#SPFBO 2018 – all wrapped up


SPFBO 2018 has finally come to an end – all the scores and reviews are now published and the final chart with links to the different blog sites and other information can be found here.

Huge congratulations to the winner of the competition – Orconomics by J Zachary Pike (which concluded with an excellent and impressive final score) and the final line up looked like this:

Orconomics 8.65
Gods of Men 8.05
We Ride The Storm 8.05
Sworn to the Night 8.00
Symphony of the Wind 7.40
Aching God 6.90
Ruthless Magic 6.35
Out of Nowhere 5.50
The Anointed 5.10
Sowing 4.55

I would like to give a huge thank you to all the authors who took part.  It’s been a great competition with some amazing books.  Thanks also to Mark Lawrence and all the other bloggers for making this such a memorable year.

Below are the 10 finalists, all together, looking absolutely gorgeous:

and finally, here are my reviews of all the finalists:

  1. The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss
  2. Orconomics by J Zachary Pike
  3. Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas
  4. We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson
  5. Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon
  6. The Anointed by Keith Ward
  7. Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe
  8. Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer
  9. Aching God by Mike Shel
  10. Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc

** ‘SPFBO 2018’ signing out **


#SPFBO Aching God (Iconoclasts #1) by Mike Shel

Posted On 20 April 2019

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Aching GodAching God is the fifth finalist I’ve read as part of the SPFBO.  Aching God brings to us a retired adventurer who receives a summons from the Order he once served and as a result is forced out of retirement to take up a mission that might save his daughter’s life.  I enjoyed this, it’s well written, perhaps a little drawn out in places but overall an entertaining story.

Auric Manteo is the retired adventurer.  He put his relic hunting days behind him and tried to live out a peaceful life although his past still haunts him, particularly of late when his sleeping hours are plagued with nightmares from previous adventures.  The last thing Auric desires is a return to ancient ruins but a strange plague has swept through the City and his daughter now lies in the grips of the disease.  It appears that an ancient artifact maybe at the root of the problem and so the Syraeic Order have deemed that it must be returned to the temple from which it was taken.  This is a more difficult task than at first appears, all records of the mission have mysteriously been destroyed and the original team seem to have been scattered and lost.  Auric and his companions need to hunt down what clues they can and return the relic before more lives are lost.  And so begins this quest.

There were a number of things that stood out for me with Aching God.  The writing is very good and there is plenty of imagination exercised during the course of the journey.  I think Shel has done a great job in creating the world whilst at the same time leaving plenty of issues yet to be explored, the Queen being a really good example of one such mystery.  There were a good number of twists in the tale, particularly during the last quarter and I can genuinely say they came as a surprise to me which I think is a real credit to the writing.

I particularly liked the main protagonist.  He’s an older man, experienced but also a little bit haunted and suffering from self doubt over past decisions that didn’t end well.  I liked that he didn’t overnight become the ‘best thing since sliced bread’.  He struggled and his struggles made him realistic.  He’s also basically a decent character at heart.  Of course he’s made mistakes in the past, his relationship with his daughter has been fractured and he now regrets some of the paths he has chosen.  I would also say that it was so wonderfully refreshing to read a bunch of characters, struggling on a quest, who don’t immediately succumb to each other’s charms.  Just saying.

The story here is a swords and sorcery style quest that follows a linear route.  We move from one adventure to the next along the way and the tension is really ramped up as we approach the concluding chapters.  Shel manages to inject enough horror into the story through the use of flashbacks and dreams that give you a real sense of impending dread about what these adventures are working towards.

In terms of criticisms.  The characters who join Auric feel very flat.  I didn’t really feel enough attachment to them which led to a general ambivalence about their overall survival.  I also think that there were a couple of episodes along the way, well, one in particular, that felt very contrived and felt like it was written into the story just to bring a certain object to bear in future chapters.  I think perhaps my main problem with Aching God was the length.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a lengthy book, in fact I particularly enjoy detail, however, I have to say that it felt like it took a long time to reach the real drama.  Without doubt, the last 25-30% was very gripping indeed and I thoroughly enjoyed it but I think some of the earlier chapters could have maybe been tightened.

Overall, I have to say that this is a really good start to series and I enjoyed the read, even if it felt a little weighty at times.

I would rate this 7.5 out of 10 for the purposes of the competition which would equate to 3.5 of 5 stars on Goodreads.

My thanks to the author for a review copy.  The above is my own opinion.



#SPFBO – Finalists No.4 and No.5


Today I’m highlighting the fourth and fifth books that I will be reading for the SPFBO Competition (more details here).  The first finalist I read was Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc and my review can be found here .  (My reviews for Symphony of the Wind and The Anointed will follow in the next week or so).  The purpose of this post is to shine a spotlight on the finalists and give readers a chance to see what they’re all about.  As already mentioned all my books are randomly selected and my 4th and 5th finalists will be:

Aching God (Iconoclasts #1) by Mike Shel

Aching God“Closer, mortal. You are here, finally, to feed the Aching God…”

The days of adventure are passed for Auric Manteo. Retired to the countryside with his scars and riches, he no longer delves into forbidden ruins seeking dark wisdom and treasure. That is, until old nightmares begin plaguing his sleep, heralding an urgent summons back to that old life.

To save his only daughter, Auric must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands. With only a few inexperienced companions and an old soldier, he must confront the dangers of the ancient and wicked Djao civilization. Auric has survived fell beasts, insidious traps, and deadly hazards before. But can he contend with the malice of a bloodthirsty living god?

First book in the Iconoclasts trilogy, Aching God is the debut novel of RPG adventure designer Mike Shel. He is working on book 2, Sin Eater. The first two chapters of Sin Eater are included at the end of Aching God.


Sowing (The Purification Era #1) by Angie Grigaliunas

Sowing.jpgThey can take your house, your daughter, whatever they want.

For Ariliah, life under the militarized Hulcondans is one of order and safety. Despite the soldiers’ ruthless policies, she trusts their judgment. They alone provide protection from the enemies lurking beyond the city wall.

For her older sister, Rabreah, every glance from a Hulcondan is a threat. Though even a whisper against them is treason worthy of death, Rabreah is determined to end their tyranny. Joining an underground resistance is her only hope – until she realizes she doesn’t know the people she’s aligned herself with at all. Unsure who to trust but unable to back out, she must work alongside the attractive yet infuriating rebel leader who reminds her far too much of the soldiers she hates.

But with subversive posters appearing throughout the city and people dying on the blade of an unknown assailant, the sisters’ world begins to crumble.

And as the line between friend and enemy blurs, both girls must face the truth: everything is about to change.