SPFBO 7 – Meet the Batch “Our World”
The seventh Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) is underway!
Check out our introduction here | meet this year’s judges here | read all about the contest’s origins here | and keep track of phase one here
A bit like the proverbial swan (serene to the point of inactivity on the surface, but paddling like crazy out of sight) the Hive SPFBO team have been silently busy over the last couple of months.
The team of five, me (Theo), Belle, Peter, Scarlett and Calvin have been working our way through our 30 SPFBO books, making sure we have each read up to about 20% or so and made a decision about how keen we are to read on. With some books, some of the team have been so enthralled they couldn’t stop themselves reading all the way on to the end, which is an indication of the quality of books we have been seeing.
But now the 150 individual judgments are in, and we can start sharing our views and beginning the bitter-sweet process of elimination and celebration as we pick out our semi-finalists.
We have divided the 30 books into 6 batches of five books each, with each batch loosely grouped around a common theme or motif. For the next six weeks our SPFBO posting pattern will be:
Monday introduce a new batch of five
Wednesday eliminate three of them and identify two quarter finalists
Friday post the decision as to which quarter finalists which is our pick for semi-finalist and why
The chosen semi-finalists will then each get a full read from all our judges and a Hive review to be posted in the last week of October as we build up to announcing our Hive SPFBO7 Finalist
All the entrants in the competition deserve credit not just for completing a novel length book – but for being prepared to subject themselves to the very public and potentially bruising scrutiny of the SPFBO competition. In each posting we’ll list the books alphabetically by title rather than by ranking. We hope to explain what made us want to read on, or what put us off. You may find the things that discouraged some of us actually pique your interest. After all, reading is subjective and the meaning and value of any book is fashioned anew with every fresh reader/book combination.
But now let’s MEET OUR FIRST BATCH …
This week’s theme is “Our World.”
The selection of books in this batch reminded me of a Tolkien quote.
“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . . If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”
Whether we are prisoners of war, of circumstance or simply of the grim realities of contemporary society, fantasy offers us a wonderful refuge for a precious few hours. A lot of fantasy writing plants its readers in the midst of a richly imagined secondary world (for example Mieville’s New Crobuzon or Bancroft’s The Tower of Babel). However, many others – in the tradition of C.S. Lewis and the famous wardrobe – start with their characters in the recognisable realities of our own world and transport both character and reader into the bewilderingly fantastic.
Our SPFBO7 themes have somewhat fuzzy boundaries, in that several books could have fitted in more than one batch. However, in this first batch of five books all the stories drew links between the comforting familiarity of our world, and something altogether uncanny. Whether it was a dangerous portal allowing the Fae into our world, or a high school experiencing an influx of supernatural teenagers, or just a world whose technology and organisation makes it seem like the country next door, all five of our first batch of books began with an offer of escapism that bridged our world and theirs.
In a near contemporary Ireland an ambitious young man seeks out a mentor to induct him in a world of magic, but – for good reason – not all mentors are willing and – also for good reason – not all mentees can be trusted.
A psychopathic wizard. An immortal mage. An epic battle of wills.
Nikolai doesn’t want much out of life: sex, immortality, and the power to disembowel anyone who crosses him. But with dark magic forbidden, his only option is Medea–a mage so deadly even the Enforcers give her a wide berth. Despite dire warnings that her apprentices don’t survive, Nikolai won’t stop until she agrees to train him. After all, he’s a killer himself.
Barbaric and brutal, the training is a far cry from what Nikolai expects. When a mysterious illness strikes Nikolai down, he suspects he’s found the secret to Medea’s longevity. He resolves to find out what happened to her previous apprentices. If he can locate the source of her power, he can turn it against her.
Medea swore off training dark wizards–none of them take the craft seriously and the ungrateful bastards always try to kill her. This one definitely seems the backstabbing type, but magic is dying out and she hasn’t felt such magical strength in centuries. If she can control the boy, show him that magic is more than curses and necromancy, he might obtain the power he desires. If not, well . . .
What’s one more dead apprentice?
A girl with a mother who is overly protective (both of the daughter and the environment) finds herself the unwelcome focus of attention when twin brothers arrive at her school and seem more interested in her than the local mean girls.
What if you had to believe the impossible…then fall in love with him?
Stephanie Starr thinks her senior year of high school is going to be like every other: an ordinary kind of awful stuck between a group of mean girls and her mother’s overprotective mania.
Everything changes when gorgeous Haley Smith walks into her life. She doesn’t understand why he wants her so badly and pushes him away. But, Haley won’t give up. He can’t give up. There’s a shadow running through his blood tied to a curse in hers, and time is running out for them both.
Faced with rogue gods and deadly prophesies, Stephanie must survive the ultimate test in order to uncover the truth and save her mother, her friends, and her town. Nothing can prepare her for what she discovers, and no one can save her from her fate.
A girl trapped in an uncaring care home escapes her nightmares and finds refuge in studying with her geeky friends at school, but a new classmate seems determined to break down her reserve.
When angels initiate a war, humans on Apkallu die.
Deprived of human worshipping, angels resort to burning human souls to sustain themselves when the ancient Qal of an assassinated archangel wakes up on Earth… inside a human, disturbing the precarious peace.
Holding the key to all three realms, the allegiance of this archangel will mean eternal dominance in a game on a global scale.
Set on the backdrop of high fantasy, “Celestial Creatures” explores taboo topics such as borderline personality and social effective disorder, effects of abuse and insecure attachment in young people and the inner world which is so rarely spoken about.
In a dull and misty English town, an ordinary girl lives her trying life.
But alongside her boring world another world lingers.
The world of angels: with Heaven and Hell, with cities, suspended high in the skies and cities, hidden deep beneath the surface, with creatures, harvesting humans… and prophecy of assassinated archangel one day reborn within a human.
“Celestial Creatures” is a dark high fantasy on Christian mythology with Sumerian religion and language influences.
In the aftermath of battle and betrayal, a faerie warrior – tormented by his conscience – escapes to a fancy dress party in rural Michigan. In a clash of technology, magic and personalities, everyone and everything is in danger.
Simith of Drifthorn is tired of war. After years of conflict between the Thistle court and the troll kingdom, even a pixie knight known for his bloodlust longs for peace. Hoping to secure a ceasefire, Simith arranges a meeting with the troll king—and is ambushed instead. Escape lies in the Jaded Grove, but the trees of the ancient Fae woodland aren’t what they seem, and in place of sanctuary, Simith tumbles through a doorway to another world.
Cutting through her neighbor’s sunflower farm in Skylark, Michigan, Jessa runs into a battle between creatures straight out of a fantasy novel. Only the blood is very real. When a lone fighter falls to his attackers, Jessa intervenes. She’s known too much death to stand idly by, but an act of kindness leads to consequences even a poet like her couldn’t imagine.
With their fates bound by magic, Simith and Jessa must keep the strife of his world from spilling into hers—except the war isn’t what it appears and neither are their enemies. Countless lives depend on whether they can face the truths of their pasts and untangle the web of lies around them. But grief casts long shadows, and even their deepening bond may not be enough to save them from its reach.
In a town beside a brooding forest, people disappear, hunters find strange and terrifying beasts, and two sisters must seek out the source of this disruption – an ancient power in a cave buried deep inside the forest boundary.
The Old gods have come to helldire and to stop them, Mercy will have to venture into the dark forests, but people have always told stories about the forests—and not the good kind. She will have to go to the forests with her sister, who is a wolf, in search of the Kal order, a secret order that has protected the world against threats from other worlds.
Their quest will tangle them with other characters all in hope of killing the old gods, but maybe to kill an old god you need help from another god. Maybe they’ll need to find a new god to help, but the cost will be great.
Check back on Wednesday to discover what our judges thought of these books