#SPFBO 8 Third Batch of Books: Feedback


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


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


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


“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


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.


#SPFBO Feedback on the Third Batch of Books


So, a little later than planned, again, this is my feedback post for the final three books from Batch No.3.  I already gave feedback at the halfway mark which can be found here.  I have very little wifi at the moment which is why my blogging is a little behind schedule and so this post will be a little bit shorter as a result. I will be posting my fourth batch of books (hopefully) on Wednesday.

The final three books and my comments on each can be found below. Apologies to those authors/books cut at this stage:

Earthcore by Grace Bridges

EarthcoreAs Earthcore got underway we meet Anira who is taking a vacation with her mother and brother at Rotorua in New Zealand.   As soon as Anira arrives she starts to experience strange sensations and it soon becomes obvious to her that having drank the local spring?/mineral water she is having a transformation of sorts – or at least she seems to need virtually no sleep and is also experiencing quite amazing mental abilities. Obviously Anira is a little dubious and also wondering whether this is purely a temporary phenomena but she then witnesses a local who seems to also have some unusual capabilities and upon further investigation it seems that there are at least another three such individuals apart from Anira (who quickly decides that they need to meet).

I found the first third of this book very easy to read, I enjoyed the setting and clearly this is going to become a superhero type story or at least a meeting of individuals with special abilities.  In terms of criticisms.  Well, I’ve not during the 30% read had a real opportunity to become attached to the main character Anira, in a way she feels a little lacking in emotional depth in that she is incredibly accepting of everything, or she lacks surprise.  Overall though this was quite a good read and would probably appeal to a YA audience – I foresee maybe a romance between Anira and one of the other characters although it’s early days and I could be wrong on that score.

I thought this was quite good to the point at which I broke off but although the pacing is quite fast I’ve not really got a feel at this stage for exactly where this one is heading in terms of plot.

Author Info:


SirThomas.jpgSir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of the Less Valued Knights by Liam Perrin

Sir Thomas the Hesitant is so far really quite a fun read about a young man called Thomas Farmer who has dreams of becoming a knight.  I’m quite enjoying this one at the moment so intend to read further therefore will keep feedback on this book to a minimum at the moment and return to it at a later date.

Conclusion: roll forward

Author Info:


Twitter: LiamPerrin


Strings of.jpgStrings of Chance by Jeff Pryor

I think Strings of Chance could be a book that develops well but at the point at which I broke off it really hadn’t had a chance to work it’s charm on me and I think this is in part due to the main protagonist.  Edson Pye is a bard who has great confidence in his own abilities, even if he doesn’t seem to be succeeding as the story sets out, that is until he meets a mysterious person who decides to help him reach his goals.  Of course, there is always a price for such magic as Edson soon finds out.

Okay, I have to be honest,  I really didn’t get on with Edson at all in fact I very nearly put this down much earlier than my 30% cut off point, but, I decided to press on.  To be even more honest, Edson was still annoying but the story had opened out a little and was become quite intriguing.

I’m rather hopeful that Edson goes on a voyage of discovery during the rest of this story but unfortunately this is the stage at which I have decided to cut off and at this point Edson hasn’t won me over.  Like I say, this could change as the story progresses but I have a cut off point in order to be fair so although I like that this is a small scale type fantasy as oppose to huge battles and epic quests I’m cutting it at this point.


To date from my SPFBO books I have one book chosen as a semi finalist and two books that I’ve decided to read further.

Semi finalist: The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King

Two books to read further :

From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court (Yarnsworld #4) by Benedict Patrick

Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights (Less Valued Knights #1) by Liam Perrin