#SPFBO Review (3): Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens

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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.  Stage 1 is now complete and the finalists can be found here. My first and second finalist reviews can be found here and here.

The third book I’ve read for Stage 2 of the SPFBO Competition was Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens.  This is a very unique book in many ways, oil lit fantasy, based around the 18th Century, there is mention of swords and old fashioned style ships (I was picturing clippers) and also the use of gunpowder and guns.  The world here is also full of magic that uses an unseen (to some) form of energy known as the Faze.

As the book sets off we witness a tense scene with a young family as their two baby boys are examined to determine their readiness for something called ‘the binding.  Now, I’m not totally sure that I fully understand the Binding so I won’t over elaborate.  It seems that everyone is bound as a child, this involves a rather nasty process of injecting a formula into the child to prevent them from madness as they grow older.  This also serves as some sort of control system dictating the future roles that people undertake.  Unfortunately, some children react badly to the procedure and this leads to death.  So, you can imagine that most parents are not too keen.  Guyen and Yemelyan are about to undergo this process when their father intercedes (quite forcibly).

We then jump forward (17/18 years).  The family are aboard a ship, escaping their home in Krell which is under attack.  Long story short they effectively find themselves living in the land of their enemies.  Allocated with harsh working assignments and living on the charity of friends the family manage to scrape a living until further tragedy strikes and this event is the catalyst and driving force for much of the story, although there is also some political intrigue and scheming playing a secondary role.

So, we’re told the story by Guyen. Fundamentally this is a quest of sorts.  Guyen is trying to find a cure for his brother who lies in a coma following an accident.  His life is changed when it is discovered that he is a purebound and he’s moved to the capital, to an elite type of school called The Gates to undergo training. Initially hating the idea Guyen quickly realises that he stands more chance of helping his brother by learning more about his abilities.  On the face of it this is the main focus of the story although there is another storyline that eventually surfaces and both eventually come together in a dramatic finale.

Okay, I had issues with this book that leave me in two minds but I’m going to start on a positive note.

This is well written, there is plenty of description and clearly the author has a vivid imagination and a clear idea of the world he’s created.  To be honest, I can’t fault the writing itself.  It’s easy to get on with and after a few, let’s call them teething problems, you could see that the author had really got into his stride.

In terms of the characters, primarily this focuses on Guyen.  There are obviously a number of others during the course of the story but the only real standout character was Mist – who was actually my favourite.  I found Guyen a little too brooding or sulky at first.  Don’t get me wrong, his life hadn’t been a bowl of cherries up to this point but even acknowledging this didn’t make it any easier to really like him. Mist on the other hand was a breath of fresh air.  Very upbeat and something of a mystery.  However, in spite of finding Guyen a little difficult at first I must confess that he does grow as the story progresses. He realises that not everyone hates immigrants, he allows people in and he actually starts to trust and care for others.  I enjoyed that aspect to his story arc and from a certain point in the book I found myself rooting for him but it took a long while.

Now, the issues that I had.  I mentioned above that the writing is easy to read – and genuinely I like the way the author writes, but there’s just too much detail and its distracting – like it prevents you from focusing on what’s really happening.  And this is from someone who loves attention to detail.  I practically wallow around in it – but, at the same time, I want it to be relevant and to help me understand what’s really taking place.  Now, some of the detail pertained to setting, and that’s fundamental to help you gain your footing and form a picture in your mind but I can honestly say that I think the first third of this could reasonably be condensed to a few chapters.  I know that probably sounds harsh and so I apologise to the author because I really don’t want to be offensive, but I think we could have started with Guyen already in the Gates and much of what took place before could have been provided in flashbacks or other devices.  As it is, I couldn’t help feeling that the first 20% (maybe 30%) slowed the pace dramatically and was a little detrimental to the overall enjoyment I had.

I have mixed feelings for this one.  There’s some really good content and clearly this author can write but the pacing issues and lack of attachment to the main character made this one a little bit of a struggle for me although in fairness I think the author managed to pull me back round and I would add that I particularly enjoyed the trial scene (but I won’t giveaway anything here about that).

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

My rating 6.5 out of 10


#SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #3

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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.  Stage 1 is now complete and the finalists can be found here .

During Stage 2 I will read, review and score the remaining 9 finalists as will the other judges until a winner is revealed.  As with previous years I have given each of the 9 books a number and randomly selected a reading order.  Today’s post is to highlight the third book I will be reading and provide information regarding that particular finalist.  The first finalist I read was Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire.  This was a great start to the finals and my review can be found here.  My second book was The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming which I posted my review for yesterday.  Today’s post is to highlight the third book I will be picking up.

My third finalist will be :

Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens

Nether Light is the finalist selected this year by The Fantasy Inn.  Their review can be found here and below is the description and author details:


Take a journey through a world punished by a dark, imprisoned magic. A world where children are given poison. A world where your talent is decided by the state.

A world where reality is breaking down.

When refugee Guyen washes up in the land of his enemy, he knows he will fight, but soon finds himself falling down a well of wonder and improbability.

Can he survive a system designed to oppress him? Can he tame his anger to unleash his potential? Can he see his enemy for what they truly are?

Nether Light is a gritty, heart-wrenching tale of high magic and high stakes, loves lost and friendships gained, set in an oil-lit, 18th century world far, far away.

And it’s full to the gills with epic fantasy, plotting, scheming, and racy, jaw-dropping, immersive adventure. What more could you ask for? 

For fans of Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Neil Gaiman, Mark Lawrence, V.E. Schwab, Ed McDonald, Brian McClellan.

Please note: This book contains mature themes.


Born in London in 1972, Shaun spent his formative years in the shadows of the dreaming spires of Oxford, before moving to Nottingham where he graduated with a degree in English and Media.

Shaun lives in Brighton, on the south coast of England, where he splits his time between fiction, geekdom, and garlic bread.

Find out more at shaunpaulstevens.com

Twitter : spstevenswriter

#SPFBO : Stage 1 Complete

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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 updates for batch 1batch 2batch 3, Batch 4 and Batch 5 by clicking on the links and my finalist announcement can be found here.

So, the first stage of the competition is now complete, 10 finalists have been chosen, the finalist page over at Mark Lawrence’s blog can be found here but for quick reference below are all the finalists with links to Goodreads:


Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw



The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin



The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson



Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher



Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin

Darkness Forged


Voice of War by Zack Argyle



The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming



A Wind From the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree



Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire



Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens



Congratulations to all the finalists and good luck in Stage 2 😀