As it is the nature of any competition, at one point we have to start saying goodbyes to those who didn’t quite won our hearts over. For Team RockStarlit BookAsylum this moment arrived now. We are going to say goodbye to 6 books, some we enjoyed reading, some not so much.
At the time of posting this, not every one of us wrote up mini or full reviews of each book, so I will only use quotes from those that are available. You can always check our progress on my SPFBO page which I update regularly. Learn more about my team and fellow judges!
Without further ado, let’s rip off that bandage – or wield the axe or scythe or… okay, I need to stop with this line of thought – and see who won’t survive the first Reaping.
The Procurement of Souls by Benjamin Hope
Magnus Drinkwater is close. Close to harnessing enough power to fuel his modified pocket-watch and stop time. But the answer continues to lie out of reach and when his daughter discovers a young woman no longer in possession of her soul, it quickly becomes clear that his own frustrations are the least of his worries. Someone with altogether darker machinations is busy working to their own design.
Dr Weimer is manoeuvring in the shadows, harvesting the souls from small-time criminals and turning their empty bodies into his mind-dead minions. But he too needs more power. Greater soul potency to reach his vision. And he'll do whatever it takes. No matter the cost.
As the body count rises and Magnus follows a bloody and violent path through decaying city slums and dockyards; city ministerial buildings; and St Villicus' monastery with its subterranean catacombs, he unearths more questions than answers. What is the link to the violent death of his wife two years before? What secrets are his colleagues hiding? Is there anyone he can truly trust? He must forge alliances he never thought possible and ultimately decide: just how far is he willing to push his own principles of science to power his device and keep the city safe?
Two scientists. Two ambitions. One bloody adventure...
Jen: “Though I loved the soul-stealing golem premise, the rest- the characters and their search to uncover the truth behind the missing ladies etc. just wasn’t holding my attention. I find in crime stories, I am the most interested in the ones where I don’t know who the villain is. So I think this one came down to not enough interest in the characters, for me to see how they get from point A to point B in their investigation.”
Belle: “This book has an interesting enough premise – bad guy stealing souls so he can live forever, good guy solving the mystery while facing his own challenges – but ultimately it couldn’t hold my interest enough to finish it. I found it hard to engage with the characters, especially Clementine, who despite being 17 years old, read more like 13-14 years old. None of the characters had much depth to them, and the dialogue felt a little stilted throughout.”
Timy: “My biggest complaint regarding The Procurement of Souls is its characters. I couldn’t stand Clementine, one of the other MCs, a young lady who decides to take matters in her hands and starts to investigate. She and her father – a doctor – soon find themselves in the thick of things. They both are a bit flat as characters, and I couldn’t make myself care about any of them. The plot itself seemed interesting enough, and a bit of polishing this book could have been better.”
Nick: “Where the book lost me is in the sheer suffering and pain that the characters are put through and the often horrifying depictions of torture. It was just too “real” of a book for me if that makes any sense. At times I felt like I was reading a True Crime novel about a serial killer and the methods that he used to lure his victims to his lair in order to get what he wanted from them. In the end, it was just too draining a read that left me feeling sad and depressed with every chapter.”
|Our Combined Rating: 4.3/10||Available: Amazon|
Over a Dead God’s Body by Joel Spriggs
Loki hates being bound to Seth, the most micromanaging of all the Egyptian Gods. But when their quest to regain Seth's crown leads to a boring midwest town where nothing happens, Loki discovers a family he never wanted to admit may exist.
Esmy is singularly frustrated by the lack of pockets in women's clothing and being stuck in a rut with fixing the same crappy WiFi issues day in and day out. But when it turns out her great-grandfather is Loki, that ignites her life like a powder-keg. Leading her to discover her own college campus's mysterious depths, involving voodoo priestesses, sasquatches, vampires, Canadians who hate girl scout cookies and the magical ability to have a pocket bigger than a closet.
In a high-stakes game of maneuvering, Loki's freedom and Esmy's survival come down to a fight over a God's dead body.
Jen: “This was a hard one because this is definitely not my type of humour which was a little too bawdy for my likes- I tend to lean towards dry, sarcastic, and maybe even a bit morbid. It didn’t help that the story felt to be worked around the best way to showcase that humour either. I admit, to being pretty hard to please in that department and couple that with a school/possibly instructional type setting- it really had to impress me to keep me interested.”
Timy: “I had a number of issues with this book. What put me off the most is the way the book operated with humor. I’ve never found this kind of humor funny personally. At times it felt too forced, and some chapters merely existed to show off the crudeness, but otherwise didn’t seem to serve the plotline much.”
Nick: “Sadly, it started out on the wrong foot with me and never recovered. Mainly the thing that turned me off about this book was the overt crudeness of the humor. It is pretty in your face to put it lightly. Let me also say that I am not a prude when it comes to crude humor, but I felt it just got to be too much at times and took away from the story.”
|Our Combined Rating: 2/10||Available: Amazon|
The Werewolf Whisprer by Camilla Ochlan, Bonita Gutierrez
The Kyon Virus (also known as KV, Wereflu, or The Affliction) is a sudden-onset viral infectious disease that attacks the entire body, transforming the muscular and skeletal structures of the host. The Kyon Virus manifests in hosts in a variety of ways, leading to the three-tiered classification of the Were: Hound, Feral and Werebeast. No known cure for the Kyon Virus exists, nor can the symptoms be treated. It is estimated at the initial outbreak (see K-Day) one in twenty Californians contracted the disease.
Ferocious werewolf virus hits L.A.
Werebeasts rampage through the streets.
The city's in chaos.
Lucy Lowell jumps right in to help the Afflicted. And she has a bizarre knack for making the feral creatures sit and stay.
Her sister-in-arms, Xochi Magaña - a fierce drink-slinger with an affinity for shiny, sharp weapons – is desperate to free her Werebeast brother.
Thrust into the space between violence and death, the two women try to battle the tragic fallout of the werewolf apocalypse.
But keeping Angelenos from clawing each other to bits is not all it's cracked up to be.
Welcome to the werewolf apocalypse. Hope you're locked and loaded.
You’ll chew right through this urban fantasy like a hound through a milk bone.
Grab your copy today.
Jen: “The story takes it time getting its plot on the road, and detours frequently – there is a lot of filler, something I wouldn’t have minded so much considering how entertaining it could be at times, except this ended in very non-end kind of way, leaving us hanging with nothing really answered. I was a little disappointed and it made it hard for me to overlook a lot of the other issues – story jumpiness, missing context and explanations (e.g. Kai dognapped but appears out of nowhere later) etc. that I was having and one of the more frustrating story devices; timeline jumping and the use of inconsequential tidbit and information saving to hook us to continue.”
Timy: The idea is neat, and it really is an easy read. Lucy and Xochitl compliment each other well. Even so, somehow the idea of people being kept as pets – even if they are affected by a virus and all – just not sitting well with me. From the look of things, events really start to happen around the time I stopped reading. Though I don’t really feel the urge to continue, I can recommend it if you like a fast paced urban fantasy featuring werewolves, a conspiracy theory and two kick ass female leads.
Nick: “The two main characters are fun-loving and snarky but there wasn’t a lot of depth to them in my opinion. They almost seemed like caricatures and this didn’t help me get invested in what happened to them during their adventures. There is also a significant amount of bitingly dark humor in this book which at times got distracting. I really never could get past what I perceived as frequent periods of unnecessary banter and the werewolf angle wasn’t enough to keep my interest.”
|Our Combined Rating: 4.8/10||Available: Amazon|
The Thorning Ceremony by Andrew Einspruch
A slightly OCD princess. Her ambitious twin sister.
And the worst rite of passage in the history of all the realms.
Princess Eloise Hydra Gumball III is on track to become the Future Ruler and Heir to the Western Lands and All That Really Matters. That is, if she can survive the grueling training of the demanding Thorning Master, stave off her sister’s desires to take on the role, and get through the horrific Thorning Ceremony.
The Thorning Ceremony is a humorous story set in a unique fantasy world that features weak magic, equality between species, way töö mänÿ ümläüts. It's a funny and witty prequel novel to the Western Lands and All That Really Matters series. If you like quirky, clever characters, lively dialog, and a fun Discworld-ish fantasy setting, then you'll love this book from Andrew Einspruch.
Pick up The Throning Ceremony today, and dive into the freshest fantasy series in years.
Jen: “I love fairy-tale type stories and am a bit of a sucker for fun princess stories, so I really thought this one was going to be right up my alley. But I found as I was getting close to midway that I wasn’t interested enough to continue. I’m not sure why. It was just a bit dull or maybe just young feeling up to that point and I wasn’t connecting to either girl.”
Belle: “Honestly, I don’t have much I can say about this one, because I didn’t make it much past the 20% mark. I know the description says there are a lot of umlauts in the story, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for the sheer quantity of them, or names that had multiple, repeated accents. It was too jarring, and made it impossible for me to focus on the story.”
Timy: “It starts off slowly with a few scenes that are working as fillers but aren’t really interesting. Instead of learning more about the Ceremony itself or why it’s important, we get this boring few pages where the girls are going about about two commentators who were bickering on the margins of the pages written about the Thorning Ceremony. The Thorning Ceremony is not a very long book, so it can be read in one sitting – once you got over the names and enterily too long titles, that is.”
Nick: “I don’t know if this book didn’t connect with me because it is a prequel and I had no real knowledge of the main series going in, or if it just wasn’t my type of book. It did appear to me at times that there were holes in the narrative that I may have been able to fill in having some prior knowledge.”
|Our Combined Rating: 2.1/10||Available: Amazon|
The Vessel of Ra by Catherine Shaff-Stump
While traveling in Venice in 1837, Lucy Klaereon, in order to save her family’s honor and her immortal soul, decides to commit suicide by drowning herself in the Grand Canal. Unfortunately for Lucy, she is rescued. Her rescuers believe they can separate her from the demon Ra, whom she is destined to fight because of an ancient family pact.
What Lucy does not know is that her rescuers have their own agenda. Paolo Borgia, head of a deposed magical family, wants to use Ra for his own purposes. Lucy is given an alternative, to separate herself from her demon and family, which she gladly welcomes. When she finds out the truth about Ra, Lucy's purpose changes from not only freedom, but to righting an ancient wrong.
Octavia, Lucy’s older sister, is in pursuit. She has been trained since birth to kill Lucy when Lucy loses her battle with Ra.. At the ritual to free Ra, the two sisters clash with surprising results. Octavia is possessed by Ra and Lucy is determined to free her sister and keep Ra from reshaping the world in his image.
There is one small problem. Lucy has been murdered. However, she’s not about to let a small detail like that keep her from correcting her mistakes. Lucy will save Octavia, even if it kills her again.
Jen: “My biggest issues were to do with the repetitive thoughts and info – with everybody and about everything. From the reasons for wanting the scroll and what it does, to having to win in the binding ritual and the consequences of not winning etc. so, a lot of the back-end felt like we had been there done that. Especially with Octavia, who is back and forth on killing Lucy. I almost dropped the story over this.”
Timy: “This book has magic, demons, complicated relationships and a bit of a predictable outcome. I wish we learn more about the magic system and the Klaereon family’s relationships with demons (especially Ra) – and why they brainwash their own children. It’s actually an easy and fast read so it can be finished in a setting or two. I recommend if you like intrigue and a main character who has every odds against her and still keeps fighting on.”
Nick: “The writing was fine and the premise of sisters who are able to bind demons is a very cool one. There’s also quite a bit of Egyptian mythology infused into the storyline. My enjoyment of the book was hampered by issues with pacing (the plot takes quite a while to move forward) and the characters who I thought weren’t fleshed out as much as they could have been.”
|Our Combined Rating: 5.1/10||Available: Amazon|
The Eldritch Heart by Matthew S. Cox
Princess Oona Talomir enjoys the little things that come with her station: a handmaiden, her lavish bedchamber, and scores of fancy dresses―the duty to win a decades’ long war, not so much.
Oh, did I mention assassins?
Seers foretold the conflict would end by her hand. From the moment she drew her first breath, the neighboring kingdom has been trying to kill her so she could not grow powerful enough to destroy them. Fearing for his daughter’s life, the king has kept her confined to the castle grounds for most of her sixteen years. With the tide of war turning against them, the burden of her crown becomes too much to bear, yet one thing lifts her spirits amid the gloom.
Her servant girl, Kitlyn.
Alas, in a kingdom obsessed with the god of purity, she is terrified to confess her forbidden love. When her father makes a demand she cannot abide―marry a prince to forge a military alliance―Oona panics. He is handsome and honorable, but he’s not Kitlyn. Unable to admit why she cannot obey, Oona does the only thing she can think of, and runs away.
Alone and unprepared in the wilderness, she prays the gods will let Kitlyn find her—before the assassins do.
Jen: “There were hints and undercurrents of things that interested me. I liked the magic. There was obviously something to do with Kitlyn and where she’s from (possibly long-lost princess of the other kingdom?) Also, there were some hints that the girls’ relationship might not be as taboo as it seems – if the king approves and other things here and there that I was curious about. But I kept finding my attention wandering and losing interest and it could be if I read a bit further it would kick-in and I would be hooked but I wasn’t feeling it enough to keep going at this time.”
Timy: “I found this book a bit tropey with having a Chosen One and the Foretelling. It also falls into the YA cathegory for me which is not entirely my cup of tea. Although I could look over this if I could connect with either Oona or Kitlyn, but I couldn’t. I also found the writing a bit repetitive, especially at the beginning where we constantly get told how Oona is the one to stop the war because of a Foretelling and how sad she is because can’t spend enough time with Kitlyn. Personally I think it would have worked much better with another POV character from the enemy country instead of Kitlyn or Oona.”
Nick: “The writing in this book was actually quite good. I thought the prose flowed nicely and it was a decent enough effort. What ultimately did me in with this book was that I never really got invested in what was going on and at times was a bit bored with the lack of action. There were some positives, for instance having two main characters who are LGBTQ was a plus and a diverse element that we are thankfully seeing more of in the genre these days.”
|Our Combined Rating: 3.9/10||Available: Amazon|