And the BiblioSanctum #SPFBO Finalist is…
Since revealing our short list in the summer, we have been busy reading and reviewing our top six books in order to determine who will submit for the final rounds of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. While each of us has read all six of the books, we have posted reviews for two of those books each. Now it’s time for us to sit down and chat about our favourites and our not-so-favourites. What worked for Tiara? Why did Mogsy really like that book? Why did Wendy end up disappointed with her picks? Join us in our Sanctum Sanctorum as we sum up our thoughts and whittle it down to our finalist!
To start, let’s take a look at our six books again…
Reviewed by Mogsy: I enjoyed this book so much. The writing was strong from the get go, and I only became more intrigued after getting to know the protagonist. I think the characters are this book’s greatest strength, but you can also easily get sucked into the fast-paced story. While the cat-and-mouse pattern of events gets a little repetitive over the course of the story, Claire Frank does a fine job keeping things interesting with plenty of action and mystery. If you like fantasy and adventure, I think this one will make you very happy.
Wendy: Strong female character is a catch phrase these days, with people not quite understanding what that means. Rhis is a fantastic example of the right way to write a woman who is well-rounded and comes complete with a healthy sexual appetite, flaws, and mad skills. This is what struck me first about this book and I am pleased to see how well Frank followed through with Rhis. Her adventure, including her relationships, show some great character development. The plot is fast-paced, but it could have served better with some stronger worldbuilding. A lot of interesting seeds have been planted though.
Tiara: This was an engaging fantasy adventure story. I loved the writing style and thought the author did an amazing job with the descriptions without being too wordy.
Reviewed by Wendy: What a delightful romp this was! A non-stop adventure above and beneath the clouds, featuring pirates, space squid, and a French-speaking sky monkey. This is intended for a younger audience, but has that swashbuckling Disney adventure vibe that works for all ages. It does touch on some mature themes that Harriet, the young girl at the heart of the story, must come to terms with as she unravels the truth about her parentage.
Mogsy: I agree, this was lots of fun, and one of my favorites as well. All things being equal though, I would probably give the edge to an adult novel over children’s fiction, but that’s just a matter of my own personal taste. I might not be this book’s target audience, but it really is an excellent and well written story.
Tiara: A fun steampunk adventure. Very fast paced with characters that you really grow to love. It’s geared more toward younger readers, but adults can the magic of this story just as easily.
Reviewed by Tiara: I’m a huge superhero fan and I’ll consume superhero stories in whatever format I can get my hands on. While the story itself is familiar since many hero stories start with some type of huge event that gives ordinary people powers, Rising’s storytelling and worldbuilding was excellent. But it is very much a New Adult story, which may be a bit of a turn-off for some readers. Also the story could’ve been knit together a bit better than it was, but I think overall this is a good starting point that might be worth following into another book.
Mogsy: This book was so unique! And the writing was SO SO SO GOOD. I guess my only issue with this novel was the structure. I would have preferred the three character POVs to be woven together throughout the novel versus separated like three novellas. It was hard to stay interested in the story if I didn’t like one of the characters, for example. But since I love character-focused novels, I guess I can’t complain too much!
Wendy: There was a lot that I liked about this book, not the least of which is the superhero aspect and the descriptions of the various abilities and how this all came to be. But the structure did not work well for me. The introductions for each character were solid, but, as Mogsy notes, there was little to bind them all together within the overarching plot. Hopefully this will all come together as the series continues.
Reviewed by Wendy: This paranormal fantasy lured me in with delicious descriptions, quietly teased supernatural elements, and sharp dialogue, and it kept me going with so much plot foreplay. But after awhile, foreplay can get monotonous. I found myself wishing for a payoff that really didn’t come as the protagonists, Liv and Trey, go from despising each other, to being unable to keep apart once the stars align. As part of a series, there was ample opportunity to move the story forward within this first book instead of padding things out with the literal day to day goings on of the couple as they try to sort out the predicament their star-crossed relationship has gotten them into to thanks to Trey’s mysterious family problems.
Mogsy: I agree 100% with Wendy here. The writing is gorgeous. Loved how it brought out the atmosphere of the setting. The main reason this story didn’t work for me though, is that Fantasy Romance isn’t really my thing, and the amount of detail here surrounding our two main characters’ relationship simply went beyond what I personally felt invested in. But if you are into the genre, you’ll love the interplay.
Tiara: Well, this started out promising, but I found myself distanced from the story as I continued on. There was just something so frustrating about this story that turned me off as I moved further into the story.
Reviewed by Tiara: To be honest, when I first started this book, I didn’t know if I was going to like it much. Once it hit its stride though, I found myself invested in the story of these people and their conflict. Despite the page count, this is a fast, fun story that doesn’t spend too much dawdling. With that being said, this might come off a little tedious to some readers and parts of the book that can be a little predictable at points, but that doesn’t take away from this being a mostly fun read. Miller certainly does an excellent job in baiting readers with just enough of the story to keep them hanging on for the next book.
Mogsy: I found this one to be, in true epic fantasy style, very weighty and very dense. This is not meant to be a criticism by any means. It’s just that, like many books of its genre, it does take a while for the story to get going and build interest. But once I got through the initial five chapters, I was soundly hooked.
Wendy: Sometimes it’s nice to get back to the basics, even with fantasy. Dragons, elves, demons — not that this story is basic in any way. It takes those fantasy standards and makes them its own. There are a lot of details that go into painting this world, which can slow the story down at times, but the result is a rich and complex fantasy that I really enjoyed.
The Warlock and the Wolf by Delfy Hall
Reviewed by Mogsy: I love Historical Fantasy and I have a real soft spot for animal characters, which was why this one captured my attention right away. I enjoyed this one a lot overall, though not being too familiar with the historical setting I wish the story had provided more context. I think the book’s lack of other memorable characters besides Mina and the wolf also hurt it a bit and perhaps caused the slow down in momentum towards the end. That said, there’s plenty to like here and lots of potential for more.
Wendy: The juxtaposition of science and magic captured my attention immediately, as did Mina and her views on both and her relationship with the wolf. But beyond these elements, the story did not manage to keep my attention.
Tiara: This story had a great female character spearheading the story, and it turned out to be much better than I was expecting. This was a very thoughtful story and showed plenty of promise.
And now the time has finally come! We just want to say thank you to the authors in our final six. All of their books were well written and has much to appeal to their respective audiences. For the purposes of this competition though, there can only be one. After careful thought and examination, the three of us compared notes and we’ve decided that the book we’re putting forth to the final competition round will be…
Assassin’s Charge by Claire Frank
The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller
Congratulations to Assassin’s Charge by Claire Frank! We would also like to give an honorable mention to our runner-up, The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller. It came down to these two books as our final two, and it was a very tough choice since both books spoke to us in their own way. We definitely encourage you to check out both.
Congrats again, Claire, and we wish you the best of luck in the next phase of SPFBO, where each blog will be reviewing the other nine blogs’ picks. We’re looking forward to it!