Let the fun commence. #SPFBO 17

Posted On 1 July 2017

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Today sees the start of the third Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition organised by Mark Lawrence.  Long story short – 300 novels have been submitted, 10 blogs have been allocated 30 books each and in 12 months time 1 book will win the competition.  For me the strap-line for this competition is ‘there can be only one’.

Last year I decided to divide my books up into six batches of five, chosen randomly, and then for the the first six months I would choose a favourite book each month that I would read and review completely.  By the end of the first six months I would then choose my favourite book out of those six to put forward.  The other blogs also submitted their final entries to the second stage of the contest.  During the following six months each blog then read all of the other 9 finalists and reviewed and scored them.  In this way by the end of the 12 months a winner was chosen.  I quite liked the format I used last year and I’m a believer of not fixing things that aren’t broken so I’m going to go with that again.  So, I’ve chosen my first 5 books and will be posting about those shortly.  My aim is to make sure that all the books I’ve been allocated are going to be highlighted in some way over the course of the next six months.

As last year, to get things started there was a cover competition.  Each blogger chose their favourite three covers, and from the 30 chosen we picked our favourites.  The results are in and here are the top three books (1st/2nd/3rd from left to right):

Congratulations to Benedict Patrick’s Where the Waters Turn Black for scoring so many votes.

I will post shortly about my first five books.


My Cover Selection #SPFBO 17

I recently posted all the books I’m taking on for the #SPFBO 17 contest.  At the start of the contest we’re holding a cover competition.  Check out this post to see all my book covers.  I think I had some great contenders but I’ve had to pick three and so here they are:


Empire of the Dead by Phil Tucker.  I really like this cover.


Spark of Defiance by Autumn M Birt. Another great cover – check out that beastie!


Land of Gods by Justin Sloan. Totally different from the first two but I like the sense of movement, the theme and the font.

The SPFBO ’17 : Cover Off

Today is a day for a SPFBO ’17 post methinks.  I’m a little behind with looking at all my books and I haven’t posted an introduction or wrap up piece yet – but I will get there.  However, and not to jump the gun, as last year all the bloggers are submitting three of there assigned books for a cover art contest.  If you’re a bit of a cover tart like me then you’ll love this!  Plus, it gives at least three of your books a shot at winning a ‘best cover’ title – which, considering there are three hundred entries and only one winner, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to get a ‘best cover’ award under your belt now would it, not to mention a little bit of extra focus on your book?

So, as last year, my book covers are all laid out below for you to feast your eyes on.  My list of books and authors is at the bottom of the post plus a link to Mr Lawrence’s blogspot for a bit more information.

Here be my covers (with one omission as I don’t seem to be able to find a cover for Wishful Thinking by Jim Beach – if the author wants to point me in the right direction then I’m happy to update.  Similarly – if I’m using out of date covers for any of these and any authors want to change their covers please let me know.)


Which are your favourites?

Justin Sloan – Land of the Gods /
Elizabeth Baxter – Everwinter /
Charlotte E. English – Faerie Fruit /
Ken Lozito – Road to Shandara /
Layla Nash – War Witch /
Watson Davis – The Archbishop’s Amulet /
Aldrea Alien – The Rogue King /
Jenna Elizabeth Johnson – Faeborne /
Tirzah Duncan – Grace the Mace /
Josh Rhoades & Mike Rutledge – The Apotheosis Break /
Alan Tucker – The Devil You Known/
Scott Haworth – Dark Moonlighting /
Jordan R Murray – The Emperor’s Horn /
C.V. Dreesman – Cursefell /
Kelly Stock – The Soul Guide /
Burke Fitzpatrick – Today Is Too Late /
James Jakins – Jack Bloodfist /
Clayton D Baker & Michael H Kuecker – The Saga of Dirt and Poncho /
Patty Jansen – Sand and Storm /
Gayle Torrens  – The Tralls of Nindarry /
Rob Cornell – Darker Things /
Phil Tucker – The Empire of the Dead /
Jim Beach – Wishful Thinking
Anthea Sharp – Feyland: The Dark Realm /
Ilana Waters – The Age of Mages /
Sandy Hyatt James – A Gaze of Flint /
Autumn M Birt – Spark of Defiance /
S.E Burr – Goblin Fruit /
Tiffany Turner – The Lost Secret of the Fairies /
Tom Gaskin – Search of the Lost /
Link to Mark Lawrence’s blog post for further details about the SPFBO.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister is the start of the third series written by Mark Lawrence and I’ll start by saying it’s a great start.

I’ll give a brief overview of the plot.  We make the acquaintance of Nona at the start of the story.  She’s about to be fitted for a hangman’s noose for attempting to murder the son of a rather prominent member of society..  Unsurprisingly, and not a spoiler to say, she never makes her final fitting – that would have been a very short book would it not! Before her execution can be carried out she finds herself rescued, or more succinctly put, stolen away by Abbess Glass of the Sweet Mercy Convent.  Not yet ten years old Nona is different.  The people of her village knew this, and mostly avoided her – until that cruel day on which she was given away to a child collector to be sold in the City.  Abbess Glass recognises this difference and believes that rather than making Nona something to fear it makes her something special. From them on we spend time with Nona as she is initiated into the school and undertakes a number of trials and tribulations, eventually makes friends and puts the word ‘trust’ to the test.

Now, when I summarise the plot like that it seems, even to me, to be on the sparse side and yet that couldn’t be further from the truth.  There is plenty going on here, we have a story that gradually reveals thing from the past, we have the story as it moves forward in the present and we also witness some incredibly intriguing snippets taken from the future and that compulsion to read forward and find out how all these elements come together is strong indeed.

I confess that coming of age novels are something of a weakness for me and put the characters into a training/school setting and I’m probably ready to be bowled over.  Yes, I loved Harry Potter – as did just about everybody I know – but, don’t pick this up thinking you’re picking up anything like HP – or YA for that matter.  This book is dark, it’s bleak, the world is a slowly dying, cold and harsh place to live and the there is bloody violence meted out by cruel and brutal characters.

There are certainly friendships developed, and indeed that particular aspect is one of the main focuses as the story moves forward but, be in no doubt, these girls are learning, more often than not the hard way, how to become cold blooded killers.  Nona.  Yes, she is an amazing character.  Just to be clear, I don’t think she’s amazing simply because of her difference or her abilities, the power that lies beneath the surface, the simmering belief that she’s going to become kickass or the chosen one – no, I really liked her because of her vulnerability.  Her need to be accepted and the desperation she feels that she never will be accepted because of her differences.  She longs for friendship and this need makes her an unreliable narrator which in turn makes the story even more compelling as you strive to get to the truth.  Put simply she doesn’t want people to truly know her because she learnt the hard way that the truth will drive them away – so she tells untruths.

And there are plenty of other great characters.   The Abbess herself, along with a couple of the other nuns made for great reading.  I also really liked the addition of Zole – a really interesting character who I hope we learn more about.  Not exactly a welcome addition to the Convent when she makes her first appearance but she has a lot to offer and I’m very curious about her.  What I find myself particularly drawn to in books at the moment is character development and this story is strongly focused on the characters.  Lawrence paints them in all their diversity with their fears and hopes, jealousies and ambitions.  Nobody is truly good or bad, there are little shades of everything mixed in there.

In terms of the world – I’m not going to go into great depth.   This series is known as the Book of the Ancestors and I think that tells a story by itself.  Four tribes originally existed, all with different abilities.  Strength, speed, magical ability or the ability to walk The Path.  The blood from these tribes has been passed down but weakened over the years but every now and again a child will display a particular affinity for one of the original tribes.  Nona is descended from the Hunska which means she has incredible speed – or does it mean that everything else around her slows down.  Anyway, as the story moves along we find out a lot more about the magic involved such as the ability to walk The Path.  We also learn that the world here is one that is narrowing.  A thin corridor of habitable land surrounded by ice on both sides, perhaps a possible future envisaged right here in which the sun is failing and the Moon is literally falling from the sky.

The icing on the cake of course is the writing.  This book is just beautifully written.  Lawrence twists and turns and takes us all along for the ride.  He gives us the archetypal ‘chosen one’ stereotype and then proceeds to pull it apart.  He delivers some real moments of betrayal and that ending.  Exactly when is the next book due out?

So, all that said, I admit I really struggled to start this review because having read the Broken Empire and the Red Queen’s War my first instinct was to start by making comparisons.  It’s natural to do so really and yet at the same time it was, to put it bluntly, simply doing my head in comparing them.  At the end of the day they’re all intrinsically similar, the writing style and the bleakness of the world and yet, in frustratingly Golum like fashion, they’re also fundamentally different.  So, is this Lawrence’s best work?  Is Nona my favourite of his character creations.  I don’t think I could answer that – it’s like when somebody asks you ‘what’s your favourite book’  What? How many favourites can I have?? Surely not just one.  You might just as well ask me which is my favourite child.  They’re all individual and I love them all.

A young girl with potential, a nunnery that trains it’s novices in the art of assassination and uses magic to help fulfil their aims.  Smooth prose, bleak overtones and intriguing twists.  Obviously I loved this.

I received a copy of Red Sister for review – for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.



Cover Compare

Posted On 12 February 2017

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Here it is – I wondered when this little beauty would make it’s appearance – the UK cover for Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister:


I love this.  It has a beautiful crisp feel doesn’t it  And, here are both covers together:

So, which is your favourite.  I admit that I’ve always been rather partial to the US covers and I do love the US cover here – but, in this case, the UK cover is my favourite.  I just really like the font style and colour, the way it’s so startling against the cold background – the darkness beyond the ice.  Yep.  The UK cover is my favourite this time around.

Stop on over to Mr Lawrence’s blog where there are a couple of other alternative covers and choose your favourite.

And, in case you missed it, here is the description:

“I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin”

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

Not long to wait for this one people: April 4th/6th 2017

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