Oh my gosh, you guys, this year has been kicking me so hard. I’m sorry I skipped last week. My family ended up with a stomach bug, and I basically spent the whole week cleaning up throw up. It was just glorious, let me tell you. Now the stomach bug has seemed to move on out of the house, and I have about a hundred things I’m trying to catch up on. I also just discovered that my email hasn’t been sending or receiving messages since June 3rd, so if you’ve written me and you haven’t heard back, that’s why. I will try to catch up this week. (That should also kind of signal to you what kind of year this is. It’s been over a month and I’ve been so royally pummeled by life that I didn’t even realize my email hasn’t been working on a consistent basis.)
Anyway, it’s a little late, but here are your round 2 mini reviews. I’m working my way through round 3 books right now. I’m hoping to get them done soon. I will probably pop into the SPFBO group on Facebook when I’m a bit closer to having them done, and let all of you guys know to keep an eye out for the reviews when I’m ready to start working on them. It might be a bit of a pause though, as I have some medical things coming up (I’m getting some electrodes put into my spine, and my kid with a congenital kidney disorder is getting some invasive and horrible tests done) that have the potential of sidelining me for a few weeks. I’ll keep you posted, though.
The Medusa’s Daughter – T.O. Munro
Buy the book
This book is a good change from the grimmer, darker sprawling epics that I’ve been reading recently. If you’re looking for a book that really focuses on relationships, and character development and the evolution of all of the above, then this book is your jam. Munro does a great job at showing how people fit together, and work together and all of the push and pull intricacies involved in all of that. If you really dig books that are more personal, and more intimate, and perhaps you want to give yourself a break from all of the blood and gore that you can find in the genre, than this one fits your bill. The writing is superb. On a line-by-line basis, I found very little to pick at. However, you might find the pacing a bit slow, and a lack of tension is felt. On the flip side, there really is something to say for an author that can keep me hooked throughout a book purely because I’m really enjoying his characters, and the relationships he’s developing and toying with. This is the start of a series, and I am excited to see what happens next. On the whole, Munro’s book is a different sort of beast. It’s a bit quieter, a bit slower, a bit more intimate, but completely enjoyable.
Award: The most intimate
Gateway to Nifleheim – Glenn G. Thater
Buy the book
I struggled a little with this book. You see, I really enjoy details. I think details are awesome, but sometimes details can bog down the plot. I think this was the case in this book. The details were great, and the descriptions were wonderful, but sometime it got to be a little too much, and some descriptions and details happened in weird places, like battle scenes. All of this worked to make a book that was kind of confusing, with the pacing sort of off kilter – fast in some places, slow in others. I wasn’t always completely clear on which character was doing what, and some of the dialogue could have used some trimming and/or clarifying. However, with all that said and done, the writing was good, and I can tell that Thater put a ton of thought and passion into his book, and once I got used to his style and the general parameters of the story being told, I enjoyed myself. Could this book use a little more editing? Yes, but as it is, it’s a passionate, well researched and well written tale and the start of a series that promises to be interesting.
Award: Most detailed world building
Pledges of Honor – Joyce Reynolds-Ward
Buy the book
This book felt very Native American to me. In fact, the mention of buffalo is in the first chapter and I enjoyed that immensely. I haven’t read more than a very few fantasy books that are set in a sort of Native American-esque world. Bravo to the author for that. The magic system is likewise interesting, lots of talk of potions and the various things that go into potions. There’s grand, sweeping characters, and gods, and the mortals that clash with them. My niggles are few. I would have enjoyed a bit more in the way of descriptions. Sometimes I couldn’t quite picture where things where happening, or the people/elements involved in said happenings. A little more in the way of descriptions could have gone a long way toward making this book really take over my mind as I read. I also feel like because this book is set in a unique secondary world, the lack of Secondly, there were some sentences that felt a little oddly worded, and some conversations that were confusing. Some tighter editing would clear that up really fast. Secondly, I felt like some of the characters fell into tropey roles, the gorgeous, mysterious guy. The woman who finds herself an unwitting participant in this gigantic game. However, when it’s all said and done, this book dazzled me quite a bit despite its flaws. The setting is unique, and it’s easy to read and easy to enjoy.
Award: Most unique magic system
Lamentation’s Peak – Brian Decker
Buy the book
Lamentation’s Peak is an interesting novel. It tells the story of one Arlyle, who is climbing up Lamentation’s Peak in search of a source of power. While he’s climbing, there are a lot of flashes to events in his past, which serve both as a source of character development, and also of world building. Now, to be quite honest with you, I struggled with this novel. First of all, I had a very hard time turning off my editor’s brain while I read. Decker has a tendency to re-use common words, which makes the flow of the novel feel rather repetitive and was triggering aforementioned editor’s brain. Secondly, I think it’s pretty hard to pull off novels that are equal parts task-at-hand, and flashbacks. While the task-at-hand parts were well written, I felt like some of the flashbacks lacked the emotional depth and the vibrant world building that the task-at-hand sections were full of. It made it hard for me to mentally wrap my head around this world, and Arlyle’s place in it. It’s an interesting concept, but I think editing could have helped tighten up the writing, and the world building. Regardless, this is a strong effort, and a unique take on the classic quest fantasy tropes. This is a surprisingly captivating take on the one-man-against-the-world storyline, and I really admire Decker’s effort here.
Award: Most unique take on a classic
Anaerfell – Joshua Robertson
Buy the book
This book really surprised me. First, it was darker than I expected. Secondly, it had the kind of back-stabbing, caustic humor, intrigue-ish plot that I tend to really enjoy. Despite myself, I was sucked in pretty fast. The plot moves at a pretty relentless pace, and the world is really interesting and well done, though (sorry, but this is my typical complaint), I could have used more details here and there to bring it more vividly to life in my mind. My other point I need to raise is regarding editing. While by and large this novel was edited very well, there were some points where word use was questionable, sentences could have been tidied up, and some grammar issues that were easy to miss unless you are on the lookout for that sort of thing. However, this is a dark fantasy with two villains as protagonists. Be still my heart. It’s a solid start to a series. If you like your fantasy dark, and your characters darker, then this is a book to check out.
Award: The darkest epic
Reborn – Linn Tesli
Buy the book
This book has me kind of divided. First of all, this is an epic fantasy. A bunch of people are on a quest. It’s interesting. The world is well done, and there are plenty of details and things happening. There’s a lot of characters to keep track of, and enough going on both directly and indirectly to feed your epic fantasy itch. It’s interesting, and well written, and the author’s unique touch is strongly felt. On the other side, I kind of feel like this book wasn’t sure if it was geared toward young adults or adults. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but it is something to be aware of. There’s definite appeal of crossover novels, but usually the author is sure of the fact that it’s a crossover novel, if that makes sense. Secondly, the book had some typical tropes, like elves and etc. While I do feel like this obviously pays homage to some of the genre classics, I also kind of feel like the author is talented enough and the world is unique enough to allow her to sort of color outside the lines a bit. And occasionally the writing felt a little flat. So Reborn, in the end, was a strong epic fantasy, but I really feel like the author could have maybe stretched her wings a little more than she did. Is it worth reading? Yes. It’s a fun story, and well written with some interesting characters that develop nicely. In the end I really felt like Reborn was a work of love, and I felt that throughout the book.
Award: Best High Fantasy
And the winner is…
Stunning work. I await every SPFBO review impatiently and read some of entries. Is it too early to ask which books will be considered in part three of your mini-reviews?
Thank you, Sarah! I am very honored to win the first part of the competition on Book Worm Blues. So many great books in every round! Thanks for highlighting the darkness of Anaerfell: The Blood of Dragons.