As promised, we are back with the second SPFBO 6 reaping! Today Belle will tell you about the six books in her batch – which ones fell to the reaping and which one came out of the bloodbath victorious!
The Edge of Darkness by D.K. Holmberg
They called him the Volatar. He came from nothing. Found his power. Became a legend, then lost it all.
Now he has all the power in the world but can’t touch it. With war growing, an old enemy on his heels, his best friend by his side, only the north holds the secret to reconnecting with his lost power.
But war has a way of pushing old heroes aside.
Hevith Alaster knew nothing of the Hith when their dark magic took his family away. Life on the wagon train had been simple. Keep moving north, stay ahead of the war.
But war found him all the same.
Hurt, humbled, and left to rot in a northern prison, Hevith must carve out a new life for himself in the wake of tragedy–but only if he can find a way to break free before the Hith break him. Either he must rise to the challenge or he will be yet another casualty on the Hith’s path to total domination.
This book has a really interesting premise, and I enjoyed learning about the world. I did find it difficult to follow the split timelines, I think it was an unnecessary choice, and I would have been a lot less confused if it had been more linear. It was a well-written and easy read, and I did enjoy it, but being so confused for so much of the book left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied by the end.
|Read: 100%||Rating: 7/10|
Vampire Wars – Inescapable by Sean Harris
Star is a typical teenage girl just trying to get over a breakup and the near loss of her father, but vodka isn’t helping and even her best friend Jenna can’t seem to find the right words. That is until mysterious stranger Jack shows up in town. Star finds herself smitten, but her emotions aren’t the only storm causing trouble. The fine summer weather has taken a sudden turn for the worse, and people have started dying in increasingly gruesome ways. Could Jack have something to do with it?
This one was a DNF for me. I didn’t find the writing style engaging, and felt no connection to any of the characters introduced. One of the things that put me off was the constant telling instead of showing – it really disrupted the flow of the story for me. I always try to find a positive aspect, even for books I don’t finish for whatever reason, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find one in this case.
|Read: 15%||Rating: 2/10|
My Friend, the Gifted by E. L. Aldryc
Never leave the path.
It’s sacred law, punishable by What would you sacrifice to become extraordinary?
Elodie Marchand struggles to stand out at the Sight Institute. With so many brilliant minds pushing the limits of AI, alchemy, and nanotechnology, it feels impossible to compete.
A stark contrast to her best friend, and the Institute’s unrivalled favourite – Soraya Gourrami.
Soraya’s firm encouragement curbs Elodie’s impatience, and in turn, she helps keep Soraya’s temper in check. A perfect symbiosis.
But all that is about to change with one simple meeting.
When the Institute’s psychic organisation mandates a thorough search for new gifted blood, Elodie jumps at the opportunity to finally reach for greatness.
Even if she may not survive the test, or the process that follows.
Elodie will need all the help she can get to keep her life and sanity through the test that will establish her suitability for a life of duty and prestige. But Soraya’s friendship suddenly comes with a single new rule.
Elodie can never look into her past or future.
But accidents happen. And some secrets are too big and dangerous to keep.
It’s time to choose. Friendship or a chance to claim her true self at any cost?
This one had a really intriguing premise, and the dynamic between the Gifted and everyone else was interesting and I enjoyed learning more about the worldbuilding. The friendship between the main character and her best friend was complicated and realistic, and raised really good questions about how to support your friends, even when you think they’re doing the wrong thing. I definitely found this to be an enjoyable read, and would be interested in continuing the series and seeing how the plot unfolds.
|Read: 100%||Rating: 7/10|
Demon Queen by Ela Bambust
After an accident involving a truck, Liz wakes up in a world she once thought existed only a video game, as the Evil Dragon Demon Queen no less. She no idea what to do, where she is, or what’s going on. She’s not the brightest, or the bravest, the coolest or the most cunning. But she cares, deeply, truly and powerfully, and she’s not stopping until she’s done everything she can for everyone who needs it.
Demon Queen is a love letter to fantasy, and a damning indictment of how we don’t question a lot of fantasy tropes.
It’s also a story about accepting yourself, seeing your flaws for what they are and what they aren’t, about vulnerability as a superpower.
It’s a story about being trans, about what it means to not know who you are when all you’ve known is denial and fear.
It’s also a story about queer love, about non-traditional relationships, and about expressing your affection to your loved ones without reservation.
This one was published as a web serial, which is not a style I read very often these days. I can’t sugarcoat this one. I really struggled with just about every aspect of this story. I found it to be quite sexist and stereotypical in its depiction of women and as a result, I did not finish this book. It has an interesting premise, and there is a lot of potential there, but in its current form, I couldn’t keep going.
|Read: 30%||Rating: 2/10|
Truth Unearthed by Eric Sparks
Almost three thousand years ago, Bälech, The One, united all the Men of Lugon under his benevolent and powerful rule, and thus The Dawn, his global empire, was founded. Arun and Baran are best friends and Academy roommates from the opposite ends of The Dawn’s social spectrum. Born a Yeoman, Arun is set to graduate and become a Keeper of the Chronicle. Baran, his roommate and a favored son of the Court, picked the chronicling specialization to breeze into the military, hoping to join the Wardens – the elite fighting force and personal guard for the Sons of Bälech for 2700 years. To graduate, they must complete a task showing mastery of their subject, and Arun chose to search for artifacts in The Dawn’s birthplace, The Ruins of Lacris. But some know of forgotten secrets that they wish to remain forever buried in obscurity. Much to their surprise, an old Warden is assigned to be their guide and protector. The two friends soon find themselves in the crossfire of a war they knew little about, with both sides having designs on their fate. In discovering a new world, these two friends must fight to keep, or perhaps discover, their own destiny when all others view them merely as pawns. But should a pawn survive its journey across the board, it may well become the piece that determines the outcome of the game.
I feel very conflicted about this book. It had an interesting premise, and while there wasn’t many new things happening with the world building, it was intriguing enough, but the dialogue and character development really let it down for me. I found it difficult to connect with any of the characters, and the dialogue often felt stilted. I enjoyed it enough to read the whole book, but I will not be continuing with the series.
|Read: 100%||Rating: 6/10|
Beneath Black Sails by Clare Sager
Sometimes it takes a pirate to catch a pirate.
With weather magic on her side, Lady Vice is the bane of the high seas, but she isn’t captain of her own ship. Yet. If she can persuade her captain to give her a command, she’ll be in charge of her own fate.
To pay off his family’s debts, Knigh Blackwood hunts pirates for the Royal Navy. And he’s damn good at it. When the bounty on Lady Vice increases, he’s determined to make her face justice, even if that means using unorthodox methods.
Forced to work together, neither can deny their mutual attraction. As they face battles at sea and schemes aboard their ship, they discover hints about a long-lost treasure that could be the answer to both their problems.
But treasure isn’t the only thing buried. Secrets best forgotten lie in wait that could blast them apart. And the closer Vice and Knigh grow, the greater the threat – to her freedom and to his family. Because for one to succeed, the other must fail.
If you love cunning heroes, feisty heroines, and enemies to lovers romance, you’ll love this new adult fantasy series that’s perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas and Miranda Honfleur.
This was the first book I started in my batch, and I knew within the first 15% that it would be my semi-finalist, and I ended up saving it for last because I knew it would give me a book hangover. It is such a fun, enjoyable read and I loved every second of it. The characters are great, I loved the alternate history aspect of the world building, and I am a sucker for any book with a sassy cat character.
“I highly recommend Beneath Black Sails to anyone who wants a fun, rollicking adventure on the high seas, with a healthy dose of intrigue and shenanigans throughout.“
Congrats to our second semi-finalist, Beneath Black Sails by Clare Sager! Look out for our joint review later on.
To keep up with our process and the competition, please check out my SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page!