#SPFBO Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams

Under OrdshawUnder Ordshaw was one of the nine books that I read completely from the first stage of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition.  Urban fantasy is a genre that I really enjoy and this book was no exception.  The writing is on point, there’s a city with a labyrinth lying beneath full of monsters lurking in tunnels, an easy to engage with MC, cheeky fae and a secret undercover agency reminiscent of Men in Black.  What’s not to like?  This is an other book that had me going round in circles when it came to choosing a winner and I have no hesitation in recommending this.

As the story sets out we make the acquaintance of Pax who is brimming over with good humour following a successful card game.  She stops by a bar for a couple of celebratory drinks.  This win will fund her a stake in a large tournament and all going well help her pay the rent – maybe even win enough to be able to eat! Unfortunately, Pax’s luck is about to run out, her stash is stolen by a young man who appears to have been taken into custody by a secret Government Agency (the MEE).  Not content to sit by and brood Pax goes in search of the thief’s lair and in the process becomes embroiled even deeper in the secrets of the City.

In terms of world building. I think, in common with most UF I’ve read, this is minimal.  This is a modern world and an easily imagined city.  Where the difference comes into play is the labyrinth of tunnels that lies beneath.  There’s a whole other world going on here, one that I’m keen to explore further. The tunnels and their inhabitants have a monstrous and unique feel although at the moment I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface at this point and it feels like there is plenty more to come in future instalments.

I really enjoyed the characters.  Pax is very easy to like.  She’s resourceful and basically decent.  I found myself immediately hooked to the story and I think that’s a testament to her strong and compelling voice.  On top of this we also encounter a very cheeky, 3 inch fae character called Letty.  Don’t let her short stature kid you – she means business.  The other two main characters are Casaria and Barton.  Casaria is an MEE agent.  He’s an odd character.  He doesn’t really follow rules very well and he has a very skewed perception of both himself and Pax – it makes for comic reading sometimes to read his dreamed up scenarios of how things will play out.  He comes across as something of a wild card and whilst Pax doesn’t trust him she seems to be able to play him well and keep him just on the right side of going totally AWOL.  Barton is a civilian who has been aware of the ‘goings on’ beneath the City for some time.  He’s kept his encounters with the tunnels a secret from his wife and daughter in an attempt to keep them safe but his family are about to be thrown into the middle of things with life threatening results.

The writing is sharp, the dialogue flows well and feels natural and the pacing is very good.  I didn’t have any lulls that I can recall and I was pretty much hooked to the story from start to finish.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have anything – so you may be wondering is this a five star read?  I’d say this is four stars and that isn’t because of any issues I had at all with the read but more what I would call a symptom of UF and also a refelection of the future potential.  Personally, I feel that the first in any UF is the hook, there will always be areas left unexplored to be revealed in future story lines and in this instant I think the author sets the scene perfectly.  He doesn’t overload the story with too much detail or reveal too much at this stage, just enough to secure your interest and whet the appetite for what is to come next.  I think it takes restraint and a notion of what you intend in terms of the bigger picture and at the moment I’d say those elements are both clearly present.  Of course, this is a double edged sword, holding things in check can leave readers feeling that things haven’t been fully explored but, for me, I think Under Ordshaw succeeds really well as a first in series.

I would rate this as a 4 star read and I look forward to reading the second in series.





14 Responses to “#SPFBO Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams”

  1. Tammy

    This does sound good, Lynn. When you mentioned the tunnels I immediately thought of The Gutter Prayer since I’m deep in the middle of that right now.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I enjoyed the tunnels although I’d like to find out more of them – and the monsters that they hide.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I know exactly what mean about UF. That said, it’s nice seeing more in SPFBO.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yep, and of course my winner last year was also UF.
      Lynn 😀

  3. sjhigbee

    I think it’s a sign of the coming of age for this competition in the sheer range and quality of books that are making the final cut – thank you for the review. This is one I really like the sound of – I’m getting a tad weary of fantasy books with repellent protagonists! Thank you for sharing it, Lynn:)

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yep, agreed. Give me a protagonist that I like – any day. Please.
      Lynn 😀

  4. waytoofantasy

    Great review, Lynn. Glad you had several books you enjoyed from this year’s batch of books!

  5. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    There could be no better way to ensnare me than to mention a secret world under an ordinary city, or a warren of tunnels full of strange creatures and monsters. 🙂
    And it sounds like you had some fun with this story, which makes me want to read it even more. Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      My very thoughts – I can’t wait to tuck into No.3
      Lynn 😀

  6. Phil

    Thanks so much for this review and I’m glad you liked it Lynn – and thanks to everyone for the comments.

    I should probably warn you that though there is plenty more to come (masses more), Book 2 mostly takes place above ground. The tunnels will certainly be explored soon, though. It is an ongoing challenge to not include everything all at once – the overall thrust of “Blue Angel” essentially stems from my editor suggesting a particular line in “Under Ordshaw” was a complex concept too glibly included. Now that detail’s got a whole novel unravelling it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is one of the challenges of a good series I think – not revealing too much too soon and it sounds like you have a plan which is great.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

    […] this year’s SPFBO, you might have heard of Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams, most notably from Lynn’s Book Blog where it was one of the books she considered when it came to choosing her finalist. Shortly after […]

  8. #SPFBO Author, Cover Share: The City Screams by Phil Williams (An Ordshaw novella) | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] And, here are the first two books in Phil’s UF series and my review for Under Ordshaw: […]

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