You guys, I’m going to level with you.
I freaking hate this contest right now. I hate it because all of these books were so good, and every single one impressed me in different ways. I will, hands down, say that I have never, ever, ever struggled this much in picking a winner. Narrowing it down to five finalists was one thing, but then taking those five books and picking one….
Talk about torture.
Initially, my choice was between three books. Then I sort of hemmed and hawed a bit, and narrowed it down to two. I figured that at this point with things narrowed down to two books, I’m pretty set. Now all I’ve got to do is pick the winner. Easy.
THIS WAS NOT EASY.
NO PART OF THIS WAS EASY.
I HAVE NEVER HATED PICKING A WINNER MORE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.
I had to create a freaking chart, people. I had to make a pro and con list in a notebook. I had to weigh these books against each other, WITH A FREAKING LIST. I’ve never had to create a list before.
Ultimately, the results were very close, and I really do wish I could give both books that finalist spot, but I can’t.
It was close. Picking a winner this time around was all about splitting hairs.
You guys, it was so incredibly, painfully, terribly close. I don’t know if that will make either author feel good about the results or not, but that’s the truth. These books were damn near equal in my estimation, and they both deserve all your love.
Hats off to everyone who entered the contest. This year had some of the highest quality books, and most passionate authors I’ve ever had in my batch. It’s made me glad I routinely put myself in the position of judging this contest. It’s really incredible to be surrounded by such passionate, talented authors.
Never stop creating.
So, let’s get on with the winner….
First place and the book moving on to the final round is…
Five years ago, Corin Cadence’s brother entered the Serpent Spire — a colossal tower with ever-shifting rooms, traps, and monsters. Those who survive the spire’s trials return home with an attunement: a mark granting the bearer magical powers. According to legend, those few who reach the top of the tower will be granted a boon by the spire’s goddess.
He never returned.
Now, it’s Corin’s turn. He’s headed to the top floor, on a mission to meet the goddess.
If he can survive the trials, Corin will earn an attunement, but that won’t be sufficient to survive the dangers on the upper levels. For that, he’s going to need training, allies, and a lot of ingenuity.
The journey won’t be easy, but Corin won’t stop until he gets his brother back.
The runner-up is…
For hundreds of years, the flame-wielding Embers have been the last line of defense against the nightmare creatures from the World Apart, but the attacks are getting worse. Kole Reyna guards Last Lake from the terrors of the night, but he fears for his people’s future.
When Kole is wounded by a demon unlike any they have seen before, the Emberfolk believe it is a sign of an ancient enemy returned, a powerful Sage known as the Eastern Dark.
Kole has never trusted in prophecy, but with his people hanging on the precipice, he reluctantly agrees to lead the Valley’s greatest warriors in a last desperate bid for survival. Together, they will risk everything in search of a former ally long-thought dead, and whether Kole trusts him or not, he may be the only one capable of saving them.
Choosing between these two books nearly lit my brain on fire.
Congratulations to Andrew Rowe and Steven Kelliher, and thanks to everyone who entered!