I fell a bit behind on writing up my DNF posts for those books we already eliminated from the competition. So far I’ve slush piled 24 books, we’ve cut 16 and I have 4 books (at the moment) I want to consider further. I’m hoping to finish slush piling by the end of the week (November 3rd) and sit down with my team to talk about how to go on. I suspect to have our first semi finalist announced pretty soon. Things will accelerate in November, so keep your eyes open!
Please note, that this is only personal opinion and rating, these books were already cut, and thus won’t advance further.
You can follow our progress on my SPFBO page
! Learn more about my team and fellow judges
Raven’s Edge: A Raven’s Tale Adventure by Alan Ratcliffe
The road is hard. Travel too long upon it and you in turn become hardened.
A dark shadow has fallen over the northern city of Strathearn. The duke’s son and heir lays dying, the victim of a terrible witch’s curse. The promised reward for her capture remains unclaimed, while tensions rise in a land where the wounds of civil war are not yet healed. One day a lone wanderer, a raven-haired girl, arrives at the castle and claims she can break the curse. But is all as it seems?
Raven’s Edge is a standalone prequel to The Raven’s Tale epic fantasy trilogy, and can be enjoyed both separately or as part of that series.
|Series: stand alone
||Genre: epic fantasy
|Number of pages: 254
Raven’s Edge is the prequel stand alone novel to the Raven’s Tale Trilogy. Raven is… I actually didn’t figure out what she is. She can hold her own with a blade for sure, and seems to know a lot about the world, solving problems, although she is not a healer. Still, she agrees to help the cursed heir of a duke. We get a bit of a foreshadowing at the beginning, which indicates that at one point she’ll come face to face with a witch and will have to make a decision which can determine the fates of some people. I haven’t read enough to figure out what that might mean though.
The other main character seems to be the youngest son of the duke, Connan, who is eager to help to find a cure for his brother, and also to prove himself that he can be good in something just like his brothers. I liked that all three brothers had their own distinct personalities (as we saw through the memories of Connan).
It reminded me a bit of the folktales of my childhood, where the third and youngest son goes off to an adventure to either save his brothers or to find the love of his life. I would probably have liked a bit more worldbuilding at the start to get an idea why would a witch want to curse the heir of the duke. With a bit of polishing, this book could be an entertaining read, but for now it just didn’t grab my interest enough.
Dragon’s Price by Daniel Potter
With a breath, the Dragon ruined everything.
Yaki simply wanted to marry rich and then kill her husband.
Her sister Ishe wished to inherit their mother’s airship and become the world’s youngest captain.
Now the twins are on their own for the first time in their lives. Ensnared by the dragon’s schemes to conquer their homeland. With Yaki grievously wounded, the twins must escape the mountain. Ishe’s got a plan, but if she fails, they might not survive the Dragon’s Price.
A brand new series from the creator of Freelance Familiars. Rise of the Horned Serpent contains Dragons, the occasional naughty word and a cuddly spider. Read it now!
|Series: Rise of the Horned Serpent #1
||Genre: epic fantasy, steampunk(ish)
|Number of pages: 212
We get dropped almost right in the middle of action, which is not my favourite method of starting a book. We don’t get much time to get to know the characters – at least for the first 25% – and thus they fail to make me care about them. We have Madria, the captain of the skyship called Fire Fox, who is a ruthless pirate and leader, but also a mom – though not a tender one as far as I could tell – who tries to secure her daughters’ (and her own) futures. On their way to Lyndon they get attacked by a great old dragon and thus swift decisions have to be made. And of course the daughters also have their own dreams and agendas, so I’m sure there was plenty of tension coming.
I found the mixture of mythologies curious. At one hand this world has a clear Asian-like inspiration which comes through the names and some of the deities, but it also seem to have other influences from all over the world. For example there is a deity called Coyote, who is a well known trickster in Native American cultures, and a city named Valhalla which makes me think of Norse mythology. I haven’t read enough to find out if this mixture goes any further into the worldbuilding and if it works out or not, but the possibility is there.
I couldn’t quite figure out how to label this book. It’s epic fantasy at one hand, but it has steampunk elements with the sky ship and its crystals and many other technologies.
I would have liked a bit more worldbuilding and a faint idea of why a dragon is attacking out of nowhere. It’s a fast read, I have to give it that, but needs a bit of polishing and at least one round of proofreading to make it cleaner.
Dragon Destiny by Helen B. Henderson
Dragon Destiny has been released as the first book in the Dragshi Chronicles.
For a human, a dragon form comes with more than just the freedom of the sky.
Branin is the last dragon shifter born in over three hundred years. As a dragshi, he can take the form of his dragon soul twin, Llewlyn and knows the freedom of flight, but not happiness. Both are the last of their kind and have waited millennia for their mates.
The raider, Lady Broch of Ky’port is more than willing to fulfill that position — with or without Branin’s willing cooperation. When a faint thought impinged on Branin’s mind, hope for an ending to eons of loneliness soared.
Plagued by doubts because no signs of a dragon shifter’s birth have been seen, Branin searches the world for the mysterious girl he only knows by the name, Anastasia.
|Series: Dragshi Chronicles #1
||Genre: epic fantasy
|Number of pages: 250
When I started to read, I had no idea what to expect. I know it had a romance plot, because I’ve read Jen’s review and we know I’m not fond of that device of story telling. Despite that, I really got sucked into it, and if I had the time, I probably would have read it until the end, just to find out what happens. And to write raging notes about Broch. Man, I had some strong feelings towards her… I just couldn’t figure out her personality and motivations, apart from the fact she is a bitch. I’m sorry, but seriously…
Dragon Destiny has some potential, but I feel like it didn’t get polished enough to really shine. There were so many questions in my mind – which might get answered as the book progresses. Though Branin and Anastasia are separated by a whole world (and maybe more, as Branin is a couple hundred years older than Anastasia, which can get troublesome) they have some similarities – they are both lonely, both looking for something. I liked that Anastasia’s clan had legends regarding the dragshi, even if we only learn about that in passing, and that I couldn’t exactly decide if she’ll turn out to be one or not. I guess I know the answer to that question though, but I really, really hope that the story has some surprises.
In the end, I’ve mixed feelings. I’m not a fan of romance books, especially which has insta love – to be fair, this book doesn’t have that, but it’s really close. It’s a fast and easy read and I was interested to learn more about the world and the dragshi and how all the soul-mate thing works. On the other hand, it needs a bit more editing to smooth out the hard edges and to make us get to know the characters better. I quite liked Branin and Anastasia, and instantly hated Broch. Who, by the way needs a bit more characterisation, because that someone is a bitch, doesn’t make them a good villain necessarily.
The Bastard Prince by Patty Jansen
She has a dragon, and she’s not afraid to use it.
Nellie Dreessen is a kitchen maid in the palace of Regent Bernard of Saardam. She has worked for two kings and two regents, has seen two royal families murdered through magic, has seen ghosts and demons, and kept her head down like a good girl.
On her fiftieth birthday, she receives her late father’s diary, which describes a magical item that is so evil, it needs to be kept in the church crypt: a box that contains dragon.
Problem is, someone has stolen the box.
Regent Bernard holds a banquet for his eldest son’s sixteenth birthday. Distinguished guests come from far and wide. Because she knows what the box looks like, Nellie discovers it in a nobleman’s luggage.
Removing the box from a thief’s room is not stealing, right? Not if you intend to return it to the rightful owner: the church.
But someone poisons the nobleman, and everyone in the kitchen is a suspect. Nellie’s friend in the church advises Nellie to flee with the dragon box. The Regent is on a mission to stamp out magic, and Nellie plans to do what she does best: keep her head down and hide.
Problem is, the dragon has other ideas.
|Series: Dragonspeaker Chronicles #1
|Number of pages: 255
This is one of those books that left me with mixed feelings when I’ve hit the 25% mark. At one hand, it’s rare in fantasy to have an older female MC – Nellie just hit her 50th birthday at the beginning of the story, for which the book deserves extra points. I also sensed a religious tension as a subplot which reminded me of the conflict between Christianity and the Reformists. Might be insignificant, but I liked the hint of it. On the other hand, I didn’t think Nellie was interesting enough to follow as she lingered on the sidelines while important events were happening around her. I also questioned some of her choices, but I guess that probably led to some twists in the story. There was also some hint of dragons and magic, but up to the 25% they didn’t really made an appearance yet.
It’s a bit of a slow burn, as we follow Nellie’s everyday life as she and the castle are preparing for the Regent’s son’s birthday. In the background there is political intrigue, religious tension between believers, and some secrets Nellie hears about from his Father’s old book she inherited. I’m not sure how I feel about books with MCs who are on the sidelines and are just witnesses as things are happening. I’m sure she will play a role in the end whether she wants or not, but she is not a stroung enough MC to catch and hold my interest until the end. I also can’t decide if she is simple or just too naive.
A Separation of Worlds by Rainbow Maccabre*
They stole Brittany away from everyone she loved, and invited her to join a war. Studying to control her magic, at the Demon College of Yore, she gained a mentor in Nigel. He once lived in her original world, too. She came to blows, a clash of words with the centaur, Feyneyrey. Danger struck a match to kindle their friendship. The two young women, under Nigel’s guidance, journeyed on a quest to destroy a deity.
|Series: stand alone
||Genre: fantasy, portal fantasy, YA
|Number of pages: 401
So far this is the only book where I couldn’t read up to the 25% mark (or whereabout). I bailed out at 16%. It had a numer of issues – formatting only the least of it. This book felt more like a first draft rather than a finished, polished writing. I also couldn’t decide who the audience was, as sometimes it had a childish feel to it, while the MC, Brittany is 15 years old. Things happened really abruptly at the beginning which left me with a lot of questions. The characters weren’t really fleshed out or likeable much. As every book, this one also has potential, but it just needs a lot more work.
And I’m going to leave it at this, because I really don’t want to end up penning a really harsh review. Let’s just say I really didn’t like this one.
*Since the beginning of SPFBO the author decided to revise the book and now you can find it under the title of Forced to Move Worlds. Our reviews are about the original book we’ve received in July.