Review: The Dragon's Blade: Veiled Intentions by Michael R. Miller

Posted by DarkChaplain at 2/12/2017
Rectar has always had his sights set on conquering the human lands. His demonic invasion of the west is gaining momentum – an unrelenting horde unhindered by food or sleep. Now, only the undermanned Splintering Isles lie between the demons and the human kingdom of Brevia. If the islands fall, the rest of Tenalp will soon follow.

The Three Races must work together if they are to survive, but they have another problem – Castallan. The traitorous wizard has raised a deadly rebellion and declared himself King of Humans. He believes himself safe in the bowels of his impenetrable Bastion fortress, but Darnuir, now King of Dragons, intends to break those walls at all costs.

To face these threats, all dragons, humans and fairies must truly unite; yet old prejudices may undermine Darnuir’s efforts once again. And as the true intentions of all are revealed, so too is a secret that may change the entire world.
After a few intense weeks filled with stress, sickness, more stress and a noticeable lack of productivity on the review front, this is the novel that I needed to get motivated again. I originally wanted to get the review out by its launch day on February 10, but couldn't manage it. Either way, I am happy to be through it now and being able to put out a full review instead of just poking friends with tidbits.

To preface, though, I got a review e-copy of this novel, like the first, from Michael R. Miller. I'm happy I did, because my print copy is still lying at the post office until tomorrow. I was asked to let you know that you can get an ebook copy of The Dragon's Blade: The Reborn King for free via Michael's website, thedragonsblade.com, by signing up for his newsletter. Since I very much enjoyed the novel despite some flaws, I'm impressed by the generous offer and think you should take him up on it. I mean, it's a free book either way, and you mind find out about a bunch of cool author interviews he's hosting (including for some whose books are on my reading pile). If your taste is similar to my own, you might find value in it.

With all this preamble out of the way, let's begin!


The Story:
"Rectar has always had his sights set on conquering the human lands. His demonic invasion of the west is gaining momentum – an unrelenting horde unhindered by food or sleep. Now, only the undermanned Splintering Isles lie between the demons and the human kingdom of Brevia. If the islands fall, the rest of Tenalp will soon follow.

The Three Races must work together if they are to survive, but they have another problem – Castallan. The traitorous wizard has raised a deadly rebellion and declared himself King of Humans. He believes himself safe in the bowels of his impenetrable Bastion fortress, but Darnuir, now King of Dragons, intends to break those walls at all costs.

To face these threats, all dragons, humans and fairies must truly unite; yet old prejudices may undermine Darnuir’s efforts once again. And as the true intentions of all are revealed, so too is a secret that may change the entire world."

Disclaimer
As stated above, I received a free review copy of the ebook ahead of the official release. I have also ordered the print copies of the first two books on my own, and purchased the audiobook of The Dragon's Blade on Audible, so I was well-willing to open my wallet for it. Either way, keep that in mind while reading the review.

The Review:
The Dragon's Blade: Veiled Intentions is a big step up from its predecessor, which was Michael R. Miller's debut novel. I am very happy to say that, because The Dragon's Blade was a good novel with interesting characters, world building and plenty of promise, marred by a few flaws and bumps. I enjoyed it a good deal, and was hoping to see Miller grow as he gained more experience and feedback. And he did. I don't think my review in January had much to do with it, if anything, due to being so late to the party. Still he managed to address a lot of points I made with his second book, and the entire thing feels like a natural improvement.

Veiled Intentions builds on all the points I enjoyed about book one, while getting rid of or decreasing the aspects that worried me before. It felt exciting to read from the first to the last page, which led me to finishing the book today after hours of non-stop reading through the final 20%. Everything ramped up, had a degree of pay-off and more intrigue revealed, and I think that this will turn out to be a trilogy that avoids the weak-midpoint-syndrome you often see.

The novel picks right back up where it left off last time. There is little time wasted on reintroducing characters or summing up the state of the war of the alliance of humans, fairies and dragons against Rectar and the Shadow. It catapults you right back into the unfolding plot and mysteries, even though it doesn't focus on battles until quite a ways into the book.
Coming right from Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy (I'm currently taking a break from book three to get this one done), I might be overly appreciative of this. I got pretty annoyed with the reiterating of plot points and character arcs, let alone the magic systems, early on into Sanderson's books. Even halfway through there are still bits and pieces here and there that bug me because I remember those things and it takes me out of the moment.
The situation here is quite different. While Miller tells us what we need to know and eases the reader back into his world, it never felt on-the-nose to me. I never felt bogged down by summaries of previous events or infodumped. Callbacks feel like a natural part of the unfolding plotlines and character arcs, rather than existing solely for the benefit of the reader. But of course, this also means that you'll have to read book one first and can't jump in midway. To be honest, I never liked that idea anyway, and have consistently urged people not to do that even when it comes to the Horus Heresy series. For me, it is all or nothing.

Either way, I was invested in the book right off the bat. The prologue introduces us to new characters and regions of the world, and brings Dukoona, the Spectre general, back into focus. His plotline here is an intriguing one that I enjoyed a great deal, and turns the minions-of-evil tropes on their head nicely. Dukoona actually has become one of my favorite characters in the series so far. As Veiled Intentions keeps pulling back the shroud, my appreciation for the Spectres and their dilemma only grew.
But Dukoona is only one of the many characters that grow significantly in depth here. Garon, left-hand man of Cosmo and somewhat of an uncle figure to Darnuir, who is now king of dragons, turns into a man with backbone and integrity and works towards achieving Darnuir's dream of revitalizing the alliance and bridging racial rifts on a smaller scale. Cassandra, recently recaptured by the wizard Castallan, makes moves to take her fate in her own two hands and shows initiative throughout. Even Blaine, the Guardian, who I had a hard time liking in The Dragon's Blade, turns into a relatable, nuanced character full of depth and interest.

As somebody who focuses a great deal of attention on characters and their progression, their thoughts and feelings, but also their actions, I think that this book succeeded wholeheartedly. It clears up a lot of motivations and intentions, while making everybody more interesting, relatable and believable. Even the villains, like Castallan, turned into more than just simple antagonists with a lust for power. I believe that Miller has a good grasp on what makes characters tick and interesting to follow, and Veiled Intentions highlights a highly diverse cast of examples who share one common theme: They're all exciting to read about, and many of them have their own secrets.

The action, too, is on point. The inevitable assault on the Bastion, Castallan's stronghold, was well-executed and exciting, providing a midpoint climax that provided growth and new conflict in equal measure. Everybody has a part to play as the alliance's bonds are strained and Castallan makes his big plays. The magical showdown here was fantastic, vivid and thrilling. Darnuir's growing dependence on cascade energy, Blaine's wavering light and Brackendon's inner demons all make for intense scenes throughout the book. From fighting against red-eyed enhanced humans over wizard duels to schisms between Spectres and desperate defences, the action sequences are varied, highlighting neat environments and all serve to further character development and intrigue.

Besides the thrill of battle, there are many calm, reflective moments. New bonds are forged, some as unlikely as they come, and there are many heartwarming scenes here. I especially liked one between Cassandra and the fairy general Fidelm that involved a pretty white dress and lots of paint.
Old mysteries are solved, questions answered, new ones asked. I especially liked how many of the reader's questions get adressed through Ochnic the Kazzek troll and his people in the highlands, far away from Darnuir and the capital of the human kingdom. It serves to flesh out the realm of Tenalp, making it feel like a cohesive world whose inhabitants may be divided but still share history and are fighting for common goals. Things are coming together nicely, especially towards the end when the immediate threats are resolved. Overall, it is a satisfying experience.

Stylistically, too, I want to point out some improvements. For one, every chapter, or section, is prefaced with a header that names the point of view character and the location they are currently at. If the perspective shifts, there is another header midway. While it may not seem like a big deal on the outset, it definitely helps the book's structure and giving a sense of movement as armies and characters travel from one place to another.
Another thing are the short excerpts from Tiviar's Histories, in-universe books written by a fairy scholar. They've been named and talked about in the first book, as Cassandra discusses them with Brackendon for example, but here we get snippets that help to reinforce the world's cohesiveness further and offer hints relating to the unfolding events. I tend to love little tidbits like these in books, and this is no exception. It simply adds another layer of depth from a non-present perspective in a non-intrusive way and helps the reader piece things together.

There are still some minor nitpicks, of course. The occassional typo was still in my review e-copy, for example, but those occurances were rarer than in the previous book, and never really bothered me. In the end the book succeeded everywhere I hoped it would and felt more consistent than its predecessor. I don't remember any chapter that made me struggle, or any character I didn't feel invested in in some capacity. There are many pleasant surprises here, believeable conflict, both external and internal, and a very promising set up for the final book in the trilogy. I could gush for quite a bit longer than this, but chances are, I'd need to spoil a few cool things, so I'll just recommend that you read it for yourselves.

Instead of bumps in the road I found a great adventure that hopefully paves the way to a successful writing career for Michael R. Miller. Here's hoping book three will be out sooner rather than later, and live up to this spectacular second installment!


The Dragon's Blade: Veiled Intentions on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


The Reading Lamp

0 comments:

Leave a Reply

DarkChaplain's bookshelf: read

The Dragon Engine
Tomb Raider II #7
Star Wars #22
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Adaptation #3
Deathwatch: The Last Guardian
The Harrowing
Whacky
The Awakening
Blackshield
Poe Dameron #5


DarkChaplain's favorite books »