#SPFBO 8 Finalist Friday: Review of The Umbral Storm (The Sharded Few #1) by Alec Hutson


What is SPFBO 8 Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list.

This year I am teaming up again with the ladies from The Critiquing Chemist.  We recently announced our finalist. To check out all the Finalists simply follow this link.

Our finalist this year was Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson – if you haven’t read it – I highly recommend it – seriously, grab yourself a copy and tuck in. It’s positively delightful.

Today is our sixth finalist review for #SPFBO 8.  Reviews for Scales and Sensibility, The Thirteenth Hour, Tethered Spirits,  Mysterious Ways and A Song for the Void can be found here here, here, here.and here.  Myself and the Critiquing Chemist will be posting a finalist review every Friday for the remainder of the competition.

So, to my sixth review for a book that was easy to read and entertaining.  I thought this was a great start to a promising series.


I will start this review by saying that when I picked up this finalist the page count did cause a little trepidation on my part as my concentration isn’t always as forgiving with more chunky novels these days. As it happens my concerns were groundless. I found The Umbral Storm a really easy book to get along with. I was always keen to return to the story, the writing was good and, long story short, I was so caught up that this felt like a much shorter novel. In fact I was surprised at just how quickly I got through this book.

Now, that isn’t to say I didn’t experience any bumps or blips along the way but for the most part this was an entertaining read and a great start to a new series.

So, let’s begin with the goodies.

The plot in brief revolves around three central characters. They’re unlikely companions and yet their stories become inextricably entwined. This is a world that was shattered or experienced some form of major event eons ago. Following this, what was believed to be the heart of the world, was shattered and shards scattered far and wide. Eventually it was discovered that these shards can imbue a person with great strength and magical abilities. Of course this involves assimilating the shard, and not everyone has the ability to do so, or indeed is fortunate enough to be chosen to do so. As a result, a number of ‘Orders’ gradually established themselves. Warriors with differing powers dependent on the number of shards they have imbued as well as the nature of the shard, for example there are fire shards, air, shadow and a number of others that grant powers much as you would assume given the nature of the shard. Obviously these shards are greatly sought after and the Orders themselves are not above shenanigans and thievery. As the book begins a sort of uneasy peace exists but things sit on the cusp of change and our three main characters are going to be caught in the thick of things.

Deryn is the lead character or at least he feels like he has the most time (but I could be mistaken). He has a harsh life, indentured to a cruel slave owner with no chance of happiness or freedom in sight, but his life and fortune are about to be tipped on its head.

Heth, similarly is about to have his life upended. He has led a relatively easy life of privilege, compared to Deryn at least.  In fact these two characters couldn’t be further apart in terms of their positions in life.  They get off to a bad start but their change in fortunes causes both to reevaluate things and Heth in particular needs to take a harsh look at some of his decisions and actions from the past.

Alia is like the glue that holds them all together.  She has led a very sheltered background which I won’t elaborate on here but leave readers to discover.

Together the three will go on a journey in this progressive style, epic fantasy.

The world building is good. There’s a real sense of scope and history to this world and it feels like there’s lots to explore. I enjoyed the magic and use of shards and also really enjoyed when our characters were eventually taken to the Shadowshard stronghold.

The characters themselves. I will say that I wasn’t totally enamoured with Heth to begin with but he does grow as the story progresses. At the moment I would say Alia was my favourite which was slightly frustrating because she had the least page time. Deryn is a likeable character, the type of character who strives to do the right thing.  At the moment I think there’s a little something missing that is preventing me from connecting fully with them but I think they all have space to grow within the series.

In terms of criticisms. I think the early part of the book can feel a little info heavy,but there is plenty to cram into these pages. This does result in a slight pacing issue although I didn’t really find this a problem for some reason. This definitely gave me Sanderson vibes which may not be to every reader’s taste but I enjoyed it – it made the read have a comfortable and in fact comforting feel for me. And, yes, I would have liked to see Alia have a more proactive role. but, there’s plenty of room yet for further character development as the series progresses.

As it is I enjoyed this. I liked learning about the world at the same time as the characters. I thought the writing was really impressive, the plot is good, the latter half has plenty of action and development, and there is the introduction of some very interesting elements that I would love to know more about.

Our rating 9 of 10 stars

Don’t forget to check out the Critiquing Chemist’s review which can be found here.


#SPFBO Finalists: My eighth book : The Crimson Queen (The Raveling #1) by Alec Hutson


Below is a round up of the ten finalists that have been put forward in this year’s SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog Off).  A link with more information about the competition can be found here.


Today’s post is to highlight my randomly chosen eighth book for the SPFBO.  The books I’ve read so far are:  The War of Undoing by Alex Perry, Chaos Trims my Beard by Brett Herman,  Pilgrimage to Skara by Jonathan S Pembroke, Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe, Tiger Lily by K BIrd Lincoln,  Devil’s Night Dawning (Broken Stone Chronicle #1) by Damien Black ad The Way Into Chaos by Harry Connolly (review to follow shortly.  My eighth book is The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson – a book put forward by The Fantasy Book Critic.

A little bit more about the book:

the crimsonThe Crimson Queen (The Raveling #1) by Alec Hutson

Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord.

The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man.

But after a thousand years it has begun to quicken again.

In a small fishing village a boy with strange powers comes of age…

A young queen rises in the west, fanning the long-smoldering embers of magic into a blaze once more…

Something of great importance is stolen – or freed – from the mysterious Empire of Swords and Flowers…

And the immortals who survived the ancient cataclysms bestir themselves, casting about for why the world is suddenly changing…

 The first book in The Raveling, a new epic fantasy saga