SPFBO 5: Another 4 Eliminations – And Fifth 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 fifth batch of eliminations – and to find out who our fifth semi-finalist is! (Here are our first, second, third and fourth lot of eliminations, in case you missed them.)
Women of Wasps and War
Agata, the Duchess of Ambrovna, was never meant to take the throne.
In a land where men rule, her sole purpose was to smile and curtsey.
However, when war left her land leaderless, the Fatherhood religion begrudgingly allowed a first; a woman to rule.
Now the war is over the men have returned more arrogant and cruel than ever, and the Duchess is shoved back into a life of needlework and silence.
But with her new thirst for justice, Agata is reluctant to allow her country to return to its old ways.
Without her position of power, Agata and her circle of women look to the taboo wisdom of the Wasp Women for answers. But this ancient knowledge comes with consequences, and with death and treachery on the horizon, Agata must decide whether it is worth the risk.
Women of Wasps and War is a grim, gripping tale of power and politics, and the heart-breaking struggle between love and honour.
This book has a killer prologue, and a first chapter that reminded me of the opening to a TV series (in a good way) in how it jumps from head to head as the duke and his men return from war. I was really excited about the premise, and fully prepared to get stuck in to a smart political fantasy about strong women challenging their male-dominated society.
However… I had issues. Firstly, the misogynistic nature of this society seems exaggerated almost to the point of caricature; two of the three female POVs wish their husbands had died at war, since both husbands are violent and abusive. Aside from the implication that war doesn’t change men for either better or worse, I felt uncomfortable with the fact that there were no redeeming male characters in the first 20% at all. All men are either drunk, abusive, disrespectful, sneering, or downright criminal. I appreciate that the author has built a society in which people are taught that women are inherently inferior (a society that’s not so far removed from our own just a few short decades ago), but I feel the true antagonist – the hegemony itself – is weakened by its epitomisation in the reprehensible yet somewhat two-dimensional trope of the wife-beating husband.
By the time I reached the 20% mark, I was feeling pretty uncomfortable (and rightly so, since I imagine this was the author’s intention). Though I’d be intrigued to hear how things develop – I’m really hoping the protagonists strive for equality and a fair balance, rather than a total Amazonian overthrow of the male-dominated society (since the latter would be rather hypocritical, methinks) – it’s pretty clear this book isn’t for me. However, if you’re looking for feminist fantasy, look no further than Women of Wasps of War. Chances are you’ll like it where I didn’t!
The book opens powerfully with paragraphs full of tension and conflict, engendering a certain sympathy for the unnamed protagonist in peril before we duck back to the “seven days earlier” chapter.
Although we have lots of short different PoV scenes which could appear disjointed, the effect actually works well, as all the scenes have the common thread of the soldiers’ homecoming. World information is bled in reasonably subtly, but gender tensions emerge pretty swiftly (e.g. a reference to the duchess “Carrying on like a man.”) There are shades of The Handmaid’s Tale, but also the post-World War One experience where women’s contribution in the home front war effort became a driver to accelerate female emancipation. It makes an intriguing motif, but I was hoping also to find a bit of wow factor in the writing, sparkles, lines to make me smile.
As I went from 10% to the 20% mark, The Handmaid’s Tale overtones became louder still, with a resurgent misogynistic patriarchy and a seasoning of racism. The instinctive wickedness of the men was rather baldly presented, and much as the villains deserve a significant comeuppance, the story was becoming a bit heavy-handed in its tugging the strings of reader sympathy. I liked the fact that the threat (unlike so many fantasy stories) is not external and/or monstrous, but internal and societal, which makes it very much a book of our times. This was one of my personal contenders for a semifinalist spot, but the laudable ambition with real issues and themes needed a more subtle hand in execution. Painting a delicate subject with too broad a brush risks skirting with parody.
Oh, this one had such promise…
Like my fellow judges, I enjoyed the prologue, it was an intriguing hook into the story and I love that narrative method of then taking us back to discover how we got to that point.
Heading into chapter one, there were elements of the prose I really enjoyed, the author’s use of alliteration and emotive description were quite immersive. But on the flip side of that, the narrative storytelling was just so heavy-handed. It didn’t take long for a Theme to emerge. There were moments that were so obviously demanding your sympathy that they felt like a pantomime – a child calling from the side of the road for his father, and being told he must be the man of the house now. It felt like too obvious a cliche, and pushed me away rather than drew me in.
As I worked further into the story, I became more and more frustrated – but not at the plight of the women, as it was quite clear I was supposed to be. This story has a strong, clear, and important message; calling upon the strength and capabilities of women. But this message is lost in the black-and-white nature of the representation. All the men were tarnished with the same brush. All the women were tarnished by another brush. Oppressor. Victim. I found myself unable to connect to any of those opening PoVs, and so I didn’t care enough about anyone to continue reading. We needed an element of hope, a flash in that opening that there was someone there worth redeeming.
I read this book twice. And still I feel conflicted about it.
Before I explain my thoughts, here’s a quick overview of the story:
While the men were away at war, the women ran Ambrovna. But with the war over, the men return to take back control, expecting their women to stand back and let them get on with it. But as the patriarchy reestablishes itself, there are many left wishing that the men hadn’t returned at all.
For me, the story of Women of Wasps and War is an important one. Not only is it current and relevant to the modern world, it’s also based upon historical events. At heart, it’s a story of change, one which many will relate to.
And it’s a good story – plot-wise, that is. It ticks all the right boxes, and it’s well written, but the trouble is in the telling. There are some rather sweeping statements made via the representation of a) men AND women, and b) anyone who has been to war, both of which will put off some readers, and not just because they make you uncomfortable. While this is a fantasy book, the parallels to reality (both modern and historical) are so strong that this is also a commentary on real-world issues, which opens them and how they are addressed up to debate.
One of the problems with this book is that as much as it champions feminism, it also (without necessarily meaning to) flies the flag of toxic masculinity by not providing a litmus paper to explore the topic. Or a ‘here’s how it should be’ (at least, not any significant ones). Additionally, for a story so willing to ‘boldly go’, I felt the lack of representation towards any form of PTSD to be a disappointing oversight – especially when all of those who had seen combat were shown as ‘worse’. Not just worse for having gone through it, but ‘the worst’ type of people.
Reading this, I was hyper-conscious that a) I am male, and b) I have been to war. Which is partly why I read this twice. Other reasons being that I really, really wanted to like this, to the point of championing its cause amongst my fellow judges, but ultimately I can’t defend something which I feel has flaws that need addressing. And if they were addressed, this would have certainly been at least semi-finalist material for me, if not more.
I have a lot of thoughts on this book, its message, and how it tries to relay its meaning, but I won’t go into them here. There’s definitely a lot we can all take from this as readers, and as people too. But there’s always more to every story, and sadly, for something upholding the importance of equality and representation, it’s the representation that lets itself down.
Gaia J. Kos & Boris Kos
A monster does not deserve the intimacy of a name
As if waking up in an unfamiliar world isn’t enough of a surprise, Ember gains a new title to her name. Savior.
Hunted by the Crescent Prince and his lethal shadows, she accepts a young Mage’s help to navigate the land of blood magic and its many illusions. But where Ada sees the good in her power, Ember discovers something else.
An icy darkness, designed to take lives, not save them.
The only thing worse than not being able to rely on her senses—or the reality she had once believed to be true—is knowing that she cannot trust her heart. Especially as it seems to draw her to the one person in whose hands she can never fall…
Will Ember escape the thrall of darkness or will she reign in it?
First of all, let me say that Evenfall contains some lovely descriptions and imagery, especially of the solstice celebrations that are taking place when our story begins. However, it is a bit lacking in both character and plot, which is why it didn’t sustain my interest. I think my main issue is that the authors don’t show the reader a) the reason Ember dislikes her own life/world, and b) the cruelty and oppression of the Crescent Prince in Ada’s world. It’s hard to care whether or not she’s going to ‘save’ them all when we still haven’t seen what they actually need saving from.
I read as far as 20%, but it still hadn’t really grabbed me by that point; that and the fact the prose is a tad flowery for my taste made me set this one aside.
Some nice descriptive lines caught my eye early on (e.g. “A copse of trees stood sentry before a ridge of hulking mountains, the jagged caps dipped in shadows so dark, it made them nearly indistinguishable from the night rising above.”) The initial confusion of the protagonist at slipping through some form of portal shook out into an intriguing opening with mystery rather than infodumping. However, at times the prose slipped from appealing into convoluted; for example, “Though the sight of the white-coated black tail jutting from underneath the burgundy fabric as Lyra rubbed her muzzle against my calves did soften the tense line of my lips.”
However, the premise of a world of illusions and that unsettling sense that nothing can be relied upon resonated with me at the moment. “I had seen too many people convinced in facts tailored to their liking” – a world of alternative facts, then?
The opening 20% is pretty full of action and I liked the lead character pairing of two women (and a dog), and the situation had a tension or conflict which was good. Let’s not have everyone become too friendly too easily. I could cope with the floweriness of the writing but I was waiting to see some depth to the big bad prince beyond a “he’s obviously bad but so sexily handsome” motif.
A portal fantasy in a fine Narnia tradition but without the wardrobe or the talking animals (though the dog is quite expressive), but not my strongest contender for a semi-finalist spot.
I liked Evenfall, but not quite enough to take it further, unfortunately.
As everyone else has mentioned, the prose is beautiful but for the occasional slip into being overly-descriptive (Theo gave a perfect example). I absolutely loved the description of the scene in the Winter fair, I was ready to be swept away by the magic of it all.
I think what let it down was, after this point, the narrative began to lose me. The protagonist’s thoughts often digressed away from the thread of the plot, to the point it was quite distracting, and the story just lost its grip on me.
This is a book after the hearts of readers of Sarah J. Maas or Holly Black. From the moment you open the book, you open your eyes as mysterious POV Ember. And from the moment she lays eyes upon Crescent Prince Mordecai, you know what lies ahead.
This isn’t my typical read – though I am a sucker for romance in fantasy, as I have admitted before – but I am glad that I tried it. The story is good, but the storytelling wasn’t so good, IMHO. The descriptions tended towards digressions, and I for one found it hard to focus at times, let alone put down and come back to when life gets in the way of reading. I’m sure there are many readers who will ‘get’ this book more than I did, and while I appreciate individual style and voice, this one didn’t ‘speak’ to me in the same way that others in the Hive’s 30-book batch did.
No one knows what happened at Almswick, except that the King took an arrow to his chest, and his hundred-strong elite guard was slaughtered. Strangest of all, there was no indication that they had even faced an enemy.
King Roderic 8th brought the kingdom of Thamaria into a golden age. It boasts the greatest scientists, physicians, soldiers, and artisans. For over a thousand years, nothing could approach its wealth and might for one reason: Thamaria could assess a child’s potential, and then throw its resources into sculpting them into that which they were meant to be.
Liam, a gifted tracker and archer, missed his first two assessments, and now at the age of twenty-five is too old for selection into the kingdom. He is left to make his own way in life with no hope of a better future until he meets Jaylene after her escort is attacked in the Dourbern forest. There’s something “off” about her, and Liam is soon thrust into a plot that reaches into the heart of the kingdom—a plot that threatens to tear the immortal kingdom apart as well as everything else he cares about.
But with war closing in, he may also have one last chance to prove to himself and the kingdom that he has what it takes to finally be somebody.
Fast-paced with deep, likeable characters set in a rich and compelling world, The wretched will keep you guessing until the explosive conclusion.
I had really mixed feelings about this one. The opening chapters are slow, the prose is a tad clunky, and the insta-love is annoying. Despite this, I was intrigued enough by the events to read more.
However, in the end I stopped at the 11% mark. Though the story was intriguing, the narrative was taking too long to get there (though the blurb insists the story is ‘fast-paced’). That and the many minor typos (including ‘end trails’ instead of ‘entrails’) made me set this one aside.
The cover appealed, but then – as my laptop screensavers can testify – I like castles and mountains. The early writing relied overmuch on exposition by conversation and a fair bit of early passive voice, but there were some lines that caught my eye. “Moonlight painted a square across the floor”and “laugh until their stomachs hurt.” Little bits of prose that lifted the writing.
The romantic interest here felt a little too insta-love – and the subsequent course of the romance was disappointing, relegating the young woman to little more than a plot token. However, the titular “wretched” acquired a certain menace through not being described except by the impression they leave on the village. That kept me going past 10% and on towards 20%.
However, the next section left my curiosity unsatisfied. We found out nothing about the wretched. The irksome insta-love – having served its purpose – shuffled off. A war was raging, the kingdom was burning and yet the story takes a ten-year hiatus. Some of the attempts to conjure emotion through exposition felt forced and more corny than sincere. In the midst of this we have the main character’s obsession with travel – well, actually more with thinking about the possibility of travel – which came across as a sort of map-porn episode. (And I speak as one who has been known to pore over a map myself.)
At the 20% point the book rose up again to seize my attention with a mysterious stranger in a wrecked carriage and a battle in the village that – given the numbers and monsters involved – it seems unfeasible that the village could survive as long as they did. Tickled my interest but not enough to put it above other stronger semifinalist contenders.
As an overall observation, this felt like a book that didn’t quite know where to start. There is a lot of backstory that the author wants to show us rather than tell us, which is laudable in itself, but this leads to us being walked through events, encounters and relationships which don’t have a bearing on the action in front of us. I’m still curious about the Wretched, but there were slightly clunky parts to the plotting and action that jarred me, with emotion and development telegraphed a little too heavily.
This was another one I really liked, but just not quite enough. It took a while to build my interest and actually grip me, and I think this was due to the many inconsistencies and the hyperbolic representation of “country life” – the Lads and their hijinks with poor Old man Branbill. I had the sense this was the simplistic idyll of the Shire before Frodo set off on his journey; but it just didn’t do it for me!
I would have also loved to have seen better representation. I read to 11% and the only female characters were a mother, and the protagonist’s insta-love-interest who he has to leave behind.
When Liam finally gets into his journey and the danger begins, the story becomes much more exciting and intriguing. Again, a story with potential, but its execution let it down.
I love a good blurb, and this one grabbed my attention immediately:
‘No one knows what happened at Almswick, except that the King took an arrow to his chest, and his hundred-strong elite guard was slaughtered. Strangest of all, there was no indication that they had even faced an enemy.’
- Arrow in the chest? ‘I took an arrow in the knee’ (sorry, just geeking out over The Elder Scrolls)
- Ooo, something doesn’t add up here! Conspiracy tin-foil caps on!
Staying with the cover for a moment, the artwork is your traditional typical fantasy fare, though it isn’t something that ‘stands out’ for me. Especially because at thumbnail size it’s difficult to make out the details, and the text is hard to see. Blurb-wise, again, despite the hook I mentioned above, this is pretty standard fantasy. That’s not a bad thing, but if you’re looking for something different, this might not be it.
Inside the book, I wasn’t surprised that this was a very traditional fantasy. Again, not a bad thing, but beyond ‘The Wretched’ there isn’t much that is ‘new’ for me here. Think quasi-medieval European fantasy village setting.
I think what I am trying to say is that it’s very…vanilla? Which obviously appeals to a wide audience in the general fantasy community, but not so much me.
Actually, what I am TRULY trying to say here is that this doesn’t appeal to me enough to champion it as a semi-finalist. Through no major faults of its own, there’s just nothing that makes me want to love this book. Its perfect likeable, and yes it has its flaws and inconsistencies, but there’s nothing BAD about it. It’s just not a ‘great fit’ for me.
Personal feelings aside, I suppose my biggest criticism of this book is the way it’s set up to play out. I can’t remember the exact wording, but it’s been said that a story should start ‘as late as possible’. This to me starts ways before it should, in that there is a lot of gumpf to get through just to get to the good bits. I get that there is a setup required, but I think chopping things up and shaking them about to lose some of the trimmings would make this story shine a little brighter.
These Forgotten Gods
Beneath the pale blue light of the Moon, ancient giants of stone and metal wander the seas of Irenikho. On their backs are cities of people living out their lives under the rule of the Lords of the Moon, deities demanding worship in exchange for provision and protection.
Aniyah and Varlak are Gatherers, daring to tread the forbidden paths within their golem. They collect ingredients needed by their Lords for the creation of potions and elixirs. Things take a sinister turn when they realize something is stalking them in the dark.
It is Ledger Sophia’s duty to keep detailed notes as everything that Gatherers bring up from the Below must be accounted for. Her normally quiet life is upset when she fears her father has become entangled in a conspiracy against the Lords.
When a strange man with otherworldly powers and the Lords’ favorite Child appear on the Golem, it soon becomes clear that life on the Golem is not what they believed.
And the Moon is watching.
Huge kudos for this book’s interesting world/golem building – a unique setting of a community living on the head and shoulders (and burrowing within the hidden arteries) of a massive stone golem. Some nice lines also caught my eye, like:
“Hello, Sophie Girl.” His tone brightened as he smiled through the missing teeth and memories.
However, this is another one where the interesting initial premise needed more vigour in the delivery. We appear to have two strands. First is the ledger girl with the amnesiac dad, who is uncovering a conspiracy by the rather too-simple stratagem of glimpsing foul doings in a wood and then being left in a bad guy’s office with opportunity to rifle through his papers and locked drawers. We also have the husband and wife gatherer pairing who – despite being threatened by a strange monster – never really feel they are in danger or conflict.
The star of the story is the golem itself – a towering piece of imaginative world building. I just didn’t find myself sufficiently invested in what the characters were doing to be committed to reading on, and by the 20% mark, I really should have. So an eye-catching setting but not strong enough for a semifinalist spot.
The setting is definitely the main draw here. The characters live on a golem, which is awesome, and have to gather ingredients for potions – drunk by ‘brew busters’, aka alchemically enhanced guards – from ancient ruins, which is also cool. Like Theo said, all the points for setting and originality.
However, it’s just not that well written, and the story seems to focus on all the wrong things. The most interesting stuff – such as the protagonist in the prologue getting lost in the ruins and venturing deeper than anyone ever has before – is somewhat glossed over (a bit like the beginning of Forlorn Dimension, which we eliminated last week), while more basic things (like descriptions of the path up to the Apex) suffer from repetitive descriptions. I really wanted to like it more, but the execution just doesn’t deliver on the awesome premise.
There was a lot I loved with this one.
To begin with, I think the cover has the potential to be brilliant if perhaps it had a digital artist work on it.
As for the story itself, it ticked a lot of my boxes; I loved that their world was built upon this colossal forgotten tech – the mystery of where this society and culture has come from.
Unfortunately, I have to agree with Laura; the most exciting part of what I’d read was over and done with rather quickly. I was intrigued by our quiet protagonist who just wanted to be left alone to draw (substitute “draw” with “read” and I absolutely hear her), and again by our pair of gatherers and their brews. But ultimately it just wasn’t quite gripping enough.
I was so very, very excited for this. From the blurb, the setting had me ‘kid in a candy store’ with excitement of what it all meant. To my mind it was a little bit of Shadow of the Colossus vs Mortal Engines.
And the ideas on offer are certainly on the page, just getting to them was a bit of a challenge. The bits I was excited for weren’t in the spotlight as much as id hoped for, and while I’ll give any book a chance seeing as there’s always setup to do, I found myself wishing it would just get to it.
The star of the show is the golem, but when the spotlight is on the background and not the cast, things get tricky. I wanted so much more from this, and it’s certainly got potential – it just needs a little work to really shine. If this had a solid rewrite to bring the relevant plot pieces to the forefront, and cut back on the bits between, I think it would be an allstar.
Commiserations to the eliminated authors. On a more positive note…
Our fifth semi-finalist is:
A Tale of Stars and Shadow
Dumnorix princess and born warrior, Talyn Dynan was the finest fighter of her generation. With her Callanan partner at her side, she was invincible, reckless, a death-knell to their enemies. But after her partner is torn away from her, Talyn is left broken, wracked with guilt and unable to regain the confidence she once had. Could an unexpected mission to the mysterious country of Mithranar, home of the magical winged folk, be the thing that saves her? Or will the danger and secrets she finds there finally break her completely?
The Shadowhawk lives a life in the shadows. Constantly hunted for his criminal exploits, yet desperate to help the human folk of Mithranar who are oppressed by their winged folk rulers, he haunts the streets of Dock City. The arrival of a foreign warrior threatens to upset the carefully balanced life he leads, but when she begins to offer a hope for the humans he’s only ever dreamed of, can he risk trusting her?
And unbeknownst to both, a mysterious foe stalks the dark corners of Dock City. One that answers to a single purpose…
I’ve read up to 22% and am loving this so far. A strong, three-dimensional female protagonist who is also vulnerable (and has a bit of a dark past, it seems), interesting worldbuilding, and cool setup. Am definitely happy for this to be a semi-finalist!
It has a pretty map to start – I’m a sucker for maps and geographistory in general, unlike some people I could mention (cough Laura cough “Malta is part of Spain, isn’t it?” cough).
The initial action of a mysterious masked thief (a nautical Robin Hood?) sneaking aboard a ship in a storm threw up a few points credibility-wise for me. The crew on watch are all in a lit cabin playing cards? That’s not a very watchful place for a crew to keep watch from. The naval architecture and routines just didn’t convince me. And then the character opens a door near the waterline in a storm? Haven’t they heard of the Mary Rose, the Vasa or, damn it all, The Herald of Free Enterprise?
Chapter two began promisingly with a character apparently suffering from depression – I like to see stories that acknowledge the reality of mental health issues and disability. However, this seemed to be more about enduring grief than clinical depression and there’s quite a bit of travelogue-style exposition and some anachronistic dialogue (“We’ll do dinner when I get back.”).
However, the kindle sample gets to an exciting chase, and reading on to the 20% mark this was another rare example where the book got better as I read further. This may be because we had left the nautical dissonance behind and entered a world of winged warriors and terrestrial humans. There the author had a blank canvas free from those pesky real-world associations that snagged my attention.
That said, there were some oddities in the “Dirty Dozen” approach to selecting the team given the critical nature of their mission. You’d imagine the powers that be would want “the best,” not a sweeping of mavericks and rejects. However, Talyn makes an interesting protagonist and the world she has come into is full of the essential kind of tension and conflict which makes for engaging fiction (just as much as it makes for aggravating real life). So while it may not have been one of my strongest choices, I’m happy enough with the group verdict that this gets a semifinalist spot and a full read.
I tore through the opening chapter – it was exciting and action-packed, and yet I was able to learn a great deal about the character and the world whilst still maintaining intrigue. It was balanced very well. It already feels like this author is really able to tell a story, rather than feed information. As such, I was hooked!
Moving on from that brilliant opening, the following chapters felt less polished. We have a new PoV and it doesn’t take long for her to become quite repetitive and tiresome. It also began to feel like there was less subtlety to the writing; there is a moment when a character is informing our protagonist that she is to be posted elsewhere, and it feels like every possible argument is presented and worked through, as if to countermand any feasible issue a reader might make of it.
Despite this, the story really sparked interest in me and I want to know more!
This starts with a killer opening. Character, setting, tone – it has it all. I was so swept up in how easily it flowed that I let a few things slide without realising, which is a testament to how joyfully this read. As Beth said, the first chapter was an author telling a story, and I felt like I was huddled around a campfire while Cassidy did just that.
Things change direction after that. PoV shifts, and with it so too does the storytelling. Setting, style, tone. Which, again, is another thumbs up to the writer (to differentiate so much between characters and how they see the world, and how the world sees them), but a bit of a shaky smile as to whether I was still on board. I was – but I wanted to be on board the ship from the first chapter more. The drama here was more internal, emotional, and thoughtful.
That being said, as the story progresses, Talyn really grows into her own – and I wholeheartedly enjoyed her internal journey as much as her one within the world. I was still in two minds about the story as a whole, one moment enthralled, the next at a bit of a loose end, but there was enough to keep me going.
Overall, this wasn’t one of my personal favourites – I will admit that. But, everyone is different, and has different tastes. What I will say is that Talyn’s grief, her depression, was well written, and something that I for one appreciated for its representation. PTSD is underrepresented in fantasy fiction, IMHO, and while I for one read for escapism, I appreciated the added realism in Talyn’s character. Mixed in with the fantastical elements a la winged warriors, this has all the ingredients needed for a semi-finalist – congratulations!
*** Yes, congratulations to Lisa Cassidy and A TALE OF STARS AND SHADOW! ***
We’ll be posting more updates in the next couple of weeks, including the announcement of our sixth and last semi-finalist. 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* (*semi-finalist)
Madeleine D’Este, Women of Wasps and War Matthew Satterlee, Forlorn Dimension
- Miriam R. Dumitra, Brightshade
- Ryan Howse, The Steel Discord* (*semi-finalist)
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 few surviving books is a future SPFBO 5 finalist – perhaps even the winner! Can you guess which one? (We can’t… yet! Though it’s getting closer…)
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 next month as we review our semi-finalists and eventually pick our finalist, and check out our introduction to round 1!