SPFBO: First Eliminations (Batch 2) and Strong Contenders

I mentioned in the previous post that I’d be highlighting a particular set of books for special attention. These books are books that I initially figured I’d leave on the “I’ll read and review them fully” list, making them strong contenders for being passed along to the second round of judging.

And then I looked at the list and realized wow, that’s pretty much half the books in my batch! That’s a lot of reading! Who do you people think I am, anyway? Do I look like I read at Sarah Chorn‘s pace?

Anyway, that was the point where I realized I was going to have to cut down that list a bit in order to better manage things.

It was tough, making eliminations from this category, because every book in here was one that I wanted to read, for one reason or another. So here’s what’s going on with books in this category: for the moment, they’re not being considered as books that could be passed along to the second round of judging.

However, once I’ve read and reviewed the books that I did earmark as possibilities, if there’s time left before I have to choose a book to pass forward, I’ll start looking more closely at these. These books are also here as backups, in case I made a huge error and judgment and none of the books I think stand a good chance are ones I’d feel comfortable recommending to others. So these books aren’t completely eliminated yet. For the moment, yes, but don’t discount them entirely. They’re worth a second look.

A note in advance – You’re going to see a lot of, “I wanted to see what happened next,” in these mini-reviews. That sounds vague, but it’s a good sign. It means that even if there was no real action of big reveal or anything of the sort, something get its claws into me and made me want to keep reading, to see the somethings that would happen later. It’s not a thing I can pin down and say, “There, that one particular section, that made me want to know what happens next.” But you know it when you feel it, and it’s often the sign of a book that I can enjoy even if it’s not my preferred genre or there’s stuff in it that I find uncomfortable.


Stormwielder, by Aaron Hodges – Starts off with a cursed but naive guy showing up in a new city and nearly getting kidnapped and sold into slavery, only to be saved by a sudden violent local thunderstorm he inadvertently calls down. The naive protagonist doesn’t do much for me, and the intro feels a bit rushed, like the author wanted to get past some tedious establishing bits to get to the meat of the story, but it was still an interesting start, and it feels like there’s a lot more going on than just what’s on the surface.

Ranger of Mayat, by Jim Johnson – Lots of telling and not much showing in the early sections, not in the form of long infodumps but just lots of explanations/definitions in the narrative. Good action, good humour, and the combo of Wild West plus ancient Egypt really struck a chord with me. It was uncommon enough that I want to see more of how the culture presents and the story unfolds.

Demon Frenzy, by Harvey Click – I really didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did. The cover turned me right off, for one thing. I had a bit of a tough time getting into it, but the writing good and it seems like there’s a good story in there. Despite it being urban fantasy, which is typically tough for me to get into, I found myself wanting to know what would happen next, wanting to read more.

The Rise of the Mages, by Brian W Foster – The writing is good, with clear descriptions and each character feeling distinct. A bit of a slow start, and it’s a little hard to be invested in a character when all I really know about him is that he keeps dreaming of and crushing on a girl he’s never met. But the writing alone drew me along to the point that I wanted to find out more about what was going on, which gives me hope that the slow start isn’t a sign of lackluster storytelling.

Innocence Lost, by Patty Jansen – Smooth writing style, characters I’m interested in, and even if the setting seems like bog-standard European-based fantasy, I kept wanting to read just to see what happened next. Not much really happened in the first three chapters, but I quickly felt enough interest in the main character to want to keep reading and follow along, to see what adventures would happen along the way.

The Adventure Tournament, by Nicholas Andrews – This one really surprised me. The cover does nothing for me, the concept does nothing for me, and yet the humour does everything for me! It seems like the kind of book that isn’t meant to be taken seriously, poking fun at many things (including itself) to the point where it’s almost a parody, but not quite. Either way, I was impressed, and as silly as it all sounds, I do want to know what happens.


6 books worth paying attention to. And that’s not including the other 9 that I’ll be taking a much closer look at first.

Those 9 are:

Thread Slivers, by Leeland Artra
Demi Heroes, by Andrew Lynch
Song of the Summer King, by Jess Owens
The Dragon Scale Lute, by JC Kang
The Grey Bastards, by Jonathan French
Beneath the Canyons, by Kyra Halland
Dark Fate: the Gathering, by Matt Howerter & John Reinke
The Narrowing Path, by David J Normoyle
Touch of Iron, by Timandra Whitecastle

Expect full reviews of them starting soon!

5 comments on “SPFBO: First Eliminations (Batch 2) and Strong Contenders

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