#SPFBO 2018 – all wrapped up

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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 Sworn to the Night (The Wisdom’s Grave Trilogy #1) by Craig Schaefer

Sworn to the NightSworn to the Night is the book I’ve chosen to be my finalist to move forward to the second stage of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition.

Where to begin.  I can’t deny, fickle as I am, that the cover really drew my eye, and in fact I submitted this book for the cover competition, so I had a fairly good feeling about it before I picked it up.  Sometimes, of course, good feelings can lead to the slippery slope of high expectations that can often send readers sliding into misery.   Clearly that didn’t happen here.  The contents of this book are just as good as the outside promises and as soon as I started to read it I was immediately hooked.

In terms of description, there’s a lot going on here and so I hope I can keep this review clear and concise.  As the story sets out we make the acquaintance of Marie Reinhart and her partner Tony Fisher, both NYPD detectives.  They’re working a case that points towards a serial killer.  The latest case is the disappearance of a call girl named Baby Blue who has disappeared mysteriously.  Marie is determined to find BB and believes if this disappearance follows the usual MO she has only two weeks before a body will be discovered.  I like police procedurals and so I loved how the story starts.  You have an immediately good impression of Marie who is steadfast in her determination to find the missing woman and you also get a really good feel for the place.  The story takes you to the seedy side of town especially when the investigation begins to develop links to a designer drug called Ink and ultimately the two detectives find themselves in a shootout at an ink storage house.

Simultaneously we make the acquaintance of Nessa (Vanessa Roth).  On the face of it Nessa appears to be a timid housewife to a successful and high powered businessman named Richard Roth (whose father is a politician of apparently good standing).  Richard and his father are all about appearances and so when Nessa, the beautiful trophy wife and intelligent professor, displayed signs of mental instability she was immediately placed on drugs, not so much to control the condition as to control her.  Nothing, however, is as it first seems.  Nessa seems to have a different side to her character that comes out in the form of dark artistic paintings and amateur dabbling in witchcraft – of course, as a reader, you’re not entirely sure at first if that’s another symptom of her mental condition but at the same time you can feel that something underlying her actions is simmering away and is about to burst out of the pot.

The final thread to the story involves a strange and secret society made up of powerful men.   One particular branch of this organisation appear to enjoy unspeakable depravities and take part in ritual killings using an abandoned and rather creepy zoo.

Now, to get tricky, as well as the police investigation and the storyline that follows Nessa we have a few other things taking place.  Namely, the introduction of a number of characters, who I won’t elaborate on, who seem to be influencing the way the story will progress, we also have a character called Carolyn Saunders, an author no less, who has been detained by an organisation known mysteriously as the ‘Network’ who wish her to tell them about one of her novels entitled ‘The Witch and the Knight’.

I will point out at this juncture that STTN is not the first book set in this world so if there seems to be a lot going on then that’s probably the reason why.  Apparently this story brings together a number of characters and threads from previous works.  To be honest though, I didn’t struggle at all with the storyline, I would say that there is a deal of jumping back and forth and the introduction of characters that at first seem to make little sense, but that happens with stories of this nature.  My advice, is to stick with it as things definitely become clear as the story progresses and little light bulbs start to switch on as things click into place.  Personally I don’t feel as though I suffered by not having read the previous books (although I do now feel the desire to pick some of them up on the strength of this novel).  This is after all the start of a new series and I think the author makes a good job of giving the information necessary for a firm footing.

In terms of the characters.  Well, this is perhaps one of my only issues with the book but it’s also something that whilst I had a bit of conflict with at first I did feel resolved itself with the introduction of relevant information.  The thing is – I don’t want to give away spoilers.  Basically Maria and Nessa’s storylines eventually cross paths and with it comes an undeniable attraction and a powerful sense of having met before that is so strong that the two are instantaneously drawn together.  This is where my only real niggle entered the scene.  As soon as Marie met Nessa her character seemed to have an about face.  For the majority of the story she was a resourceful and determined woman, she had real agency and she was, whilst a bit reckless in the pursuit of her goals, a force to be reckoned with.  Nessa on the other hand seemed to come across as a bit wishy washy, good looking and rich but without much backbone to stand up to her manipulative husband.  The two of them apart were definitely interesting but once they met their characters altered.  Well, to be clear, Marie was still the same in terms of her NYPD role, but whenever she was in the company of Nessa she seemed to turn into a meek and mild, subservient ninny whilst Nessa seemed to become a domineering 50 Shades of Grey bossy boots who I struggled to like.  It was a bit odd and at the same time it made me feel less inclined to like Nessa.  However.  Stick with this – there is a reasoning here that definitely shapes their behaviour, something that I can’t divulge but will definitely lend explanations to the way the two of them behave and one that I’m really curious to see explored further.

So, after a temporary blip, the story then leaps into dramatic life.  What started out as a police procedural style novel takes on a whole new persona involving black magic, witchcraft and other forces and the final third of the book is positively break neck action and crazy goings on that had me glued to the page.

Finally, the whole story works as a standalone but at the same time is the perfect set up for the next slice of Marie and Nessa’s story.

In conclusion I think Sworn to the Night is an impressive and clever piece of writing.  It manages to pull together murder, mystery, action, witchcraft, a tad of horror and an overarching theme of characters dancing to the tune of an unseen force that is pulling their strings in a relentless pattern.

My thanks to the author for a copy of the book and my best wishes for the remainder of the competition.

 

 

#SPFBO Finalist Announcement

You may have noticed that my blog has been very quiet during the month of December.  I decided to focus on reading the nine books I’d rolled forward for the first stage of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off and with all nine now complete I’ve chosen my finalist.  It wasn’t an easy decision and in fact I have 3 very close runners up but without further ado my finalist for #SPFBO 2018 is :

Sworn to the Night (The Wisdom’s Grave Trilogy #1) by Craig Schaefer.

Sworn to the Night

I have to say I had a great batch of books and I’d like to thank all the authors who took part in the competition.

My second, third and fourth place books are:

As promised I will be reviewing all nine books in the forthcoming weeks starting with Sworn to the Night.

My thanks again to all the authors who took part.  I wish I could have chosen more books but at the end of the day there can be only one and with that in mind I would conclude by wishing all the finalists the best of luck in the second stage of the competition.

Details of the other finalists can be found here.