Disclaimer – I am not going to be commenting on any book’s content. I have not read any of the books currently sent to me, not even a page. I am making this about my first impressions of the following things: title, cover art, and blurb. All things that people will consider before they buy a book. So any commentary I make, negative or positive, should not be taken to mean that I think the story itself will be good or bad. And one way or the other, I will give the book a try.
The Grey Bastards, by Jonathan French
LIVE IN THE SADDLE. DIE ON THE HOG.
Such is the creed of the half-orcs dwelling in the Lot Lands. Sworn to hardened brotherhoods known as hoofs, these former slaves patrol their unforgiving country astride massive swine bred for war. They are all that stand between the decadent heart of noble Hispartha and marauding bands of full-blood orcs.
Jackal rides with the Grey Bastards, one of eight hoofs that have survived the harsh embrace of the Lots. Young, cunning and ambitious, he schemes to unseat the increasingly tyrannical founder of the Bastards, a plague-ridden warlord called the Claymaster. Supporting Jackal’s dangerous bid for leadership are Oats, a hulking mongrel with more orc than human blood, and Fetching, the only female rider in all the hoofs.
When the troubling appearance of a foreign sorcerer comes upon the heels of a faceless betrayal, Jackal’s plans are thrown into turmoil. He finds himself saddled with a captive elf girl whose very presence begins to unravel his alliances. With the anarchic blood rite of the Betrayer Moon close at hand, Jackal must decide where his loyalties truly lie, and carve out his place in a world that rewards only the vicious.
Title – Puts me in the mind of a number of grimdark titles published in recent years.
Cover – Professionally-done, dark and violent, reinforces the title’s idea that I’m going to be getting grimdark.
Blurb – Fascinating. Hitting the grimdark trifecta here, and the blurb makes me think there’ll be plenty of violence and no-holds-barred action held within the story’s pages. It makes me want to take a closer look.
The Call, by Eli Freysson
Rowdy tomboy Katja has always been haunted by premonitions that she will face terrible foes and a lifetime of violence. Her dreams finally come to a frightening reality when she faces a marauding demon and meets Serdra, a mysterious warrior woman, who introduces Katja to the supernatural gifts they share – and the responsibilities that come with them. Together they venture out and heed the Call, as an old evil stirs in Katja‘s homeland.
For three hundred years the battle for the world of mankind has stayed in the shadows. But the old terrors merely slumber and bide their time, while men squabble and forget what awaits them.
The Silent War cannot be won, but the torch can be passed on. The world cannot be saved but it can be preserved.
Title – Pretty generic, but it doesn’t seem weird for a fantasy novel to have this title.
Cover – Not bad, though not with as much polish as I’ve seen in a few other covers so far. Still, I like the presented imagery; I’m curious as to why the character is greyed out, and whether that’s just a statue or some deeper symbolism.
Blurb – For some reason this puts me in mind of something I might see from Angry Robot. Which, while their stuff can be hit or miss for me, is often more hit than miss, and so I’d be fairly willing to check this one out even if it wasn’t in the batch of books I received for the challenge.
Beneath the Canyons, by Kyra Halland
Cowboys and gunslingers meet wizards in this high fantasy series inspired by the Old West. Silas Vendine is a mage and bounty hunter, on the hunt for renegade mages. He’s also a freedom fighter, sworn to protect the non-magical people of the Wildings from ambitious mages both lawless and lawful. It’s a dangerous life and Silas knows it, but when he comes to the town of Bitterbush Springs, he finds more danger and excitement than he bargained for…
In Bitterbush Springs on the trail of a dangerous rogue mage, Silas meets Lainie Banfrey, a young woman both drawn to and terrified of her own developing magical powers. Though Lainie has been taught all her life to hate and fear wizards, she and Silas team up to stop the renegade who has brought her hometown to the brink of open warfare. The hunt takes them deep beneath forbidden lands held by the hostile A’ayimat people, where only Silas’s skills and Lainie’s untamed, untrained power can save them from the rogue mage and the dark magic he has loosed into the world.
Book 1 of Daughter of the Wildings, western fantasy romance for adults and older teens.
Title – Doesn’t make me think of much one way or the other.
Cover – Doesn’t look like many traditionally-published books (and it doesn’t technically have to), but the art is still top-notch, and it seems to give you a taste of what you’ll find in the story itself, which is a western-inspired tale.
Blurb – Western stuff isn’t normally to my taste. And while I still stand by that, I was blown away by Ben Galley’s Bloodrush in last year’s SPFBO, so even something not typically to my taste still stands a good chance of impressing me if it’s good. As I’ve said before, the romance part of the story interests me very little, so if it’s heavy on the romance, I may not end up liking it much. But if the right balance is struck, this could be a pretty good story.
Dark Fate: the Gathering, by Matt Howerter & Jon Reinke
An arranged marriage.
A lost heir to the dwarven throne.
An ancient undead seeks to manipulate four unlikely heroes.
Princess Sloane is to become a queen. Her marriage will unite the last two human kingdoms of Orundal. As it is not a marriage of choice but of necessity, she struggles with the responsibility laid before her, not knowing that the sacrifice she makes for her homeland will be but the first that she must endure.
Her twin sister, Princess Sacha, has been called from her studies at the Monastery to support Sloane in her time of need. Sacha has begun to learn the ways of the arcane and deals with her own troubles concerning the loss of a family that has been taken from her.
The sisters will not face their fates alone as Erik and Kinsey, steadfast companions, become their guides.
Erik seeks only solace for himself and his adopted son, but soon learns that such a wish is impossible to attain as the events around them unfold.
Kinsey, orphaned at birth, wrestles with his newfound rage not realizing that its cause is tied to his unknown heritage.
A tale of adventure filled with dwarves and elves, men and mages, were-beasts and the undead who clash together in a conflict so vast it will consume them all. These four troubled souls will become champions in the struggle for survival, as dark forces gather to destroy them.
Title – The title unfortunately makes me think of something that’s trying too hard to be dark and edgy. Not entirely sure why, since it’s not like I haven’t seen similar titles on other books, where only sometimes they give me that impression. Chalk it up to timing, I guess?
Cover – The art is reminiscent of some of the redone Wheel of Time covers, at least with the character portraits in the background. I find they’re overshadowed by Evil McEvilson with his Darke Magicks in the foreground, though, which comes off as a bit cheesy, even if the art itself is technically quite good.
Blurb – From the blurb, this could be a fairly bog-standard dark fantasy story. That isn’t to say that it will be bad — I’ve seen plenty of stories that look entirely typical on the surface but beneath runs some rich and beautiful prose — but I don’t see much that would compel me to read when I’m not specifically in the mood for something that doesn’t make me stretch my mind too much.
Awakening, by Raymond Bolton
How does a world equipped with bows, arrows and catapults, where steam power is just beginning to replace horses and sailing ships, avert a conquest from beyond the stars? Prince Regilius has been engineered to combat the Dalthin, a predatory alien species that enslaves worlds telepathically, and to do so he must unite his people. But when his mother murders his father, the land descends into chaos and his task may prove impossible. Faced with slaying the one who gave him life in order to protect his world, he seeks a better way. Set in a vast and varied land where telepaths and those with unusual mental abilities tip the course of events, Awakening goes to the heart of family, friendship and betrayal.
Title – Fairly generic, neither good nor bad.
Cover – Makes me think of historical fiction rather than fantasy.
Blurb – Now here’s something you don’t see every day! Fantasy meets sci-fi, in the sense that a traditional fantasy setting is under attack by extraterrestrials! I think the last time I saw this done was actually in a Star Trek: The Next Generation novel. That alone is rare enough to get my notice, and I’m pretty curious as to how this story is going to play out.
The Narrowing Path, by David J Normoyle
In a world that burns up every six years, only the strongest, smartest and most ruthless survive.
The teenage boys of noble birth are sent out into the city to demonstrate their wits and strength. Some prove themselves in combat, others display their empire building skills, still others attempt to kill off their rivals. Out of over a hundred, only six will be selected by the leaders of the great families and allowed a place in the Refuge. The rest will perish, one way or another.
Not only is thirteen-year-old Bowe younger and weaker than most of the other boys, he has no family to support him. He is expected to die on the very first day of the narrowing path. Instead he begins a journey no one could have anticipated.
Title – It doesn’t evoke much feeling in me one way or the other, but it doesn’t seem inappropriate for a fantasy novel or anything.
Cover – Nice artwork, and surprisingly, decent use of flare and fading techniques to blend it all together. It doesn’t have the feel of something slap-dash or haphazard, and I like the the way the shadows play on the central figure to make them look almost stylized, kind of cell-shaded. Interested effect. My own issue is with the tagline, which is a bit too long and feel like too much info is being crammed in. “In this world, there are only winners and ashes,” could have conveyed things more succinctly, for instance, and the whole “the world burns up every six years” bit can be left for explanation in the text.
Blurb – I admit I’m already a little confused. The world can’t be literally burning up every 6 years, or else there wouldn’t be any thirteen year olds. So are we looking at something more metaphorical? Sudden climate change that destabilizes everything, but on a predictable cycle? (If so, how do things recover so quickly to continue to support life?) I can see conditions being bleak, but the setup seems like another logic fail situation that I see in a lot of dystopian and post-apocalyptic scenarios. The world is brutal, so let’s be brutal and make sure that people kill each other off rather than, y’know, cooperating to help further everyone’s survival. The story itself may answer all of these questions, but for now I’m just left scratching my head.