The #SPFBO 2017

Posted On 20 May 2017

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It’s difficult to believe but the #SPFBO 2016 is all wrapped up with a wonderful winning entry and lots of incredibly enjoyable books to read.  There are lots of blog posts out there to read about but I’ll point you in the general direction of Mark Lawrence’s blog to get a general feel for what went on.  The winner – which you should definitely read – was the Grey Bastards by Jonathan French – and believe me when I say you should read quite a few -or a lot – of the other entrants because there were some awesome reads.

Now, I did intend to write a much fuller piece of my experience taking part and in fact I probably will do so because I thought it had such a good feel – but, for now, this is just a quick post to let you know that the SPFBO ’17 is about to commence.  Yes, that’s right, we’re going for our third year and hopefully it will be as awesome as last year.

As I said, a fuller post will follow, this is just a quick heads up.  The details are here.

That is all for me today.  More to follow.  In the meantime thank you to everyone who took part in the #SPFBO ’16.  A huge thanks especially to all the authors who put their work forward for review – there wouldn’t be any SPFBO without you after all 😀  And, good luck to everyone this year.

Watch this space for my list of books for 2017.

Remember people – there can be only one.

 

Assassin’s Charge (Echoes of Imara) by Claire Frank

assassinsAssassin’s Charge was my final SPFBO book and was the entrant put forward to the final stages by The Bibliosanctum.  It’s an enjoyable read and I found it very easy to get along with although it had a few issues that perhaps stopped it from really blowing me away.

The story begins with an introduction to Rhisia Sen.  Rhis is an assassin, quite possibly the best at what she does.  She lives a very comfortable lifestyle and can afford to be picky about the jobs she takes.  When Rhis is offered an incredibly lucrative job, quite possibly a payday that will enable her to give up work completely, she decides, against her better judgement and the fact that the location is not ideal, to take it.  Of course, a thing that is too good to be true, more often than not turns out to be exactly that.  Rhis finds herself in the unenviable situation of finally finding the line she won’t cross.  The target is a young boy and although it will be a black mark on her reputation she’s unable to go through with the assassination.  Unfortunately, swift upon the heels of this revelation Rhis discovers that a contract is out on her head and she is forced to make a difficult choice.  In order to save the boy from future contracts and also to give herself time to find out why she is now a target she must take the boy and keep him alive.  Of course from hereon in this becomes a fast paced chase across the country as Rhis searches for clues about the boy (Asher) whilst trying to find allies and stay one step ahead of the game – which isn’t easy with the empire set against you, would be assassins second guessing your every move and a ruthless bounty hunter hounding you relentlessly.

What I really liked about this.

I enjoyed the writing, clearly this isn’t Fuller’s first novel and I think that shows.  The story is very easy to read with a good pace, entertaining fight scenes and likeable characters.

The characters are well drawn, particularly Rhis.  At the start of the story she’s not particularly likeable to be honest, and in fairness I don’t think she should be.  She’s an assassin after all and suffers no qualms about killing people for a purse of gold.  Basically you can assume this makes her a somewhat cold and calculating character and as the story starts I would say that is the case and evident in that she has no attachments and treats people a little high handedly even her reasoning for taking Asher is not completely altruistic.  What I think CF gets absolutely right here is a slow development and realisation on Rhis’s part that she’s allowed her protective wall to fall and actually started to care about other people rather than simply looking after No.1.  This was a really good and convincing story arc.  Asher is also an enjoyable character to read about although in parts his story is a little bit predictable and also not quite as satisfying in that I don’t feel I have the full picture even now.

In terms of my niggles.  I don’t think the world building is particularly strong – personally, I don’t really mind that it had a generic type feel (more about that in a moment) but, I think coupled with a plot that quite quickly settles into a series of slightly repetitive episodes of flee, fight, escape, rinse and repeat then the two things taken together just hold the book back a little.  In fairness to the author I checked out her page on Goodreads and I think, although I could be wrong, that Assassin’s Charge seems to be a companion novel in her Echoes of Imara series.  Obviously if you’re already reading that series and you read Assassin’s Charge I imagine it segues in as an enjoyable character story in a world that is already very well developed.  I particularly enjoyed a couple of the adventures such as the visit to the library and the climb up into the mountains to find a deserted and ghostly village.  I would have liked more from both of those stories to be honest but again I wonder if these in some way play into the books already out there.  You could argue that each book, even in a series, should have enough for a reader to come along and pick it up on it’s own merits and to be read alone.  It is a difficult line to walk between repetition for established readers and lack of detail for new ones.  I think Assassin’s Charge manages to stand on it’s own two feet really well, it lacks a bit of substance but not in a way that detracted from the read in fact quite the opposite really because it has made me want to investigate the rest of the series to see if this does indeed hail from the same world.

Overall this was an entertaining read.  I did have a few issues but nothing that made me lack interest and I would be keen to see how well this book sits with the rest of the series.

 

 

The Moonlight War by SKS Perry

moonlight warThe Moonlight War was one of the SPFBO finalist books and I must admit that I found it a very enjoyable read, there were a couple of areas where I thought there was room for improvement but overall I had no problem at all in making steady headway through the story and was keen to see how things panned out.

As the story begins we learn of problems being experienced on the Cowcheanne Way where entire caravans and platoons of soldiers have gone missing.  Nobody seems to know what to believe amongst the rumours of bandits and uprisings but one theory that seems to grow in strength is the rise of the Horde and the return of the Ukhami as a result.  Many years ago the Horde were the enemy of the nation.  In a desperate bid to survive them magic was used to create fearsome and beast like warriors known as the Ukhami.   Unfortunately that magic has long since been lost to the ages and if the Ukhami have indeed returned then controlling them is going to be critical to survival.

Now we have a caravan of merchants needing to travel, they seek to join Lord Myobi who is also travelling with his entourage and a team of elite soldiers.  Added to this, following a petition to the King, is an escort including the King’s niece, Princess Setanna.  The main plot is fairly simple in that it becomes a quest for survival.  There are of course underlying motives for some of the leading characters and these will become clear along the way and the outcome is a fairly gripping journey with a number of desperate battles.

What I particularly enjoyed about The Moonlight War was the characters.  I thought the author did a great job with them – and there are actually quite a few to focus on – but they’re all very distinct with their own back stories and personalities.  The place portrayed, well, I wouldn’t say that I found anything particularly distinctive about it.  It seems to be the home to two very distinct people in the Kel-tii and the Ashai who are currently enjoying a tentative peace of sorts, although this doesn’t actually extend to the two really liking each other, in fact ignorance of each other’s way and prejudice are fairly rife between the two groups.

In terms of the main characters I’ll give a brief overview of the main ones.

We firstly make the introduction of Tasha O’Brienne.  Tasha is a man of mystery, something of a rogue character or outcast known as Hasa-Ni-Do – which, roughly means he stands alone (or something along those lines – apologies I can’t remember the exact meaning).  One thing that is abundantly clear about Tasha from fairly early on is that people fear him.  He’s an outstanding swordsman and fighter but is also greatly feared as people believe he has made a pact with demons.  Tasha becomes a key part of the caravan and indeed is accompanied by a young man of the Ashai people who owes Tasha a debt of honour.

Roclyn MacNaramara, Roc, was formerly a member of the nobility.  Fallen from grace he now uses his ability and charm to moonlight as a highway robber where his sophistication has earned him the nickname the Dark Gent.  He is constantly accompanied by two soldiers who have fought with him on many campaigns and the three of them provide the type of fun and banter that helps to inject humour into the story.

Lady Malaki is a seer and her skills are prized on such a journey.  She’s only a young woman and I would say out of all the characters is the one who I don’t really feel I know too much about at this stage but hopefully her part is set to become more important as her magical abilities increase.

Kieran is something of a surprise.  A young farm boy who joins the caravan as something of a rookie but takes everyone by storm with his sword skills.

Princess Setanna is in control of the whole motley crew and she runs a fairly tight ship, she certainly isn’t about to take any sexist nonsense about her leadership abilities.

To be honest, there are plenty more characters that I enjoyed spending time with but I won’t go into them all here.

As I said the characterisation is what made this such an enjoyable read for me.  The plot is a little bit thin on the ground and the set up takes a while, probably reaching about the first 50% of the book before any action really starts to kick in.  I didn’t mind the slow build, the author makes good use of the time to flesh out the characters and this attention to detail really helps you to form attachments which in turn increases the tension when it becomes clear that the caravan is being stalked.

I think my main niggle with the book was that certain elements were too obviously set up.  The most obvious being the relationships – don’t get me wrong because I quite enjoyed these in a way but they did feel a bit contrived, perhaps they needed a bit more time to develop – as it is these couples felt a little bit, not exactly unnatural – because the couples did go together well, just more that they felt like they were being used to move the plot along.

As it is this is a very enjoyable read and sets up the story perfectly for the next instalment which I would definitely pick up.

 

My 9th book: Final Stage: #SPFBO 16

FullSizeRender-10November 1st saw the start of the second stage of the SPFBO – the Self Published Fantasy Blog off organised by Mark Lawrence.  All the details can be found here.

Today I’m highlighting the final book that I will be reading for the SPFBO.  All the books have been drawn randomly and the books I’ve read so far are as follows:

  1. Shadow Soul by Caitlyn Davis, review here.
  2. Paternus by Dyrk Ashton (review here).
  3. The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French.
  4. Larcourt K A Krantz ( Fire Born, Blood Blessed #1) My review is here.
  5. Ráth Bládhma (Fionn mac Cumhaill #1) by Brian O’Sullivan, review here.
  6. The Music Box Girl by K.A. Stewart.  Review here.
  7. The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker.  Review here.
  8. The Moonlight War by SKS Perry – review to follow.

My final book is :

 

Assassin’s Charge (Echoes of Imara) by Claire Frank

assassinsA cold-hearted assassin. A boy with a price on his head.

Rhisia Sen is one of the Empire’s highest paid assassins. Living a life of luxury, she chooses her contracts carefully, working to amass enough wealth so she can leave her bloody trade. She is offered a new contract on the outskirts of civilization, and almost refuses—until she sees the purse. It could be the last job she ever has to take.

But when she reaches the destination, she discovers her mark is a child.

The contract, and her reputation, demand she kill the boy—if she can banish his innocent face from her mind. But another assassin has been sent to kill her, and a notorious bounty hunter is on her trail. She doesn’t know why the boy is a target, or why her former employer wants her dead. Saving the child could be her only chance at survival.

My 7th book: Final Stage: #SPFBO 16

FullSizeRender-10November 1st saw the start of the second stage of the SPFBO – the Self Published Fantasy Blog off organised by Mark Lawrence.  All the details can be found here.

Today I’m highlighting the seventh book that I will be reading for the SPFBO.  All the books have been drawn randomly. Book No 1: Shadow Soul by Caitlyn Davis, review here.  Second book Paternus by Dyrk Ashton (review here).  My third book was the The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French.  The fourth book was Larcourt K A Krantz ( Fire Born, Blood Blessed #1) My review is here.  The fifth book was Defence of Ráth Bládhma (Fionn mac Cumhaill #1) by Brian O’Sullivan, review here.  My sixth book out of the hat was The Music Box Girl by K.A. Stewart and my review for that will follow shortly.  My seventh book is The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker.  Check it out:

pathofA war fueled by the dark powers of forbidden sorcery is about to engulf the Ascendant Empire. Agerastian heretics, armed with black fire and fueled by bitter hatred, seek to sever the ancient portals that unite the empire – and in so doing destroy it.

Asho–a squire with a reviled past–sees his liege, the Lady Kyferin, and her meager forces banished to an infamous ruin. Beset by tragedy and betrayal, demons and an approaching army, the fate of the Kyferins hangs by the slenderest of threads. Asho realizes that their sole hope of survival may lie hidden within the depths of his scarred soul–a secret that could reverse their fortunes and reveal the truth behind the war that wracks their empire.

Unpredictable, fast paced, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Path of Flames is the first installment in a gripping new epic fantasy series.

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