#SPFBO Feedback on my second batch of books


We’re almost at the end of the second month of the SPFBO competition.  At the start of the month I randomly chose my second batch of six books.  Throughout the month I have been making progress reading at least the first 30% of each of those books and today I’m going to give feedback on my books so far.  I will be eliminating a number of these books – with apologies to the authors, it’s not a part of the competition that I enjoy, but as has been said many many times before, there can be only one.  At this point I’ve chosen two books to continue reading – I haven’t yet decided if these will be semi-finalists but at the moment I’m carrying both forward for future reading.  To be honest, these decisions were so difficult – even now I’m going backwards and forwards and this post may change before it goes live.  I am full of indecision.

So, without further ado here is my feedback on the first six books (my third batch will be posted at the start of September).

Healer'sHealer’s Ruin by Chris O’Mara

I’ve read the first 30% of Healer’s Ruin and I’m really quite hooked.  I’d like to read more of this one as I’m really curious about the world and the characters.  To an extent it almost feels like this book is part of something bigger, as though I’ve been thrown into the middle of a fully developed world but it’s easy to read and entertaining.  I’m going to read on and see how this one develops so my review here will only be short for the time being. At the moment I’m rolling this book forward.

Author Info:

Twitter : Aphazail


TheOwl.jpgThe Owl & the Dragon by Randy Nargi 

The Owl and the Dragon is clearly a murder mystery in a fantasy world. As the story sets out we make the acquaintance of the main POV character Bander.  Bander is travelling and along the way he meets a group of characters who ask him to join their party – they then drug, rob and leave him for dead.  Not the best start for our character but everyone can make mistakes.  Bander then finds himself meeting up with another character who takes pity on him and helps him to reach the next village so that he can seek out a healer.  The story fairly quickly progresses once Bander arrives in the village of Hytwen.  A young girl has gone missing, possibly abducted, and the neighbouring village of Ortwen is suspected.  There is much rivalry between the two villages and on the face of it it would appear that Hytwen may play a role in the disappearance.

This is quite an engaging story to the point that I broke off.  It was quick and easy to read and I didn’t have any problems in making quick progress.  That being said, considering that I’ve read just slightly over 30% the plot feels a little light up to this point.   There is quite a bit of description with every new scene being given a fair amount of page time.  I don’t mind detail to be honest, but I do feel like it’s slowing the story down a little bit here.  It could be that the author is doing a Sherlock Holmes style number where things are outlined and clues are hidden within the descriptions, clues that only the detective will pick up on. Yes, that could be what the author is going for but in some respects it feels a little laboured and had me tapping my foot a little with impatience.

The main character Bander is an interesting chap.  He’s actually a retired investigator.  To some extents Bander reads well, but, the fact that he very nearly falls foul of two attempts on his life doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in his overall abilities.  There’s also a slight feeling of things falling too easily into place for him along the way and I couldn’t help feeling that he lacked emotions in some respects.  I felt that I was being ‘told’ rather than ‘shown’ that Bander was an impressive character.  On top of this, to the point I broke off, this is very light in terms of fantasy – other than the world itself being fictitious.

But, criticisms aside, I can’t deny this was an intriguing storyline and I am interested to see how the plot is resolved.  At this stage however and for the purposes of the competition I’m setting this one aside.

Author Info :


TheLoreThe Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King

The Lore of Prometheus is the second book out of the batch that I would like to continue reading.  As mentioned, these are not semi-finalists at this stage, I just don’t want to stop reading at the moment.  In which case, I won’t provide further details about the read at this point other than to say this is proving to be an impressive story so far, it feels polished and given that I don’t usually enjoy military style books it’s caught my attention much more than I expected.  I’m rolling this book forward.

Author Info :

Twitter : grayaustin


RealmofRealm of Beasts by Angela J Ford

Realm of Beasts involves two main characters, both running away from something (or so it seemed to me).

We first meet Tor Lir, he’s just left his homeland and believes he has a mission to bring order and balance to the world.  I’m not going to lie, I found Tor a little bit difficult to like in the early chapters of this book – now perhaps that’s just down to getting off on a bad footing or perhaps I wasn’t quite in the right place when I started but I found him a little bit arrogant and annoying and I can’t deny that I struggled to get over this initial impression.

We then switch characters to Citrine, a young female with a guarded past.  She’s found Paradise and is happy here living in the forest under the protection of a guardian.  Unfortunately Citrine hasn’t completely escaped from whatever it was she was running from and it seems that the ‘paradise’ she’s found solace in is about to be shattered.  Again, Citrine didn’t quite win me over – but it’s early stages after all.  It seems that her actions are going to have a negative impact on many of the people and creatures that live under the protections of this forest but at the moment I’m not feeling any regret or indecision on her part.  Her hand is being forced, don’t get me wrong, but she just doesn’t seem particularly cut up about it, I wanted more emotion I suppose and the lack of it left me thinking she was a little detached and a bit thoughtless which in turn made it difficult for me to become attached to her.

On the face of it and up to the point I’ve read the writing was easy, the descriptions were good, but I almost had a feeling that I’d been thrown into the middle of something, as though I should already have a knowledge of this world.  I realise that this is probably something that will be built on as the book progresses but at this point and given that neither of the two main characters really stole my heart I’m going to admit this one isn’t for me and so I’m setting it aside.

Author Info :

Twitter : aford21


PrinceofCats.jpgThe Prince of Cats by Daniel Olesen

I must say from the outset that The Prince of Cats was a good read and I easily read over the 30% allocation I allow for all these books.  This is definitely, so far a fun read with a good pace and amusing dialogue.

Jawad is a thief.  When we meet him at the start of the story he’s been arrested and about to face punishment – unless he can help to find ‘The Prince of Cats’.  Given a brief stay of execution Jawad is escorted to the home of a wealthy merchants who fears that the PoCs has targeted his business.

I liked Jawad in many ways.  He’s not a perfect character, he’s pitching people against each other and playing other people like a master puppeteer but he’s fairly easy to get along with from the reader’s perspective.

Like I mentioned, this is a good read and that makes me feel bad for cutting it out of the selection process at this stage, but this is a ruthless competition.  I think my main issue with this is that some of Jawad’s remarks fall strongly into the category of foreshadowing – now I think this is a pity in some respects because it gives me the feeling that I know what direction the story is going to go in – although I could, of course, be completely wrong.

All things being equal, this book is a good read, it has humour, intrigue and a likable main pov.  I’m still kind of torn and would like to roll this book forward but realistically I have to cut some books.  At the moment, regrettably, I’m not rolling this one forward but I may return to it later to complete and review.

Author Info :


Immortals'Requiem.jpgImmortals’ Requiem by Vincent Bobbe

I have mixed feelings for Immortals’ Requiem.  I started this book and admit that it began in a rather complicated fashion.  There are plenty of characters and goings on.  But, okay, I’m not new to complicated fantasy and by about 10% in things just ‘clicked’ for me, particularly with one of the characters who just made me laugh with his sarcasm.

I enjoyed the setting, I’m from this neck of the woods and so it was absolutely fascinating to be reading about streets that I’m familiar with – albeit that I wouldn’t particularly like to run into any of the characters from this book!

This is a story of Immortals – one in particular who seems to have travelled forward through the ages followed by his nemesis.  There are aspects of this that just gave me “Terminator’ vibes in a really good way and also other elements that put me in mind of similar urban fantasy worlds.

To be honest, I’m conflicted.  There are aspects of the story that I’m really enjoying, the pace is good as is the writing and I would like to know more about what’s going on.  On the other hand, I feel that this one might just be too violent for my own tastes.  So, I’m enjoying certain elements but not others.  I realise that’s very much a personal preference and even now I’m considering reading more to see how I get on but, for the purposes of the competition I won’t be rolling this one forward – even if I do decide to pick it back up.  Like I said, I think this one could possibly work really well for others so if you like your grimdark to be on the darker side of the scale then give it a shot.  I might continue with this one if time allows, I confess that I’m curious, but for the purpose of the competition I’m not rolling it forward at this stage.

Author Info : 

Twitter : jumpstartpub

*Final note: if I have any of your details wrong then please let me know.

My thanks to all the authors for providing review copies and regrets to those that have been cut out of the competition so far.

**Other SPFBO posts:

My Process

My 3 covers for the cover competition

Author Interview - Elise Kova

My First Batch of Books

Feedback on My First Batch of Books

My Second Batch of Books

Review: Cry Havoc by Mike Morris

The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark


And so comes to an end Anna Smith Spark’s brilliantly brutal Empires of Dust.  And what a very fitting end to the series it is.  This series is not for the faint of heart, it’s downright grim, it’s unapologetically bloody and it’s written in the most unique, almost poetic, prose I’ve ever come across.

I think this is possibly one of the hardest reviews I’ve had to write.  A combination of not wanting to give anything away coupled with arguing with myself about my own feelings.  To be clear, this is a great ending to this series, it’s perhaps not my favourite book of the series (that still remains The Tower of Living and Dying) but it’s so true to itself that it’s positively perfect.  There’s a loss of hope here, a weary sort of recognition that nothing will ever be enough and a perfect telling of one man’s descent into madness.

So, what can I tell you about this book.  It went in directions that I didn’t expect at all.  It contains the same starkly beautiful prose as the first two instalments and it has definitely left me gagging to find out what this author will come up with next.  Will this book be for everyone?  Definitely not.  This is a story that almost sucks the life and soul out of you when reading, the despair, the madness, the fear, the hysteria.  It’s just so bloody dark, it’s like a black hole – no light, no reflection just all consuming.  Lets just be frank, the laughs are few and far between and any sense of hope almost non-existent, I think the only hope that you really hanker after is retribution and whilst there’s an element of that there’s also the realisation that the same thing happening over and over again is kind of inevitable – the only difference being the ruthless conqueror.  History has shown us this very thing and this series is a perfect embodiment of that blood thirsty ambition to dominate that has repeated itself throughout the ages.  I can’t deny that it took me a while to read this one, which isn’t a reflection on how good the book is but more that things are definitely bleak and sometimes I had to escape to something a bit more fluffy and fun loving with unicorns and rainbows.

Marith and Thalia.  Wow, what a journey they take us on.   The two of them together though.  You’d hope that somehow they’d become more human, more sympathetic, more anything really.  But no.  They’re both a bit (aka a lot) monstrous, Marith more so than Thalia although she doesn’t exactly break a sweat out trying to curb him.  They both have their own crosses to bear and sadness to deal with, they’ve both come so far together that in some respects they don’t like each other at all and yet in others they can’t bear to be apart.  They’re a riddle indeed.  I can’t help thinking about Alexander the Great when reading about Marith.  The ambition, the charisma and the ruthless desire to conquer.  Marith thinks himself godlike in fact that’s probably the only thing left that he could strive for after conquering all else and his belief of his own invincibility is his only weakness.

I recall in a previous review describing this author’s style as hypnotic and that still stands.  I’ve also mentioned that her style has a poetic feel – and yet I don’t really read poetry so there’s a conundrum right there.  The best way to describe this, for me, is that the prose is wonderfully descriptive whilst being distinctly brief.  It’s the very opposite of, say, Tolkien or Dickens (both authors that I like btw).  And, to be honest, f you can use simply 5 words to describe a field, a tower, a battle and yet still conjure a vivid picture then why not – although I will say that I imagine this takes a hell of a lot more skill than you would imagine and this is an author who makes it look deceptively easy.

Overall, this has been a remarkable series.  I have so much respect for this author not only for her vision and writing chops but also for having the guts to take this series to the bitter end and give it the fitting conclusion it deserves without shirking or trying to wrap everything up too nicely.

As mentioned above, be aware that this series definitely falls into the grimdark category, it isn’t a YA read and there are elements to these stories that would not be everyone’s cup of tea so take heed.  I’m not going to tell you to read or to not read this – you know your own selves better than I do so hopefully you’ll make the right choice for you.  I would just say that this is a fine series, groundbreaking in style of writing, fascinating in it’s reflection of history and on point in terms of today’s modern fantasy reader.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.




Friday Face Off : A cover that is a movie tie in


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – the list has been updated to help out those of you who like to plan ahead – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

 A cover that is a movie tie in

I can think of a lot of books for this week’s themes.  In fairness.  I’m not overly fond of movie tie-in covers as a rule – probably related to the whole notion I have about reading the book before seeing the film.   Anyway, hope everyone found this an easy week.  Here’s the book I chose: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare  and here are the covers:

My favourites :

And my favourite


Probably an unusual choice given all the colourful and dramatic covers available.  I like the simplicity of the design in terms of two colours and all the little details just appeal to me.  Plus I like the font.

Like last week I’ve added a Mr Linky here so that you can leave a link if you wish or please leave me a link in the comments so we can all visit and check out each others covers.  Thanks

I’ve updated the list and included themes through to the end of 2019 – I’ve also included events that I’m aware of so that you can perhaps link your themes up where possible (if you know of an event you’d like to share that let me know in the comments).  I also have a list prepared for 2020 and so will set up a separate page soon for forthcoming themes.  As always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment.

Next week –  A cover that is predominantly yellow

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ or one of your favourite covers)


30th August – “I wandered lonely as a cloud” – a cover that is predominantly yellow

6th September “Warm September brings the fruit” – a cover that is seasonal for Autumn/Fall

13th September – Friday the 13th – unlucky for some!  A cover with ‘curse’ in the title

20th September – “Your hair is winter fire,January embers.” – A cover featuring hair

27th September – Freebie

4th October – “Feed me Seymour” – A cover that is 60s horror

11th October – ““And, though there should be a world of difference between the smile of a man and the bared fangs of a wolf, with Joss Merlyn they were one and the same.”  – a cover featuring an Inn/Hotel

18th October – “It’s your favorite scary movie, remember? He had on the white mask, he stalked the babysitters.” – A cover featuring a scream

25th October – for Halloween – pick any scary cover you like

(I’m hoping that November will once again bring to us SciFiMonth – Twitter @SciFiMonth)

1st November – A cover that is predominantly grey

8th November – “big badda boom” – a cover that features an explosion

15th November – “No thinking thing should be another thing’s property, to be turned on and off when it is convenient.” – a cover featuring a robot

22nd November – A cover that is Futuristic

29th November – “When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.” – a cover that is 60s sci fi

6th December – Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this sun of York”  – a cover that puts you in mind of winter

13th December – A cover that features a temple/or religious icon

20th December – Longest Night –  a dark and foreboding cover

27th December – the festive season – a cover that is glittery or sparkling

(2020 – January is Vintage SciFi month so I’ll be including possible themes to take that on board.

Turning Darkness Into Light by Marie Brennan

Turning DarknessIntoLightTurning Darkness Into Light gave me exactly what I expected, it met my expectations and in fact surpassed them in some ways.  It’s a lovely fantasy of manners style story that brings to us the granddaughter of Lady Trent as she becomes involved in something of a mystery.  Told in an epistolary format we read of events through a series of different formats including letters, diary entry and notebook entries.  I was thoroughly entertained,  The writing style is just lovely and I can’t help thinking that if Jane Austen wrote fantasy she might very well have come up with something similar to this.

This style of storytelling is something I really enjoy.  Of course, it does require some reading between the lines or purely joining up the dots but that just helps to make it even more tantalising.  I would say that I think this stands very well on it’s own two feet.  I don’t think it is necessary to have read the Lady Trent series of books in order to understand this at all but, for readers already familiar with this world there are some blasts from the past that are lovely to read from.

Audrey Camherst is the granddaughter of Lady Trent and has turned her attentions to scholarly pursuits.  As such Audrey is gaining respect and renown in the field of philology – the translation of ancient languages – so when a set of ancient Draconian tablets are discovered – and Audrey is asked to work on their translation, she is only too keen to jump on board hoping that the work will lead to something new and exciting.  As it happens the work is the start of Audrey’s own adventures.  The tablets could possibly reveal the early ways and beliefs of the Draconian people and with an important case coming up, with huge decisions that will have an impact on how the Draconian people live, well, everyone is waiting anxiously for the work to be complete.

Basically the Draconian people are a different race and reactions to their existence has not always been positive to say the least.  Their lives are restricted in terms of movement and the upcoming debate could see massive changes to their lifestyle if things go well, allowing them greater freedom of movement.  I’m not going to go too much further into the plot or the Draconians because to do so could be a spoiler not only for this book but also for the Lady Trent series.  Suffice to say there are machinations afoot and not everyone has the best interest of the Draconians at heart.

So, what I really liked about this.  Firstly, the characters.  Audrey is a lovely character to read about.  She has a feisty/stubborn streak and clearly takes after her grandmother in that respect as well as her blatant disregard for social conventions that don’t fit the way she wants to live or behave.  She isn’t perfect to be fair and almost reaches a point in this story where things feel like they’re getting out of control a little.  Her own ambitions and secret desire for fame of the sort her family already enjoy leads her sometimes to rush at things with little regard for the bigger picture.  But, I liked this about her and let’s be honest, it can’t be easy living in the shadow of Lady Trent.  I also really liked the supporting cast, Kudshayn, who is roped in to the work of translating the tablets is a great character and proves himself to be quite handy in a tight spot!  Cora is the niece of Lord Gleinheigh – the archaeologist (although I use that term reluctantly because with his careless attitude to ancient antiquities he’s little more than a grave robbing-glory hunting hoarder.  Cora is an interesting character indeed.  She takes things very literally and has a very strict code when it comes to undertaking things that are asked of her.  I think she made an excellent addition to the team.

The setting and world building are also brilliant.  I felt like I could just sink into this alternate Victorian steampunk world with perfect ease.  The politics and characters brought the place to life and the attention to detail was spot on at the same time as not being overbearing.

In terms of criticisms.  Nothing too serious.  I wasn’t in love with the footnotes that were attached to the translations – but I think that’s a comment more about formatting than anything else, I don’t find that footnotes work as well when reading on Kindle for some reason.  It’s just so easy to flip back and forth between the pages of a book when you’re reading a physical copy and so footnotes, glossaries and maps become a little more cumbersome or awkward when reading an e-book.

Overall, little niggles aside, I thought this was a lovely read.  The writing is perfect and the story is very cleverly laid out.  I would read more from this world without any hesitation whatsoever and I sincerely hope that the author plans for more adventures and mysteries to draw Audrey into.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks the above is my own opinion.

I would rate this 4.5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Wolf of Oren-yaro (Annals of the Bitch Queen #1) by K.S. Villoso

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Wolf of Oren-yaro (Annals of the Bitch Queen #1) by K.S. Villoso.  What can I say – I want this book!  That is all.

The wolf ofA queen of a divided land must unite her people, even if they hate her, even if it means stopping a ruin that she helped create. A debut epic fantasy from an exciting new voice.

“They called me the Bitch Queen, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and exiled my king the night before they crowned me.”

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves, which nearly tore her nation apart. But her arranged marriage with the son of a rival clan should herald peaceful days to come.

However, her fiancé’s sudden departure before their reign begins puts a quick end to those dreams, and the kingdom is fractured beyond repair.

Years later, Talyien receives a message, one that will send her across the sea. What’s meant to be an effort at reconciling the past becomes an assassination attempt. Stranded in a land she doesn’t know, with no idea whom she can trust, Talyien will have to embrace her namesake.

A wolf of Oren-yaro is not tamed.

Publication date: February 2020

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