#SPFBO Review (5): A Wind from the Wilderness (Watchers of Outremer #1) by Suzannah Rowntree

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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. My previous four book reviews can be found here, here, here and here.  Today I am reviewing my fifth finalist.

WindFrom

A Wind from the Wilderness is the finalist put forward by the Fantasy Hive and their review can be found here.

I have very mixed feelings for this book which can be loosely summed up as : incredible respect for the historical depiction of a fascinating period, a love of the author’s prose, an almost wonderfully unsettling feeling of quite literally being swept into a period so thoroughly that it sometimes felt like I was witnessing the scenes in person, standing bewildered as battles took place around me and yet, even with all that incredible imagery and impressive attention to the period, I was unable to really connect with the central character and I had a frustrating feeling, even after finishing, that I was missing something fundamental.  So, mixed feelings.

AWftW reads like historical fiction with very light fantasy elements – which although a little on the skimpy side did feel pertinent to the period.  There’s almost a biblical feel to the whole thing that makes me think of brooding skies and smiting!  However, I cannot deny that the start of the book gave me expectations that there would be more sorcery involved when one of our main characters is thrown forward in time.  As it is, the fantasy elements are indeed subtle.  There’s a feeling throughout of events being slightly manipulated by a dark presence that haunts the crusades, one of the characters is driven by prophecy and the final chapters give a promise of darker things yet to come.

Lukas Bessarion is the main character and the one who finds himself thrown forward in time almost 400 years.  For the most part Lukas is trying to return to his family and mindful of that need finds himself marching towards Jerusalem with the allied forces.  He becomes attached to a young woman known as Ayla who is also on her own particular quest.  Ayla seeks revenge for the death of her father.  The two form an unlikely attraction, both keeping secrets that would make them natural enemies.  The third character is Raymond St Gilles, a knight of the crusades whose inclusion gives us a means of following the crusade as the allied forces move slowly forward, battling and strategising.

I will admit that I’m not an expert on this period of history, that being said I really don’t think you need to be because the author has clearly researched this particular period very thoroughly and the story comes across as very well grounded.  The infighting, petty jealousies and difficulties in simply moving such a large contingent, from A to B, really come across well.  There are frustrating times where battles feel on the brink of disaster simply because forces that should be working together are pulling in opposite directions due to lack of true commitment to each other and then added to this is this dark element that seems to stalk the battlefields causing misery and despair.  All told I think Rowntree has done a remarkable job of bringing this particular period to life and giving a fictional account of events that feels like a plausible account

The plot is perhaps something that I felt a little puzzled about.  Lukas is the clear focus for the story and we know that he has a strategy to move forward towards Jerusalem.  This part of the story felt a little loose for me, I didn’t really have a real grip on how Lukas expected to make changes or find a way back to his family – any more than he did to be honest, which is probably why it felt perplexing.  Even as the story ended I’m not sure how Lukas’s story will ever come to a conclusion, I expect that might be part of the bigger plan for the series but even with that in mind I felt like I was missing something somehow.

As I mentioned the writing is really good. The author does a fantastic job of creating a sense of place and time and really bringing events to life – but, I felt like the pacing was slow and I think that links into the slightly floundering feeling that I mentioned above in respect to the plot.  In fairness, the start was intriguing and I really enjoyed meeting Ayla.  She’s a character that stole the show a little for me in fact I found myself looking forward to the chapters in which she appeared.  It’s difficult to put my finger on what slowed this down for me, again I think it boils down to puzzlement about where things were headed which left me at certain points feeling like this was more a historical recounting than anything else.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I mentioned that this feels more like historical fiction with a loose scattering of fantasy.  To be honest that wasn’t particular an issue for me as I like this type of read and I thought the fantasy elements fit well with the story told here.  I think my main problem is that I didn’t really connect with the characters. I didn’t really buy into the romance and think I would have preferred this to remain a friendship, and the ending was very bitter sweet – which is a little ironic as the author makes quite clear early on about the direction that one of the characters is going in – so really it shouldn’t be unexpected – and yet I did find myself unpleasantly surprised.  I also had issues with the pacing at stages which left me conflicted because I was enjoying the way the author told the story but at the same time was finding certain chapters very slow to get through.

Overall, my feelings remain mixed ont this.  On the one hand I’m not sure I’m giving the book all the credit it’s due with this review which feels confused or conflicted at best.  On the other hand, although I loved the way the author writes and think she’s done an incredible job in many respects I still remain very detached in terms of the main character and this gives me a lot of difficulty in terms of scoring this one.

After much internal debate I would rate this as a 7 out of 10.

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

#SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #5

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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 fifth book I will be reading and provide information regarding that particular finalist.  The first finalist I read was Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire.  This was a great start to the finals and my review can be found here.  My second book was The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming which I posted my review here.  My third book was Shaun Paul Steven’s Nether Light, my review for which can be found here. My fourth book was a Norse myth inspired story called Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin and my review is here..

My fifth finalist will be :

A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree

A Wind from the Wilderness (Watchers of Outremer #1) by Suzannah Rowntree is the finalist selected this year by the Fantasy Hive and their review can be found here.  .Below is the description and author details:

WindFromHunted by demons. Lost in time.

Welcome to the First Crusade.

Syria, 636: As heretic invaders circle Jerusalem, young Lukas Bessarion vows to defend his people. Instead, disaster strikes.

His family is ripped apart. His allies are slaughtered. And Lukas is hurled across the centuries to a future where his worst nightmares have come true…

Constantinople, 1097: Ayla may be a heretic beggar, but she knows one thing for sure: nine months from now, she will die. Before then, she must avenge her father’s murder–or risk losing her soul.

Desperate to find their way home, Lukas and Ayla join the seven armies marching east to liberate Jerusalem. If Lukas succeeds in his quest, he’ll undo the invasion and change the course of history.

But only if he survives the war.

Only if his enemies from the past don’t catch him.

And only as long as Ayla never finds out who he really is.

A Wind from the Wilderness is Book 1 in the new Watchers of Outremer series. If you love stories full of dark magic, bloody warfare, and star-crossed love, then you’ll be spellbound by this sweeping historical fantasy!

SRAuthor:

Hi! I live in a big house in rural Australia with my awesome parents and siblings, writing historical fantasy fiction. You can visit me online at https://suzannahrowntree.site

​If you like the mythic fantasy of Stephen Lawhead, S. A. Chakraborty or Naomi Novik, you’ll probably like my stories too!

Website : https://suzannahrowntree.site

Twitter : suzannahtweets

#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 6 – Cover love (2)

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The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here and my first batch of books is here.  I’ve made a good starting on the reading and hope to post an update soon.  In the meantime, this year I’m aiming to shine a little bit of focus on some of the books either through posting excerpts to act as teasers for potential readers or through posting some of the covers and highlighting the book that way (not just for my own books but other entries).  The invitation is open to all authors from the competition – if you’d like to post an excerpt then give me a shout in the comments.

As part of the competition there is a cover contest.  The details can be found here.

So, this week’s SPFBO covers:

Of Honey and Wildfires by Sarah Chorn

OfHoney

Cover: Pen Astridge

From the moment the first settler dug a well and struck a lode of shine, the world changed. Now, everything revolves around that magical oil.

What began as a simple scouting expedition becomes a life-changing ordeal for Arlen Esco. The son of a powerful mogul, Arlen is kidnapped and forced to confront uncomfortable truths his father has kept hidden. In his hands lies a decision that will determine the fate of everyone he loves—and impact the lives of every person in Shine Territory.

The daughter of an infamous saboteur and outlaw, Cassandra has her own dangerous secrets to protect. When the lives of those she loves are threatened, she realizes that she is uniquely placed to change the balance of power in Shine Territory once and for all.

Secrets breed more secrets. Somehow, Arlen and Cassandra must find their own truths in the middle of a garden of lies.

A Wind from the Wilderness (Watchers of Outremer #1) by Suzannah Rowntree

AWind

Cover: Seedlings Design Studio

Hunted by demons. Lost in time.

Welcome to the First Crusade.

A Wind from the Wilderness is Book 1 in the new Watchers of Outremer series. If you love stories full of dark magic, bloody warfare, and star-crossed love, then you’ll be spellbound by this sweeping historical fantasy!

Silver Mage by C M Debell

SilverMage

Cover: MibI Art

The dragons once sacrificed everything to destroy their enemy. They failed. Now the burden of that failure falls on the man they have called to reforge what their war destroyed – the link between the races and the magic that holds the world together.

A classic epic fantasy adventure, Silver Mage is the standalone first novel in the Long Dream sequence. The sequel will be published in 2020.

 

There are some stunning covers this year – do you have a favourite from the three above.  Anything catch your fancy?