human antagonists. It all culminates into something that is deeply satisfying, it's just worth noting that the reliance on tired narrative traditions makes it as flawed as it is fun. Some of the action scenes were still a little hard to follow, but I found that they read much more clearly this time around for the most part. There is a recurring theme of consequence that's present throughout this adventure. Whereas in the prior two books, progress is regarded as a generally positive thing, this time the main characters are left to grapple with whether they really are "chaos bringers." I really liked this added layer of stakes to the storyline and it was satisfying to see how each character engaged with this theme in their own way. 

Given the increased number of POV characters, we do also get an even broader look at the world. Rake, Holt, and Ash all go to some interesting places in particular. We also get some glimpses into the more mystical side of things thanks to Adaskar's perspective. The corner of the world that the fire dragons hail from was an interesting one to explore though I wasn't fully following certain aspects of how their magic worked. Osric also heads into some interesting places and joins up with some rather fascinating and sometimes unexpected characters. A particular standout for me was a sequence where one of the main characters journeys into a mountain region where some rather curious sorts dwell. We also get to see more of the cavernous lair of the Scourge though much still remains mysterious about that realm. I think this is the first book where we get to see members of different wild dragon clans interact with one another in the struggle against Sovereign. I found these moments to be rather rewarding and it was interesting to see how much resentment the fire elder has for his kin (not to mention basically everyone else). The schism within the Riders was another compelling aspect. In keeping with the theme of action and consequence, it was cool to watch the world develop and change alongside the characters facilitating these developments. I hope that we get to see some of these threads and ideas carry over into the sequels. 

All I can say about the audio performance this time around is "WOW!" The narrator really outdid himself this time around. The prose is expertly delivered as it has been in the past, but some of the VOICES where just spectacular. We'd gotten a little bit of a taste for characters like the bug queen in the previous book, but we get even more of that here as well as some stunning depictions of characters under pain or duress. There are also more subtle examples like the nuanced inflections of Flynn's lines. This is the strongest outing for the narrator yet and I very much hope that he will continue to be the series' narrator for the next books.

If you enjoyed the first two books in this series, then you absolutely must continue. This is probably my favorite installment so far and I very much look forward to the release of the fourth book. 

(+) The Main POV arcs were all well done and the character growth felt satisfying in each case.
(+) The side characters with more page time were quite enjoyable.
(+) The way the world grows alongside the characters was rewarding to see.
(+) The connections between different arcs wove a much more interconnected thread than in book two.
(+) Some great moments between different characters.
(+) I'm excited to see where this series goes and rather excited that this isn't a trilogy.
(+) An absolutely stunning audio rendition.
(-) Antagonists' actions didn't always make complete sense to me.
(-) Fake-out deaths and other annoying narrative devices can be found here.


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