SPFBO 2 – First Impressions (Batch 5)

Disclaimer – I am not going to be commenting on any book’s content. I have not read any of the books currently sent to me, not even a page. I am making this about my first impressions of the following things: title, cover art, and blurb. All things that people will consider before they buy a book. So any commentary I make, negative or positive, should not be taken to mean that I think the story itself will be good or bad. And one way or the other, I will give the book a try.

Quiet in the Realm, by Joseph Sutton

The realm is quiet.

In the capital, idleness has corrupted mind and body alike following the longest peace in living memory, but the threat of whispers are rising again in courtrooms and alehouses across the land. Rumours are spreading like some toxic wildfire, leaving a trail of suspicion in their wake. Some are brave enough to dig for answers, but many more schemers want to fill the hole in and keep their secrets buried deep.

Ever more marriage pacts loom in such uncertain times, and wedding bells chime almost nightly, but reputations trail every nobleman, and some are more harrowing than others would believe.

Far from the mutter words and fancy pursuits of such highborns, the villages are suffering. Food is sparse, and even the young have long grown hungry. When stomachs churn and beggars go without, the laws of any realm would be tested to the letter.

Far away, across the Misty Sea, a stranger sits. Rich, powerful, but shrouded in mystery, the city that few care to speak of could have a part to play. But who, if anyone, will befriend this silent stranger?

The realm is quiet, for now.

Title – Certainly seems fantasy-ish.

Cover – The art’s good, but the title is dwarfed by the image and is hard to see. It just doesn’t stand out at all, and the first letter blends in with clouds of the same colour. Also no author name on this. So while the art itself is good, the overall presentation is of something that didn’t have much thought put into it.

Blurb – A troubled land, a gap between the rich and the poor, and a mysterious stranger. Okay, so we’re dealing with some very common fantasy elements here, and you know what? I like it. I like the idea, I like the possibility that this puts forth. It doesn’t give away much, but it offers a few hints and some background, and that’s a good solid teaser right there.

Bone Magic, by Brent Nichols

The war was supposed to be over.

Tira Archer is done with killing, done with fighting. She’s hung up her bow, saddled her mule, and headed for home. But children are disappearing from the peaceful village of Raven Crossing. Her search for the children brings her face to face with vicious kidnappers, goblin armies, and mercenary dwarves. A war is brewing, and not just any war. It’s a war where the dead don’t stay fallen.

Hurt, exhausted, and sick of fighting, Tira will have to take up her bow once again. Somewhere there is a dark wizard manipulating the living and controlling the dead. Tira is saving an arrow just for him. He plans to rule the world, but he hasn’t planned on Tira Archer.

Title – The title is fairly simple, could refer to a number of different things, and makes me curious. So, points there!

Cover – Decently done. Plus the character pictured makes me think of Denise Crosby, so more points!

Blurb – I’m not sure if it’s cheesy to have an archer whose surname is Archer, or whether this is one of those worlds where someone’s surname is directly related to their profession or status. Still, from the synopsis, it sounds like this could be a fairly fun action-oriented fantasy, one of those quick entertaining reads that I crave every once in a while.

Ranger of Mayat, by Jim Johnson

Kekhmet, the empire of the Two Lands, is a faded shadow of its former glory. Once the shining jewel of the world, the empire has been split apart by the invasion of foul Hesso marauders and the depredations of corrupt governors. The gods and goddesses of Kekhmet are all but silent, and the people struggle to find hope in their hardscrabble lives.

When Tjety, an exiled Ranger of the goddess Mayat, discovers a ransacked fishing village along the lawless northern frontier, he marshals his training and divine hekau magic to hunt down the vicious cultists responsible for the attack. But can he find them before their prisoners are twisted into mindless slaves serving a ruthless necromancer bent on shattering the tenuous balance between order and chaos?

Ranger of Mayat is the first episode in PISTOLS AND PYRAMIDS, an ongoing weird western series best described as an ancient Egyptian spaghetti western with magic. And mummies. Lots of mummies.

Title – It sounds like a fairly generic fantasy title, really.

Cover – For all that it appears fairly simple, I’m actually impressed by what’s going on with the cover. Hieroglyphs in the background, good positioning of easy-to-read text, and if I were shown this with absolutely no context, I’d probably think this book was a western crossed with ancient Egypt. (Which seems to be what it is, so kudos to the designer for managing to convey that really well without getting bogged down in a complicated image.)

Blurb – Until it’s actually described as a “weird western,” I wouldn’t have guessed from the description that there was anything western about it. And as I said in a previous post, normally westerns aren’t really my thing, but even if one of last year’s SPFBO finalists hadn’t turned me around on that, the combo of that plus a setting inspired by ancient Egypt would make my metaphorical ears perk up. This might possibly be the most unique concept I’ve seen in a while!

Dead Man, by Domino Finn

I’m Cisco Suarez: necromancer, shadow charmer, black magic outlaw. Sounds kinda cool, doesn’t it? It was, right until I woke up half dead in a dumpster.

Did I say half dead? Because I meant 100% dead. Full on. I don’t do things halfway.

So here I am, alive for some reason, just another sunny day in Miami. It’s a perfect paradise, except I’m into something bad. Wanted by police, drenched in the stink of dark magic, nether creatures coming out of the woodwork, and don’t get me started on the Haitian voodoo gang. Trust me, it’s all fun and games until there’s a zombie pit bull on your tail.

I’m Cisco Suarez: necromancer, shadow charmer, black magic outlaw, and totally screwed.

Title – I’m expecting either somebody who’s on the run, or somebody’s who is actually undead.

Cover – Nice! Makes me think of some of the more action-heavy urban fantasies that I’ve seen relatively recently.

Blurb – Despite being somewhat ambivalent on a lot of urban fantasy stuff, I think that I might enjoy this one for is mystery, while simultaneously having to fight down panic attacks over zombie phobia.

Note – Please don’t jump in to tell me things about how these zombies are different, how zombies freak you out too but you liked this book, or anything else to try and convince me that I won’t experience what I expect to experience. Because when I say phobia, I freaking mean phobia. Not just, “Urgh, zombies make me shiver unpleasantly and I don’t like how they look.” I mean, “Insomnia, nightmares, , delusions that people around me are dead, spending multiple nights doing nothing but staring out the window despite knowing that zombies aren’t real, but what if I’m wrong, and what if me watching for them is the only thing that can save me and my loved ones, oh god my home isn’t defensible, I’m going to die. *bursts into tears*” Recovery and coping is a hard process, and it’s ongoing, and it’s not helped by people acting like they can relate when they actually can’t, because all that does is diminish the seriousness of a problem that I have trouble convincing people of in the first place.

Stormwielder, by Aaron Hodges

For five hundred years the Gods have united the Three Nations in harmony.
Now that balance has been shattered, and chaos threatens.

A town burns and flames light the night sky. Hunted and alone, seventeen year old Eric flees through the wreckage. The mob grows closer, baying for the blood of their tormentor. Guilt weighs on his soul, but he cannot stop, cannot turn back.

If he stops, they die.

For two years he has carried this curse, bringing death and destruction wherever he goes. But now there is another searching for him – one who offers salvation. His name is Alastair and he knows the true nature of the curse.


Title – Similar enough to some other much-liked fantasy novels that I’ve read in the past that I’m inclined to think favourably of it.

Cover – No pun intended, but the grey-and-electric-blue colour scheme is eye-catching. It doesn’t really do much to interest me in the novel, though.

Blurb – I’m always a bit curious when I see that deities have a hand in national politics. I always wonder why. What’s in it for them? Even if it’s just a legend, how do people rationalize it? Anyway, the idea of a curse that brings destruction isn’t a new one, and it’s hardly surprising that the source of it is magic, though I suppose that’s a hint that the world in question doesn’t contain magic anymore or else never was supposed to. So the blurb does bring up some interesting questions, at least, and makes me want to know the answers.

Genesis, by T Sae-Low

As rumors swirl across the war torn lands of Eos of a possible Candidate—the long prophesied savior of peace— young Raden Nite finds himself unexpectedly chosen to discover the truth to these rumors. Raden’s top-secret mission will send him and his closest friends on a heart-pounding adventure through the mysterious Voras Mountains, the impenetrable fortress of Sargatum, and deep into strange new lands where dangerous enemies await.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Disputed Lands, Prince Aric sits third in line to the crown of Vicedonia. Seeking to escape the overwhelming shadow of his elder brother, and to prove to his father, the king, that he is indeed a worthy successor, Aric embarks on a path into the darkest corners of Eos. On his journey, he will encounter the sinister magic of the Dark Forest, the epic battlegrounds of Lake Raphia, and discover the harsh realities of what it truly means to be king.

In the first book of the Prophecy Rock Series, fates will collide in this epic tale of action, loyalty, and love, where the ultimate meaning of true sacrifice will be discovered.

Title – It doesn’t make me think of much in particular, except for, obviously, beginnings.

Cover – The silhouetted figures against a red and white background certainly do stand out, but right from the beginning I get the impression of a lack of depth. Which makes sense; the image is a flat one. But that’s not a good first impression of something I might spend my time on; you want to portray the idea of depth and complexity, not cut-outs. I know you can’t entirely judge a book by its cover, but first impressions do count for a lot, and when a potential reader gets a certain idea in their head from a cover image, it can be hard to not have that idea colour their reading.

Blurb – The whole “prophecy about a saviour” thing is overdone, and yet there’s still a great appeal for many readers. It sounds like this story could possibly be the kind of book I turn to as a comfort read, something to sink into because it’s familiar, not because it challenges the status quo or presents new ideas. Which is no bad thing, but that does make it unlikely to stand out in a crowd.

2 comments on “SPFBO 2 – First Impressions (Batch 5)

  1. Pingback: 2016 Year-End Post | Bibliotropic

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