#SPFBO 7 : My Third Batch of Books

Posted On 3 August 2021

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SPFBO 7 is now into its third month and today I’m highlighting my next batch of four books.  To date I’ve read and reviewed eight books and my updates for Batch 1 and 2 can be found here and here.  All going to plan I should have only three books left to read, from my allocation of 15, come the end of this month.  

For those of you unfamiliar with SPFBO here and here are two posts that might provide some enlightenment.  Basically, SPFBO is the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, brainchild of Mark Lawrence.  300 hopeful authors submit their word babies.  10 Judges are allocated 30 books each.  Each judge chooses a finalist, the competition narrows to 10 hopeful candidates.  Alas, there can be only one winner so following an intense reading session where all the judges read and score each others finalists a winner finally emerges.  

The main change for myself this year is that I am joining up with the wonderful Critiquing Chemist and her lovely boffin.  We are very excited to start reading our batch (at the moment equally divided between the two blogs).  I love this part of the competition, it’s full of expectations and hope.  As in previous years  I will give a brief introduction to the books and authors that I’m picking up that month together with an update at the end of the month where I may roll some books forwards and cut others.  I know!  It’s a part of the competition that I’m not overly fond of but it is unavoidable.  Personally, I like to think that as the competition begins we already have 300 winners who each took that bold step to throw their hat into the ring and join in.  So, enjoy yourselves, take the opportunity to make friends and become part of the community.  

This month the four books that I will be reading from my third batch are:



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.

About the Author

If you found your way here, then you must already know I love to write. I am a fan of fiction, mostly fantasy, sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic (amongst others), and in all its forms, whether it is books, video games, movies, or tv-shows.

The first time I truly realized how much I loved fiction, was through The Lord of the Rings’ movies (like probably a lot of people). Since then, I traveled to so many different worlds: Halo, Mass Effect, Warcraft, Elder Scrolls, Witcher, and Fallout (to only name a few). It made me want to explore my own imagination and see what worlds I could create. This is what led me, among other things, to writing.

What can you expect from my books? I don’t bother myself trying to be a flowery writer, I want my writing to be available to everyone. And what I want above all when people read my books, is for them to have a good time and some fun. This is what truly matters to me.

When I’m not writing, I am: A husband. A father of three cats. Reading, gaming, or watching movies and tv shows. A big hockey fan. And when I’m done with all of that, I’m a big geek and collect a lot of stuff (No, I’m not a hoarder, I swear!).

You can follow my Twitter (@phil_blackwater) or my Instagram (@phil_blackwater), or register to the newsletter on my website, to know when new stories are available.




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


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?

JMAbout the Author

Born in Poland, Joanna spent most of her childhood in Poznan, then moved to Dublin, Ireland, where she lived for over 8 years. In 2016 she moved to the US, where she hopes to finally settle.

She writes speculative fiction, so it goes without saying that she’s a fan of science-fiction and fantasy – mainly books, but also movies, comics and games (both video games and tabletop RPGs).

When she’s not busy writing, reading, or gaming, she enjoys crafts and drawing.




Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens


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? The riveting new historical fantasy adventure from the author of FROM THE HILL OF MEGIDDO and the ARMAGEDDON’S OFFSPRING series!

About the Author



Carrion by Alyson Tait


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?

About the Author:

(I’m a little puzzled with the author info for Carrion.  On Amazon the author shows as Alyson Tate, on Goodreads as Jamie Benson and Alyson Tait, and on the cover Alyson Tait – apologies if I have the wrong author information here).



Good luck to this month’s authors.


#SPFBO : My Third Batch of Books : Update

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  You can find my first batch of books here and my update here, and my second batch of books and update here and here.

As with previous years I’m hoping to read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below:


Spitting Image by Patrick LeClerc


Okay, I will start this on an unusual note.  Patrick Le Clerc had a finalist in last year’s competition with Out of Nowhere – a book about a paramedic known as Sean Danet who appears to be immortal.  So, I was slightly puzzled to see another entry with the same character because that seems to be like a second book in series – although it doesn’t appear that way on GRs so I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt.  To be fair, I think this could easily be read as a standalone without reading Out of Nowhere.

Sean is immortal.  He’s lived for many, many years.  He’s been a soldier and now a paramedic – a job that allows him to make a difference using his healing abilities without anyone noticing his existence.  As the story begins we are given an introduction to Sean, whilst he’s out on a night shift.  Returning home Sean is paid a surprise visit from his girlfriend Sarah, and this happens again the following day and whilst these surprise visits are very welcome something feels slightly wrong. Initially, Sean is worried that Sarah is losing interest, a thought that chills him as he finally feels like he’s met someone that he’d like to stick around for and get to know better, but, as it happens, more sinister powers are at play and both Sean and Sarah are in danger.

I read my allocated 30% of this one.  It’s a very easy read and this is an author that can be engaging without doubt.  He gets off to a good start, although maybe a little slower than I would expect given the length of the book.  I think that his main character relies heavily on sarcasm and self deprecation and this maybe sometimes doesn’t come across as clearly as it might.

All in all, this was entertaining enough up to my cut off point but it didn’t quite grab my attention as much as I would have liked.

Conclusion : Cut


The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice


I’m not reviewing The Usurper at this point because I enjoyed what I read so far and would like to carry it forward and continue reading. I will make a decision at a later date as to whether or not this will be a semi-finalist.

Conclusion : rolled forward


Night Warrior by Jordan J. Scavone


Night Warrior is a really good concept, portal fantasy in reverse if you will.  Instead of the central character being sucked into a fantasy world the exact opposite happens and characters from that fantasy world are pulled into our modern one.  What makes this additionally strange is that all the characters appear to have been created by Viranda’s imagination when writing a new book.

I must say that this got off to an intriguing start.  We meet Viranda whilst she’s in a spot of bother – she’s badly injured and still carries those injuries and trauma as the story really kicks off.  Viranda wants to be an author and since her ‘accident’ she’s been having unusual and vivid dreams.  She starts to write these down becoming totally immersed in the world she is creating.   Then lightning strikes and the characters from out of Viranda’s book start appearing in her world – which can’t be good given that some of the characters are less than savoury.

As I mentioned, this one had a really good start. I was intrigued by Viranda’s situation as the book began.  Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the next section quite as much although it’s still entertaining.  I think the main issues that really struck me were that Viranda is incredibly accepting of a bunch of sword wielding characters turning up in her life – very calm and collected in fact.  The other thing that occurred to me is that in spite of all these fantasy people running around in our modern world there seems to be very little impact other than the events that are circling intently around Viranda.  I realise of course that other things could be happening off page but I would have liked to have a sense of how things were being affected, and I would definitely have liked a little more emotion particularly from Viranda, not to mention some surprise from the fantasy characters at the strange modern world they found themselves in.

On the whole though, this was easy to get on with, I did have niggles but at the end of the day I don’t think I’m the intended audience for this (I think YA?) and my automatic questions and issues got in the way a little.

Conclusion : Cut


Jacob’s War by Mark Hood


This is another entry with an intriguing premise and written in a format that I really enjoy that alternates between diary entries made by Jacob Willlams as he fought in the first World War and later update chapters that take place after the war has ended.

It appears that there is a thin divide between our world and that of the supernatural and some of the points of protection are either weak or failing.

Strange creatures are slipping into our world and only the Fae Defence Society stand between them and certain disaster.

I thought the diary chapters were very good where I read up to and liked the tone and style of the writing – there was an innocence to Jacob at the start of the journal that started to wear thin as things progressed and the rose tinted glasses were removed.  In the alternating chapters we jump forward and watch Jacob and his comrades as they prepare for a forthcoming onslaught of unknown beasts.  Unfortunately, I didn’t quite enjoy these chapters as much as the journal entries and I think that’s because the divide was too great for me.  One moment we’re reading about Jacob as he heads out to war, the next we’re watching him wield magic and fight hairy beasts.  In fairness, as you read forward these two points will eventually come together but I think I would have liked a smoother transition somehow.

Conclusion : Cut


The Hammer Of The Gods: So You Want To Be A Star (The Druid Trilogy #1) by Andrew Marc Rowe


Well, The Hammer of the Gods was quite a surprise.  I enjoyed where I read up to and will carry this one forward for further reading.  No review at this point and I will make a decision at a later stage as to whether this will be a semi finalist.

Conclusion : rolled forward


The Story of Evil – A Hero’s Downfall (#1) by Tony Johnson


The Story of Evil certainly got off to a furious start.  We begin with a jousting tournament that goes horribly wrong when evil creatures attack the city.

We then make a fairly quick introduction to three characters as they go from one danger to the next.

Stephen Brightflame is a young man with dreams of becoming a knight.  He’s actually jousting when all the trouble begins.

Ty is Stephen’s brother in arms, he rides a flying beast and so when the attack begins he is immediately drawn into the action.

Kari is a young woman watching the tournament who tries to make it back to the safety of her home but becomes embroiled in a fight with one of the beasts.

I have mixed feelings with this one.  It shows promise but I think it is too ambitious at the start.  I read my allocated 30% and by that time we probably only progressed half a day at most – by which time most of the inhabitants of the city were dead and considerable damage had been caused.

Now, all this action and death is without doubt a good ploy to pull the reader immediately into the story, but, without knowing the characters I felt a strange ambivalence towards their fate.  In fact, the way in which everything was being systematically destroyed I began to wonder if there would be any survivors.

I also had a number of issues that just kept pulling me out of the moment.  There is a definite feeling of over explanation here for some of the really small minutiae, on top of this we have flashbacks by way of background – but they felt a little long winded and out of place when the whole city was under attack and being bombarded with monsters and  flying masonry.   One example is Ty, reflecting on his lack of a solid relationship when he’s plunging through the sky – it just felt out of place.

I don’t mean to sound overly critical,  This does show promise but it didn’t really work for me.

Conclusion : Cut



#SPFBO : My Third Batch of Books

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The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  You can find my first batch of books here and my update here, and my second batch of books and update here and here.

As with previous years I’m hoping to read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below:


Spitting Image by Patrick LeClerc

SpittingImmortal Sean Danet can heal others with a touch. Over centuries he’s learned it’s safer to hide in plain sight, moving and changing his identity often, but finally, after too long as a rootless vagabond, he’s found a place he belongs. Friends he can trust and the love of an intelligent, beautiful woman. The life he dreamed of and never expected to attain.

When a sinister new adversary targets him for his abilities this tranquil existence is overturned––he finds himself unable to trust those closest to him, unable to trust what he sees. Can he untangle the mystery and outwit his latest foes? Or is his only hope of safety to return to a bleak and lonely fugitive existence?

Spitting Image is a tense, twisting, face-paced adventure which finds Sean confronting both deadly enemies and the consequences of his decisions as he chooses once and for all what is worth defending.

Author InfoTwitter



The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice

UsurperWhen a tyrant wears the crown, a hero must become an Usurper…
The Fates weave a tapestry of life and death for young Gathelaus the Sellsword. Now an unexpected opportunity presents itself for the famed mercenary, he has but to claim the blood red crown…

But once you wear the crown, how long can you hold it until that power is turned against you? Follow Gathelaus on a journey through a life of magic, action and intrigue; battling gods and monsters across a mystic realm …

The Usurper is an action-packed heroic adventure in the vein of classic pulp fiction and heroic fantasy. If you like Conan the Barbarian, The Witcher and Logen Ninefingers along with vengeful sorcery, savage duels, larger-than-life characters, and witty humor, then you’ll love James Alderdice’s barbaric tale.

Author Info:



Night Warrior by Jordan J. Scavone

NightWhen a bolt of lightning strikes seventeen-year-old Viranda’s home during a severe thunderstorm, she awakens, dazed, to find a strange blood-covered man sitting calmly on her bed. This man claims to be Cillian Balor, The Night Warrior, the same character Viranda herself had created in her novel. Cillian believes Viranda to be the Goddess of Fate from his homeworld of Lingard. However, Viranda claims there is no Goddess of Fate in Lingard; she should know, she did create it after all. When other characters from her book begin to appear in her world, Viranda fears what would happen if the likes of Finn Razorclaw, a deadly werewolf and the arch-rival of Cillian, or the feared witches of The Black Cat Clan arrived as well. With the help of her best friend Bee, and a protection gnome named Mo, Viranda and Cillian must discover the secret to Cillian’s existence and prevent catastrophic damage by powerful supernatural beings.

Author Info:


Jacob’s War by Mark Hood

Jacob'sMeet Jacob Williams.

A survivor of the First World War, forever changed by his experience.  Now he’s facing down the terrors that conflict unleashed upon an unsuspecting world.

Weak spots have always existed between our world and that of the Fae; stone circles help to keep the most dangerous sealed shut. But now Stonehenge is failing…

It falls to the members of the Fae Defence Society to repair the ancient monument, protect humanity from the terrors it holds back and prevent another disastrous war.

Jacob and his wartime comrade Harry are on the front lines in a supernatural battle which threatens everything.

Author Info: Twitter

Website: https://www.thefairieswantmedead.com/


The Hammer Of The Gods: So You Want To Be A Star (The Druid Trilogy #1) by Andrew Marc Rowe

TheHammerPitted against a perverse pantheon of warring deities, Gudleik Sigbjornsson and Rosmerta O’Ceallaigh are two dreamers living worlds apart, hoping to create a better life for themselves by following their dreams. It won’t be easy: Gudleik’s soul is the battleground between two gods of Asgard. And Rosmerta is supposed to do as her parents have done: offer her life to the service of an ancient Celtic fertility god. But the gods are only half of it… the biggest foes the two will face are to be found within their own minds.

Can Gudleik overcome the ugly blessing of a trickster god and prevent Ragnarok? Will Rosmerta find the courage to forge a new path? Will there be a whole load of dirty jokes and comments on the human condition?

Yes, yes, there will be… to that one, the third question.

Also, check dis out: there is a bunch about Merlyn and King Arthur of Camelot, a Goblin King, an ancient fell jellyfish god, encroaching Christian zealots, characters whose proclivities are too crude to mention here, because, well, gotta make the advertising copy pop, you know?

An epic fantasy comedy as blue as the cover art, get your copy of The Hammer Of The Gods today!

Author InfoTwitter



The Story of Evil – A Hero’s Downfall (#1) by Tony Johnson

StoryofDuring an entertaining jousting tournament, a mysterious villain attacks the capital with his army. Because of this disastrous event, Stephen Brightflame, a nineteen-year-old who aspires to become a knight, embarks on a quest to save the kingdom from further destruction. He joins up with a convicted felon, an arrogant warrior, and a Halfling woman, but quickly learns their pasts are just as dark and disturbing as his own. Experience the first book in an epic fantasy trilogy that’s been called, “fascinating and captivating” featuring “well-rounded, enjoyable characters, intense action scenes, and riveting twists”

Author Info:





Once again, good luck to everyone.  If you’d like to visit my blog for a guest post, excerpt, etc, then leave me a note in the comments.

#SPFBO5 My third batch of books

Posted On 2 September 2019

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Today is the third month of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.  As with last year I have divided my 30 books into five batches of six books (selected using a random sequence generator).  Each month I will highlight that month’s selection at the start of the month, providing details about the books and the authors.  As the month progresses I hope to have a clear favourite out of each batch – although things don’t always go to plan of course – I will provide mini reviews for each book and hopefully a full review for each book that I read fully or choose to be a semi finalist – which I’m thinking should be five books in total although it could be less.  The aim being to then choose a finalist from those semi finalists.

This month, all going well, I’m hoping to write a post in the middle of the month and select any semi finalists up to that point (midway through the competition).  So, I will hopefully read the first 30% of the first three books below and include them in that midway feedback.

I’d like to wish everyone the best of luck and I hope you all enjoy the competition.

Without further ado here are my six books for September:


Shadowof.jpgFrom the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court by Benedict Patrick

If you value your life, stay out of the forest.

As a captive of the Owl Queen’s Court, Nascha’s life has always been one knife’s edge away from disaster. But when she is threatened for nothing more than the colour of her hair, Nascha attempts the unthinkable: escape through the dreaded Magpie King’s forest.

Hunted by sharp toothed and sharper witted foxfolk, and hated by all for being a witch, Nascha fears herself doomed until she joins forces with a mysterious young man. With him she finds a glimmer of hope, even as her own unpredictable powers flicker into existence.

But hope is fleeting.

The forces arrayed against her are insurmountable, and Nascha soon comes to realise that pursuit of her own freedom will come at a greater cost to the forest. As the darkness closes in around them, Nascha is forced to ask:

At what price is she willing to purchase her life?

How dearly is she willing to sell it?

From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court is the fourth standalone book in Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld series, returning for the first time to the setting of the #1 bestseller They Mostly Come Out At Night.

Author Info:


Living in.jpgLiving in Times of Dragons by John A Pretorius

“…as with everything in my life all this began with dreams…”

American ex-pat, father and widower, Roger Rommel, did not believe in dragons. Unfortunately they did not return the sentiment.

After returning from a self-imposed exile to his adopted country of South Africa, Roger is confronted by these legendary fire-breathing reptiles who risked exposing their hidden world simply to hunt him. Gifted with the ability to create and enter dreams, as well as to see the future, he tries to survive and protect his son from enemies he does not understand.

But the past is alive, and he finds himself linked to a conflict thousands of years old. The world he knew is now stranger, more fantastic and terrifying than he truly knew, especially when everyone is out to get you.

Author Info:


TheShadow.jpgThe Shadow Watch by S.A Klopfenstein

For centuries, the Oshan Empire has ruled the New World with terror and blood. The Watchers have been eradicated, and their sorcery is but a whispered myth. But the heart of magic beats on, and as it surges back to life, three young people will determine the fate of the world…

Tori Burodai, a strong-willed slave girl. Her magic could ignite a revolution, but only if she resists the ruler who wants to use her powers to restore the empire to its former glory.

Darien Redvar, the idealistic soldier she loves. His rage leads him down a dark path to power that could turn him against the one person he cares for.

Kale Andovier, a lordling rebel with a torturous past. His quest for a weapon of dark sorcery will thrust him into a twisted game of power that could change the world forever.

Will the return of magic transform the New World, or bring it to ruin?

Author Info:


Earthcore.jpgEarthcore by Grace Bridges

Superpowers from hot springs? Who knew? 

Anira thinks her family’s trip to Rotorua, New Zealand, will be a week of grudging participation as she fights off a latent phobia of volcanoes.

But this place has ancient secrets she could never have imagined. For its natural geology and untamed thermal forces hold a hidden power–one that transforms those gifted by the spirits of the land.

Now Anira finds herself possessing abilities she has never known. There are others like her–young and old, both good and evil…And the legendary guardians have a job for them to do. Together they are caught up in a race against the developer intent on destroying the natural springs that are the home of the ancients and the source of their powers.

Author Info:


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

Whimsical and poignant, Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights tells the story of Thomas Farmer who dreams of becoming a knight, sets out to save his brother from the hands of an evil Baron, and uncovers a plot that threatens Camelot itself. Along the way, he befriends a series of misfits including an allegedly reformed evil wizard, a shrinking giantess with a latent gift, a veteran knight with a dark secret, and his best friend Philip the Exceptionally Unlucky.

In the end, his friends must all join forces and Thomas must come to grips with what it means to be a true hero if they are to outwit the evil Baron. At its heart, Sir Thomas’s tale is the story of a young man growing up and learning what it means to be a hero in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

Author Info:


Strings of.jpgStrings of Chance by Jeff Pryor

Life is a song, sing it well!

Edson Pye is the greatest bard in all of Elraon. Unfortunately, nobody else has figured this out yet. An annual competition in the city of Vonst provides an opportunity to validate his claims, while a chance encounter springs him toward the fame he so desperately covets…though at what cost?

Wanting only wine, women, and an audience for his music, Edson instead finds himself drawn into an increasingly tangled web of schemes centered around a mysterious murder. His growing fame, coupled with an aggressive manager, puts him in front of crowds larger than he ever imagined…can he live up to his own hype?

Edson’s trio of desires continuously spark misadventures, compelling him to confront his own flaws and decide what kind of person he wants to be, all while moving on an unavoidable path toward a confrontation with his greatest rival.

Author Info: