It’s been a while since I’ve posted about SPFBO here and I do apologize for that! I’ve spent the past month reading the fifteen books left from my initial cull, narrowing down to my semi-finalists and my finalist! I cannot wait to share my results with all of you over these next two weeks!
A few quick housekeeping things:
- I know I mentioned I wanted to do mini reviews for books I didn’t finish entirely and full reviews for books that I did read to completion, but unfortunately, I will only have time to do mini reviews. Every book is still getting a review, it’s just laid out differently than I had planned initially in June. Thanks for the understanding in this change!
- Also, please remember, now that I’m narrowing down to personal favorites, that these are personal opinions, as are all book reviews! What one person dislikes, another may love. Also, I read all of these books a little differently than when I read purely for pleasure, in that I am, essentially, judging them all against one another and narrowing it done to a single favorite between them all. So, with that in mind, some of these books I stopped reading earlier than I might have if I was just reading for fun and not a contest, simply because I already loved another book more and needed to move on and continue reading to meet deadline. I know that can seem harsh, but just wanted to offer a little transparency of my process!
Now, let’s get to it!
Title: The Queen’s Executioner
Author: Christopher Mitchell
Published: May 2019
Amount Read: 384 of 799 pages (49%)
Rating: 3 out of 5 gems
Blurb: The mighty Rahain Republic is the envy of the world. Cracks are appearing. The old order is passing.
In the conquered territories, a renegade Fire Mage is rallying the resistance, threatening the Republic’s hold as she burns her way through the occupying forces.
Leading a destitute horde of hundreds of thousands of refugees are two sisters. Each of them is determined to save their people, and bring them to new home. One stands in the light, a visionary who declared herself Queen.
The other sister is a Dark Mage, whose power to kill is the only thing keeping the migration from anarchy. When she tests her might against the Republic, there can only be a single victor.
The Magelands will never be the same again.
This novel had so much promise for me, but unfortunately, it ended up having too many questions and believability issues for me to continue reading.
I thought the world was really fascinating. It was unlike any fantasy world I’d read before and some of the characters, I became really attached to and interested in–Daphne and Shella, in particular. Without giving away too many spoilers, however, the more I continued to read, the more I questioned some of the plot threads and how they are meant to work. In particular, the developments with Obli and a few relationship developments with Daphne both felt too sudden, that they lacked the time to truly develop into something I could comfortably believe was happening to these characters. I also wish the magic was a little more fleshed out and believe there might be too many plotlines/POVs to contain into one novel.
Though I found this to be very interesting and the writing solid, it ultimately ended up not being for me–however, I do think I would check out this author’s work in the future, because I can tell there is quality here!
Title: Web of Eyes
Author: Jaime Castle and Rhett C. Bruno
Published: November 2018
Amount Read: 441 of 636 pages (69%)
Rating: 3 out of 5 gems
Blurb: A rotten thief. A stubborn knight. Only together can they save a broken kingdom.
Self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Thief”, Whitney Fierstown, has yet to find a trinket or treasure he couldn’t steal. He nearly pulls off the heist of the century by snatching the Glass Crown off the dying king’s head until rotten luck throws him into the path of Torsten Unger, a steadfast knight determined to save his vulnerable kingdom.
Torsten offers this ultimatum: rot and die in a dank cell or join him on a dangerous expedition and put his skills to good use. The Queen’s treasonous brother has cursed the Crown Prince by taking a piece of his soul and hiding it in the haunted Webbed Woods. Only a master thief can steal it back.
Rebellion building in the south. Madness seated upon the throne. Famine and death spreading throughout the land. The kingdom is in peril.
If this unlikely pair is to thwart their devious target, save the prince, and survive the horrifying monster lurking in the darkness, they must first put aside their differences…or die trying.
This one was another that held so much promise to me and perhaps, outside of the contest, I may revisit it again and give it a second chance, because I did find the writing to be really solid and still want to know what’s happening with the curse on the Crown Prince.
I thought it had some really strong one-liners and had this traditional fantasy feel that was easy to slip into, especially early on. I really liked the opposites of the Thief and the Knight (although, to be completely honest, the Thief really annoyed the hell out of me and I didn’t really like him). However, there reaches a point in the novel where I’m starting to get truly invested and then an event happens that causes it to feel like we’re completely starting over, in terms of the overarching main plot/goal, and we’re taken away from the character I’m actually invested in, which felt really jarring to me. The pace began to drag a little bit, instead of pushing forward and, at that time, I’d already fallen in love with another book in my batch, so I knew it was time to stop reading.
Again, I may return to this book for my own personal enjoyment in the future, as I think it has a lot of positives! It just wasn’t enough for me to fall in love with comparatively, unfortunately.
Title: The Seal of Throkar
Author: Marniy Jones
Published: August 2016
Amount Read: 165 of 696 pages (23%)
Rating: 3 out of 5 gems
Blurb: In a world walked by gods and their immortal avatars, a hidden war is brewing.
When the immortal avatar of a god is murdered, the remaining avatars suspend their differences and flee to the safest place they know: the fortress of the goddess of war. The frail truce might keep them from each other’s throats while inside the walls, but won’t stop them from plotting and scheming against one another in retaliation for eons-old betrayals.
For Quinthian, handmaiden to the fertility goddess, the situation goes from merely intolerable to catastrophic when she is sent on a mission to investigate the crime alongside Dalanar, a powerful sorcerer in service to her enemy. The man is intelligent, cunning, inexcusably handsome—and has been persecuting the followers of her goddess for as long as Quin can remember. Despite the lifetime of animosity between them, they must cooperate if they hope to save their avatars from the mysterious assassin’s hand.
When their inquiry uncovers a deeper conspiracy, Quin is forced to question her faith, her loyalty, and everything she knows about her allies and her adversaries. However, the Summer Festival is fast approaching—a time when Quin must take a suitor to ensure a strong harvest, but which also might be just the opportunity the killer has been waiting for. In a game where the gods themselves are pawns, the man she is sworn to kill could provide her only chance of protecting the people she loves. But first, Quin must decide who can be trusted and who is worth saving.
This was a bit of a weird one for me, because where some of the other books in my batch, I felt the pace was dragging, this one, I wanted it to slow down a bit more, for I felt myself getting confused, lacking in the details I really wanted, whereas at the same time, I wanted the main conflict to come to a head faster, for I didn’t understand how the characters would afford to wait, while all of this dancing around between Quin and Dalanar takes place? So it was a weird balance of pacing, in that I wanted it to both slow down and explain more, but also reach the main conflict faster. I never truly understood how Avatars and Servants worked, which ultimately took away from my enjoyment of the story.
I thought the writing was really lovely (especially in the opening chapter) and I was really curious about where this story was headed. Ultimately, it just lacked enough clarity early on for me to continue reading.
Title: Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil
Author: Mary Fan
Published: May 2018
Amount Read: 230 of 384 pages (60%)
Rating: 3 out of 5 gems
Blurb: Break the enchantments. Find the truth. Ignite the revolution.
A century ago, the Enchanters defeated the evil Lord of the Underworld, but not before he’d unleashed his monsters and ravaged the earth. The Enchanters built the Triumvirate out of what remained of the United States, demanding absolute obedience in exchange for protection from the lingering supernatural beasts.
Sixteen-year-old Flynn Nightsider, doomed to second-class life for being born without magic, knows the history as well as anyone. Fed up with the Triumvirate’s lies and secrecy, he longs for change. And when he stumbles across a clue that hints at something more – secrets in the dark, the undead, and buried histories – he takes matters into his own hands.
Before long, Flynn finds himself hunted not only by the government, but also by nightmarish monsters and a mysterious man with supernatural powers … all seeking him for reasons he cannot understand. Rescued by underground rebels, he’s soon swept up in their vision of a better world, guided by a girl as ferocious as the monsters she fights. But as the nation teeters on the brink of revolution, Flynn realizes three things.
The rebellion is not what it seems.
Flynn himself might be more than he seems.
And the fate of the world now rests in his hands.
I am really bummed I didn’t end up loving this one more, because for the first half of the book, I was really, really enjoying it! I really enjoyed the characters and the main conflict and thought the later inclusions of new POVs to be surprisingly effective in how it introduced the new factions and heightened the tension really well, while also making the reader question who exactly they should be rooting for, here.
Unfortunately, I felt like quite a few events were really coincidental and, as we progress passed the 50% mark, some tension was actually shied away from in some aspects and I just wanted to reach the final battle/reveal of loyalties and truths, yet it felt like it was taking a while to get there.
Though I was enjoying this initially and thought the writing was pretty strong, eventually, the secrets and hintings at more nefarious deeds became a little heavy handed for me, when I would have preferred subtle deliveries, and I just wanted to get to the end, yet it continued to drag. Though I’m going to cut this one, I am definitely intrigued to read the author’s other works!
Title: A Magical Inheritance
Author: Krista D. Ball
Published: May 2019
Amount Read: 100%
Blurb: Miss Elizabeth Knight received an unexpected legacy upon her uncle’s death: a collection of occult books. However, when one of the books begins talking to her, she discovers an entire world of female occultist history opened to her—a legacy the Royal Occult Society had purposely hidden from the world.
However, the magic allowing the book to speak to Miss Knight is fading and she must gather a group of female acquaintances of various talents. Together, they’ll need to work to overcome social pressures, ambitious men, and tyrannical parents, all to bring Mrs. Egerton, the book ghost, back.
Congrats to my first announced (of three!) semi-finalists, A Magical Inheritance by Krista D. Ball! I won’t reveal too much now about my thoughts of this book (saving that for the announcement of my finalist next week), but it’s safe to say that I quite enjoyed this one!
I’ll have two more posts revealing the fates of the last ten books in my batch tomorrow and Wednesday, before I review my three semi-finalists and announce my finalist next Monday, the 25th!