Alright folks, here you have it – the final round of mini reviews for this first group of #SPFBO contestants. Wow, this was a rough on. Very, very rough. These books were all very strong. The game plan after this is to sit on these books for a day or so, and then Wednesday or Thursday I will list all of the round winners (there will be five of them) and announce the overall winner that will go on to the next round of this contest.
Many thanks to everyone who stuck with me through this, despite the health issues that waylayed my progress a bit. Also, as a fantastic bonus, my wordpress updated and apparently it hates me now, and won’t let me upload cover images. I wrote these mini reviews in Word before I realized this was an issue, so I wrote them as though the cover art is right there. Well, it’s not, and I’m tired, so feel free to click on the titles to be sent to the Amazon page where you can feast your eyes on the cover art. I’m going to mess with this issue a bit tomorrow, and if I fix it I will update this post with cover art.
Here you go!!
First things first, for some reason I really dig this cover. I don’t know why, but it just works for me. Secondly, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a solid foray into epic fantasy with good characters, believable characterization, and a really nicely paced plot. Other than some editing issues here and there, this book was pretty easy to get comfortable with and just enjoy. At its heart, this is your standard good vs. bad story, but there are plenty of twists here to keep it interesting. Some characters will appeal to readers more than others, and some plot points didn’t feel quite as thought out as I expected, but despite this, Ravinor was a pleasant surprise from an author who has the potential to make some real waves in the genre.
Six Celestial Swords by T.A. Miles
God, this last group of books just about killed me. I was actively looking forward to reading so many of them, and it’s just crazy that they all got randomly assigned to the same group. This is one of the books I was chomping at the bit to get to. This is another one where I just want to sit back and bask in the glory of that cover for a few minutes before I actually talk about the book itself. If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for right now, it’s fantasy set in nonwestern worlds, and this is very, very nonwestern. One of the strengths of this book was the descriptive writing stle. The world Miles crafted really came to life for me, which in turn made the characters that much more interesting, and the quest/adventure/various plot points really gripping. Honestly, I’m having a hard time not loving everything about this book. If I had to quibble about some points, I would say that some descriptions and plot points were a little confusing, maybe a ltitle too wordy at points, but otherwise this book was superb, and highly recommended.
They Mostly Come Out At Night by Benedict Patrick
This book has my favorite cover out of all the books I got for the SPFBO this year. This book is very unique, and while that worked for me, I can see where it might be a tad offputting to some readers. This novel is short-ish, clocking in at around 200 pages. Between each chapter there is an interlude that tells some mythological story. These stories are fantastic world building tools, and sneaky in their own respect. The one problem I can see is that they take time away from some of the other plot points and character development going on. Some of this book felt a little rushed, which was okay, but I left this book wishing it was longer. It’s just so delightfully weird, so completely unique, with such powerful, fantastic writing that I wanted more. At the end of the day I’m not sure if that’s a criticism or a compliment.
Before the Full Moon Rises by MJ Bell
I struggled a bit with this book, and I’m not sure if it’s a case of not-my-style or not. This book is geared toward a younger audience, and it’s a ton of fun. The plot moves at an absolutely relentless pace and there is a ton of adventure, lots of twists and turns, and a whole lot of heart. This book could have used a heavier hand with editing. There were some errors that didn’t need to be there, and there were some parts of the book that felt… stilted a bit. Maybe awkward pacing mixed with some tell vs. show writing combined to make this book good, but not quite there for me.
Sparks and Shadows by Kendrick von Schiller
The vision of this book is grand and wonderful. It’s a sprawling epic that spans multiple societies and civilizations. The author really managed to suck me into the world, and I loved the vision and where she was going with everything. This book is long, and it really needed that length to tell the story that was being told. There were, however, some issues. The writing felt…uncertain, which made the characters seem uncertain, and various points of the plot reflected that as well. Furthermore, some of the descriptions had a tendency to turn a bit purple. So, while this book had a ton of strengths, and I loved its vision, there was this uncertainty throughout the narrative that I really struggled with.
Shadows and Starstone by Cheryl S. Mackey
Another novella! Man, is this the year of novellas or what? I really appreciate that. Also, another book with a cover I adore. Shadows and Starstone does a few things incredibly well. It has a great tone, and fantastic world building. These two combine to suck readers in right away. The plot moves pretty quickly, and the action/adventure theme will work well with readers. It’s easy to fall into, and incredibly interesting – which is helped by some fantastic characters. My real issue with this one was that the second half of the novel felt way too over explained. I understand the value of knowing the details – I’m a huge detail person, but sometimes there can be too many details. In this case, it slowed the second half down until it grew a bit tedious. Regardless, this is a great opening to a series I will pay attention to.
The winner is….
Okay, you’re going to all hate my guts for this, but this is my website so I get to bend my rules, right? Right. I can’t choose just one book this week. I’m flipping between two, and I just can’t make up my mind so I’m calling it a tie. If they can tie for gold and silver in the olympics, then by damn you guys can tie here too, right?
So, the winners are….
Six Celestial Swords by T.A. Miles
They Mostly Come Out at Night by Benedict Patrick
You guys made this difficult.
I’m not sure if T. A. Miles is *sorry* for producing a book that made this difficult to you, BUT! We are very excited that you enjoyed Six Celestial Swords! Now I can stop nail biting and start wringing my hands nervously for the next round. 😀
I hope you and your daughter are feeling a bit better. Best wishes to both of you.
[…] 3.5/5 from Bookworm Blues […]
[…] to always be the ‘almost’ winner: They Mostly Come Out At Night seriously impressed SPFBO judge Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues (who called it ‘delightfully weird’ and ‘completely unique’) in the first round, but once […]
[…] though he’s cursed to always be the ‘almost’ winner: They Mostly Come out at Night seriously impressed SPFBO judge Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues (who called it ‘delightfully weird’ and ‘completely unique’) in the first […]