SPFBO 7 – Meet the Batch “Kick Ass”
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
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 FOURTH BATCH …
This week’s theme is “Kick Ass.”
Some fantasy stories rest on a spine of gentle characterisation, or of sumptuous world building, others dabble in innovative magic systems, or intricate plots of tangled conspiracies. But there are also those “kick ass” stories which revel in the crunch of fist on jaw, or the squelch of steel on flesh. These are the stories that revel in the exhilarating mayhem of visceral action, the dazzling choreography of combat. Not all draw on the kind of historical verisimilitude displayed in Miles Cameron’s excellent and educational “writing fighting” video clips available from his twitter handle @phokion1 (here is an example), or the MMA rigour of last year’s finalist The Combat Codes. Sometimes there is a little stretching of the laws of physics like in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and other martial arts movies where sword wielding maestros balanced on a swaying tree top as lightly as a bird. But the thing that strikes me as a reader, is how combat action speeds me through a scene. My reading accelerates with the protagonist’s heart rate and (for good or bad) I am swept along like a kayak in rapids, speeding through whole pages with no time to make any comment or note.
So follow us this week to see how the books in this batch caught the judges’ eye with how they delivered or promised to deliver some serious ass kicking.
A woman walks into a bar – with a vampire’s bleeding head in a bag. In a world that needs her skills but is too prejudiced against her race, her gender and her magic craft to more than grudgingly admit it, the biggest bounties carry the greatest danger. But is it more risky to hunt alone or in company?
The tiny town of Penance has a big vampire problem—and charmslinger Gracie Boswell aims to be the solution. A whole nest of vampires makes for a mighty fine bounty, though, and Gracie is far from the only charmslinger angling for the job. When a charming local layabout and an old competitor elbow their way into Gracie’s posse, she’s forced to at least pretend to play nice…but trust is scarce in the west, and smart bounty hunters always sleep with one eye open.
But Gracie doesn’t have much time to watch her fellow bounty hunters—Penance’s vampire nest is bigger and more organized than anyone suspected, and there’s at least one traitor in the town’s midst. Soon, Gracie finds herself in the unenviable position of leaning on her posse…and at least one of them isn’t what he claims to be.
A E Bennett
An enslaved woman from an alien race, fleeing her suddenly unwelcoming home – teams up with a rogue with an unfortunate history of partners. Elsewhere a daughter of privilege has an extremely bad wedding day and a government assassin finds not all secrets can be kept hidden and not all good killings go unnoticed.
In the distant future, the United States is long gone…the Realm stands in its place…and one peasant woman will become the catalyst for a revolution.
Leora of Mae is a young woman orphaned at birth and raised on a remote farm. As a wielder of Xanthcraft, her abilities set her apart from her adoptive family and the other villagers. Shortly before her twentieth birthday, she learns of her family’s plot to sell her into servitude. Fearing for her life, she flees from the only home she’s ever known.
As she runs, Leora meets Roland Shallowbrook, a traveler on the Thieves’ Road; Lady Aurora Verte, daughter of a powerful member of the gentry; and the White Rider Leopold, a soldier with a secret. Together, this found family will have to unite to survive.
Two warriors in different locations battle demons both magical and human in kind, slicing and dicing people and things with aplomb and barely a pause to wipe (somebody else’s) blood from their brows. Meanwhile an enigmatic character wakes from slumber on a reef.
Widespread madness, rampaging monsters and the reckless choices of monarchs all stem from a pall that has descended upon Verragos. In the midst of chaos and looming war, disparate travellers confront their own nightmares as they become embroiled in the fray of nations. Their best hope is the exposure of incredible truths from an ancient facade of lies, but is civilisation ready to pay the high cost of survival?
Wren, exiled from his home in the icy north as a scapegoat for a horrific massacre, begins to suspect that an insidious influence is behind the growing slew of psychotic events. To uncover the source of the threat, he must enlist the help of an old and distant friend – the only living entity aware of his bitter and brutal past.
Oriken, a beleaguered sellsword, narrowly escapes death by the intervention of a mysterious woman. In gratitude for her timely arrival, he vows to help her vanquish her demons of a lost identity and a burning urge to find the owner of the one name she remembers. Haunted by the echo of a dead friend, he ventures into foreign and hostile climes and soon comes to realise that a dangerous identity may lurk beneath the trauma of the stranger at his side.
A small but perfectly formed crew fend off zombie attackers in what feels like a cross between “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But when the other party reneges on the deal, they find themselves dragged into a more fundamental challenge as they bid to keep dreams and finances afloat.
A magical weapon in the hands of evil.
It could end them all.
Aboard the Dreadnaught, Shiphead Junathan Reed and the Raiders fight the battles that the Northlands can’t. Peace is fleeting and sharp iron is the only ally.
When a great Northlands vault is breached and a magical weapon plundered, Jun and the Raiders will head to the Southlands to take it back.
The corsair responsible — Raynar Bloom the Halfsight — should be dead, but after coming out of hiding, he has barricaded himself on the Isle of Rats and conjured a deadly storm to deter any interlopers. With the artefact in the Halfsight’s grip, the realm is in danger that no fleet or army could withstand.
But Jun has met with the Halfsight before, when everything he loved was torn from his heart and scattered to the seas. Once again, Jun will have to face the monster responsible for ten years of torment — the death of his family, the pain of his capture and the empty void of his life.
He’ll stop at nothing to get his reckoning and bury the Halfsight.
Even if he has to share the grave.
Two tricksters seek out the perfect patsy – a combination of potential, susceptibility and rank stupidity – to be the keystone in their plans to gather a fortune. Sand, however, is an exceptionally flawed vessel to deliver their ambition, not so much the “black sheep” of his family as the one black sheep run from.
Monty Python meets Gladiator!
Sand is destined for greatness. Or so a pair of two-bit criminals would have him believe.
After rescuing him from certain doom, Bess and Kaede embark on a scheme to game the War God Tournament. It’d be easier if Sand wasn’t an alcohol-soaked twit with a disturbing interest in mutton.
Pitted against monsters, magic swords, and murderers galore, they soon realize winning the tourney is the least of their worries.
Check back on Wednesday to discover what our judges thought of these books.