#SPFBO : My Third Batch of Books – Update

Posted On 11 September 2021

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Today I’m posting an update for my third batch of SPFBO books (which can be found here).  This year I’m teaming up with the lovely ladies from the Critiquing Chemist and we split the batch of books equally – which gives me a little more time this year.

This month I read and reviewed all four books from my third batch and today I’m providing my feedback on which books will be cut or rolled forward.  At this point I’m not making any decisions on semi-finalists as the semi finalists will be decided by both blogs before agreement on a finalist is reached. We will each put forward hopefuls and then take it from there.

I would mention that this is ultimately the most difficult part of the competition for judges and authors.  I don’t find making cuts easy to be honest however it’s the nature of the competition.  There can be only one. I would also like to thank the authors of the books that are highlighted today for taking the decision to throw their hat into the ring.  It can’t be easy and I definitely applaud you for taking this step.

Without further ado here is my feedback from the third batch of books:

Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation #1) by Phillip Blackwater

Rising Shadows

As tension rises between the southern and northern nations of the small continent of Exitium in the world of Anteris, the Elves turn to their eastern neighbors, the Humans, for help. They wish to learn the ways of combat, which they are not accustomed to, for they have always wielded a power far greater than forged steel. The Shards of Creation, mystical artifacts of great and virtually infinite power, have always been their prized weapon, but times have changed. They now face the same threat as the Humans: the southern nation known as the Ethula.

Wariel Ritch, general of the Human army, will take upon his shoulders this burden. But when a shadow of a past long forgotten threatens what little stability is left in the world, he will have to leave everything behind to stop it. Medregal Tergrast, an Ethulan king, dead for a thousand years, plans his return to the world of the living to gain back his former glory and finally fulfill his destiny by gaining control of the Shards of Creation. But is he really the threat people make him out to be?

In the meantime, in the bowels of the Human Kingdom, the reign of Dana Crystaloak is put into jeopardy when people around her start questioning her decisions. If she falls, war could break out across all lands.

My review is here.

In a nutshell: Rising Shadows is a quest style fantasy story involving a number of characters, racing against time, before an army of souls is released to fight for a King who has returned from the dead.  There are a number of different threads to the story that all provide their own element of added threat.  I didn’t struggle to read this but I did have a few issues and whilst this might not have totally worked for me it could be a gateway into fantasy for readers new to the genre

Conclusion: Cut

***

By the Pact (Pacts Arcane and Otherwise 1) by Joanna Maciejewska

Bythepact

High mages lied: Veranesh, the demon who destroyed the continent is still alive. And it’s up to their former student to expose the truth—even if it means another Cataclysm.

When Kamira, a once high mage student turned arcanist, discovers an imprisoned demon in underground ruins, she is forced into a pact that grants her powerful magic, but also ties her to the very demon that once devastated the continent… and Veranesh wants his freedom.

With one friend by her side, Veelk, a mage killer bound on protecting her, Kamira will have to outwit the archmages, other demons, and possibly her own demonic benefactor to survive. Her chances are slim, but with Veelk’s ever-present sarcastic repartee, Kamira might just pull through.

Plots and schemes, power and means—sometimes the price for victory is choosing which friend will die, but when you only have one friend, the choice is… easy?

My Review is here.

In a nutshell: I enjoyed By the Pact.  It has some new (to me at least) notions around demons and magic that I haven’t seen explored before.  I enjoyed the central characters and apart from a few issues related to editing (as opposed to the story itself) I would undoubtedly like to read the next instalment.

Conclusion: Roll Forward

***

Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens

Iarr

ON THE NIGHT THAT HE WAS BORN, THE DEVIL CAME TO KILL HIM The son of a farmer in Iron Age Britain, Nuadhu finds himself thrust into a destiny he is ill-prepared for. After his king murders his parents, he and his brother are forced to flee into the Roman Empire under the protection of the archangel Anael. Meanwhile, a plague of the undead is sweeping across Europe from the east, raising their slain enemies as new allies. Their goal is not the conquest of one tribe or nation, but the subjugation of all humanity. Can one warrior-in-exile, hungry for vengeance, build a force to repel this existential threat?

My review is here

In a nutshell: This was a short but enjoyable story about a man who is born to be the ‘champion’ of the people, a protector from evil if you will.  Set in the Iron Age we follow a young man as he trains with a celestial being.  My only problem here is that I felt the length of the book worked against it in terms of the author really being able to draw a picture of the way of life, or to really given strength to the characters.  As it is it felt like a fairly quick, episodic narrative that quickly sees the main POV grow up and finally face the threat he’s been training for.  I think readers who like a quick read and fast pacing might enjoy this one.

Conclusion: Cut

***

Carrion by Alyson Tait

carrion

The Rook legacy: duty at all Costs. Regina’s family are the last living members after a long line of magical families. Their heritage is a promise to the world; they can be trusted to keep magic from corrupting power hungry witches — In doing so they keep an unearthly evil from crushing humanity.

When Regina Rook’s mother dies a sudden, violent death, the living coven members come from around the world to attend the funeral, and begin breathing down her neck as next in line to lead. Trying to find a balance between her own goals and her family’s demands, all the while keeping her recent nightmares hidden where she becomes the very thing they fighting.

But when those things become intertwined, can she do anything but watch as the world around her crumbles to ancient horrors?

My review is here.

In a nutshell: Carrion is a story about a coven of witches who use their magic to protect the world.  When the coven’s lead witch dies it falls to her eldest daughter to pick up the reins.  The eldest daughter however has long rebelled against the coven’s ways and traditions and with a new threat emerging this could spell trouble for the world we know.  Again, this is a very quick read and a fairly short novel. I found myself struggling to really connect with the main character though and that could simply be because I wanted more backstory.  I admit that shorter stories often leave me wanting more detail so this could potentially appeal to other readers who want something a bit more snappy.

Conclusion: Cut 

 

My thanks again to the authors.

I will be posting my final batch of books very soon.