The Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) is in it’s fourth year. It is a contest hosted by author Mark Lawrence that brings together 300 self-published fantasy books and ten book blogs. Each blog (which may have more than one reviewer) receives 30 books to read. They must choose one from their batch that goes into the finals.
The ten books in the final are then read by all the remaining blogs and one book is chosen as the winner. Read more about the contest here.
In previous years, the winners have been:
· Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes (on my #tbr, I have a copy)
· The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French (read! See my review here)
· The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung (on my #tbr, I have a copy)
And finalists have included the brilliant Paternus by Dyrk Ashton (read my review here) as well as the following (all of these I own and plan to read ASAP!):
· Tiger Lily by K. Bird Lincoln
· Devil’s Night Dawning by Damien Black
· The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker
· Bloodrush by Ben Galley (update 26.05.19: read! Read my review and interview with the author here)
Each entrant must be the first in a series or a standalone and this year I entered my grimdark fantasy novel Melokai.
Anyhow, as one who is not shy to top up my TBR and fill up my Kindle, there were quite a few books in this year’s SPFBO contest that caught my eye. As there are THREE HUNDRED books to pick from, all of which you can find listed here and the majority of which are on this Goodreads list, I had a tough time reining in my impulsive book buying demon and just picking 12. So, if you don't fancy any of the below you have 288 more options!
Without further ado, below is my SPFBO 4 reading list.
All of these I have either already read or I own a copy of and plan to read VERY soon. (Oh, if only my job was to just read all day every day, sigh). Listed in no particular order.
Moroda (World of Linaria #1) by L.L. McNeil
Linaria is a world where dragons are revered as gods, where airships rule the skies, and where war is stirring.
For Moroda, a former Goldstone, her life of luxury ends following her father’s sudden death. When her city is destroyed by a dragon, she and her sister ally with a sky pirate and narrowly escape the carnage—only to find a vigilante from an exiled race has left a trail of destruction everywhere his growing army has travelled. With compulsion at his fingertips, he strengthens his hold over Linaria’s people by stealing the power of dragons. It’s only a matter of time before Moroda, too, is forced to submit.
With war nipping at her heels and danger lurking in her companions and adversaries, Moroda must quickly learn about herself, her world, and the dragons so intent on reducing it all to ash.
My note: I was lucky enough to win a signed paperback in a Twitter competition of this book! It’s the only one I own as a physical copy.
Darkmage (The Rhenwars Saga #1) by M.L. Spencer
The hope of the world rests in the hands of a Darkmage.
The Well of Tears is open and the terror of the night has been unleashed. Now, the last Sentinel left alive with the power to defend his world against the minions of the Netherworld is a man destined to be corrupted into the image of what he hates. In the name of duty, Darien Lauchlin will see oaths forsaken, crowns toppled, friends sacrificed and the land he loves desecrated. For there is a very thin line between duty… and brutal inhumanity.
My note: I’m currently reading this one and loving it!
Update 09.09.18: I finished reading this one! Check out my review and interview with the author here.
Songs of Insurrection (The Dragon Songs Saga #1) by J.C. Kang
Only the lost art of evoking magic through music can prevent Cathay from descending into chaos.
Blessed with an unrivalled voice, Kaiya dreams of a time when a song liberated enslaved humans from their orc masters. Maybe then, the imperial court would see the awkward, gangly princess as more than a singing fool.
When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan uncover a brewing rebellion, the court hopes to appease the ringleader by offering Kaiya as a bride.
Obediently wedding the depraved rebel leader means giving up her music. Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.
My note: Ooooh I love an Asian-inspired fantasy setting, so can’t wait to read this one!
A Wizard's Forge (The Woern Saga, #1) by A.M. Justice
Scholar. Slave. Warrior. Wizard.
Victoria believes she'll live a scholar's quiet life until the tyrant Lornk Korng rips away everything she knows and loves. Forging herself into a warrior known as Vic the Blade, she strikes fear into her enemies, but she cannot escape Lornk's obsession. A legendary power may be her only chance to destroy him, if it doesn't kill her first.
Fans of dark fantasy will love this gritty tale of empowerment and revenge in a setting that echoes the classic science fiction/fantasy blends of McCaffrey and Herbert.
My note: This one is a science fantasy with elements of both science fiction and fantasy – I’m super intrigued to read it.
Light Dawning by Ty Arthur
Once known as the City on the Hill and revered far and wide for its independence and boundless opportunity, Cestia has become home only to the damned. Surviving under the brutal occupation of a southern empire for three long years, the oppressed populace has lost hope of liberation, turning instead towards an increasingly desperate rebellion willing to commit any atrocity for a chance at freedom.
As total war approaches, four lost souls trapped behind Cestia's walls are on a collision course with fate, destined to either save the city or see it utterly destroyed while calling on forces beyond mankind's comprehension. For good or ill, the light of a new day is about to dawn.
My note: This grimdark fantasy sounds right up my street, described by one reviewer as “dark and brooding” – my favourite.
Update 23.01.19: I've now read this one. Check out my review here.
The Lost Sentinel (Silent Sea Chronicles #1) by Suzanne Rogerson
The magical island of Kalaya is dying, along with its Sentinel.
The Assembly controls Kalaya. Originally set up to govern, they now persecute those with magic and exile them to the Turrak Mountains.
Tei, a tailor’s daughter, has always hidden her magic but when her father's old friend visits and warns them to flee to the mountains she must leave her old life behind.
On the journey, an attack leaves her father mortally wounded. He entrusts her into the care of the exiles and on his deathbed makes a shocking confession.
Struggling with self doubt, Tei joins the exiles search for the new Sentinel who is the only person capable of restoring the fading magic. But mysterious Masked Riders are hunting the Sentinel too, and time, as well as hope, is running out.
Against mounting odds it will take friendship, heartache and sacrifice for the exiles to succeed in their quest, but is Tei willing to risk everything to save the island magic?
My note: This one has an island setting which sounds really intriguing and a little bit different to the norm.
Orconomics: A Satire (The Dark Profit Saga #1) by J. Zachary Pike
Brimming with swords, sorcery, and wit, Orconomics: A Satire introduces Arth, a world much like our own but with more magic and fewer vowels. For the licensed wizards and warriors of Arth, slaying and looting the forces of evil is just a job. The Heroes' Guild has turned adventuring into a career, selling the rights to monsters’ hoards of treasure as investment opportunities. Corporations spend immense sums sponsoring heroes to undertake quests, betting they’ll reap the profits in plunder funds when the loot is divvied up.
Questing was all business for famous Dwarven berserker Gorm Ingerson, until a botched expedition wiped out his party, disgraced his name, and reduced him to a thieving vagabond. Twenty years later, a chance encounter sees Gorm forcibly recruited by a priest of a mad goddess to undertake a quest that has a reputation for getting heroes killed. But there’s more to Gorm’s new job than an insane prophecy; powerful corporations and governments have shown an unusual interest in the job. Gorm might be able to turn a bad deal into a golden opportunity and win back the fame and fortune he lost so long ago.
Promising fun, fantasy, and financial calamity, Orconomics: A Satire is the first book in The Dark Profit Saga, an economically epic trilogy.
My note: This one sounds like a really fun read.
Crossfire (Omega Group #1) by Andrea Domanski
Birthdays suck! For her eighteenth, Mirissa Colson receives a package from the mother who abandoned her over a decade ago. The family secret it reveals transforms her life from trying on prom dresses to battling an ancient race of demons. Thanks, Mom.
Her nineteenth brings forth an even more treacherous foe—one maniacal demi-god bent on ruling the world. So much for dating. Thankfully, the years of martial arts and sharpshooter training her ex-Navy SEAL dad put her through gives her the perfect skill-set to build upon.
When she’s called on to save the world—literally—Mirissa finds she has a lot more in her arsenal than just a mean roundhouse kick. Burgeoning powers she previously thought impossible, like controlling the elements and sensory expansion, give her some confidence. But when she is propelled into a world teeming with preternatural beings—all with powers of their own—she finds herself outmatched and outgunned.
Crossfire is a coming of age tale that bridges the gap between the world we think we know, and the one that lies just beneath the surface.
My note: This paranormal fantasy has a kick-ass female main character – sold!
Song (The Manhunters #1) by Jesse Teller
Some of the darkest minds in Perilisc attacked Mending Keep, releasing all its prisoners.
Despite his strained relationship with the crown, Rayph Ivoryfist calls old friends to his aid in a subversive attempt to protect King Nardoc and thwart terrorist plots to ruin the Festival of Blossoms. But someone else is targeting Rayph, and even his fellow Manhunters might not be enough to save him.
My note: I’ve read this one! And the author agreed to answer some of my questions! You can read my review and interview with Jesse Teller here.
Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords (Yarnsworld #3) by Benedict Patrick
Don't draw your blade in the City of Swords, unless you're willing to kill… or ready to die.
Young and filled with idealistic fervor, Arturo packs his blade and travels to the fabled City of Swords in the hopes of joining the dashing Bravadori. Yet upon arriving he discovers these masked vigilantes have more in common with brutal thugs than noble monster slayers. Disillusioned and mocked, he stubbornly refuses to give up his dreams.
When an impending bandit attack threatens untold depravities upon a distant village, and no others will heed the call for help, Arturo joins forces with a worthless outcast and a walking legend to attempt the impossible, to traverse the demon-haunted wilderness and prove that in the City of Swords, true heroes can rise from the unlikeliest of places.
My note: Hello beautiful cover. Hello story inspired by Central American and Mexican folklore. Get in my Kindle!
We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire #1) by Devin Madson
War built the Kisian Empire and war will tear it down. And as an empire falls, three warriors rise.
Caught in a foreign war, Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors will have to fight or die. Their honour code is all they have left until orders from within stress them to breaking point, and the very bonds that hold them together will be ripped apart.
Cassandra wants the voice in her head to go away. Willing to do anything for peace, the ageing whore takes an assassination contract that promises answers, only the true price may be everyone and everything she knows.
A prisoner in her own castle, Princess Miko doesn’t dream of freedom but of the power to fight for her empire. As the daughter of a traitor the path to redemption could as easily tear it, and her family, asunder.
As an empire dies they will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.
My note: This grimdark fantasy with an Asian-inspired setting just looks seriously EPIC. Can’t wait to read it.
Update 11.12.18: I've now read this one and it was all kinds of AMAZING! My book of 2018. Read my review here.
The Song of the Sirin (Raven Son) by Nicholas Kotar
An evil omen clouds the sky. A song of lore returns. Can one man’s quest save the world?
Voran can’t help but believe the rumors. As blight ravages the countryside and darkness covers the sun, the young warrior of Vasyllia hears of an ancient spirit that devours souls. He feels powerless to fight the oncoming devastation until a mythical creature entrusts him with a long-forgotten song. Legend has it that such a song can heal the masses, overthrow kingdoms, and raise humans to divine beings…
Armed with the memory of the song, Voran must hunt down a dark spirit before it achieves its goal of immortality. His quest takes him through doorways to other worlds and puts him on a collision course with seductive nymphs and riddling giants. With each step of the journey, the strength of the villainous spirit grows, as does Voran’s fear that the only way to save his world… is to let it be destroyed.
My note: A Russian fairy tale retelling = a big fat yep from me.
Bonus! The Exercise of Vital Powers by Ian Gregoire. This book was in SPFBO 3 and received a glowing review from Booktuber Kitty G. I own a copy and I’m looking forward to reading it.
So, there you have it – my 12 SPFBO 4 books that I have read / am currently reading or plan to read ASAP. As mentioned above, these are the ones that tickled my fancy, there are 300 books in the contest all of which look brilliant. Go and check out the full list for some more fantasy book reading inspo.
Do you have any SPFBO 4 recommendations? Or have you read any of the above? Let me know in the comments below!
>>My debut novel, a grimdark epic fantasy called MELOKAI, is out now! Available from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Read more about my books here.<<
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