#SPFBO 8 Third Batch of Books: Feedback

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What is SPFBO? Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list.

I am teaming up again with the ladies from The Critiquing Chemist.

Today’s post is about giving feedback on my third and final batch of SPFBO books.  I had fifteen books altogether and I’ve tried out a different process this year.  I had three batches of randomly chosen books equalling five books a month for the first three months.   As previously mentioned I gave every book in my batch a fair chance and in fact I’ve read at least 30% (and more often considerably more) of each book.  Having  partially read all 15 books I’m start to make cuts and choose which books I will be fully reading before eventually choosing a semi finalist/s.  I’ve already posted feedback on my first and second batch of books and 7 books have been cut so far.  Today is my final feedback post.  I will provide a short review of my initial thoughts for the books that I have to say goodbye to – always the saddest part of the competition which is why I find myself delaying the inevitable.  At this point, and to be clear, the books I’m rolling forward at this stage are not Semi Finalists but are in the running to become so. I aim to complete all my potential SFs by the end of September at which point I hope to select one or two books as Semi Finalists for the Critiquing Chemist to read (and they will do likewise) – we will then decide on our Finalist.  Following this post, and in fairly quick succession, I will be reviewing those books that I rolled forward.

Without further ado:

Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson

MissPercy's

Miss Mildred Percy inherits a dragon.

Ah, but we’ve already got ahead of ourselves…

Miss Mildred Percy is a spinster. She does not dance, she has long stopped dreaming, and she certainly does not have adventures. That is, until her great uncle has the audacity to leave her an inheritance, one that includes a dragon’s egg.

The egg – as eggs are wont to do – decides to hatch, and Miss Mildred Percy is suddenly thrust out of the role of “spinster and general wallflower” and into the unprecedented position of “spinster and keeper of dragons.”

But England has not seen a dragon since… well, ever. And now Mildred must contend with raising a dragon (that should not exist), kindling a romance (with a humble vicar), and embarking on an adventure she never thought could be hers for the taking.

My thoughts: 

I won’t be posting a review for Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons today as this is one of the books I’ve decided to continue reading so a review will follow at a later stage.

Conclusion: Roll forward

***

Between Ink and Shadows by Melissa Wright

Between ink

She’ll win back her freedom, even if she has to steal it.

Nimona Weston has a debt to pay. Her father’s dealings with the dark society known as the Trust cost Nim her freedom. There’s one way out of the contract on her life and that’s to bide her time and pay the tithes. But when the Trust assigns Nim to a task in the king’s own castle, her freedom is not the only thing she’ll risk.

Warrick Spenser has a secret. As king’s seneschal, he should be the last soul in Inara to risk association with dark magic, but long-hidden ties to the Trust are harder to shed than simply cutting the threads. When the Trust sends a thief to his rooms, Warrick thinks he’s finally found a way to be rid of them for good. But Nimona Weston is hiding secrets of her own.

Magical contracts, blood-debt accountants, and a deadly game. A dark and twisty fantasy that pits magic against kings.

My thoughts: 

I won’t be posting a review for Between Ink and Shadows today as this is one of the books I’ve decided to continue reading so a review will follow at a later stage.

Conclusion: Roll forward

***

Testament of an Archangel by Kat Loveland

toaA

Why is the beginning always the hardest? I have spent years debating the best way to start telling this story and none of the openings ever seemed adequate. Perhaps I will start with the cliché opening because it is the most efficient. Nothing you know is completely true, your Bibles, your records, your testaments, all a bit whitewashed and shifted to conform to a divine marketing plan.

Sorry, but it’s true. Who am I to speak such blasphemy? I am Remiel, one of the nine, not four, but nine Archangels. I, along with my brothers Raguel, Saraqael and Lucifer, were part of the divine restructuring plan that occurred. We made certain choices that made God, or Elohim as we called him, upset so he decided to remove our names from the books.

You see, it was never supposed to be about God vs Lucifer. We never meant for whole doctrinal systems to be created about or around us. We were just doing a job really, creating worlds and galaxies. A family of beings created from the energy of the universe to organize it, provide structure and bring things to life. Then we had a family argument that no one wanted to give way on, Elohim insisted on creating things that worshiped him and only him, Lucifer disagreed and if you’ll forgive the pun, all hell broke loose.

So, I, Remiel, have taken it upon myself to set the record straight about all of it, Lucifer, Lillith, who Elohim really was and how the archangel you’ve been told to hate was the one that loved you the most.

My thoughts:

Well, I have to say that I found this very intriguing.  This is a story narrated by Remiel.  He tells of himself and his brothers, they are creators, agents of the universe if you will.  They bring forth worlds right down to the smaller details.  All seems to be in perfect harmony until the creation of Lillith when Elohim and Lucifer differ wildly in their opinions and the brothers become divided in opinion.

This is a quick read, at the point at which I broke off I’d read 50%.  I liked the way Remiel narrates the story and I confess that I was intrigued.

If I was  to make any criticisms it would be that there is a little repetition here and there.  The brothers go back and forth arguing the rights and wrongs of the situation, eventually even coming to blows with each other.

I would like to return and complete this story at some point after which I will post a review.

Conclusion : Cut

***

The Heretic by Thane Tyler

Theheretic

“Oh gods, I’m some sort of prophet now? I only wanted a drink…”

The Heretic is the story of a man who finds himself in great danger, and can’t quite work out how he got there, although it probably has something to do with alcohol. His mouth gets him in trouble, and before he knows what’s happening he has to flee not just his hometown but his homeland entirely, with an unexpected companion in tow. This book is his story, the story of a journey and an odd friendship.

The Heretic is a work of fantasy, but one with few truly fantastical elements. It is based on real historical cultures, mainly those of Classical-era Europe.

The tone is darkly humorous, and has been described by acclaimed author Terri Nixon as “Python meets Pratchett”.

My thoughts:

As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Pheithros, drunk in a bar and spouting sedition about the Republic. The people in the bar are enamoured with his thoughts, apparently, a lot of which ring true even though most people are too scared to vocalise them.  This is a scene that is repeated a few more times until, whipped up into a frenzy, the people of the city riot, destroying temples and businesses.  At this point Pheithros realises he needs to make a hasty departure and lie low some place where he’s unknown.  Joined by a young orphan girl who takes a strange interest in his plight, the two depart.

I can’t really say too much about the rest of the plot at this point as I’m unsure what direction this is going to go in.

In terms of the setting, and I could be hideously wrong, but I felt like the setting was Greek inspired whilst under the dominion of the Roman Republic –  although, ancient history is not my forte – but the author does say that the story is founded on history and so that’s my guess.

The characters. Pheithros comes across a little arrogant.  He’s obviously an intelligent man which makes me wonder why he doesn’t use his sense and exercise more caution or more to the point why he constantly spouts his thoughts whilst under the influence of drink – that being said, perhaps he’s a ‘chosen one’ of sorts, he certainly seems to have sparked a rebellion. His companion Skia, admits that she’s hopeful that will be the case and become her eventual ticket to a better life. The two of them form a reluctant partnership as they try to find a place of safety.

I read to approximately 35% and I liked the style of writing, it’s intelligent and easy to get caught up in.

In terms of reservations, there are a few points where information is unloaded in a slightly clunky manner.  I also wouldn’t say that I found the story so far ‘humorous’ whether dark or not, but that could just be my reading mood at the end of the day.  To this point the story has held little of real note focusing on the two characters and their struggles as they travel across country and, I did find some of the more conversations very modern in style, which partly I do understand but at the same time it felt a little jarring on occasion.

Slight reservations aside this is an interesting concept and I confess myself intrigued as to the direction this one will go in.

Conclusion : Cut

***

Falhorne: The World is Burning by Tristan Dineen

Falhorne

The Order is no more. The Falhorne, ancient champions of the elder gods, have dwindled to no more than a handful of beleaguered warriors.

The skies are darkening over the land of Vinos and persecution of the maligned Old Believers escalates at the hands of both church and state.

As one of the few surviving defenders of a proud tradition, Tagus is among the last of the Vinosian Falhorne when the pogrom comes. His mentor slain, his comrades slaughtered, and his people enslaved, he must begin a quest that will take him into the darkness of his past and a depth of evil beyond anything that he has ever faced.

My thoughts:

As the book begins we read of a terrible and ferocious religious battle the conclusion of which sees the Falhorne’s defeated.  A treaty is signed granting the defeated protection to live in Vinos but in reality prejudice and relentless persecution make for a hard life for the survivors.

Vitus, the leader of the Falhorne struggles against the hatred to protect his people but is becoming weary. His apprentice, Tagus, a renowned warrior, also despairs, particularly after the murder of a young woman who should have been safe under the protection of the Falhorne.

I read the first 30% of Falhorne which was an impressive set up for what is to follow.  This is a story of oppression and those that fight against it.  The story contains magic although at this point I’ve only seen a brief glimpse during the early battle scene.  There are also other races including, for example, gnomes.  The place is grim indeed and life is hard.

At this point  I wouldn’t say I have a really clear idea of the fantasy aspects to this story and whilst this will no doubt be worked on in future chapters it’s very subtle to this point.  It reads more like an alternative history piece so far – again, as previously mentioned, I’ve only read the first third so this is an early impression.

I must say that the battles and fight scenes are well described and the author is taking his time to really instill the sense of prejudice that’s taking place, however, at this point, although I find myself intrigued as to which will come next I’m also finding this a little overly dark for my taste.

I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading this.  It has depth and great potential, is well executed and holds a lot of promise. It just wasn’t quite the right fit for me at this time.

Conclusion : Cut

***

Again, my thanks to the authors for submitting their beloved books.  There wouldn’t be a competition without you and I really appreciate that you took such a huge leap.

***

What comes next? Reviews of the five remaining books followed by a post announcing the Semi Finalists.

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste

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“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: Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste.

RelImm

Los Angeles, 1967. Lucy Westenra and Bertha Mason – the forgotten women in Dracula and Jane Eyre – have been existing as undead immortals for centuries, unable to die and still tormented by the monsters that made them.

Lucy has long fought against Dracula’s intoxicating thrall, refusing his charismatic darkness and her ensuing appetite for blood. Bertha Mason, the madwoman in the attic, is still pursued from afar by Mr Rochester, who wants to add her to his collection of devoted female followers.

Then Dracula and Rochester make a shocking return in San Francisco. To finally write their own story, Lucy and Bertha must boldly reclaim their stories from the men who tried to erase them in this harrowing gothic tale of love, betrayal and coercion.

Expected publication : November 2022

#SPFBO 8 Second Batch of Books: Feedback

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What is SPFBO? Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list.

I am teaming up again with the ladies from The Critiquing Chemist.

Today’s post is about giving feedback on the second batch of SPFBO books I picked up.  I have fifteen books altogether and I’ve tried out a different process this year.  I had three batches of randomly chosen books equalling five books a month for the first three months.   As previously mentioned I will be giving every book in my batch a fair chance and in fact I’ve read at least 30% (and more often than that more) of each book.  Having  partially read all 15 books I’m now in a position to start to make cuts and choose which books I will be fully reading before choosing a semi finalist. I will provide a short review of my initial thoughts for the books that I have to say goodbye to – always the saddest part of the competition which is why I find myself delaying the inevitable.  Before the end of September I will post two further updates with further cuts.  At this point, and to be clear, the books I’m rolling forward at this stage are not Semi Finalists but are in the running to become so. I aim to complete all my potential SFs by the end of September at which point I hope to select one or two books as Semi Finalists for the Critiquing Chemist to read (and they will do likewise) – we will then decide on our Finalist.

Without further ado:

Candle and Claw by Stephen James Taylor

HIGH RES Cover

Giovel Ullin’s job is to stop witches from crafting experimental magic and destroying the world. It’s a job he never wanted. Every time he hunts a witch, he’s reminded of the ones who stole his wife away and sent her back distant, delusional, and dying. Even worse, the same magic that ruined her life is now part of his​​-a tool Giovel’s expected to master for the sake of his duties.

When a coterie of witches begins systematically removing Giovel’s companions, he has little choice but to fight back. But the more he learns about his own power, the more he sees himself in the very witches he hunts.

Candle and Claw is the first volume in The Witherclaw Trilogy. Packed with hard magic, nuanced characters, and epic conflicts, Candle and Claw will appeal to fans of Brent Weeks and Brandon Sanderson.

My thoughts:

I found Candle and Claw interesting to the point I read up to – which was roughly a third. This is a story set in a world full of strife and magic.  War is a constant, temporarily held at bay by inclement weather alone.  Magic exists, fueled by a Sun and magical glyphs, anyone can wield magic although it needs to awaken. When magic awakens In a person they must report their newfound abilities to the Order.  Those that fail to do so are sought out by Mages before they cause havoc.  Meanwhile, across the country ‘spiritings’ take place – the reason behind which is yet to be discovered.  People simply disappear and if/when they reappear they are altered or die.

Giovel’s wife was spirited away – The Order believe that witches are the cause – and subsequently passed away.  Now, part of the Order, he seeks the witches responsible for his wife’s death.  

Varan appears mysteriously, apparently spirited away herself.  She is under the protection of the Order until they can find out more about her mystery.  She is powerful with magic and thus the witches will seek her out.

Claravena is a witch – ambitious and a bit reckless.

There are more characters but these are the ones that stood out.

I enjoyed this, it reads well, I particularly liked the opening snippets that started each chapter and I can see that these storylines are going to come together well.  That being said, at this point,I hadn’t developed any strong attachments, although Varan seemed to be the voice of reason.  The Order all seem to be at loggerheads with each other, which, while I’m sure is all part of the grand design, is slightly annoying nonetheless.  I think I wanted a slight spattering of lightness here and there which felt lacking at this point.

Slight issues aside this gets off to a good start. It felt similar in some respects to other novels but I think it stands on its own merit.

Conclusion: Cut

 ***

The Lich of Thandorien by Zak Dragon

heLich

Old high school classmates and current drinking buddies, Phil and Don find themselves transported into a Crypts & Crusades role-playing adventure they had abandoned five years earlier. If that wasn’t bad enough, it seems that some of the non-player characters, or Extra Dungeon Personalities (EDPs) as they now prefer to be called, have taken on a life of their own during the extended downtime and have veered away from the normal script. Fortunately for the daring duo, there is plenty of beer and they manage to get a little help along the way from an inquisitive but emotional ranger, a home-brewing, pub-owning dwarf and his ogre bartender, a grumpy old gardener and a host of other colorful characters. But will it be enough to defeat the crypt’s antagonist, locate a powerful relic and get out alive?

My thoughts:

This is a book that falls into litRPG.  Two men find themselves transported into an old D&D style game that they played previously but lost interest in a few years prior.  As the book begins we meet Phil and Don, they wake up in their own places  of residence, suffering hangovers, to discover outside their front doors a totally different landscape.  Eventually, the two realise that they’ve been pulled back into their old game although some of the rules seem to have changed.  Basically, Phil and Don fairly quickly figure out that they need to complete the game in order to return to their normal lives – however, things have become more complicated during their absence and some of the rules have changed.

This is an easy to engage with story with a fun feel.  The two characters, as would be expected, soon discover that they can pick up artefacts along the way and use certain characters that are positioned in order to engage players and provide information.  Within short order they’ve found a bar – because, beer – and asked another character to join their quest.  I read up to about 37% or thereabouts, by which time the two characters had been given the heads up about a number of issues by their new teammate and a gardener who seems to live next door to them.

So, as I mentioned this was certainly very easy to read by the point I broke off, but, to be fair to the author I’m not a gamer and litRPG wouldn’t be my first choice of book to pick up.  Some of the references probably just go over my head and I find quite often that the plot involves info dumps in order, no doubt, to bring non players like myself up to speed.

I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading this one even if it’s not the perfect fit for me.

Conclusion: Cut

***

The Blood of Crows by Alex C Pierce

Bloodof

Ren, a state-trained thief working in a world where everyone has magical ability except for him, doesn’t kill people.

Tensions are already high in the walled realm of Lenmar, and when the nobility start dying with no trace of magic that isn’t from the victims, Ren immediately becomes the prime, and only suspect. Hunted by magic-eating Inquisitors and the Captain of the Royal Guard, his life becomes one of flight and fear through a realm on the brink of civil war.

All Ren wants to do is stop a serial killer, clear his name, find his mentor, and protect the people he cares about.

To do that, he’ll have to pull one more high-stakes heist— And steal the proof he needs from the very people who want to catch him.

My thoughts: 

I won’t be posting a review for The Blood of Crows today as this is one of the books I’ve decided to continue reading so a review will follow at a later stage.

Conclusion: Roll forward

***

Scarlight by Evid Marceau

Scarlight

A life saved is a soul owned.

When she was six years old, Bryn was saved from a wolf attack by a prince from a rival kingdom. Rangar Barendur’s people believe that a life saved is a soul owned, and ten years later, Rangar returns to collect his prize: Bryn. Yet Bryn is the youngest daughter of a ruthless royal family, and Rangar arrives on the night the Mir people rise up against their despotic rulers. With her castle on fire and most of her family dead, Bryn has no choice but to escape with Rangar’s help.

Is she rescued…or abducted?

Taken to Rangar’s wild seaside kingdom, Bryn slowly finds beauty in the harsh Outlands. There, she discovers magic is not the sin she’s been led to believe it is. Magic can heal the sick and summon rain for the crops. As she learns the full truth of her own family’s tyrannical rule and plans to take back her kingdom by the sword or by marriage, Bryn falls under the spell of each of the three Barendur brothers. But which one will end up with her hand—and her heart—not even magic can foretell.

My thoughts:

I won’t be posting a review for Scarlight today as this is one of the books I’ve decided to continue reading so a review will follow at a later stage.

Conclusion: Roll forward

***

The Fantastically Underwhelming Epic of a Dead Wizard and an Average Bard by Kian N Ardalan

Fantastically

George is a legendary hero… wait, no. George is an incredibly powerful sorcerer…also no? Okay, fine. George is an unremarkable human bard who made a promise a long time ago. A promise that set him on a path to find the remains of Simantiar, the greatest wizard who ever lived. Though all that was left were bones, Simantiar was still very much alive and quite…underwhelming. This is their story.

My thoughts:

This is a story of a young man, a bard known as George.  George is in search of a gate behind which will lie that which he desires the most. In his search he has the assistance of a skeleton, the skull of which can talk. The bones once belonged to a great wizard who for the most part can remember little of his past.  George, being a young man needs help on his quest and also enlists the services of a mercenary.  The three set off on their journey, pursued by a trio of thieves that eventually chase them into the most dangerous part of the Dead Forest.  I won’t go any further into the plot thus far.

I enjoyed my read of the first 30% of the story.  The pacing is good, there is plenty going on with skirmishes and all sorts of undesirables (the robbers being the least of the problem).  I really liked that the author provides flashbacks for his main characters as this helps the reader to build a better picture of their personalities and motivations and I also can’t help but feel that these flashbacks are eventually going to reveal something huge, particularly in terms of the wizard maybe.

If this continues in its current vein I would definitely say this is a very character focused story, which is something that I enjoy.  I think the author is making good inroads into developing his cast whilst keeping the pace very punchy.  The downside for me is that I have very little understanding of the world in which the story takes place – again though, this statement comes with the proviso that I’ve not read the entire story.

Overall this is an entertaining tale and an epic quest into dangers unknown.  It felt a little young for my own personal taste but time allowing I would like to pick this one up again to see how the adventure eventually concludes.

Conclusion : Cut

***

Again, my thanks to the authors for submitting their beloved books.  There wouldn’t be a competition without you and I really appreciate that you took such a huge leap.

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Posted On 25 September 2022

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

Comments Dropped 4 responses

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Books read this week:

Well, I mentioned I was having a little break – now I’m back.  I’m still listening to Babel by RF Kuang.  I also mentioned this isn’t a book that’s easy to power through. I’m about halfway through and I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand it’s a joy, well written, interesting, informative, packed with intelligence.  On the other hand, well, there’s not a great deal going on at this point. I’m still reading All of Our Demise by Christine Herman and Amanda Foody which is only going slowly because I decided to press on with my SPFBO books – the ones I’ve decided to carry forward.  I’ve read three, I’m half way through the fourth and so hopeful to have read all my potential SFs by the end of the week.  Updates and reviews will soon follow but, fingers crossed, I should be exchanging SFs with my partners the Critiquing Chemist very soon.

Next Week’s Reads:

So, complete the two books above and then take my pick of the goodies below.

Reviews Posted since my last Sunday Post:

Friday Face Off : Rage Against the Machine

FFO

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 (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – 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.

I’ve added themes in below. For information, I’m trying out some new ideas so along with coming up with particular items for book covers I thought we could also look for certain elements contained within the book or that play a large part in the story – this really broadens things out because I have plenty of more ideas with this – I’ve gone for a few of the Tough Travel Themes (so a book with that theme – just choose any book – the theme isn’t necessarily on the cover, then compare covers), also, I’ve thrown in some genres and some colours.  Hopefully this will open things out a little and give us some more freedom to come up with new books.

This week’s theme:

Rage against the machine – anything, cogs, clockwork, AI

Again, I didn’t have a cover for this week planned but, as it happens, I think A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers fits the theme perfectly.  And, it’s an excellent book that I highly recommend.  Here are the covers:

Do you have a favourite.  Have you read this book yet – what do you think?

2022

September RIP
23rd Tough Travel Tropes – Coming of Age
30th Genre – horror
October – Horror/Dark
7th Guess who’s back?  – Vampires – popular again?
14th Witches vs warlocks
21st Tough Travel Tropes – Good vs evil
28th  Covers that are black
November – Scifi Month
4th Red skies at night – Covers that are red
11th Tough Travel Tropes – The gang
18th Genre – Swords and Sorcery
25th Genre – And they all lived happily ever after – fairy tales retold
December
2nd Tough Travel Tropes – Assassins
9th Tough Travel Tropes – Darklord
16th Genre – Grimdark (most recent/favourite, etc)
23rd Decadent and rich – a cover that is purple
30th Completions – a satisfying conclusion to a book or serie
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