SPFBO 7 – Meet the Batch “Starting Anew”
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 FIFTH BATCH …
This week’s theme is “Starting Anew.”
All fantasy, indeed all stories, must have an element of starting anew. As one of my course tutors once put it when critiquing the opening to a piece, “Why today?” That is to say, what is different about this moment in the protagonist’s life? What makes this a hinge point which takes them out of their mundane and ordinary into the extra-ordinary experience of the novel?
However, in grouping the books together in this batch, we have aimed for a more particular theme of induction into a new life. Not just a change, but a changed way of living. A popular example of this is when a protagonist is whisked away to a training camp/school where they meet a whole cast of new characters and develop powers and acquire experiences previously unknown to them. But starting anew isn’t just about Harry Potter heading to Hogwarts – and besides all training comes with a price, the greater the transformation the greater the price.
A novice in the game skips the tutorial and ends up with strange companions in a high level region. Drawn deeply into the game as absorbing as Red Dwarf’s addictive “Better than Life” Eyre must decide what matters and what doesn’t and what’s real and what isn’t.
Endless Skies, a reality in a game. For most humans, it represents a second life away from the horrors of a broken Earth. To Eyre, her first full-dive into the fantasy realm is a long shot gamble at finding independence, from her family and her past.
Determination, cleverness, and luck get her far enough to pick up a quest from a shady wizard, with the promise to fulfill her deepest desire. The catch: become a lodestone to danger as the quest leads her into dubious salvation at the hands of lethal Guild mercenaries.
Caught up now in the calculations of the team’s enigmatic leader, Sworn, she finds herself aiding them on a march to clear their own objective: the Dungeon of Ironcross Depot and its master, an Unaligned warlord feared by the Guilds. As the body count grows and the subterfuge deepens, Eyre is forced to decide how far she is willing to go to become the vision she has for herself.
An ancient guardian of a woodland grove finds that his transformative tendencies have annoyed his spiritual superiors enough that they will con strain some of his power. But when chance throws a potential assistant his way there is time for one more transformation as the world seems to teeter over an abyss.
All Skye Worthington wanted was a job; a way to make ends meet, keep the lights on, and her stomach fed.
The fates had other plans.
A wrong turn, and a sputtering engine herald her entrance to an ancient truth…
Little does she know it, but hidden within her mundane world lurks a world of light, magic and nightmare. An ancient evil begins to awake, and she may be one of the few that can stop it.
But first… a few changes are in order.
Sibling rivalry is the pits, particular where your elder sister’s brilliance serves only to illuminate more sharply your own failure. But when chance throws a wonderful
victim opportunity your way, there is a glimmer of hope that a new initiate might solve all your problems, even if it means breaking the law.
A story about a bumbling witch struggling to make ends meet in the land of the wicked.
Meredith is a terrible witch.
Every witch in Galavan must pull her weight, and she hasn’t lured a single youth in five years. Something always goes wrong, somehow.
Her brood-sister is fed up with her, which is a dreadful problem to have when her brood-sister is the Head of the Coven. Living up to her standards is an everyday struggle.
Meredith can’t afford another failure. They’ll brand her, banish her to Earth, toss her off the flipside—or so much worse, if her secrets come to light. Her compulsions. Her pilfered stash. Her doubt, her terrible illness. And if they find out she’s been helping the serfs…
Well, she might get to choose: the pyre, or the wheel.
She has one more chance to turn it around. Her retrieval window starts tonight. The tools are ready, the mark is promising. She couldn’t be more driven. Failure is not an option.
Dread congeals in Meredith’s gut as she opens the portal to Earth.
What will go wrong this time?
How better to relish living in a drowned world, than by taking the shape of a creature that can glory in its depths and swells. But people don’t like what they don’t understand and secrets cannot be kept forever, so sometimes even a shape-shifter must shift more than her shape.
No one remembers when the cities drowned.
A great wave swept the world clean of its old corruption and the age of sorcery was done. For those who remain life has narrowed into the simple rhythms of survival. The villagers living in the flooded reed lands are content to keep their past submerged and Marisha is no different… at least she tries not to be.
For as long as she can remember Marisha has pretended to be human, but in reality she’s a shifter, blessed with ability to take on the form of other creatures.
A blasphemy to the priests who rule this tiny world, but one that has gone unnoticed, until a sorcerer steps out of legend and into her father’s hut..
Dragons and humans can co-exist in bonded pairs that bring benefits to both partners, but a nest full of humans and dragons is a fragile ecosystem – vulnerable to the disruption caused by a young girl reluctant to take on the meaning and obligations of the new life she rashly committed herself to.
When dragons fight, mountains weep.
In nests high in the mountains, dragons and dragonbonded share their lives, thoughts, feelings, and ambitions.
Palon and her partner, the dragon Windward, are renowned among their nest for their flying skill. Their days are filled with everything she loves, especially riding the wind. Even being tasked with teaching their way of life to Tebah, a rebellious newly bonded teenager, can’t bring her down too much.
But when treasures from the dragons’ hoards are found in Palon’s collection, her idyllic life comes crashing down. She battles to prove her innocence, while her every move is cast as further evidence against her. Tebah’s suspicion, homesickness, and defiance would be frustrating even in easy times. With Palon in the spotlight while her rivals smear her name at every turn and stir up plots of revenge, her teenage charge’s behavior proves dangerous.
Dragon tempers shorten, and challenges and disputes shake the ground. Palon will have to trust more than just herself if she hopes to once more own the sky.
Check back on Wednesday to discover what our judges thought of these books.