SPFBO Finalist Review: Spark City by Robert J. Power

44300799._sy475_Moving right along with my reading the finalists in this year’s SPFBO.

I wasn’t a fan of this one. Welp. There is always one, amirite?

The Hunt is Coming. 

Despite his warriors’ lineage, Erroh would rather waste his potential stumbling alone from one tavern to the next, drinking and gambling. Fate, however, has greater plans for him.

After decades of peace, a great war draws near, and though he doesn’t know it, he is standing in the way of the first wave. What is more, and very much to his dismay, he’s about to find out he’s not entirely alone either. But Erroh has a plan, a simple plan.

It’ll never work.

This is the story of Erroh, who is a young man tasked with going to Spark City for ‘the Cull’ – which apparently means he will show up there and some of the hundreds of unmated females will test him, choose him and then they’ll be mated for life. He is the son of Magnus, a renowned warrior in this world, and as such is anticipated to be in rather high demand. He doesn’t want to go to the Cull though, and so he’s been stopping at every tavern to drink and gamble to try and kill time.

I found it hard to get into this one, first and foremost because Erroh is just… not likable. I do love me a snarky main character, but Erroh is a few steps past snarky. He’s arrogant, callous, and misogynistic. If he were written as an antihero, this would be less of an issue for me, but there was never any indication that we weren’t supposed to be cheering for this asshat. If this was the story of Wynn, the dude that Erroh calls a ‘great friend’ two days after both meeting and professing his hate for, I’d have been more inclined.

Erroh has little experience with women females, and yet all of these women feeemales want him, and he has no idea what to do about it. So, naturally he assumes they all hate him, and thus treats them all like shit. Especially Lea, his eventual mate (he likes her best, you see. She has a good walk, and her lips are so kissable~). Pretty much all of the women feeeeeeeemales that Erroh encounters are beautiful. He thinks of them as ‘deities’ and ‘goddesses’ right up until they actually challenge him or he doesn’t get his way. Then they are all bitches, witches, and whores. Again, I’m supposed to be cheering for this kid, I’m pretty sure. 

Not winning me over by being a giant fucking douche canoe, my dude. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The writing was alright. It reads quite easily, and quickly. I did find a few typos throughout, and find that it could really use another round of copy edits, however it’s definitely readable in its current state. I didn’t find anything glaring and irritating.

As you’ve probably gathered by this point, the word ‘female’ works its way into this book far too often. I understand that this society is supposed to resemble something akin to a wolf pack, but  JFC – just the word female used in this way over and over makes every woman in this thing sound like things and not people. I also didn’t get the impression that any of these women were warriors of any particular skill, either. This is supposed to be a badass matriarchal society of warriors, and yet all the women are in skirts, blouses, dresses, perfume & makeup. Not that warriors can’t have those things, but it just doesn’t seem to fit this idea of a world of badass wolf-like women feemaaaaales.

There is also the random inclusion of the word ‘fuk’ – because spelling fuck wrong makes it… less bad? More fantasy-ish sounding? I don’t know. I’ve had authors attribute fake swearing to both of those things. I fucking give up at this point.


The pacing was fine. It never dragged. There was usually something happening, even with the bits of travelling that Erroh does, but they all seemed to just be random events that lead to other random events. Leading up to the Cull, for example, was the story of Erroh dawdling along the road. He does find things on the road, but it only seemed like one of several stops on his trip had anything to do with the actual storyline. The plot was oftentimes meandering, and really all over the place. Once the ‘Cull’ is over, the book seems to switch gears entirely. We start head hopping between Lea and Erroh, most of the time within chapters, within sentences of each other. It gets a little confusing.

We follow Erroh and Lea as they take a long journey into the south to deliver a letter on behalf of the leader of Spark City. Along the way, they begin growing closer and closer, with a few near-kisses. M’aww.

Then, Erroh inexplicably nearly drowns Lea, for…. reasons?

Lea, justifiably pissed off, shuts down everything that was growing between them, but makes some sort of impassioned speech about how if he takes her to bed, she’ll play along but will never find pleasure in it.

Deep down she knew he would not take advantage just yet. He would wait at least a week and then climb atop her. She would stare into his eyes and let him and that would be that. She wouldn’t be afraid anymore.

Ugh. Are we doing this? Really?

Tonight they could relax a little and besides, he had been given permission to take a female against her will for this evening’s entertainment.

*record scratch* Wait, what? What… what is this sentence? You think you were given permission to rape someone? You can’t be given permission to do something that is by its very nature SANS. PERMISSION. This… no. All of the no.

“We’re not sparring tonight are we?” she asked quietly while looking out at the storm.

Aye my dear, but not with swords.

Ugh, Christ. We’re doing this.

“I give you my word Lea that I’ll never take you to my bed, until you want me,” he said.

“And if I never want you?” she warned coldly.

He shrugged and lay down beside her in the warmth of the fire. “In all my life I’ve only made one oath. Now I make another. I will never hurt you again,” he said and she almost believed him. Almost, but not quite.

“What happened at the river was shameful. I was not myself, though it was no excuse.”

‘Bby, I promise not to rape you even though I’ve been thinking about maybe raping you. I’ll never hurt you again, also sorry for nearly drowning you, randomly. I. WASN’T. MYSELF.’

Oh, okay. Plot twist, he’s not a dickbag. Except for yes he is. Evidence has pointed to yes, he really is.

*Looks down* 4 hours and 6 minutes left in book.

Okay, that’s 4 hours and 6 minutes that I am going to go ahead and save myself. I don’t really care to hear about how this dude actually gets the girl.

*Yeets kindle into the sun* DNF 54% 2/10 stars.

Finalist Score:

Kristen: 2.0
Esme: 6.0

Average: 4.0

SPFBO Final Score: 4/10

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