Hi everyone! It’s that time again! This will be the last set of chops until I choose a finalist, and so this one may get long. I’ll try and keep it to a reasonable word count! 😀
Cut #1 – Shearwater by D. S. Murphy – Status: DNF 30%
Shearwater is the story of Clara Clark, who is a 15 year old American girl whose parents die suddenly in a car accident, and her only next of kin is in Ireland. So, off she goes to a whole new country where she has to go to a new school and make new friends. While she’s there, she finds out that her mother had quite a lot of secrets, and it turns out, that some of those secrets are hers as well. Also, mermaids!
I wouldn’t necessarily call Shearwater a romance, but there is definitely a thread of romance in it. It definitely has some unique parts, and was quite well written and well edited, but ultimately I found that I wasn’t really a fan of the main character. She’s a fairly typical teenager with some unique circumstances, but the tropes typical in a lot of YA novels (high school drama, boy drama, mean girl drama) did me in here. This book will absolutely be someone’s cup of tea. If you’re a fan of YA Paranormal Fantasy or books that explore the folklore of mermaids, this one may be entirely up your alley!
Cut #2 – The Skald’s Black Verse by Jordan Loyal Short – Status: DNF 33%
This is the story of Brohr, of the village of Skolja. Brohr is a man with a violent reputation. He is prone to episodes of rage, wherein he blacks out. When someone murders one of the conquerors (or ‘the invaders’), Brohr is suspect #1. After a murder investigation, Brohr sets out on a quest to uncover the secrets of a war that’s been raging for centuries, with plenty of fighting and blood magic abound!
There’s a lot to unpack here. This is quite a dark book. The prologue is the worst of it that I saw, but it is basically the scene of Brohr’s birth (which was conceived via rape, to start with). It’s a scene that includes plenty of gore, and also infanticide. So, if you love your fantasy grimdark and gritty, this one has plenty of that for you. The MC is not exactly an anti-hero, but his episodes make him somewhat unpredictable at times. This story is also unique in that the Tyrianites, who are the aforementioned invaders, are actually indeed from another world, and by other world, I mean a different planet than the one this takes place on. I’m not sure exactly how they travel, but I got a starship vibe off of their technology. They call their ships ‘void ships’ and they seem to be magically powered, but as far as I could tell, the void they travel through is space. So, spaceships. They’ve come to the world of the Norn, for what I assume is the fuel that powers their technology, which can be mined there, and have pretty much conquered the world. The Norn are a proud people, and rebellion is almost inevitable. And if rebellion fails, well, at least they can fall back on that comet that’s hurtling towards the planet, right?
It was fairly well written and seemed very well edited. This is definitely going to have some fans in the grimdark community, and has a very interesting world. Norse meets Roman Empire with the occasional spaceship. Alas, the only character I ended up really latching onto was Lyssa, the local tavern maid, and even she was only mildly interesting to me. So it goes.
Cut #3 – Below by Lee Gaiteri – Status: DNF 25%
This is the story of Brenish, a thief in the thieves guild. He owes the local crime boss Gareth a hefty sum, and yet would love to offer a good bride price for his lady love before her father marries her off to someone else. When a friend of his forges a map to the greatest treasure of all – the horde of the wizard Visak – Brenish thinks that Gareth, known for his love of lore and adventures in the deep places, would be the perfect person to sell it to. But shenanigans go down on a heist, and he ends up making a deal with Gareth. They’ll go with him to find the treasure, through monster-infested tunnels, if Gareth cancels the debt and gives him a cut of the prize. And so off they go. Now all he has to do is not die, and definitely not let Gareth find out that the map is a forgery.
This one was a well written adventure novel, but I found that it introduced way too many characters in a short amount of time and I got a little confused at it. I never ended up latching onto any character, especially Brenish, and so it sort of fell flat for me and I lost interest. It also pretty clearly takes place in a much different world than our own and yet references the country of Greece at one point, which was confusing. I think another round of edits more for content like this rather than spelling or grammatical errors (seemed fine on those to be honest) would not go amiss. Even as it stands, this one will be up someone’s alley if they’re into heists and treasure hunts!
Cut #4 – Rogues Academy Saga: Quest of Kings by Jason Russell – Status: DNF 26%
This is the story of Eric, son of Talon. Eric is the Treasurer of the kingdom of Boulderane, while his twin brother Fialle took over leading a group of mercenaries known as the Rogues Academy when their father died. When evil shenanigans kill the King of Boulderane, leaving Eric labeled a traitor, he and Fialle join forces. They find other kingdoms in ruin on their travels, and learn that they’ll need to unite with the fairies of the North to take down the evil Shadow Army.
This was a fairly typical high fantasy. There are ogres, gnomes, pixies, and other fantastical races, who mostly join forces with mankind against the big bad, known in this case as the Shadow Army. This one was not badly written, and edited pretty well. I only found two or three spelling errors in the quarter of it that I read, which were minimal and easily overlooked (likely why they weren’t caught). The formatting of the version I was given to read was pretty bad though. I’m hoping that was unique of the version I got, and that it does not translate to the version you’d get if you purchase the ebook.
All told, I just didn’t really warm up to this world or its characters. I feel like people who enjoy epic fantasy like the Shannara series or Lord of the Rings might enjoy this book. This one gave me a similar vibe, at times.
And so! With these last 4 cuts, that leaves us with just our 5 semifinalists:
And you can see our progress and links to all of our reviews here, on the superstardrifter SPFBO 5 Progress Report!
Almost there everyone! ^_^