#SPFBO 2018 – all wrapped up

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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 Orconomics (The Dark Profit Saga #1) by J. Zachary Pike

OrconomicsOrconomics is my final review for this year’s SPFBO competition and it seems purely by chance I’ve saved what turned out to be my best for last.  Upfront and the TL:DR version is 9.5 out of 10 for this book.  A very enjoyable read that surpassed my expectations.

To be totally frank, when I started Orconomics I really didn’t think it was going to work out for me at all.  Satires can be hit and miss after all, particularly if you’re not quite in the right sort of mood when you pick the book up, and I would say that I was in the wrong sort of mood when I started this so it certainly had its work cut out.  And yet, here I am about to sing its praises.  In short this is a book that takes a sharp look at conflict – who benefits from war and how to make a business out of it whilst at the same time taking a good look at prejudice and the deliberate ‘turning of a blind eye’ to things that are blatantly and grossly unfair.  Okay, I’ve probably made that sound quite serious when in actual fact this is a highly entertaining story that takes your typical swords and sorcery quest and gives it a different spin.

I’m not going to say too much about the plot to be honest but instead speak about the world, the characters and my overall feelings.

Orconomics brings to us the world of Arth.  This is a world where being a hero doesn’t involve spontaneously rushing into the fray to do what is right but taking on actual jobs as a professional.  The Heroes’ Guild is responsible for all aspects of hero work, awarding work, classifying heros, etc.  Basically this is a world with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and very little grey in between.  Shadowkin are ‘bad’ – so think of orcs, trolls, dragons, etc – they’re all bad.  On the opposite side we have the ‘good’ – the heroes and elves, halflings, humans, etc.  The heroes are responsible for eliminating Shadowkin – however, this is usually based on how much profit can be made from the endeavour and in fact the whole economy of the city revolves around these money making quests with people bidding on the amount of profit to be made in a sort of mock up version of the stock market.  So, being a hero has very little to do with saving or rescuing and all to do with money making, in fact the heroes themselves are little more than a commodity.  Now, this doesn’t allow any in between for those trolls or ogres who might just be trying to get on with life does it – basically, if you’re Shadowkin, and you have a stash of cash – you’re doomed.  Smaug would have been a prime target with his horde.  Now, if that sounds a little convoluted lets just say that’s my fault and not the books.  I would say this is a very easy book to understand and the reason I know this is because I understood it!  I wanted to raise this more to point out that questing has become first and foremost a money making business.

So, with that in mind we have our characters.

Gorm is a disgraced dwarf.  Formerly a member of the Heroes’ Guild with a fearsome reputation as a berserker he was cast out after running away from a battle and years later is little more than a thief trying to stay alive.  As the story begins Gorm saves the life of a Goblin, mistakenly known at Gleebek for the first part of the story but whose actual name is Tib’rin – one of the many ways in which language can be a barrier  – Gorm is basically a good person, he takes Tib’rin on as his squire ensuring that he has the correct papers that allow him to work and from therein the two become involved in an impossible quest with a bunch of similarly disgraced heroes – all of them keen to use the opportunity to redeem themselves.

The rest of the crew include a she-elf ranger with an addiction problem.  A bard who is really a reformed thief who can’t hold a tune, a former warrior, now weapons master who seems to have a deathwish, two mages who have a hate/hate relationship and the leader of the expedition, Niles, a scribe and prophesied Seventh Hero (although he himself came up with the prophecy so it doesn’t hold too much weight!).  I don’t think I’ve missed anyone off the list although there is a secret addition to the group later on in the book. You’ll just have to read it to find out more.  My lips are sealed.  So, if you include the secret member and the Goblin squire – nine members, almost like the Fellowship.

In fact there are lots of references throughout the book which I really enjoyed picking up although I’m sure I missed plenty along the way – for example Bolbi Baggs (Bilbo?) one half of the money making finance endeavour Goldson and Baggs (Goldman Sachs). Anyway, I won’t inundate you with more of these references as they’re best discovered whilst reading – although I probably skipped over many as I raced through the pages.

In terms of criticisms – and probably the only reason why this isn’t a perfect score – is that the beginning took a little time to get things moving to a point where I really wanted the quest to just start and, on top of that, the characters felt a little flat at first – thankfully I became attached to them as the story really kicked in which did make certain elements at the end a little bitter sweet – but there again lies the path of spoilers so my lips are twice sealed.

Small issues aside this was a very entertaining read.  It won me over quite easily after my initial reservations and feels like a really unique way of looking at topical issues in a fantasy setting.  The other thing that occurred to me is that this would probably be suitable for YA readers – I’d maybe have to go back and check but I don’t recall there being any profanity or sex and the battle scenes are not visceral or bloody – somebody chuck me a bone here and tell me if I’m wrong or not??   I will definitely read more from this series, particularly as this book is such a perfect set up for what promises to be an excellent second instalment.

I rate this 9.5 out of 10 for the purposes of the SPFBO competition and 4.5 out of 5 for Goodreads.

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

 

 

#SPFBO – Finalists No.8 and No.9

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Today I’m highlighting the final two books that I will be reading this month for the SPFBO Competition (more details here).  The reviews for the finalists I’ve read to date are below.  My review for Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss will follow shortly.  The purpose of this post is to shine a spotlight on the finalists and give readers a chance to see what they’re all about.  As already mentioned all my books are randomly selected and my final two books will be:

We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

WeRideWar built the Kisian Empire and war will tear it down. And as an empire falls, three warriors rise.

Caught in a foreign war, Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors will have to fight or die. Their honour code is all they have left until orders from within stress them to breaking point, and the very bonds that hold them together will be ripped apart.

Cassandra wants the voice in her head to go away. Willing to do anything for peace, the ageing whore takes an assassination contract that promises answers, only the true price may be everyone and everything she knows.

A prisoner in her own castle, Princess Miko doesn’t dream of freedom but of the power to fight for her empire. As the daughter of a traitor the path to redemption could as easily tear it, and her family, asunder.

As an empire dies they will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

Orconomics by J Zachary Pike

Orconomics.jpgBrimming with swords, sorcery, and wit, Orconomics: A Satire introduces Arth, a world much like our own but with more magic and fewer vowels. For the licensed wizards and warriors of Arth, slaying and looting the forces of evil is just a job. The Heroes’ Guild has turned adventuring into a career, selling the rights to monsters’ hoards of treasure as investment opportunities. Corporations spend immense sums sponsoring heroes to undertake quests, betting they’ll reap the profits in plunder funds when the loot is divvied up.

Questing was all business for famous Dwarven berserker Gorm Ingerson, until a botched expedition wiped out his party, disgraced his name, and reduced him to a thieving vagabond. Twenty years later, a chance encounter sees Gorm forcibly recruited by a priest of a mad goddess to undertake a quest that has a reputation for getting heroes killed. But there’s more to Gorm’s new job than an insane prophecy; powerful corporations and governments have shown an unusual interest in the job. Gorm might be able to turn a bad deal into a golden opportunity and win back the fame and fortune he lost so long ago.

Promising fun, fantasy, and financial calamity, Orconomics: A Satire is the first book in The Dark Profit Saga, an economically epic trilogy.

 

The finalists I’ve read so far and reviewed: