SPFBO Final Round Reviews part 2

In Mark Lawrence‘s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, ten SFF review blogs joined forces to read 300 self-published fantasy novels. Each blog read ten books and chose one to advance to the top ten. The book that we advanced was Kaitlyn Davis‘s The Shadow Soul (here’s our review) and we gave it a score of 5 out of 10 on Lawrence’s scale. We reviewed four of the finalists back in March and this post contains our last batch of reviews. Thanks for joining us on this quest, and thanks to Mark Lawrence for such a fun contest! We'd like to congratulate the winning book: Read More

SPFBO Final Round Reviews part 1

In Mark Lawrence's Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, ten SFF review blogs joined forces to read 300 self-published fantasy novels. Each blog read ten books and chose one to advance to the top ten. The book that we advanced was Kaitlyn Davis's The Shadow Soul (here's our review) and we gave it a score of 5 out of 10 on Lawrence's scale. We are currently reading the remaining top ten SPFBO books. Here is our review of four of them. We'll get the last five books done soon.



The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker (read by Bill and Terry, given a score of Read More

The Shadow Soul: Our SPFBO winner is a solid YA fantasy

The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis

The Shadow Soul came in first place of the 30 books that our Fantasy Literature team of reviewers read for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO), in which 300 self-published science fiction and fantasy novels have been read and evaluated by ten blogs. The winner of the very first round, it managed to survive and prevail over all of the rest of the novels in our later rounds. A round of virtual but heartfelt applause to The Shadow Soul and its author, Kaitlyn Davis!

As the story begins, Jinji is a sixteen year old girl preparing for her formal joining in marriage to Maniuk, a future leader of their small Arpapajo tribe, along with Jinji herself. Jinji has the magical ability to... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Our SPFBO winner!

We have finally chosen our winner for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO), in which 300 self-published fantasy authors contributed their work to be reviewed by 10 fantasy review blogs. This last round was really tough, containing some of the best of the 30 books we were given. In fact, we had planned to have our winner declared last week, but we needed a little more time for comparison.

In the end, we chose the book that has been at the top of our list since our first round — The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis — but it just barely edged out three of the books in our last round! We liked The Shadow Soul for its engaging story, smooth pacing, complexity of character, and overall sense of ambition. It definitely has some “issues” that we’ll bring out in our review (which Tadiana is preparing), and the fact... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: SPFBO Post #5

It’s time for Round Five of FanLit’s participation in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) in which 300 self-published fantasy authors contributed their work to be reviewed by 10 fantasy review blogs.

Moving on again!



In the last round we took a look at The Heirs of Lydin, Salvation’s Dawn, The Flight, The Fuller’s Apprentice, and Shadowed Strength... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: SPFBO Post #4

It’s time for Round Four of FanLit’s participation in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) in which 300 self-published fantasy authors contributed their work to be reviewed by 10 fantasy review blogs.

Wins again!!



Worth a mention.



Worth a mention.



The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis’ was the winner of both our first and second rounds. It went up against five more books in our third round and, guess what?

The Shadow Soul... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: SPFBO Post #3

It’s time for Round Three of FanLit’s participation in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) in which 300 self-published fantasy authors contributed their work to be reviewed by 10 fantasy review blogs.

Still winning after two rounds!



Kaitlyn Davis’ The Shadow Soul was the winner of FanLit’s First Round and went up against six more books in our Second Round. We asked you to guess, based on cover art and blurb, which book would come out on top... And, The Shadow Soul continues to be our favorite book so far; it will advance again. We liked this book pretty well, but we’d probably rat... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: SPFBO Post #2

It’s time for Round Two of FanLit’s participation in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) in which 300 self-published fantasy authors contributed their work to be reviewed by 10 fantasy review blogs.

Worth a read!



In Round One, we presented six of our assigned books and asked you to guess, based on cover art and blurb, which book we’d like best. Well, we’ve read the books and are impressed that our readers, for the most part, identified the best books without actually reading them. Here is our runner-up and winner:

Runner-up: Bone Dry by Cady Vance is a quick-paced engaging story with likeable characters and competent writing. We didn’t find anything original or surprising about i... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: SPFBO Post #1

This year we’re participating in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) in which 300 self-published fantasy authors contributed their books to be reviewed by 10 fantasy review blogs which will work together to choose the best of the 300 books. (You can read all about it at Mark Lawrence’s blog.)

We’ve been assigned to read 30 books. We eliminated three immediately because they didn’t fit the spirit of the contest very well. We have 27 left.

Over the next three months, we’ll be posting five Thoughtful Thursday columns that each feature five or six of the books on our list. This is the first post. In the next couple of weeks we’ll be reading (or at least starting — can’t promise we’ll finish) each of the books you see below. We’ll choose our favorite which will then go up against the books in our next SPFBO column (probabl... Read More

WWWednesday: June 26, 2019

Books and Writing:

Mark Lawrence, who manages and hosts the annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) also has a “cover contest.” So far, three covers are up, and they’re pretty good! (Thanks to File 770.)

Dark Matter zine shares late illustrator Ian Gunn’s “silly illos” of fiction clichés. This week is, “The villain, pursued by cops, climbs to the top of the highest building in the city, and then falls off.”

(c) Melody Knighton. "The Hunger."



Ian Sales, who neither nominates nor votes for the Hugos although he is eligible to, reviews the Hugo shortlist in the Read More

The Hod King: You need to be reading this series!

The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft

If you haven’t read Senlin Ascends and Arm of the Sphinx yet: Please stop here and go get them. I recommend Hachette Audio’s versions because they are absolutely brilliantly performed by John Banks. Read the rest of this review at your own risk — there will be mild spoilers for Senlin Ascends and Arm of the Sphinx in my review.

I am so conflicted. For some reason I just assumed that Josiah Bancroft’s BOOKS OF BABEL was going to be a trilogy and that The... Read More

The Grey Bastards: Engaging action and characters but has trouble with language and tone

The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

So let’s get this out of the way early with regard to Jonathan French’s The Grey Bastards, winner of the 2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) contest. (Kevin, who originally reviewed this novel for Fantasy Literature, rated it 7 stars out of 10; Tadiana DNF’d it because of the pervasive offensive content.) It’s foul-mouthed, has a good amount of graphic language (warning: I’m about to give a few examples. Seriously — bad words ahead), sex, and violence, and much of that is aimed in ugly fashion at women. There’s a heaping amount of “fuck’s” in the story (both the word and the act), but also a lot of “quim” and “cunt.” The women, save two, are whores, “bedwarmers,” or mothers who if young breastfee... Read More

Paternus: Rise of Gods: All the myths ever, stuffed into a speeding blender

Paternus: Rise of Gods by Dyrk Ashton

Paternus: Rise of Gods (2016) is described in the first line of its Amazon page as being “American Gods meets the X-Men,” which isn’t a bad five-and-a-hyphen word summary, really. By the time you get to “Sumerian/Akkadian/Greek/Aztec/Norse/etc./etc./etc., gods are really all the same people and they’re the children of a guy who’s like Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2,” you’ve more than lost in brevity and wit what you’ve made up for in accuracy. Still, gaining in accuracy is worth something, and since I have more than five words of space available, well, that’s my one-sentence summary of the background of the book. The central conceit of the story is that the divine figures of human history are the children of the Paternus of the title and female... Read More

Sufficiently Advanced Magic: Amazing LitRPG world that hijacks the plot line

Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe

Sufficiently Advanced Magic (2017) took 2nd place in SPFBO 3, which wrapped up last week. The book is a strong addition to the highly popularized LitRPG subgenre, though Rowe avows it is not strictly LitRPG. I am not a follower of the subgenre, but this book has enjoyed such runaway popularity over the past year, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Introducing Corin Cadence, resident of a world where people can earn magical enchantments by progressing through magic towers where they encounter tests of strength, judgment and combat skill. If all goes well, the goddess grants the challenger an attunement, including a magical skill, and safe exit of the tower. If all goes poorly, challengers die ... get lost ... imprisoned ... or some other unpleasantness.

Corin’s primary motive in life is to enter The Serpent Spire, achieve an attunement (... Read More

Arm of the Sphinx: Senlin is still ascending

Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

Arm of the Sphinx (2018) is the sequel to Senlin Ascends (2017), Josiah Bancroft’s extremely popular novel that was originally self-published but later picked up by Orbit Books after it was highlighted by Mark Lawrence in his Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off contest a couple years ago. I loved Senlin Ascends, a story about a man named Thomas Senlin who is accidentally separated from his wife at the base of the Tower of Babel. To find her, he enters the tower alone, which starts him on a series of adventures as he tries to make his way... Read More