#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 The Anointed (Red Proxy #3) by Keith Ward


The AnointedThe Anointed is the third finalist I’ve read as part of the SPFBO and I’ve been struggling to write this review due to mixed feelings and a general inability to really pin down why this one didn’t work out better for me.

I must admit that I was puzzled when I saw that this was book No.3 set in this world and I wonder if some of the issues I experienced might have been things strengthened by reading the earlier books – that being said this can apparently be read as a standalone.  Anyway, not to put the cart before the horse.

As the book starts we make the introduction of a family who are on the brink of a coming of age ceremony.  Ketram and Danak are ranchers, they raise and train dragons and they’re prosperous and well respected.  They have three children, triplets, although Danak is not the biological mother,  Their biological mother was murdered shortly after they were born and the three babies were stolen to be used as proxies (more of that later).  That the three were recovered is almost a miracle in itself but one of the children, Xinlas, died before his rescue but was somehow returned to life.  Having been raised with this story Xinlas has developed something of a superiority complex believing himself a future hero in the making.  The only thing he worries about is his lifespan and he’ll find out how many years he has to work on his own legend at the coming of age ceremony.  Unfortunately things don’t go well for Xinlas and he storms off, taking one of the dragons and trying to cool off which is when he spots a small village (Peacewood) that literally appears and disappears within the blink of an eye.  This he believes is the start of his adventure and he’s absolutely determined to find out more.

Meanwhile, the village in question, contains a few hundred people they’ve lived within the protection of a magical boundary for as long as they can remember – remaining unseen by the rest of the world.  The trees and the villagers of Peacewood seem to have an almost symbiotic relationship.  They’re a gentle people, with no frivolous extravagances, simply living their lives and with no desire to explore the outside world.  Except one young girl, Greengrass, who really does want to travel and is determined to break out.  In all this the key thing to the village is the trees, the wood from these trees floats and the villagers in fact craft both small and large boats to use on their lake.  If word of these boats and ships reaches certain people in the outside world it will be like an invitation to go a warring!  Especially if you have a crazy-arsed king who is hell bent not only on using the proxy system enough times to make him immortal but also using that extra time to dominate the rest of the world.

So, Ward introduces us to a very different world here with some interesting concepts.  Imagine a world where people cannot swim and wood and other substances cannot float on water.  It kind of puts a hamper on world domination – no way to sail your armies to distant shores to claim them as your own.  Of course there are dragons in this world which does make flying possible, but even so, you’d need a whole lot of beasties to transport an army and on top of that they would struggle to make it across the seas. Now also imagine a world where people are given a sort of prediction, if you like, at birth, that tells them their expected lifespan, on top of this it’s possible to transfer one person’s lifespan to somebody else (this is the proxy system and the person transferring their life obviously dies in the process), thereby extending the recipient’s lifespan  – it really doesn’t bode well does it and the possibilities for corruption are vast.

Now, on the one hand I really think these are interesting ideas but on the other they’re not explored well enough for me to enjoy reading about them which is a bit frustrating. The world building feels sort of flimsy.  Personally, once I start having questions that remain unanswered it almost becomes like a vicious circle and I can’t deny that it distracts me somewhat.  That being said it’s possible that this book is intended for a younger audience, it has a coming of age, chosen one feel and I appreciate that deeper world building sometimes takes a back seat.

Unfortunately I also didn’t really connect with the characters.  Xinlas in particular came across as anything but a hero.  He instead came across as incredibly spoilt, vain and rather annoying.  Privileged and indulged he couldn’t accept, when he finally met a girl  that he liked, and she didn’t return his affection and he behaved very badly.  His story arc just didn’t make sense from that point on – or more to the point his  change of character.

This all sounds incredibly negative which is something that I really didn’t intend.  Basically, the Anointed didn’t work out for me but that could be because it’s aimed at a younger audience and perhaps I would have had a stronger feel for the world if I’d read the previous books in the series.

As it is I’d rate this at just over 2.5 out of 5 on Goodreads which equates to 5.5 out of 10 for the competition.

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


#SPFBO – Finalists No.2 and No.3


Today I’m highlighting the second and third 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.  The purpose of this post is to shine a spotlight on those books and give readers a chance to see what they’re all about.  As already mentioned all my books are randomly selected and my 2nd and 3rd finalists will be:

Symphony of the Wind (The Raincatcher’s Ballad #1) by Steven McKinnon

SymphonyA bounty hunter with a death wish. A girl with fearsome powers. A kingdom on the brink of destruction.

Serena dreams of leaving her harsh desert home behind in her very own airship. But when an assassin’s knife meant for Serena kills her friend instead, the rebellious orphan ventures into the corrupt heart of Dalthea to discover who put a price on her head. With each new turn, she edges closer to uncovering the awful truth… And the mystical powers brewing deep within her.

After his fiancée’s death, soldier-turned-bounty hunter Tyson Gallows is eager to sacrifice his life in the line of duty. When a foreign enemy assassinates a high-ranking official, he vows to bring them to justice. On the hunt for a killer, Gallows exposes a sinister plot that proves his fiancée’s death was no accident.

Driven by revenge, Serena and Gallows must join forces to take down the conspiracy before the kingdom falls to ruin.

Symphony of the Wind is the first book in a gritty epic fantasy trilogy. If you like hardened heroes, steampunk airships, and dark magic and monsters, then you’ll love Steven McKinnon’s visceral adventure.


The Anointed (Red Proxy #3) by Keith Ward

The Anointed.jpgBeing a hero is a choice.

Xinlas’s life goal is modest: he wants to be a living legend, revered in song and story. And he’s off to a good start. He faced death once, and won. His legend grew — at least in his own mind.

Fame comes calling on Xinlas again, or so he thinks, when he stumbles on a hidden village. The village has a resource that no one’s ever seen before. A resource that can be used to conquer other lands. A resource that a power-mad ruler will kill for.

Can Xinlas — with the help of a mysterious orange-haired girl he meets on a river — stop the man who would enslave millions? It will take a kind of courage found in legendary heroes.

Will Xinlas become that hero, or break under the weight of his destiny? The fate of civilization rests on his choices.