SPFBO 5: Another 4 Eliminations – And Third Semi-Finalist Announcement!
The fifth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) is well underway! Check out our introduction here, read all about the contest’s origins here, and keep track of phase one here. Continue reading for the Fantasy Hive’s third batch of eliminations – and to find out who our second semi-finalist is! (Here are our first and second lot of eliminations, in case you missed them.)
Here are our next four eliminations, followed by our third semi-finalist:
The Decanary family never surrenders.
And they don’t need to. For sixteen years since the Fall of the Yglasia, they have ruled their realm unopposed. Leonard, a mighty Rider and head of the Decanary family, has crushed fanatics, bandits and even wizards with the power of his Phantom. The peace he has brought to their realm has left him dissatisfied.
But that peace must come to an end.
Dwellers from the northern mountains have interrupted the steady flow of valuable metals that bring abundance to Leonard’s lands. And an even greater danger looms from the south. The Self-Proclaimed King is amassing his armies for a massive invasion, prepared to unite the continent again–this time wielding a secret weapon that can finally force Leonard into submission. And when Leonard’s second-born vanishes, the Decanary family will be at their most vulnerable, unprepared and with threatening enemies to the north and south.
Amid ignorance and pain, magic and mysteries, despair and death, the fate of the Decanary hangs perilously in the balance as a war of Phantoms looms over the realm.
The worldbuilding in this one is really interesting, with plenty of unique touches: Riders, phantoms, ‘dwellers’, and other mysterious things that are only hinted at near the beginning. I was initially intrigued.
However, the shifting POVs (including a disposable one in the prologue) make it difficult to become attached to any of the protagonists; while Baldwin starts off sympathetic (especially in contrast to the first two characters), his whining and self-pity quickly become annoying. Also, his obvious lust for his younger sister is… pretty creepy.
The prose also needs some tightening; there’s a lot of repetition, and Baldwin’s chapters in particular feel very rough and clunky compared to the first two. Additionally, this seems to be yet another book where the only women in existence are one MC’s wife and another’s sister, both of whom seem to exist solely to support the male characters. While I’m curious to see where the story goes, there are too many obvious faults for me to progress it any further in the contest.
The book starts with a prologue in the middle of slaughter where we follow a bloodthirsty member of a troop of ostrich cavalry (yes, that is a thing). Typos aside, there was intriguing worldbuilding, even though the prologue follows the traditional George R.R. Martin philosophy as another crop of fantasy redshirts demonstrate how the monster works.
But then we switch from an African-style setting to more familiar pseudo-medieval castle. There is some careless repetition in the writing (e.g. “The sound passed through the entire castle and shook Leonard’s entire skeleton.”) which a closer edit might have caught. Also, while I hoped there was a logic to christening a town as “Bottomshield,” I didn’t find that logic within the sample.
Generally there is a reasonable pace – sustained threat and tension – which is a good thing. The magic was also interesting. Leonard’s sword “Life Purifier” reminded me of Elric of Melnibone’’s “Stormbringer.” The notion of men who “ride” and use phantoms – spirits that wrap around and within them – made for a nice imaginative touch. I liked Leonard’s ennui at the ultimate futility of his life of killing. However, like Laura I found Baldwin’s interest in his sister jarring.
Like other eliminations, there is imagination in the ideas, but I felt this one needed to have shown more polishing and structural tweaking with beta readers and editors for me to have been persuaded to read on.
There was very little of this story that stuck in my mind. There were elements about the world-building I really liked, and I felt the writing style was descriptive and emotive. However, I didn’t immediately warm to the story; quite clearly this introductory society are primarily war-like, but the thrill of the kill and the nature of their speech was over the top to the point of being an uncomfortable read.
I was relieved to find my issues with the opening did not continue into the following point-of-view characters; but again, although there were aspects I liked (the bored king wishing to be able to use his powers once more), the story didn’t grasp me enough. It didn’t excite me sufficiently to want to discover more about these characters, unfortunately. Although the writing was, as I said, descriptive and emotive, it didn’t always make sense.
Two things I stumbled upon in the blurb: Yglasia, and a mighty Rider of the Decanary family. I couldn’t help but think Christopher Paolini’s Eragon (set in Alagaësia = Yglasia) and Daenerys/Dracarys (of Game of Thrones fame). And there’s something for fans of both franchises here. Combined with the threat from ‘the northern mountains’ and an ever-greater threat looming in the south, this felt like I’d fallen into a wholly familiar fantasy set in a medieval world.
But it did feel a little too familiar – and I am a reader who likes new horizons. From the GRRM-style throwaway POV starting scene, to the hints of a brother lusting after his sister in the opening chapters, I felt like I was tripping over old ground, expecting to find something new. That being said, there are new ideas here: I really liked the concept of the Riders – heck, I’m a sucker for dragon riders (or griffins, or eagles, or whatever giant creature an author drops on me) – and the Yglasia and the Unknowns.
I will add – as the others have said – that having female characters present purely as plot devices, or as a tickbox, is old. Outdated. Out the window with it. I won’t go into details.
I think – based on the author profile – that English is not the writer’s first language. And if that’s the case, HUGE props for having such a strong command of the English language. That being said, there’s a lot of repetition, sentences were clunky, and word choice needed refinement. Huge, HUGE props, but this does need a beta read, and an edit so that readers can look past the line by line and appreciate the story.
It took me quite a few pages to get used to the prose in this one. I needed to reread a bit at first to really take in the text.
I enjoyed the unique parts like the ostriches and the magic and setting, but sadly the prose did throw me out more than once. Added to that I didn’t click with any of the characters, so I didn’t really care what would happen. There’s one scene between brother and sister early on that I found really… awkward, which didn’t help me to get attached to them.
There’s a lot of blood and murder right from the start, but it just made me shrug and didn’t leave any real impression on me. I didn’t root for anyone, and in the prologue we don’t even know what or who we should be rooting for…
So even though the world has promise, it was a DNF for me.
Frank C. Albelo
What traits define you?
What would you do if you had to start over?
When Faust Swift is thrown into a world of monsters, quests and mysteries he must use his wits and returning memories to overcome adversity and grow stronger. He will meet plenty of enemies and hopefully an ally here or there. Join him as the Universe throws him from Realm to Realm and he finds what he is truly made of.
A LitRPG! This one reminds me a little of Andrew Rowe’s Sufficiently Advanced Magic in that the game-like elements are part of the main character’s world (rather than a feature of VR). However, despite a few great lines later on in the sample (I read up to 19%), the writing is a bit clumsy, and there are a lot of typos and grammar errors which ultimately detracted from my enjoyment of the story. However, fans of the LitRPG/GameLit genres should definitely check this one out.
I like the cover but first impressions count, so let me note – acknowledgements usually go at the back of the book with each paragraph consistently formatted and not centre-aligned. This may sound like it’s nothing to do with the story but it’s like turning up for a formal interview wearing jeans and a T-shirt rather than a suit and tie. That said, I like the map which stays readable even in kindle format. However, the formatting issue continues into the opening paragraphs.
The writing simply didn’t grab me. An amnesiac man trapped in magical hallway which services any need he wishes for, including supplying endless cheeseburgers, while he struggles to remember who he is or how he got there? At the same time he is haunted by a mysterious girl. The writing had lacklustre moments; for example: ‘”Hello…” she said in a voice that sounded like a well tuned violin’ – not a simile that worked for me.
I did feel a little at sea here in that this is LitRPG – a concept I have only recently heard about and have yet to read a whole book of. Perhaps it’s a bit like a physics teacher watching an art lesson? If LitRPG is your kind of thing, then by all means give The Hall a go. However, as a newbie to this genre it didn’t draw me in enough to read on.
I felt so conflicted about The Hall! This was my first ever LitRPG, and to begin with, the questions of what this person was doing here, how they got there, what is the conflict to resolve, really intrigued me. I loved the first person perspective, I’m a bit of a sucker for it generally as I love the closeness of that narrative.
The main issue I had with this one was its quality of writing. It was very simplistic, and heavy on the “tell” instead of the “show”, and the descriptions were quite lacklustre. My desire to keep reading to find out what would happen was ultimately trumped by how disorientating I found it. New events were presented with very little warning or emotional response from the protagonist, which in turn left me confused by how to take them. I wasn’t sure if this was a deliberate attempt at reimagining that sense you get from playing a game; perhaps if the execution was improved then we’d get a clearer sense of that. If the character expressed how confused and disoriented he was by the turn of events, then that would act as confirmation to the reader that the narrative is purposefully disorientating at that particular time. But as I said, there was very little to connect with the protagonist to, which ultimately was the downfall for me.
I’ve read a fair few LitRPGs this year – a bit of a new subgenre for me – so I was keeping my eyes peeled for any amongst the ranks of the Hive’s SPFBO allocation.
In my experience of LitRPG, it either works for me, or it really doesn’t. Unfortunately, this was one of the latter. I realise that with LitRPG there are often elements of the real world mixed in with the game/SFF world, but if a story throws in ‘on trend’ ‘woke’ ‘edgey’ or ‘cooool’ stuff, it really throws me (in The Hall’s case: cheeseburger. You’ll know what I mean when you read it).
One of the BIG things that doesn’t work for me in some LitRPGs is mechanics. Not all LitRPGs go overboard with mechanics, some barely at all, but the combat in The Hall is like something you’d mute on any MMORPG. For example:
‘You have received 15 damage from Intimidating roar. You have resisted the effect by sheer Luck.’
Like I said, if I’m muting this in a game I’m playing, I’m muting this in the book. At which point I’m skipping sections, which skips the whole point of the story.
I tried, but this one wasn’t for me.
I quite like LitRPGs. I prefer the ones that don’t throw around pages of stat changes though (and if they are there, I usually skip them…).
Leveling up is enough pure “statistics” for me, otherwise I’m fine with just unlocking new skills or finding new equipment. What I do love about the genre is the “everything is possible” aspect. My suspension of disbelief is way, way higher if I know I’m inside a game than it would be in a UF or secondary world fantasy. I also like playing RPGs, so reading them is almost like getting to play myself, on the train, lunch break or any time I’m away from my computer!
This one wasn’t bad, and I might read on and finish it later on – but for me it’s not good enough to become a semi-finalist. The writing itself feels a bit amateurish to me, and it misses the quick hook that those LitRPGs I’ve read so far all had. I didn’t click with the main character right away, and the world also didn’t suck me in from the start. So even though I’ll probably read more of it and it does show promise, this one will not go through to the next stage for me. There is potential for a great story here though, so I hope the author keeps writing and improving their craft!
Queendom of the Seven Lakes
There are always those who are willing to pay for someone else’s death. Having grown up amongst the Family of Assassins, Elen-ai knows well the prices people are willing to pay to see their enemies fall quickly, quietly, and discreetly. When she is asked to preserve life rather than take it, she is surprised. Upon hearing that her charge is the Queen’s only child GIdyon, who is secretly being groomed to succeed his mother, she is horrified. To ensure political stability, no man has ever sat on the throne of the Queendom of the Seven Lakes. Yet one does not easily refuse a Queen, and so reluctantly, Elen-ai accepts the contract.
Her fears only deepen upon meeting the sixteen-year-old Prince Gidyon, who treats her as no better than a petty murderer. However, following an attack on his life, Elen-ai is forced to admit that the danger of leaving this boy-prince alone may be even worse than leaving him to his own devices. Elen-ai reluctantly accompanies Gidyon across the country to identify those within the seven most powerful families who are responsible for the attempt on the Prince’s life.
Somewhere in their travels from the calm waters of Lake Tak to the looming cliffs above Lake Bertak, the two form an unlikely yet profound friendship, and Elen-ai begins to see that Gidyon has the makings of a great ruler within him. As they meet with the families of power, it becomes increasingly clear that secrets and power games run far deeper throughout the Queendom of the Seven Lakes than either of them ever suspected.
I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one. First impressions matter, and Queendom’s cover did not impress me at all (in fact, I could barely read the title). Thankfully, the story itself was much better. Although the 20% I read was quite slow-paced, I nonetheless found myself interested in some of the hinted-at mysteries (who is the prince’s father? What’s the queen’s secret?). However, though I was willing to read more, I wasn’t eager to, and so decided to set this one aside.
This really didn’t wow with the cover – probably the weakest cover in our batch. The opening was a bit exposition heavy – but a female assassin as protagonist was playing my kind of music.
There were some motifs to hang my curiosity on. eg queendom vs kingdom and the fact that males can’t inherit. There is also a hint at a certain darkness underpinning the female supremacy. The writing did get a bit clunky, but there was a nice bit of familial conflict and world setup emerging. However, I did find myself hearing echoes of Whitney Houston in the background as the bodyguard/bodyguarded dynamic started off frosty with potential to thaw later.
Having got to the end of the free sample I wasn’t convinced enough to read on. I needed evidence of the pace picking up and a more favourable exposition vs action balance. I was also worried that the protagonist – supremely confident in her own abilities – might turn into a Mary Sue.
This was another one which, unfortunately, didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I think it could have had potential, there were one or two moments I really liked (the image of the Queen wearing jewellery that doubled as protection, literally being collared by her responsibilities), but again it came down to writing style. It was quite repetitive (going somewhat over-board at first with the fact she’s an assassin, and again later the descriptions of the corridors) and lacked subtlety (with character literally explaining what another one meant when she’d said something). Add to all this an awkward info-dump at the start of the third chapter and it just didn’t win me round. The characters seemed to have a lot of potential, but the writing style made it too difficult to immerse myself in and connect with the story itself.
This was my first SPFBO5 read, and the positive reviews on Goodreads had me excited; but despite my overall enthusiasm, this one left me wanting more.
Don’t judge a book by its cover – we all know the saying. But this cover doesn’t do it ANY favours. So, turning to ‘the back’ I checked out the blurb. That didn’t help either (it just kept going on and on and on). So I opened the pages and began to read.
If that sounds a bit over the top to you, that’s intentional. Because that is what this reads like.
What immediately struck me was that this is VERY tell heavy, lacking almost any form of ‘show’. And the more I read, I realised it’s not just tell heavy, it’s overly descriptive and overly wordy, too. It doesn’t need an editor or a beta reader, it needs rewriting to trim the fat and get down to the bones of the story, as opposed to chewing on excess.
The whole tell and over describing things completely eliminated my ability to connect with the characters on an emotional level, who, I must add, don’t seem to display any emotions. The Queen doesn’t seem overly afraid for her son; Elen’ai as a character is someone I feel nothing from apart from confidence in her own abilities as an assassin; and even though the aforementioned Queen has suspicions concerning various parties, INCLUDING THE ROYAL GUARD, there is none of the tension or uncertainty you’d expect or hope for.
The plot almost sounds like Age of Assassins from the POV of the ‘master’ (who is also female like Merela Khan from AoA) hired by the queen to protect the young prince. And I see a lot of GR readers liken it to books like Throne of Glass and Graceling. But, this one has work to do before it can get to the same level as its comparisons, at least in my honest opinion.
This one had some things I really like – like a female assassin character! – but overall it just didn’t work for me. It felt really slow, some parts just left me wondering why they made it into the book as they just seemed to be filler material. For my personal taste there was way too much description and telling. This made the start feel even slower. The whole sampler just felt kinda bland to me, with no tension at all.
To be fair though, I also didn’t really get on with the books mentioned by Mike as comparison, so it could be all down to my personal taste.
The Buried Symbol
Jeffrey L. Kohanek
Buried away for centuries, a forgotten magic lurks…waiting to return
They tell Unchosen, “Accept your fate and you’ll be rewarded in the next life.”
The threat of execution is their recourse.
Rejecting his role as an outcast, Brock risks his life and obtains a false rune, marking him a member of the Empire’s ruling class. Under a veil of deception and backed by natural talent, he then schemes his way into a school where the Empire’s future leaders are trained.
Can he maintain this charade?
Within an academy of magic, science, and combat, he discovers secrets kept from society, among which is a forbidden magic he is able to wield.
While he is determined to tame his frightening new abilities, one misstep could destroy him.
I read up to 21%, and on the whole this seems like an easy read. However, I have a few quibbles – namely that everything Brock (the protagonist) tries to do, he succeeds at without much difficulty, which makes for a lack of tension or urgency. The reader doesn’t really have much reason to root for him. Furthermore, as with The Fall, this world appears to have a distinct lack of women who aren’t attractive barmaids or conveniently dying aunts. These two things irked me, so much so that I eventually decided to set it aside.
The first chapter drew me in quite well – a thief on a mission that combined danger and exploration. The second chapter didn’t start so well. It had the vivid descriptions but I found it hard at first to buy into the sick aunt wanting her nephew to find a better life. That may be the impetus – the trigger event in the story – but in this second chapter it lacked pace and urgency for me.
Dialogue like “I know how much she meant to you after your momma died” slowed the story down because we’d already been told this several times several pages back. No matter how much the person might actually have said that, the dialogue needed to be stripped back to its bare essentials to keep the pace up.
When the main character got into his thieving mode the pace picked up. A line to make me smile in an exchange between two thugs, one hopeful of his chances with a busty barmaid, his mate assuring him “I heard she goes for big smelly guys who are missing half their teeth.”
There’s menace and discrimination and a sinister ministry and a poor lad trying to make his way, but not enough to keep me reading on compared to others that made a semi-finalist spot.
Beth’s thoughts: My first impressions of The Buried Symbol were very good: I loved the cover, the map was very professional-looking, and the opening was quite exciting. Certain movements were over-described somewhat, as if the author was picturing a movie scene and describing it as such, rather than establishing a connection through the character and presenting his actions through that. But on the whole, it read well enough and flowed nicely.
However, it lost me quite quickly when the Dead Mother Trope reared its head; and as if having a dead mother wasn’t enough, the aunt (who apparently “replaced” the mother!!) also dies. Double Dead Woman Motivation. This really disappointed me so early on. After that initially exciting opening, the pace slowed down quite a lot and I found myself not really caring what happened to our protagonist.
Mike’s thoughts: When I first googled this book, I was met by a pretty uninspiring cover on Amazon. But when I checked Goodreads, I came across what I can only assume is ‘version 2’. Much, MUCH better.
That being said, no matter how inspiring a cover (or not, as I have mentioned in the previous review in this SPFBO batch), it’s the story that counts. Part of that is the immediate hook. The opening line. I’m a big fan of these. And if a story is missing one, then my attention wanders until it finds one. There wasn’t one here, but the opening chapter picked up pretty quickly, before letting up on the tension in chapter two.
And on the note of tension, there isn’t any. Not really. Even when Brock is trialled and tested, he succeeds, not so much in Mary Sue fashion, but a ‘that’ll do’ which removes any real ‘peril’ that might make it more interesting.
And, I will say this until I am blue in the face: WRITE FEMALE CHARACTERS AS CHARACTERS NOT 2D CUTOUTS WITH 3D BEWBS. Not just sexually (and note: The Buried Symbol isn’t guilty of over sexualisation). What I mean is that if the female characters are so 2D the only thing that stands out about them is that they are FEMALE, then you need to fill them out. And that means more than just killing them off to give a male character his motivation….
This isn’t a bad book – it just could have been much, much better. If the cover got a ‘version 2’ then the story deserves one too.
I really liked the start of this book! The first chapter sucked me right in, and was a lot of fun to read. A bit like a mix of fantasy thievery and Indiana Jones-like action. I liked the ideas and the setting and it was really fast paced!
Sadly chapter two slowed to an almost halt. Where I blew through chapter one I went to fetch a cup of coffee in the middle of chapter two. At chapter three I found myself glancing at my phone as the hook wasn’t there for me anymore. The character didn’t grow from the introduction, and so when the action was gone, so was my interest, as I haven’t bonded with him.
Judging from the start this really has some potential, but as it is it couldn’t hold my attention enough to keep me reading.
Commiserations to the eliminated authors. On a more positive note…
Our third semi-finalist is:
Alek Fitz is a reaper, a collection agent who works for the supernatural elements of the world, tracking down debtors and solving problems for clients as diverse as the Lords of Hell, vampires, Haitian loa, and goblins. He’s even worked for the Tooth Fairy on occasion. Based out of Cleveland, Ohio, Alek is the best in the game. As a literal slave to his job, he doesn’t have a choice.
When Death comes looking for someone to track down a thief, Alek is flung into a mess of vengeful undead, supernatural bureaucracy, and a fledgling imp war. As the consequences of failure become dire, he has few leads, and the clock is ticking. Only with the help of his friend Maggie—an ancient djinn with a complex past—can he hope to recover the stolen property, save the world, and just maybe wring a favor out of the Great Constant himself.
It’s a hell of a job, but somebody’s got to do it . . .
Damn, this is a fun, fast-paced read. I sat down to read a sample and got to 29% without even realising it. Though the narrative voice itself isn’t exactly blowing me away, the pacing kept me turning the pages – plus Paternus/American Gods-style modern fantasy (myths and legends rather than just vampires and werewolves) is nearly always a win for me.
My main concern is the length; I’m not sure something this short can carry a story with enough substance to make the finals of a novel contest. But I guess I’ll find out!
It starts well, pacy with an interesting pair of tied protagonists. I liked the voice – more so perhaps than Laura did – a sort of noir, Philip Marlowe-esque. Added to this we have a magic artefact that confines a world within a ring yet gives the trapped Jinn the means to look out. It is the kind of story premise that I like.
There are some sharp lines, e.g. “Asking basic questions of idiots is the only social life I have, leave me that at least.” Lots of magicky stuff appeared in a bit of a rush – but in a short book there is no time for the author to waste I guess. The tensions in the protagonists’ situation are interesting. I do feel sympathy for both Maggie and Alek. And the kindle sample finishes on a great line to draw the reader into reading on: “His voice was a guttural purr, like Bob Dylan’s on a good day.”
The next section (from kindle sample 10% to our rough maximum cut off of 20% for this stage of the competition) kept up well with the initial promise – though it did get a bit expositiony in the discussion of souls, shades and spirits. I had some little niggles – the Jinn could become a little irksome, her ability to detect lying a bit like Dr Who’s sonic screwdriver or psychic paper – too glib a solution to many problems. But still the book rattled along at a good pace – a worthy semifinalist. So far it feels as if the TV series “I dream of Genie” had been remade by Quentin Tarantino.
I am not generally a fan of “Urban Fantasy”. I think I may have mentioned this in a previous eliminations post! I want to escape to wholly new realm, a fantasy realm. I don’t want to be in Pennsylvania, sorry.
And yet, despite this, I found myself burning through those opening pages. The writing style was very easy to read, and the narrative flowed at a great pace.
There was a lot here I felt somewhat conflicted about: I quite liked the protagonist’s voice, and the connection between him and the Jinn. However, I felt like some of the plot elements were quite convenient (obviously if you’ve got magic in your world, then it’s great to have fun with it; but the wallet felt like quite a handy plot prop) and there were a lot of Americanisms. Obviously. It’s written by an American, and set in America, but again it’s something that really works against my sense of being transported to somewhere fantastical.
Despite all this, I really want to read on. I did say I want to challenge my expectations in this contest, and the storytelling here really is very good.
Mike’s thoughts: *My comments are based on reviewing this book solely on merit, and while the review does not take into account the author’s considerable success in traditional publishing, this is noted*
Uncanny Collateral is an immediately arresting read. If you’re a fan of the notorious Dyrk Ashton’s Paternus, or Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, then this is the book for you.
The story picks up mid ‘job’, in a familiar but not too familiar urban fantasy world. The little differences – Alek’s troll heritage instead of the usual vampire/demon/angel/werewolf, and Maggie as a jinn as opposed to the aforementioned typical races (throw in succubus too) – make a BIG difference. The opening scene includes a bar, Harleys, an imp in flannel, and the tattoo of Mjolnir on the back of Alek’s hand, which makes for a warm welcome to a new but familiar scene.
Alek and Maggie are a huge part of what makes this work so well. Beyond being interesting characters independent of each other, the interplay between the two is a joy to read. At the start I found myself lacking an emotional connection to Alek (he’s initially presented as your typical flannel-wearing hard-as-nails lumberjack/hipster type who doesn’t show much emotion for the reader to connect with) but this does improve throughout.
The story flows sure and swift, though sometimes a little too speedy. Some scenes felt like they needed more to them, as they came across rushed, and though the pacing slipped because of it, the story didn’t suffer for it. However, this is a short read, and having picked up another semi-finalist (Snowspelled) for this, I will also make the point here. At 151 pages on Kindle, UC is one of the shortest contenders in SPFBO5, sitting at less than 50k words. That really is novella territory. And as before, while I won’t let that detract from semi-finalist status, it does need to be acknowledged.
That being said, a story should only be as long as it needs to be, and this tied things up nicely – it’s a shame there wasn’t more!
I love urban fantasy. This one is not one of my personal favourites, but it was a really quick, easy to read and fun one! (And yep, I finished it already… it’s short enough to devour it in one go.) I’m happy to have it as a semi-finalist anyway, as I loved the tone and voice of the book and the characters.
I really enjoyed having a Jinn as a secondary character as I’ve not seen them around UF often! However, I wish the characters had been fleshed out a bit more (and from his other books I know the author is quite capable of that – it feels a bit like it was cut short to have it such a quick read…) as they didn’t always feel fully real to me.
The plot also felt a bit rushed at times, almost like we skipped past scenes that needed a few more lines and depth (again maybe intentionally, but it took away from the story in my case).
The fast pace, and not so regularly used type of myths and magic made up for it in a way, so even though I didn’t like it as much as for example “Crimes against Magic” by Steve McHugh it was still a really enjoyable read!
*** Congratulations to Brian McClellan and UNCANNY COLLATERAL! ***
We’ll be posting more updates in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out the graphic and list below for our full roster of entries, as well as links to more SPFBO 5 goodness!
A.B. Endacott, Queendom of the Seven Lakes
- A.M. MacDonald, Remember the Dawn
- Antoine Bandele, The Kishi* (*semi-finalist)
Becka Sutton, Haventon Born
- Brad Carsten, The Wretched
- Brian McClellan, Uncanny Collateral* (*semi-finalist)
C.Z. Edwards, Kingdom: Rien’s Rebellion
- Deck Matthews, The First of Shadows
- Deston J. Munden, Tavern
E.L. Drayton, Daxton Eli Celata, The One That Lives Frank G. Albelo, The Hall
- Gaia J. Kos and Boris Kos, Evenfall
- Harry Young, These Forgotten Gods
- Jack Massa, Cloak of the Two Winds
Jacob Rasmussen, The Fall Jeffrey L. Kohanek, The Buried Symbol
- Justin DePaoli, Dragonsoul
- K. Vale Nagle, Eyrie
Kade Cook, Grey
- Lisa Cassidy, A Tale of Stars and Shadow
- Madeleine D’Este, Women of Wasps and War
Matthew Satterlee, Forlorn Dimension
- Miriam R. Dumitra, Brightshade
- Ryan Howse, The Steel Discord
Sean Monaghan, The Map Maker of Morgenfeld
- Sergio C. Pereira, The Not-So-Grim Reaper
- Stephanie Burgis, Snowspelled* (*semi-finalist)
- Tracy Cooper-Posey, The Branded Rose Prophecy
Zamil Akhtar, Song of a Dead Star
One of the surviving books is a future SPFBO 5 finalist – perhaps even the winner! Can you guess which one? (We can’t… yet!)
If you’re following SPFBO 5, let us know about any entries that have caught your fancy! Join the discussion on social media (there’s a Facebook group here) and weigh in on Twitter using the hashtag #SPFBO.
Stay tuned over the following five months as we review and eliminate 29 of the 30 books in our batch, and check out our introduction to round 1!