SPFBO 7 – Meet the Batch “Different”
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 SIXTH AND FINAL BATCH …
This week’s theme is “Different.”
Fantasy stories are built around “novums” – the special idea, the unique selling point, that makes this world and the story set in it different to any others that have been told. Of course many stories draw on familiar tropes and ideas – Tolkien borrowed liberally from the Finnish myth Kalavela – but still each author strives for a difference of content or approach that sets their tale apart from whatever may have inspired it. A fresh take on magic, an unusual setting, or just a glimpse of something coming out of left field. N.K.Jemsin has magicians who can manipulate earthquakes, Jen Williams (among other innovations) has witches riding giant bats, Teresa Frohock has angels and daemons embroiled in conflict against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.
In this our final batch, we gathered together books that each had some distinctive feature about them which defied easy categorisation.
K. E. Wills
A young woman adapting to life in the city with her dog and her bicycle strikes up new friendships. Along the way she finds that her spiritual grandmother seems to have bequeathed her a sensitivity to emotion and an ability to influence people that helps her new friends in their entrepreneurial plans.
After graduating college, Faye moves to Washington, D.C. with her dog Puffy and best friend Lucy.
The three of them navigate sharing a tiny studio apartment and adapting to living in the city. But very quickly, Faye realizes something isn’t as it seems.
As her quirky talents become strong abilities of the mind, she stumbles across a magical compass and dives into the comfort of her Persian culture.
Faye must learn to accept who she is and what she can do.
Join along with Faye and Puffy as their adventures in the Capitol test the strength of friendships, love, and sense of self.
T.L.Greylock and Bryce O’Connor
An aristocratic archaeologist with larcenous tendencies seizes the opportunity to dig up and understand the past in a rarely accessed site. A desperate pair of siblings risk everything to try and head her off, but more peril lurks within the refined atmosphere of a palace dinner and by the dangerously contaminated dig site.
An undying king. A relic of rune-carved bronze and ivory flames. A war for powers only a god could fathom.
In the centuries since rising up against a cruel, twisted dynasty, the Seven Cities have done much to move past their horrid histories, the memories of ancient monarchs who once fed on the life and blood of their own people. Those with a talent for magic are no longer hounded and slain. The lands beyond the Cities are safe, spared the atrocities the Alescuans once wrought upon them. For 300 years, there has been peace.
Then Eska de Caraval, head of the prestigious Firenzia Company, finds herself framed for murder.
Soon hunted for the strange bronze disc she most certainly did not steal, Eska is forced to pit both wit and blade against all manner of adversaries who would eagerly see her dead. An assassin in the shadows. A monster in the deep. A rival looking to burn her alive. From sword and fang and flame Eska must defend herself, struggling all the while to prove her innocence and unravel the mysteries of a dangerous artifact.
But unbeknownst to Eska and her enemies, the cruelest of those tyrants of old is stirring in his grave.
A private investigator battles with conscience and common sense, heart and pride leading him one way, body and bruises the other. In a city bedevilled by monsters of land and sea, a showdown between gangs at the docks is too full of crossfire for comfort.
A troll in a pin-striped suit walks into a bar. He’s looking for Alex Southerland, private investigator and summoner of elementals. A gorgeous dame is going to come to Southerland with a case, and the troll tells him that he is going to turn the case down–or else! But Southerland doesn’t respond well to threats, even from a seven-and-a-half foot, five-hundred pound enforcer. Besides, he needs the dough! The stubborn P.I. soon finds himself mixing it up with trolls and gang bosses, cruising through downtown streets in an outlandish beastmobile borrowed from a glorified pimp, and encountering corrupt city officials, creatures of legend, the sleaziest attorney in the city, a were-rat, and an irresistible–if homicidal–refugee from the ocean depths. Framed for a murder he didn’t commit, Southerland weaves his way from seedy neighborhoods to the dazzling lights of downtown–and from one savage beating to the next–to clear his name and uncover a shocking secret.
T. R. Preston
Two children carry a painful past in their hearts and a talking rabbit on their backs as they pursue a villain of immense power and cruelty. Their lupine mentor offers training and guidance in repayment of a debt for a lifesaving favour.
Ika Ivory and Chandi MorrowHill are two teenagers from a small town. They are the closest of friends; nearly inseparable. As wonderful as their bond is, it was forged due to tragic circumstances. Both of them are victims of dreadful childhood traumas. It is through their grief that they grew closer and learned to take on the world together.
Wenworld is a strange and wondrous place, and they have vowed to chase two particular men to the ends of it and back for revenge. Ika seeks a man named Kirga, who is known more commonly as ‘The Hellcat’. He is responsible for taking the life of Ika’s elder sister, a memory that Ika cannot escape from. Chandi wishes to one day find a man named Wriliara, who mercilessly took both parents from her.
As they grew older, Ika and Chandi spent most of their time researching these men. Through their shared research, the duo one day discovered that these men work together; though the incidents the children suffered through took place at separate times. Once they found this out, Ika and Chandi made a promise to each other that they would hunt them to the far reaches of the world to get their revenge. Together, as they did all things.
In order to get the revenge they seek, however, they must first be trained in the complex ways of Wenworld magic. Kirga and Wriliara are far more powerful than the average criminal. Ika and Chandi will need to close a mighty gap in time for that showdown. Good thing they have a competent master, who just happens to be a talking rabbit. What could go wrong?
U. G. Gutman
In a world where mastery of the emotions enables men to wield a powerful magic that women are barred from using, an enigmatic assassin is assigned as guard and companion to a princess. His mission is to keep her from contacting her magical side. However, the assassin has his own agenda of vengeance.
“They burned me and mine. I’m not done until I burn them and theirs in return.”
Witch-hunts have plagued the kingdom of Olyanath for decades. Thousands were slain due to the king’s paranoia of women who practice Senspiritic magic.
Nye and his companions have seen enough of murder and misogyny.
Fifteen years have passed since he joined the witch-hunters, and now, at long last, an opportunity to destroy them from the inside reveals itself.
An opportunity to overthrow the king and end his reign of cruelty.
But fifteen years of pretense have taken a toll. The strive for vengeance has steered Nye toward a path of violence and villainy. His hands are stained by the blood of countless innocents, his heart is scorched by grief, and his sanity hangs by a thread.
Even if he can kill the king and see this revolution through, it may not suffice to purge the voices from his head.
Check back on Wednesday to discover what our judges thought of these books.