#SPFBO : My Third Batch of Books – Update

Posted On 11 September 2021

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Today I’m posting an update for my third batch of SPFBO books (which can be found here).  This year I’m teaming up with the lovely ladies from the Critiquing Chemist and we split the batch of books equally – which gives me a little more time this year.

This month I read and reviewed all four books from my third batch and today I’m providing my feedback on which books will be cut or rolled forward.  At this point I’m not making any decisions on semi-finalists as the semi finalists will be decided by both blogs before agreement on a finalist is reached. We will each put forward hopefuls and then take it from there.

I would mention that this is ultimately the most difficult part of the competition for judges and authors.  I don’t find making cuts easy to be honest however it’s the nature of the competition.  There can be only one. I would also like to thank the authors of the books that are highlighted today for taking the decision to throw their hat into the ring.  It can’t be easy and I definitely applaud you for taking this step.

Without further ado here is my feedback from the third batch of books:

Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation #1) by Phillip Blackwater

Rising Shadows

As tension rises between the southern and northern nations of the small continent of Exitium in the world of Anteris, the Elves turn to their eastern neighbors, the Humans, for help. They wish to learn the ways of combat, which they are not accustomed to, for they have always wielded a power far greater than forged steel. The Shards of Creation, mystical artifacts of great and virtually infinite power, have always been their prized weapon, but times have changed. They now face the same threat as the Humans: the southern nation known as the Ethula.

Wariel Ritch, general of the Human army, will take upon his shoulders this burden. But when a shadow of a past long forgotten threatens what little stability is left in the world, he will have to leave everything behind to stop it. Medregal Tergrast, an Ethulan king, dead for a thousand years, plans his return to the world of the living to gain back his former glory and finally fulfill his destiny by gaining control of the Shards of Creation. But is he really the threat people make him out to be?

In the meantime, in the bowels of the Human Kingdom, the reign of Dana Crystaloak is put into jeopardy when people around her start questioning her decisions. If she falls, war could break out across all lands.

My review is here.

In a nutshell: Rising Shadows is a quest style fantasy story involving a number of characters, racing against time, before an army of souls is released to fight for a King who has returned from the dead.  There are a number of different threads to the story that all provide their own element of added threat.  I didn’t struggle to read this but I did have a few issues and whilst this might not have totally worked for me it could be a gateway into fantasy for readers new to the genre

Conclusion: Cut


By the Pact (Pacts Arcane and Otherwise 1) by Joanna Maciejewska


High mages lied: Veranesh, the demon who destroyed the continent is still alive. And it’s up to their former student to expose the truth—even if it means another Cataclysm.

When Kamira, a once high mage student turned arcanist, discovers an imprisoned demon in underground ruins, she is forced into a pact that grants her powerful magic, but also ties her to the very demon that once devastated the continent… and Veranesh wants his freedom.

With one friend by her side, Veelk, a mage killer bound on protecting her, Kamira will have to outwit the archmages, other demons, and possibly her own demonic benefactor to survive. Her chances are slim, but with Veelk’s ever-present sarcastic repartee, Kamira might just pull through.

Plots and schemes, power and means—sometimes the price for victory is choosing which friend will die, but when you only have one friend, the choice is… easy?

My Review is here.

In a nutshell: I enjoyed By the Pact.  It has some new (to me at least) notions around demons and magic that I haven’t seen explored before.  I enjoyed the central characters and apart from a few issues related to editing (as opposed to the story itself) I would undoubtedly like to read the next instalment.

Conclusion: Roll Forward


Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens


ON THE NIGHT THAT HE WAS BORN, THE DEVIL CAME TO KILL HIM The son of a farmer in Iron Age Britain, Nuadhu finds himself thrust into a destiny he is ill-prepared for. After his king murders his parents, he and his brother are forced to flee into the Roman Empire under the protection of the archangel Anael. Meanwhile, a plague of the undead is sweeping across Europe from the east, raising their slain enemies as new allies. Their goal is not the conquest of one tribe or nation, but the subjugation of all humanity. Can one warrior-in-exile, hungry for vengeance, build a force to repel this existential threat?

My review is here

In a nutshell: This was a short but enjoyable story about a man who is born to be the ‘champion’ of the people, a protector from evil if you will.  Set in the Iron Age we follow a young man as he trains with a celestial being.  My only problem here is that I felt the length of the book worked against it in terms of the author really being able to draw a picture of the way of life, or to really given strength to the characters.  As it is it felt like a fairly quick, episodic narrative that quickly sees the main POV grow up and finally face the threat he’s been training for.  I think readers who like a quick read and fast pacing might enjoy this one.

Conclusion: Cut


Carrion by Alyson Tait


The Rook legacy: duty at all Costs. Regina’s family are the last living members after a long line of magical families. Their heritage is a promise to the world; they can be trusted to keep magic from corrupting power hungry witches — In doing so they keep an unearthly evil from crushing humanity.

When Regina Rook’s mother dies a sudden, violent death, the living coven members come from around the world to attend the funeral, and begin breathing down her neck as next in line to lead. Trying to find a balance between her own goals and her family’s demands, all the while keeping her recent nightmares hidden where she becomes the very thing they fighting.

But when those things become intertwined, can she do anything but watch as the world around her crumbles to ancient horrors?

My review is here.

In a nutshell: Carrion is a story about a coven of witches who use their magic to protect the world.  When the coven’s lead witch dies it falls to her eldest daughter to pick up the reins.  The eldest daughter however has long rebelled against the coven’s ways and traditions and with a new threat emerging this could spell trouble for the world we know.  Again, this is a very quick read and a fairly short novel. I found myself struggling to really connect with the main character though and that could simply be because I wanted more backstory.  I admit that shorter stories often leave me wanting more detail so this could potentially appeal to other readers who want something a bit more snappy.

Conclusion: Cut 


My thanks again to the authors.

I will be posting my final batch of books very soon.

#SPFBO : My Second Batch of Books – Update


Today I’m posting an update for my second batch of SPFBO books (which can be found here).  This year I’m teaming up with the lovely ladies from the Critiquing Chemist and we split the batch of books equally – which gives me a little more time this year.

This month I read and reviewed all four books from my second batch and today I’m providing my feedback on which books will be cut or rolled forward.  At this point I’m not making any decisions on semi-finalists as the semi finalists will be decided by both blogs before agreement on a finalist is reached. We will each put forward hopefuls and then take it from there.

I would mention that this is ultimately the most difficult part of the competition for judges and authors.  I don’t find making cuts easy to be honest however it’s the nature of the competition.  There can be only one. I would also like to thank the authors of the books that are highlighted today for taking the decision to throw their hat into the ring.  It can’t be easy and I definitely applaud you for taking this step.

Without further ado here is my feedback from the second batch of books:

Berserker (Apocosmos #1) by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris 


Alex is a game developer though he’d much rather stream RPG classics or spend time with Louie. That’s his  adorable corgi. He also hates people.  Not in a homicidal way but rather in an extremely-antisocial one.Unless you hurt Louie.

In such an instant, Alex is pulled in the Apocosmos, where our whole world is just a blip in a colorful tapestry of million others. A multiverse ruled by a strict system. Where Norse, Greek, and Celtic pantheons clash. Where dwarves craft, dragons hoard, and vampires don’t glitter. A world that is as cruel as epic.

Alex wants none of that though. He just wants to earn an early retirement somewhere in Spain. There’s money to be made in the Apocosmos. Alex will take advantage of the market just like he did in his MMORPG days, in what seems like an error-proof plan. But it’s a zero-sum game and some would do anything to eliminate competition.

My review is here.

In a nutshell, I had fun with Berserker, it was an enjoyable read that I had a few issues with but nothing that really spoiled the read.  If you like litRPG this could be your next read, I would certainly be interested to see what happens in the next instalment.

Conclusion: Cut


Stone Magus (Hidden Gems Saga #1) by Stephanie C. Marks


In life, love, and family, there is always strength in numbers.

Something is off balance between the Windsong Sisters, and for Opal and Ruby, the terrible might of their powers may just lead them to catastrophe—or clarity. As half-elf mages in the service of the Order of Aiuna, the sisters spend their days collecting and preserving anything that magic touches, and as their mission takes them further back into their past, the darkness that awaits them there threatens to destroy everything they hold dear.

Despite the dark smoke rising around them, Opal is finding it hard to ignore the flames flickering between herself and Baerdun. There’s just something about it that makes her feel weak, and not just in the knees. With so much happening around them, it’s becoming much harder to keep her head above water and her heart her own.

After everything they’ve lost—what if they lose themselves as well?

Enter a world where shadows exist within and without, and follow Opal, Ruby, and Baerdun down a path that will either bring them together or force them apart.

My review is here.

In a nutshell, this is fantasy and romance combined.  It has a very unusual and unique concept and was easy to get along with.  I think readers of romance who like a fantasy setting may enjoy this one – warning: it does become a little ‘steamy’ as the storyline progresses.

Conclusion : Cut


Book of Secrets (Merged Series #1) by Claudia Blood 


Joshua Lighthouse never wanted to save the world, but now he has no choice.

Three hundred years ago, the human world and the world of Myth underwent a cataclysmic Merge. Those who survived – both human and Others – formed factions. Joshua led one faction, the Human Protection Agency, which is charged with maintaining the safety of the humans in his city. He secretly protects an artifact more powerful than even he knows…

My review is here.

In a nutshell, urban fantasy that manages to deliver a unique idea in terms of the Merge.  It felt a little rushed in parts that made it difficult to connect to the central characters but for UF lovers this could be the start of an interesting series.

Conclusion : Cut


Dragonbirth byRaina Nightingale


In a world where dragons are considered demons and Dragonriders are hunted and killed as witches…

A devout village-girl, Silmavalien, meets a dragon hatchling and discovers a love she could never have dreamed. At the same time, her world is ripped apart as she discovers the gods she has worshipped and everything she has ever been taught or believed is a monstrous lie. Not knowing what to believe – or even if she can trust her engaged, Noren, with her new secret – she must find a way to care for herself and her dragon, Minth, in a wild and hostile world, a world which only grows stranger as the days pass.

My review is here.

In a nutshell this reads like a coming of age story about a young girl who bonds with a baby dragon and must then leave behind everything and everyone she knows in order to keep them both alive.  The writing didn’t quite work for me with this one and the repetition prevented me from connecting to the characters as much as I would have liked.  There are plenty of dragons though and maybe this is aimed more at a MG audience.

Conclusion : cut


My thanks again to the authors.

I will be posting my third batch of books very soon.

#SPFBO : My Fifth/Final Batch of Books – Update

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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 1, batch 2, batch 3 and Batch 4 by clicking on the  links:

As with previous years I will read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% (or 100 pages) and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist. 

This batch of books made for good reading and some very difficult choices.  Unfortunately I can’t carry all the books forward so as ever there will be cuts with my sincere apologies to those authors.   

Long Stories

Long Stories: Early Immortals and the Birth of Death by) by Evan Witmer 

This is an unusual story primarily focusing on Death.  Basically, God created Death to kill the Immortals.  Primarily these immortals are made up of vampires, but there are also witches, and others that are swelling the numbers of long lived bodies down on Earth. Death teleports round the world finding his next victims and eliminating them swiftly before burying the bodies. 

Eventually, all the immortals bar one have been eliminated.  Lucy.  Lucy is a very strange case, over 100 years old but she is still a child and Death finds it impossible to kill her.

Unfortunately this one didn’t quite work out for me.  I struggled to get a feel for the characters or understand where the story was going.  To the point I read up to it felt like a series of anecdotes that jumped back and forth in time relating Death’s encounters. There’s a tongue in cheek tone and a very surreal feel and I’m surprised that this didn’t work out for me given all the fantasy elements but I was unable to connect with it.

Conclusion : Cut



Tuyo by Rachel Neumeier

I’m not reviewing Tuyo at the moment as I’ve decided to carry this one forward.

Conclusion: roll forward



Voice of War by Zack Argyle

I’m also not reviewing Voice of War as I want to read further.

Conclusion : roll forward



The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick

Again, no review at this point as I would like to continue reading.

Conclusion : roll forward


War Bringer

Warbringer by Aaron Hodges

I must say that I enjoyed reading War Bringer to the point I read up to.  This is a world inhabited by creatures known as the Tangata.  The Tangata seem intent on destroying mankind, they are strong, fast and feral and they are gathering their forces to launch what feels like a final attack.

The story has three clear threads.  Romaine is a warrior.  His homeland has been invaded and destroyed by the Tangata.  We first meet Romaine whilst he’s on a foray into the wild.  He and his captain and party follow Tangata tracks into the wild where they manage to survive an attack and rescue a woman who is alone in the wild.    Erika is an Archivist for the Queen.  She believes that ancient artefacts are the key to defeating the Tangata and seeks these artefacts out.  Whilst on such a mission Erika finds what appears to be a map that provides the location of other ancient sites.  She also finds a magic gauntlet although it’s unclear what the gauntlet can actually do at this point.  Finally, Lukys.  He’s a new recruit, sent to the frontier.  After surviving a brutal Tangata attack he has decided that his best hope is to seek help from Romaine.

I thought this had a good pace and the three storylines worked very well in taking the story forward.  I enjoyed the style and I’m definitely curious about the history and would like to know more about the Tangata.

In terms of criticism.  The only thing that occurred to me was that considering how deadly the Tangata were Romaine seemed to deal with them remarkably well – which kind of belied the threat a little for me.

Overall I would like to read this one at a later date and review more fully.

Conclusion : cut 




Exile was another enjoyable read.  It has a slightly generic feel with a mediaeval backdrop, castles, nobles and an old school swords and sorcery feel. 

The MC, Aron, is a sell sword.  He gets into bother as the story sets off when he kills a man and is taken prisoner by the local Earl.  The Earl of Nandor’s son has been kidnapped and is being held hostage by their enemy.  Aron has unwittingly killed the Earl’s champion and so finds himself pressed into service as part of a rescue party.

I didn’t have any trouble getting into this story but I had a couple of issues.  Firstly, I was puzzled by the Earl – he sends another noble on the mission to lead the party, but this same noble is hoping to marry one of the Earl’s daughters and basically, if the Earl’s son and heir fails to return, said marriage will result in this noble becoming the next Earl.  This seems like a real conflict to me, surely this man would be more than happy for the mission to fail and if the Earl can’t see this himself then I don’t understand why not.

Also, there are a number of romantic threads so far – which I don’t have a problem with as such – other than it seems that the Earl’s wife and both his daughters are making a play for Aron and it felt a little over the top.  It also gave me misgivings about Aron as he seemed just to go with the flow making out with whoever/whenever.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, I enjoyed the writing and was actually starting to like Aron at the point I concluded reading but it didn’t stand above the other books from this batch that I’ve decided to roll forward.

Conclusion : cut



Mid-Lich Crisis by Steve Thomas 

This was another enjoyable book.  I dual read and listened to this one as I had a copy of both versions and I must say that the audio version is very well done.

I’m not reviewing at this point as I would like to conclude the book and review fully but at this stage I won’t be rolling this forward in terms of the competition simply because this batch has some very strong contenders.

Conclusion : cut


My thanks to all the authors who have taken part. I’ve had some very good books in my lot and will be providing an update tomorrow about the rest of my process going forward.

#SPFBO : My Fourth Batch of Books : Update

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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 first batch of books here and my update here,,my second batch of books and update here and here and my third batch of books plus update. Today I will be providing feedback on my fourth batch of books.

As with previous years I will read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% (or approx 100 pages) and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below. Below are my thoughts with apologies to those authors whose books have been cut:

Rise of the Forgotten Sun (The Sun and the Raven #1) by Jon Monson 


Rise of The Forgotten Sun gets off to an interesting start. We meet Prince Aydiin who is travelling solo through the desert on a mission that he volunteered for. Aydiin’s uncle has been committing rebellious acts against the Sultan (Aydiin’s father) and Aydiin is hoping to find his uncle and negotiate peace – or at least that’s what he tells his uncle when he finally encounters him. Instead the Prince captures his uncle and plans to execute him immediately. Aydiin’s father however has other ideas and commands the Prince to return the rebel to the capital for trial and this is when things go wrong.

The Prince has come into possession of a strange gold coin that seems to be a map of the stars directing the bearer to a legendary tower in the heart of the Soulless Desert – nobody who enters the Soulless Desert returns but Aydiin isn’t deterred and he persuades his friend Barrick to accompany him on a treasure hunt. Of course this means deferring his trip back to the capital with his prisoner until he returns. – what could possibly go wrong.

Well, the two eventually find the tower, in spite of difficulty along the way and they discover a magical stone that seems to be absorbed (or transferred into Aydiin’s body) upon his touch. Finally, returning to the capital with their prisoner the train they are travelling on is ambushed and Aydiin’s uncle escapes leaving the Prince to face the wrath of the Sultan.

I found this an entertaining read to the point at which I broke off, it certainly has plenty going on and a fairly consistently rigorous pace. There is almost an Arabian Nights feel to the setting with plenty of imaginative elements thrown in such as intelligent and loyal dinosaurs (well one at least so far), gadgets that make me think steampunk and elements such as trains and guns and items of clothing such as Bowler Hats, which make me place this as a maybe 19th century read (could be very wrong with that guess though).

This very much has a fun style adventure feel at the moment although given the chapters I concluded on I think things are set to change dramatically.

In terms of criticisms. There is a lightness about this, a lack of the sort of detail that sometimes I want and notice when it’s not there. Some of the situations Aydiin finds himself in felt too easily resolved and lacked tension or a real sense of threat. But, as I already said, I think this could be a fun, over the top, fast paced adventure that will appeal to others.

Conclusion : Cut

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


This is going to be quick. I started The Child of Silence and cannot deny my immediate impressions were not favourable in spite of an interesting premise. The writing felt a little bloated and it was slowing down my reading. But, I also can’t deny that as I continued to my allocated cut off point I was becoming hooked as things started to take off and so I’ve decided to continue with this one and see if it continues to work it’s magic on me.

Conclusion : roll forward

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


I have to say that I’m also really enjoying Trial of Thorns at the moment so I’m going to continue reading for now.

Conclusion : roll forward

Emma and the Minotaur (World of Light, #1) by Jon Herrera


Emma and the Minotaur is (I think – but please correct me if I’m wrong) a MG story about a young girl who goes on a quest with a friend to find the truth about people who are going missing.

To the point I finished reading I found this an enjoyable story (with a couple of slight reservations).

Emma is a spirited young girl with an active imagination about magicians and aliens. Her father is a professor and she seems to take after him in terms of intelligence. Emma takes a liking to a sad young boy at school who is always alone and decides early on that she’s going to befriend him. It turns out that the young boy is sad because his father has gone missing. The two decide to embark on a quest that involves a relentless search of the neighbouring forest.

As I mentioned above this is a good, easy to read, well written story that managed to pique my curiosity. Emma can be a little over zealous sometimes but I put that down to her age and intelligence – she is always coming up with ‘plans’ and they’re not always the most appropriate.

In terms of criticisms – the only thing that gave me a few misgivings was that there were a few occasions where Emma’s recklessness made me wonder whether she was setting a good example for younger readers reading her story – I realise that probably sounds a bit odd but, for example, on one occasion she goes into the forest alone at night, even though she’s been told not to do so – simply because it’s a short cut. On another few occasions both Emma and her friend leave the school premises at lunch time. It just made me worry a little. There’s also the usual trope of the missing parents – this seems to be something that I find is heavily relied upon in fiction and it feels a little overused.

On the whole, little issues aside, I thought this was a good adventure story that seems to have a lot of promise.

Conclusion : Cut

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez


Calico Thunder Rides Again has really impressed me so far. I’ve already read just over half so I won’t be reviewing it at this point.

Conclusion : roll forward

Shifter Shadows by Anthony Stevens


Shifter Shadows is another book that surprised me and I found myself enjoying it to the extent that I read over and above what I originally intended. This is an unusual story. As the book begins we go way back when, following a tribe of native Americans – I will just say that my knowledge here is sketchy so I’m not going to elaborate on what period this may have come from – although early parts of the story show the tribe living in caves and also there is mention of cave drawings. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, it was really interesting seeing the people, their interactions and the way that some of them connected to a spirit animal that allowed them to borrow it’s form and shape shift. These earlier chapters obviously provide the background to the supernatural elements and show how history progressed with settlers, etc.

We then jump forward to a modern day setting and make the acquaintance of a number of different people and their stories as they become aware or awaken – to their own abilities – and these storylines eventually come together.

I’m not going to elaborate on all the characters. We are introduced to quite a few, quite a lot of young people coming into their new abilities and finding the limitations of what they can and can’t do. At the same time there is a background feel that things are escalating somehow, and that these shapeshifters are about to be revealed (although I’m not sure if that is the case or not). At the same time there is a serial killer storyline that demonstrates a couple of things – that there are bad people everywhere and that the shifters ‘police’ their own – otherwise their secret won’t last for long.

In terms of criticisms. Some of the jumps in the story felt a little abrupt. In the earlier parts reading from one chapter to the next the timeline would jump forward many years at a time. Regarding the more modern day storyline, there are a lot of people introduced in fairly short order, I didn’t find this a problem although I sometimes felt that the relationships were a little too quickly formed and the Otherkin (shifters) were maybe a little too trusting in some respects – which felt a little wrong given the secrets they must keep.

Slight criticisms aside, I enjoyed reading this and would like to return to the story after the competition to see how things unfold and write a fuller review.

Conclusion : Cut

#SPFBO : My Third Batch of Books : Update

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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 first batch of books here and my update here, and my second batch of books and update here and here.

As with previous years I’m hoping to read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below:


Spitting Image by Patrick LeClerc


Okay, I will start this on an unusual note.  Patrick Le Clerc had a finalist in last year’s competition with Out of Nowhere – a book about a paramedic known as Sean Danet who appears to be immortal.  So, I was slightly puzzled to see another entry with the same character because that seems to be like a second book in series – although it doesn’t appear that way on GRs so I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt.  To be fair, I think this could easily be read as a standalone without reading Out of Nowhere.

Sean is immortal.  He’s lived for many, many years.  He’s been a soldier and now a paramedic – a job that allows him to make a difference using his healing abilities without anyone noticing his existence.  As the story begins we are given an introduction to Sean, whilst he’s out on a night shift.  Returning home Sean is paid a surprise visit from his girlfriend Sarah, and this happens again the following day and whilst these surprise visits are very welcome something feels slightly wrong. Initially, Sean is worried that Sarah is losing interest, a thought that chills him as he finally feels like he’s met someone that he’d like to stick around for and get to know better, but, as it happens, more sinister powers are at play and both Sean and Sarah are in danger.

I read my allocated 30% of this one.  It’s a very easy read and this is an author that can be engaging without doubt.  He gets off to a good start, although maybe a little slower than I would expect given the length of the book.  I think that his main character relies heavily on sarcasm and self deprecation and this maybe sometimes doesn’t come across as clearly as it might.

All in all, this was entertaining enough up to my cut off point but it didn’t quite grab my attention as much as I would have liked.

Conclusion : Cut


The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice


I’m not reviewing The Usurper at this point because I enjoyed what I read so far and would like to carry it forward and continue reading. I will make a decision at a later date as to whether or not this will be a semi-finalist.

Conclusion : rolled forward


Night Warrior by Jordan J. Scavone


Night Warrior is a really good concept, portal fantasy in reverse if you will.  Instead of the central character being sucked into a fantasy world the exact opposite happens and characters from that fantasy world are pulled into our modern one.  What makes this additionally strange is that all the characters appear to have been created by Viranda’s imagination when writing a new book.

I must say that this got off to an intriguing start.  We meet Viranda whilst she’s in a spot of bother – she’s badly injured and still carries those injuries and trauma as the story really kicks off.  Viranda wants to be an author and since her ‘accident’ she’s been having unusual and vivid dreams.  She starts to write these down becoming totally immersed in the world she is creating.   Then lightning strikes and the characters from out of Viranda’s book start appearing in her world – which can’t be good given that some of the characters are less than savoury.

As I mentioned, this one had a really good start. I was intrigued by Viranda’s situation as the book began.  Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the next section quite as much although it’s still entertaining.  I think the main issues that really struck me were that Viranda is incredibly accepting of a bunch of sword wielding characters turning up in her life – very calm and collected in fact.  The other thing that occurred to me is that in spite of all these fantasy people running around in our modern world there seems to be very little impact other than the events that are circling intently around Viranda.  I realise of course that other things could be happening off page but I would have liked to have a sense of how things were being affected, and I would definitely have liked a little more emotion particularly from Viranda, not to mention some surprise from the fantasy characters at the strange modern world they found themselves in.

On the whole though, this was easy to get on with, I did have niggles but at the end of the day I don’t think I’m the intended audience for this (I think YA?) and my automatic questions and issues got in the way a little.

Conclusion : Cut


Jacob’s War by Mark Hood


This is another entry with an intriguing premise and written in a format that I really enjoy that alternates between diary entries made by Jacob Willlams as he fought in the first World War and later update chapters that take place after the war has ended.

It appears that there is a thin divide between our world and that of the supernatural and some of the points of protection are either weak or failing.

Strange creatures are slipping into our world and only the Fae Defence Society stand between them and certain disaster.

I thought the diary chapters were very good where I read up to and liked the tone and style of the writing – there was an innocence to Jacob at the start of the journal that started to wear thin as things progressed and the rose tinted glasses were removed.  In the alternating chapters we jump forward and watch Jacob and his comrades as they prepare for a forthcoming onslaught of unknown beasts.  Unfortunately, I didn’t quite enjoy these chapters as much as the journal entries and I think that’s because the divide was too great for me.  One moment we’re reading about Jacob as he heads out to war, the next we’re watching him wield magic and fight hairy beasts.  In fairness, as you read forward these two points will eventually come together but I think I would have liked a smoother transition somehow.

Conclusion : Cut


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


Well, The Hammer of the Gods was quite a surprise.  I enjoyed where I read up to and will carry this one forward for further reading.  No review at this point and I will make a decision at a later stage as to whether this will be a semi finalist.

Conclusion : rolled forward


The Story of Evil – A Hero’s Downfall (#1) by Tony Johnson


The Story of Evil certainly got off to a furious start.  We begin with a jousting tournament that goes horribly wrong when evil creatures attack the city.

We then make a fairly quick introduction to three characters as they go from one danger to the next.

Stephen Brightflame is a young man with dreams of becoming a knight.  He’s actually jousting when all the trouble begins.

Ty is Stephen’s brother in arms, he rides a flying beast and so when the attack begins he is immediately drawn into the action.

Kari is a young woman watching the tournament who tries to make it back to the safety of her home but becomes embroiled in a fight with one of the beasts.

I have mixed feelings with this one.  It shows promise but I think it is too ambitious at the start.  I read my allocated 30% and by that time we probably only progressed half a day at most – by which time most of the inhabitants of the city were dead and considerable damage had been caused.

Now, all this action and death is without doubt a good ploy to pull the reader immediately into the story, but, without knowing the characters I felt a strange ambivalence towards their fate.  In fact, the way in which everything was being systematically destroyed I began to wonder if there would be any survivors.

I also had a number of issues that just kept pulling me out of the moment.  There is a definite feeling of over explanation here for some of the really small minutiae, on top of this we have flashbacks by way of background – but they felt a little long winded and out of place when the whole city was under attack and being bombarded with monsters and  flying masonry.   One example is Ty, reflecting on his lack of a solid relationship when he’s plunging through the sky – it just felt out of place.

I don’t mean to sound overly critical,  This does show promise but it didn’t really work for me.

Conclusion : Cut



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