#SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #1

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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 first book I will be reading and provide information regarding that particular finalist.

Without further ado my first finalist will be :

Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire

Shadow of a Dead God is the finalist selected this year by Fantasy Faction.  Their review can be found here and below is the description and author details:

Shadow

A dead god. A brutal murder. A second-rate mage.

It was only supposed to be one little job – a simple curse-breaking for Mennik Thorn to pay back a favor to his oldest friend. But then it all blew up in his face. Now he’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit.

So how is a second-rate mage, broke, traumatized, and with a habit of annoying the wrong people supposed to prove his innocence when everyone believes he’s guilty?

Mennik has no choice if he wants to get out of this: he is going to have to throw himself into the corrupt world of the city’s high mages, a world he fled years ago. Faced by supernatural beasts, the mage-killing Ash Guard, and a ruthless, unknown adversary, it’s going to take every trick Mennik can summon just to keep him and his friend alive.

But a new, dark power is rising in Agatos, and all that stands in its way is one damaged mage…

Author:

PSPatrick Samphire is the author of the adult fantasy novel SHADOW OF A DEAD GOD, as well as the middle grade novels SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and THE EMPEROR OF MARS. He has also published around twenty short stories and novellas.

Patrick has been writing stories since he was fourteen years old and thought it would be a good way of avoiding having to sit through English lessons at school. He was absolutely convinced that he would be famous by the time he was eighteen, but sadly, even infamy has eluded him.

He lives in Wales, surrounded by mountains, with his wife, their sons, and their cat.

When he’s not writing, he designs websites and ebooks.

He will now stop talking about himself in the third person.

Twitter : patricksamphire

#SPFBO Review : The Child of Silence by Joseph O.Doran (The Burning Orbit Book 1)

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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.  My recent update in which I announced further cuts and two semi-finalists can be found here.

This week and next I will be posting reviews for the ten books I rolled forward to read fully.  Hopefully five reviews this week followed by an update and cuts and semi finalist announcements on Saturday.  I will then repeat this format the following week. I won’t be posting a rating for the books at this point.

ChildofsilenceChild of Silence is a remarkable book in so many ways and one that I enjoyed reading.

This is a story told by Aiata dal’Pelferta, daughter of Telorla dal’Pelferta (mpress to Calosoa) and fourth in line to rule the nation.  During childbirth Aiata suffered from a lack of oxygen which left her dependent on others for virtually all her basic everyday requirements.  For the most part she is disregarded, her mother and family believe she has no intelligence or cognisant abilities and she is treated, at best, with disgust and fear or, at worst, ill used and abused by one of her brothers who enjoys tormenting (aka torturing) her when he deigns to notice her at all.  She is frequently neglected and left to sit in discomfort in her room, however, the inattention of others allows her to enjoy the only thing which gives her any respite.  Aiata loves to eavesdrop and the fact that people regard her as passive means she is often overlooked or left in nooks and crannies where she can overhear conversations which are private or scandalous.  

So, as the book starts we get a feel for the world and how things are in the capital city of Chalorne.  The City sits on a mountain with concentric rings progressing downwards.  The higher the tier the more prosperous, affluent or noble, with the palace at the very peak.  The lower rings are inhabited by labourers who primarily suffer abject poverty and hunger.  The levels are connected by a skyway that magically transports people from level to level at superfast speeds.  The Colasoa are believed to be God’s touched and in fact they believe themselves far superior to everyone else.  They have magical ability known as Songthrust which works very similarly to compulsion and allows them control of their servants, army and the rest of the casted population.

There are a number of key characters.  Aiata narrates the story.  As the story begins she can be a little difficult to like.  She’s definitely bought into the whole ‘superiority’ feelings that the Colasoa believe and she can have some not altogether ‘nice’ thoughts on occasion.  But, I cut her some slack, her life is difficult to say the least and as the story progresses Aiata’s character arc is very impressive. Aiata has two brothers and a sister.  Her eldest brother, Bachan, is the only one to treat her with any sort of kindness.  Her other brother and sister, Jeliv and Keia, treat Aiata absolutely atrociously often resorting to outright torture.  On top of this Aiata is cared for by a clerica and eventually she accrues an impressive network of spies within the palace.  She also strikes a friendship with one of the Couriers.  The Couriers are feared and respected.  They wear special armour and helmets that give them, speed and strength plus the ability to read people’s thoughts and emotions.

The plot.  Well, there are quite a number of threads going on here.  The Calosoa are a nation intent on rule.  They wage on war on others, the defeated swell their ranks of servers and their coffers with wealth – although they don’t see fit to distribute this wealth and that feeds into another element of the plot – rebellion.  On top of this there are court politics with lots of jostling between the Empress and her children.  There is also another element to the story that I won’t elaborate on here but is an interesting development.

What I really enjoyed with this book is that the author has come up with a MC who is so very different from what I’m accustomed to.  Aiata has so many hurdles to overcome and really struggles.  And, the way she is written answered my little niggles or queries as the book progressed with a particularly impressive character arc.

In terms of criticisms.  Okay, I’m going to be brutally frank here and I will apologise for that upfront, but, this is over long.  Clearly, this is a labour of love and that shines through but at the same time there is just too much detail.  Even to the extent that  during action scenes there will be descriptions of the surroundings, which kind of lessens the momentum and pulls you out of the moment.  To be fair, as I already said, I do understand the desire to include everything and the world building is so rich with such a lot going on that no doubt it’s difficult to be ruthless with the red pen, but, this wordiness almost made me DNF this book and that would have been a real shame.  

In spite of the above though, I still thought this was an impressive read and I would recommend it.  You have to stick with the characters and the slightly bloated introduction to get to the real thrust of the story.

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

 

 

 

#SPFBO Review : Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #1) by Shami Stovall

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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.  My recent update in which I announced further cuts and two semi-finalists can be found here.

This week and next I will be posting reviews for the ten books I rolled forward to read fully.  Hopefully five reviews this week followed by an update and cuts and semi finalist announcements on Saturday.  I will then repeat this format the following week. I won’t be posting a rating for the books at this point.

KnightmareKnightmare Arcanist is set in a world full of magic and mythical creatures.  It’s a very enjoyable story that gets off to a really good start and in fact it pulled me in  immediately.  We meet Volke, apprentice gravedigger who longs to be an Arcanist.  To become an arcanist one must bond with a magical creature and as the book kicks off we find Volke gate-crashing a phoenix bonding trial hoping to bond with a phoenix himself.  Failing the trial Volke is still determined to follow his ambitions and he and his sister travel to a swamp where a boat carrying magical beasts is believed to have crashed.  The two both eventually succeed in finding and bonding with a magical creature.

From here we travel to a magical school (set on the back of a gigantic turtle) and the real adventures begin.

There are so many aspects that I really enjoyed about this book and I was  gripped almost immediately.  It really does get off to a very quick start.  We’re thrown into the world and there’s no tippy-toeing around.  I also love the whole idea of these young characters bonding with a magical creature that will enable them to wield magic – and of course there’s the magic school element.  Plus, the main mystery.  Let’s not forget the mystery.

The magical creatures are very interesting and Volke’s own bonded creature particularly so.  A Knightmare is a creature of shadow, in fact it can use the shadows in different ways.  It can take the form of a knight and can actually ‘join’ with it’s bonded human to fight.  Unfortunately Volke finds the bonding and use of magic very difficult, in fact painful, much more so than his fellow students.

The world building was also intriguing.  A terrible plague is spreading across the land, magical creatures touched with the plague become dark versions of themselves, insane and unstable and this disease can also affect humans, particularly if they’re bitten by an infected creature.  Arcanists are desperate to find a cure but travelling between islands is rendered dangerous by the number of pirates sailing the seas.

The characters.  There is a good cast, primarily of young adult characters faced with the sorts of dilemmas you would expect.  There is bullying and petty rivalry but also a really good attempt to build up lasting friendships.  Volke and his sister Ilia are joined by Zaxis and Atty, the two young adults who took part in the initial trials and bonded with a phoenix each.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I will point out before saying anything else that this was a very enjoyable book that kept me entertained.  That being said, I probably enjoyed the start of the book more than the conclusion – which is a little unusual in some respects because the conclusion is certainly action packed.  I think I had a slight feeling that the second half needed to pace itself a little more.  I also had a couple of slight irritations here or there which were predominantly as a result of feeling that some things just came too easily.  There’s also this element at the school of teachers not teaching at all – just telling students to do something without any sort of explanation and the mysterious disappearance of adults for large portions of time.  But, saying all this, I recognise that I’m not maybe the target audience here and none of these were real deal breakers.

Overall this is an action packed, dramatic adventure with critters aplenty, intriguing magic, trials, schools, pirates and a central mystery just waiting to be solved and as first books in series go it’s a very solid start indeed.

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

#SPFBO : Semi-Finalist and Cuts Announcement

Posted On 19 October 2020

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 14 responses

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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.

During the past week I have reviewed five of the ten books that I rolled forward.  Today I am announcing the first cuts from that batch of five together with the first semi finalists.  I would say that these cuts have been very difficult because I’ve enjoyed all of the books from both batches and so the decision comes down to really very minor issues.  My apologies to the authors from this next round of cuts and congratulations to the Semi Finalists.

The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice

I had a good time with the Usurper and really enjoyed the two different timelines.  Other than a couple of minor issues I think this is a series that I would really enjoy and fans of grimdark fantasy with a dash of heroic adventure might enjoy this one.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Cut

Usurper

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

The Hammer of the Gods is a tongue in cheek adventure that pokes a little fun at many well known characters, myths and gods from the fantasy genre.  If you don’t mind a bit of creative cursing and sexual references and a crazy and mixed up tale of two unlikely characters trying to change their way in life then this is a very promising start to series even with a slightly abrupt ending. My review is here.

Conclusion : Cut

TheHammer

Incursion (The Necromancer’s Key #1) by Mitchell Hogan

A tale of epic fantasy, on the face of it a story of good vs evil, scratch the surface and everything isn’t so clear cut of course.  Two characters discover there is more to their magic and in a realm of unrest dark abilities must remain hidden.  This is an impressive piece of writing and promises very good things to come.  I only had minor issues in terms of the level of detail but nothing that spoiled the read.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Cut

Incursion

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez

Calico Thunder is a really very easy to read tale of a circus.  Set in an era of prohibition and speakeasies the bans here are on magic use not alcohol.  Calico Thunder is a dragon and part of the circus act.  Jake Strickland inherited the circus from his father.  Unfortunately he also inherited some rather huge problems at the same time and his attempts to solve said problems are the main driver of the story.  A very enjoyable read.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Semi-finalist

Calico

The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick

I had such a good time reading Flight of the Darkstar Dragon.  The imagination and world building are absolutely fascinating.  This is a purple world where a dragon encircles the sun and rifts act as portals to other worlds.  A winning combination of super world building with the promise of many adventures yet to come.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Semi-finalist

Flightof

#SPFBO Review : The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick

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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.

This week and next I will be posting reviews for the ten books I rolled forward to read fully.  Hopefully five reviews this week followed by an update and cuts and semi finalist announcements on Saturday.  I will then repeat this format the following week. I won’t be posting a rating for the books at this point.

FlightofThe Flight of the Darkstar Dragon has to have one of the most fascinating settings that I can recall reading for some time.  I had a really good time reading this, it’s incredibly creative and very well written.  The world building aspect almost puts me in mind of Pratchett where the number of possibilities feel infinite and there’s a certain charm about the story that creates a flavour of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland.  Plus, the unique world of the Darkstar Dimension and the number of prospects for exploration that it offers gave me Startrek vibes – simply because Min can, and will, boldly go (although, to be clear, there is no spaceship or space travel here).

As the story sets out we are thrown immediately into a bizarre situation.  The crew of the Melodious Narwhal, a skyship powered by magic, have been thrown to the deck (literally) and are all beginning to awaken from some sort of stupor and are all suffering from collective amnesia.  Min Choi, First Officer onboard, needs to pull herself together quickly and reassert command, especially as the skyship seems to have lost all power and is plummeting out of control.

Now, I’m not really going to elaborate too much on the plot.  I think it’s more important to give an outline of the world here and the characters that we spend time with.  This isn’t to say that the plot isn’t entertaining, because it is, but I think this has a first in series feel with plenty of elements being established which means certain elements feel a little more sketchy.  This isn’t a criticism I hasten to add.  I was totally immersed with this book and found myself really enjoying Min’s story.

So, to the setting  It’s difficult to pin this down and I have no doubt that my thoughts are going to be a mess.  The Darkstar Dimension is a world almost in reverse, or maybe more correctly a world that defies physics.  Everything here has a purple hue, the sun is encircled by a huge hungry dragon, fish can fly and a multitude of rifts can be seen that are constantly in motion.  The dragon I mentioned, due to its mammoth size, is continually hungry and sometimes steals magic from other realities creating rifts (and stranded people).  These rifts are perpetually in motion around the sun and the dragon which allows travel to different places as rifts become close enough to journey to.

There are a number of characters.  Min is the First Officer. She’s only recently graduated and so, although she’s been given command of the skyship she isn’t a captain – and this is a bone of contention with some of the crew who never miss an opportunity to snipe at her.  She seems to be constantly trying to win approval and yet in fairness, if not for her quick thinking, they’d all probably be long since dead.  We have a scholar on board called Abalendu, basically he’s the son of an Admiral in search of a mythical land.  His father gave the posting to Min thinking it would be good experience!  Zoya is a warrior taken on as a bodyguard to Abalendu.  She wears a magical artefact known as a Parasite Glove which gives her great strength and speed but comes at a cost (as the name implies).  Jedda is the Ship’s artificer, constantly relied upon to come up with impossible solutions.  FInally, we meet a new character called Brightest.  Brightest found himself similarly stranded in the Darkstar Dimension but seems to have made a home there.  Well, a mud tower constructed upon the back of a turtlemoth called Stickle.

There is drama, fascinating travel to some really crazy places and a general feel that there is so much more in the pipeline to look forward to.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, this is only fairly short and yet there’s a lot to fit in.  I think the setting steals the show in this instalment with the characters and plot playing second fiddle – but, I don’t think that’s a problem because the world building has me not only intrigued but hooked.

I can safely say that I would love to read more of Min’s adventures to infinity and beyond.  Sign me up.

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

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