#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 Ruthless Magic (Conspiracy of Magic #1) by Megan Crewe


RuthlessMagicRuthless Magic is the sixth finalist I’ve read as part of the SPFBO.   Ruthless Magic is a book that follows a group of young people who are taking part in a, well, ruthless exam that is their final hope to hold onto their magical ability.  Basically, at the age of 16 all magical novices are assessed by the Confederation of Mages.  Some will pass the assessment while others will not and for those who fail their magic will be muted.  The only hope is to declare for the Mages Exam and hope to become a champion – but hope more to simply survive.

I enjoyed Ruthless Magic but it didn’t completely win me over as I had a number of issues that I wanted more information on.  Obviously, the second book might deliver on those issues so time will tell.  First a bit more about the story.

We follow two main POVs.  Finn, who comes from a family of high standing within the magical community.  His own talents are mediocre at best and yet in spite of this he passes his assessment without any problems, for which he feels a great deal of guilt, especially as his close friend fails her own assessment even though she has far more talent.  Finn is aware of his own privileged background and because of his awareness of the unfairness he declares for the Mages Exam – even though he could be killed during the process.  Rocio is a young woman from the wrong sides of the tracks.  Her magical ability is outstanding and yet she fails the assessment.  She also declares for the exam even though her brother was killed taking part a couple of years earlier.  There are a number of other characters but Finn and Rocio are the central protagonists and they develop not only a firm friendship during the days of the exam but also become romantically involved.  To be honest, I don’t have a problem with the romantic aspects here, they weren’t overdone, although there is a serious case of instalove going on.

The world building.  This is one of the areas that I struggled with a little.  I think there was insufficient information to really help me draw a mental picture.  This is a modern setting, there are cars mentioned and other modern day items – the clothing described included jeans, etc.  But, this was one of my first issues.  We have a modern setting in which certain people have magical ability.   I can get on board with that easily enough but I struggled to come to grips with such a contemporary setting wherein brutal exams, where children frequently die, take place and yet there is no public outcry.  It just doesn’t sit well for me, it’s a little like saying we have a modern day setting of Rome where gladiators still take part in games to the death.  We’ve moved on, we’ve changed.  For me, if you’re going to have a world, so resembling our own but with something that is so fundamentally at odds, then there needs to be an explanation of sorts. I would like a little bit of history of the hows and whys this world has reached this point.  Again, this might come in the next instalment but for this read it left me feeling slightly agitated.

The characters.  I quite liked both Rocio and Finn.  They’re both likable people who are determined to do what’s right in a world that is determined to treat them unfairly.  They’re very different in terms of upbringing and yet they’re both ‘nice people’.  However, I can’t deny that I quite often lost track of which character I was reading about – their voices weren’t distinct enough for me and I found if I didn’t pay particular attention to the chapter headings then it sometimes led to confusion and back tracking.

In terms of the story itself.  I liked the idea of the Mage Exam itself but I found the similarity to the Hunger Games just a bit much, particularly the final event.  That won’t be a problem if you haven’t read the Hunger Games of course but I just found it to be too familiar.  Don’t get me wrong, I really liked The Hunger Games, but I think if you’re going to do something so similar you have to own it, there has to be something that makes it rise above somehow and I didn’t really feel that here.

I enjoyed the writing and thought the pacing was good, I’m not sure that I would read this series further but I would certainly pick up more by this author in the future.

I realise this probably comes across as quite negative, which isn’t my intention.  I think there will be plenty of readers who will enjoy this and I certainly wouldn’t want to persuade others not to give it a shot.  I can be a little bit like a dog with a bone when I become stuck on an issue where I feel the information is lacking and I admit it can become a real distraction for me.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

I would rate Ruthless Magic as 6.5 out of 10 for the SPFBO or 3 out of 5 on Goodreads.





#SPFBO – Finalists No.6 and No.7


Today I’m highlighting the sixth and seventh 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 .  My reviews for Symphony of the Wind and The Anointed are here and here.  My reviews for Sowing and Aching God will follow very soon.  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 next two finalists will be:

RuthlessMagicRuthless Magic (Conspiracy of Magic #1) by Megan Crewe

In the contest to keep their magic, the only options may be die… or kill.

Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages’ Exam.

Disadvantaged by her parents’ low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling—and determined to fight to keep her magic.

Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth.

Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies—and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win?

The first in a new series by USA Today bestselling author Megan Crewe, Ruthless Magic combines the magic of Harry Potter with the ferocity of The Hunger Games alongside a poignant romance. Fans of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, look no further for your next urban fantasy fix.


TheGodsofMenThe Gods of Men (The Gods of Men #1) by Barbara Kloss

Sable hated the gods. She hated what men did in their name.

Magic is forbidden throughout the Five Provinces; those born with it are hunted and killed. Sable doesn’t know her music holds power over souls—not until, at age nine, she plays her flute before the desert court and accidentally stops her baby sister’s heart, killing her. Horrified by what she’s done and fearing for her life, she flees north, out of Provincial jurisdiction and into the frigid land of exiles and thieves, known as The Wilds. There, Sable lives in hiding, burdened by guilt, and survives as a healer. But now, ten years later, someone—or something—is hunting her.

On the run again, Sable’s best chance for survival is Jos, a lethal man from the Five Provinces, who claims to need her skills as a healer to save his dying father, and she needs the large sum of money he’s offered. There’s something about him Sable doesn’t trust, but she doesn’t have many options. A spirit of the dead is hunting her, summoned by a mysterious necromancer, and it’s getting closer.

Sable soon discovers she’s just the start of the necromancer’s plan to take over the Five Provinces, and she’s the only one with the power to stop it. But harnessing her forbidden power means revealing it to the world, and the dangerous Provincial, Jos, she’s beginning to fall for.

Fans of Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, and Victoria Schwab will love this dark and epic fantasy adventure.