#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:

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Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw

LastMemoria

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The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin

TheCombatCodes

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The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson

LostWar

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Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher

BlackStoneHeart

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Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin

Darkness Forged

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Voice of War by Zack Argyle

Voiceof

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The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming

FallofErlon

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A Wind From the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree

AWind

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Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire

Shadow

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Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens

NetherLight

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

#SPFBO : Finalist announcement

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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.

So, today I will announce my finalist.  To be honest, this has been a very difficult choice to make.  I had four semi-finalists chosen and all are very good reads that I highly recommend.  I can say that in my deliberations each of these books has been my finalist at some point and I think they would all be worthy of moving forward to Stage 2.  That being said, I had to make a choice and so without further ado my finalist this year is:

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Voice of War (Threadlight #1) by Zack Argyle (check out the new cover) 

Voiceof

My three semi finalists are:

My congratulations to Zack Argyle, commiserations to all the other authors who took part.  I had a fantastic batch of books and the decisions this year have been ridiculously difficult due to the excellent.  I highly recommend the three SFs and in fact I still have a couple of other books to complete and review that I will post at a later stage.

Good luck to all the finalists moving forward.

My reviews for all four books are below:

Voice of War

Tuyo

Calico Thunder Rides Again

The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon

#SPFBO : Semi-Finalist and Cuts Announcement (2)

Posted On 27 October 2020

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 12 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 the final five of the ten books that I rolled forward.  Today I am announcing the cuts from that batch of five together with the final semi finalists (my first announcement can be found here).  I would say, again, 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.

Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #1) by Shami Stovall

I enjoyed the Knightmare Arcanist.  It has a lot going for it, plenty of action and a school type setting where students who have bonded with a magical mythical creature come to learn.  Plenty of student bonding and adventure with a central mystery and an ending that promises more. My review is here.

Conclusion : Cut

Knightmare

Trial of Thorns (Wicked Fae #1) by Stacey Trombley

This is a book that I was looking forward to very much, I love stories of the fae and this one didn’t disappoint.  The main gist is that the land of the fae is being attacked by a plague, the fae are holding trials to find a champion to meet the problem head on.  The central character has been banished but makes her return to take part in the trials – even though the other participants all want her dead.  I think readers who enjoy reading stories of the fae might like this one.  There is also a slow burn romance that I imagine will progress in the next novel.  My review is here.  Also, please note that we have a new cover:

Conclusion : Cut

Trial of

The Child of Silence by Joseph O.Doran (The Burning Orbit Book 1)

The Child of Silence is an impressive novel with a unique protagonist, some strong world building and a surprise ending.  There’s a lot going on in this one with rebellion and war and then an unexpected element at the conclusion. I enjoyed this although it could benefit from a little sharpening.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Cut

Childof

Voice of War by Zack Argyle (Threadlight #1)

Voice of War is an impressive debut.  The writing gains in confidence as the story progresses and we follow, in the first instance two very different protagonists.  This is a story that captured my attention early and kept me intrigued.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Semi Finalist

Voiceof

Tuyo by Rachel Neumeier (Tuyo #1)

Tuyo is a very well written, character centric novel.  This is a tale of friendship that is found where least expected and a story of enemies joining together to address a greater threat.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Semi Finalist

Tuyo

#SPFBO Review : Tuyo by Rachel Neumeier (Tuyo #1)

Posted On 25 October 2020

Filed under Book Reviews
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Comments Dropped 10 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.  My recent update in which I announced further cuts and two semi-finalists can be found here.

This is my final review for the 10 books I rolled forward for SPFBO.  Following this I will post an update for the past five books at which point I will make cuts and select my next semi-finalists.  On the 28th I hope to announce my finalist.

TuyoTuyo was another very impressive read from this batch.  The writing is really good, there’s a good story and some interesting world building but the two central characters really stole the show for me.

As the story begins we meet Ryo inGara.  Ryo has been left by his war leader as a Tuyo.  Basically, a sacrifice left to appease the enemies and allow the rest of the tribe to make their escape.  I have to say that Ryo has a great voice and I was immediately hooked by his plight.  Within fairly short order we also meet the other MC – Aras, Warlord of the Lau.  Ryo’s fate lies in the hands of this enemy Warlord and, no matter the outcome, he can only hope that he doesn’t shame his family.

In terms of the plot, and I don’t think this is a spoiler at all, Aras decides to keep Ryo as a translator and advisor.  The Lau and the Ugaro lived relatively peacefully alongside each other until recent troubles seemed to have spiked and caused unrest.  The Ugaro live in the Winter lands where cold snaps can be deadly.  The Lau live in the summer countries where the heat can be intense and heat sickness and death is a real possibility. Both these lands sit on opposite sides of a river – I realise this seems a little unlikely but I decided to go with the set up and not question it too deeply and to be honest it didn’t seem unlikely at all as I was reading and this is a fantasy novel after all and one in which magic plays a role.  As the story begins to unfold and Ryo and Aras learn more of each other’s customs it becomes apparent that a third party is actually a bigger risk to the Lau and the Ugaro and in order to survive the two may have to overcome their mutual distrust.

To be honest that last part encapsulates so much of what makes this book a good read. The Ugaro and the Lau are so very different and the author does a really good job of getting across the culture and lifestyles of both.  It’s these very differences of course that cause fear and distrust and this is a winning element of the story – watching the gradual change as both characters learn more about each other’s way of life.

Aras, as it turns out, is able to perform magic, in fact it seems that many of the Lau had minor abilities in this respect, but Aras is much more powerful than even his close friends are aware of.  His magic relates  predominantly to mind control and although I would love to go into this aspect more thoroughly I’m conscious of spoiling the read for others so I’ll leave it at that. Suffice to say there are some interesting elements that arise as a result of the magic which helps to create some unique situations.

The characters.  Well Ryo and Aras are central to the plot and in fact Ryo narrates the story.  Both are very easy to like.  They both share a strong sense of honour and obligation and both are prepared to learn more in order to overcome their prejudices.  Watching the two in their own environment and then observing them when they’re out of their comfort zones was really interesting. The Lau feel a little more typical fantasy fare, they reminded me a little of the Romans and their legions although I guess you could liken them to any empire with an organised and disciplined army.  There was focus on how their army camps operate and mostly this was easy to imagine.  I really liked the amount of thought that the author gave to the Ugaro and their customs and rituals.  This aspect was really fascinating.  Particularly as the action ramped up and war counsels were organised.  Meeting Ryo’s family was really interesting and I loved all the interactions.

In terms of criticisms.  I have very little to be honest.  I think the point I mentioned above about the different places being so strictly defined is a little unusual at first, I mean, literally, cross a river and find major change.  To be fair, I didn’t really find it an issue but maybe worth a mention.

Overall this was a very enjoyable read.  Friendships and trust where you least expect, overcoming differences and prejudices and really great characters.

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

#SPFBO Review : Voice of War by Zack Argyle (Threadlight #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.

VoiceofVoice of War is the debut novel of Zack Argyle and the first book in the Threadlight series.  I enjoyed this and the review is based on the audio version which was also very good.

As the story begins we witness a religious ceremony that gives us information about the world we find ourselves in.  The magic here is known as threadweaving and the colour of a person’s eyes determines their ability to either use magic or not.  Blue or green eyes denotes magic ability, a child with brown eyes has no ability to threadweave.  This isn’t a problem in itself although most parents hope their children will be born with magic capabilities.  Families are allowed only two children, the exception to this is if the third child is born with blue or green eyes.  Those children born with brown eyes to a family that already have two children are given into the priesthood, unfortunately such a religious calling involves a cruel ritual that leaves the child blind, basically because it is believed to be better to see truth than light.

We also meet Chrys Valerian, one of three High Generals who has a fierce reputation.  Chrys is a respected leader but his efforts during the War of the Wastelands changed the outcome and gained him the title of ‘Apogee’ (think Beserker).  Since the war Chrys keeps his inner demon on a short leash even though it constantly demands release inside his head and he’s not entirely sure what this inner beast is really capable of.  The other thing you need to know about Chrys is that his wife is expecting and when a stranger predicts a threat to his unborn child events start to escalate quickly before taking a strange turn.

Chrys is one of three characters that we follow.  Laurel is a young female also with threadweaving abilities.  However, she doesn’t live in the city.  She lives in a village in the wilds that most people believe is a fictional place and her threadweaving is very impressive.  Laurel is becoming a little discontented with village life and the elders that dictate the way of life and this leads her into trouble.  I don’t really want to discuss Laurel or the other character too much because this will probably involve spoilers for certain aspects of the story.

The story gets off to a quick start and the pacing is good.  The main thrust of the plot concerns blood thieves that have been abducting threadweaver children to sell their blood.  Chrys has been tasked with investigating these disappearances although the other two High General’s are unhappy with this situation.  The investigation takes a strange turn which leaves Chrys, his wife and his unborn child in danger.

I really enjoyed this, I had a few little issues here and there but I thought the world building was impressive, the writing became progressively more confident and there was a good build up of tension as things came to a head.

I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed all the characters equally but I did like Chrys and the creepy voice inside his head.  I liked that he struggles with this and doesn’t know whether or not he’s going crazy, I liked the strong focus on family and although the magic system is reminiscent of Sanderson’s Mistborn (with pushing and pulling on threads) I think it stands on it’s own two feet.  Laurel is a little more reckless and impulsive, her decision making can be a little flaky, but, at the same time I recognise that her age plays into this.

I really liked the world created here.  Althea, the city in which Chrys lives is easy to imagine and fairly fantasy typical, we then move to the remote village, hidden within a jungle like setting with dangers aplenty, a few twists and the dramatic finale – which definitely left me wanting to read more.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I had a good time with this so nothing much to discuss here, although I think the third POV was under developed and felt a little rushed.  There was also a slight feeling of things sometimes being easily resolved.

Overall, I had a very good time reading this and will definitely read the next instalment.

I would like to thank the author for a review copy. The above is my own opinion.

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