Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: DNF Batch 1

I know, I know, hardly the most original title for the post. But it’s at least straightforward. I’ve gone through a few of the books in my batch now, read some all the way through and passed others after trying bits of them. As I mentioned before, anything I read from beginning to end will get a full review, but the ones I didn’t finish deserve an explanation as to why. Hence, this post.

Protector, by Vanna Smythe

I had such high hopes for this one, because the plot sounded interesting and the cover, I felt, was professionally done and quite attractive. But it didn’t really hold my attention when I read it. The writing was okay, but the dialogue, especially, felt very stilted, like the author was trying to go for a very high-fantasy tone but instead it left the feeling of amateur actors on stage. Combined with a lack of detail in descriptions, the story felt bleak and unappealing.

Honestly, the story may be excellent. The synopsis certainly leads me to think that way, and it’s got dozens of good reviews on Amazon. In the end, I think this may be a case of me being a bit picky combined with the book not really being for me. And there’s no shame in that.

I’m going to keep this one around and give it another try after this challenge has ended. For me, writing syle can make or break my enjoyment of a novel, but that doesn’t mean that the story is bad. I figure there’s enough in it to warrant a closer look, but for now I’m putting it aside and moving on to other books.

The Bone Flower Queen, by TL Morganfield

I would like to stress that the reason I DNF’d this book has nothing to do with the quality of the writing, the plot, or any other reason that I might normally be dissatisfied with a book. No, the reason that this one got DNF’d is because it’s book 2 of a trilogy, and I simply haven’t read the first book. And within the first few pages, there are mentions made to previous events, and the author included a note that essentially said, “BTW, if you really want to enjoy this, read the first book first.” Which I can’t do, as it wasn’t the one submitted for the SPFBO challenge.

And believe me, I wish it had been. When I glanced at the first few pages, I enjoyed the writing, the story seemed interesting, and it’s a book I very much want to read! Historical fantasy set in Mexico? Praise from Aliette de Bodard? I have no idea why this series isn’t attracting more attention.

I can say with certainty that if I get my hands on the first book, I’m going to dive into this series quite happily.

Ascent of the Unwanted, by Nathan T Boyce

I didn’t get very far with this one. On the first page alone, I felt it needed a copyeditor, since there were misplaced commas and misspellings. Pushing through to the first chapter, I found the writing syle unpolished and simplistic. Based on writing style, I would have assumed that the book was intended for younger readers, mid-grade fantasy, but given that the synopsis of the plot involves murder, rape, and prostitution, I’m thinking this isn’t the case. No real motivation to return to this one.


I’ve at least glanced at att the books in my list, to see if anything jumps out at me right away that would make me want to not look any closer at it. Even the ones with descriptions that I didn’t think were that interesting at least seemed to hold some attraction for those first few pages, which is something I didn’t expect, and I’m quite happy about it. That’s no guarantee I’ll end up reading them all or that there’ll be no more DNFs over the course of the challenge, but at least there’s that initial toe-in-the-water test done.

On a related note, I’m really enjoying seeing the SPFBO posts on other blogs. I’ve found a couple of books that I want to take a closer look at that ended up on other lists, so even books that don’t make it to the final round of judging have at least garnered some attention. And isn’t that the whole point of this, after all?

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some more reading to do!

11 comments on “Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: DNF Batch 1

  1. An endorsement from Aliette de Bodard for the Mexican story? Cool. A shame the author seems to have excluded themselves on a technicality.

    I am also following the blog-off with great interest, Ria (without having to do all the work!) Keep the reports coming in!

  2. I knew this was a very real possibility when I entered, and I debated whether to enter at all, but in the end decided it was worth the risk. And I think it worked out all right, since now some new folks are aware of the series. I thank you so very much for taking a look at it.

    *The reason I didn’t submit the first book was that it was originally published by a small press, and so didn’t qualify for the contest.*

    • Ah, that makes sense. Shame, though, because I suspect that would have been a strong contender for best of my batch, if what I saw from skimming book 2 was any indication.

      Here’s hoping you get more readers from the publicity!

  3. You have some nice looking books – and great write up btw.
    The Bone Flower book really does look interesting – that’s a real shame that it’s the second. Still, obviously has a lot of promise.
    Lynn :D

    • Indeed! If/when I get a job again (or some general spare money), I’m probably going to buy the first book so I can give the series a proper try!

  4. Pingback: Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: To Those Who Didn’t Make It | Bibliotropic

  5. Pingback: April in Retrospect | Bibliotropic

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