SPFBO: The Second Reaping

We passed the halftime mark of Phase 1 in September, and things are going to get interesting from here on. We are (slowly *cough*) weaving through the books in our group and we hope to get a clearer idea which one our finalist will be by the start of November. But that’s a bit further away, so let’s focus on the here and now.Today Team RockStarlit BookAsylum is going to say goodbye to 5 books, some we enjoyed reading, some not so much. This means we’ll be eliminating 11 books so far, so almost half of our entrants will be out of the game.At the time of posting this, not every one of us wrote up mini or full reviews of each book, so I will only use quotes from those that are available. You can always check our progress on my SPFBO page which I update regularly. Learn more about my team and fellow judges!Without further ado, let’s rip off that bandage again – or wield the axe or scythe or… okay, I need to stop with this line of thought – and see who won’t survive the second Reaping.

Raven’s Edge: A Raven’s Tale Adventure by Alan Ratcliffe

Raven's EdgeThe road is hard. Travel too long upon it and you in turn become hardened.A dark shadow has fallen over the northern city of Strathearn. The duke’s son and heir lays dying, the victim of a terrible witch’s curse. The promised reward for her capture remains unclaimed, while tensions rise in a land where the wounds of civil war are not yet healed. One day a lone wanderer, a raven-haired girl, arrives at the castle and claims she can break the curse. But is all as it seems?Raven’s Edge is a standalone prequel to The Raven’s Tale epic fantasy trilogy, and can be enjoyed both separately or as part of that series.Jen: ” I had no complaints about the writing really, and as curious as I am why the witch cursed the prince and how they fix it, I wasn’t overly invested in it either. I’m not sure if it’s the tone or if it felt too much like an entry to a series I haven’t read yet but I found my attention wandering often.

Read more about Jen’s thoughts

Timy: “It reminded me a bit of the folktales of my childhood, where the third and youngest son goes off to an adventure to either save his brothers or to find the love of his life. I would probably have liked a bit more worldbuilding at the start to get an idea why would a witch want to curse the heir of the duke. With a bit of polishing, this book could be an entertaining read, but for now it just didn’t grab my interest enough.”Nick: “In the end, there just wasn’t enough there there for me with this book.  I thought that the beginning was fairly strong, but as the book got into the halfway point and beyond, the plot dragged to a crawl.  It became a never ending quest that didn’t have a lot else happening for large chunks.  I ultimately felt like a semi-finalist should have a bit more punch and so I decided to abandon it about 55% of the way through.”
Our Combined Rating: 5.3/10Available: Amazon

King of Ash and Bone by Melissa Wright

ashboneWhen flying monsters break through the veil into her world, Mackenzie Scott has nothing left to lose. Her brother has been taken, her future has vanished, and all that remains is a desperate need for revenge. After discovering the breach the creatures used as a gateway, Mackenzie devises a plan to stop them, whatever the cost. When she finds an injured stranger in the street, he just might be the key she needs to succeed. What Mackenzie doesn’t know is that this stranger isn’t the helpless boy he appears to be. He’s one of the monsters. And he’s got plans of his own. Thrown into a dying city in another realm, Mackenzie is powerless to get back. With the gateway closing, time is not on her side. But the stranger is, and if they can escape execution, this girl and her monster might be able to save both their worlds.Jen: “On the whole I thought this was a really fun story. It hit a lot of my buttons for romance and fantasy and because of that maybe got a bit of a higher rating for the enjoyment factor. I can see though that it could be polarizing with people with it’s quick-paced style, that barely lets you keep up or digest what you’ve learned but I found it was worth the effort. I guess that part would be where I had to deduct some points – it just needed a little more clarity in some areas. Also, this book does end on a slight cliffie. It’s not a horrible one but it’s certainly not finished here.”Timy: “This is a short book, and a fast paced one, which would have benefited if there was more worldbuilding – there would have been plenty of space for it – and the characters were more fleshed out. We drop right in the middle of the events and there is hardly any stopping to get our bearings, to actually get to connect with the characters or understand what’s going on.” 

Read more about Timy’s thoughts

Nick: “I think I would have enjoyed this book more had it not been so heavy on the romance.  This is a charming portal fantasy with a fairly cool story about winged monsters tearing a veil into our world and taking the main character’s brother back into their own realm.  The story was very cookie-cutter in my opinion with not a lot of depth to the characters.”

Read more about Nick’s thoughts

Our Combined Rating: 4.6/10Available: Amazon

Dragon’s Price by Daniel Potter

dpWith a breath, the Dragon ruined everything.Yaki simply wanted to marry rich and then kill her husband.Her sister Ishe wished to inherit their mother’s airship and become the world’s youngest captain.Now the twins are on their own for the first time in their lives. Ensnared by the dragon’s schemes to conquer their homeland. With Yaki grievously wounded, the twins must escape the mountain. Ishe’s got a plan, but if she fails, they might not survive the Dragon’s Price.A brand new series from the creator of Freelance Familiars. Rise of the Horned Serpent contains Dragons, the occasional naughty word and a cuddly spider. Read it now!Jen: “Dragons, airships and sky pirates (oh my). This was a fun premise and Dragon’s Price does deliver in that department!There is a lot to learn in the beginning, as we are dropped onto the airship and into battle against Dragon’s almost immediately – making it quick to the action but it slows a little as we get introduced to the world and crew.Dragon’s Price is a very quick read and easy to just keep on going.”

Read more about Jen’s thoughts

Timy: “We get dropped almost right in the middle of action, which is not my favourite method of starting a book. We don’t get much time to get to know the characters – at least for the first 25% – and thus they fail to make me care about them. I would have liked a bit more worldbuilding and a faint idea of why a dragon is attacking out of nowhere. It’s a fast read, I have to give it that, but needs a bit of polishing and at least one round of proofreading to make it cleaner.”Nick: “I normally love books about dragons.  This one just didn’t connect with me for some reason though.  I thought that the plot was a bit rushed with incredibly short chapters, which I’m not really a fan of.  I also felt like the side characters weren’t sufficiently developed enough for me.  I wanted more explanation about the history behind the events that were taking place and that was really the theme throughout I’m afraid. I simply craved more than what the author gave me.”
Our Combined Rating: 5/10Available: Amazon

Jess, Rising by D.M. Guay

Jess, RisingOne town’s secret. One girl’s transformation. One love’s fatal burn.A supernatural love story with deadly consequences, for fans of Beautiful Creatures and Twilight.Seventeen-year-old Jess Flowers sees the killer in visions. He slaughters the helpless with fire and lightning. And she’s next on the kill list.Billy Combs is the gorgeous outcast with the electrifying secret. He’s stolen Jess’ heart, but his own past may be darker than he’s let on.As the body count ticks higher, a growing pile of evidence links Billy to the crimes. Jess’ heart says no. But she’s the new kid in isolated Salt Creek, Ohio, a town with a life-changing secret, a town where people aren’t what they seem, a town where it’s hard to know who to trust. A town that’s transformed her.Can she tame the mysterious powers surging within her and identify the real killer before it’s her turn to die?Winner, 2016 Romance Writers of America Joyce Henderson contest for young adult romance (under its original title, Girl with the Sun on her Heart). Jen: “So even though this had lots to enjoy with the friends and the superhero feel to their gifts, it also felt very barebones in places with lots of telling and very little showing. I wished for more fleshing-out of some of the events. For instance, we are told Jess was close to her dad but we don’t see it or feel it in the aftermath. Also, with the body that Jess found – I had actually started to wonder if it was a dream because of the time jump into the next scene before it is casually mentioned again. I had that feeling a few times with events that were somewhat glossed over, wondering if they were dreams and a bit lost by the jump.”

Read more about Jen’s thoughts

Timy: “Jess herself could be an interesting character, if she got some more attention during the writing process. And since we are talking about writing, one other thing that irked me were the sudden scene hopping. For example: one moment they are on the way to school, the next she talks to Vic on the corridor.As far as I’ve read, this book builds on tropes and clichés and offers nothing new to the genre. Which is not a bad thing, if you like a book with 2D characters, insta love and super powers.”

Read more about Timy’s thoughts

Nick: “This one was just too “Twilighty” for me.  Lots of teen angst and the drama associated with what goes along with it.  I’m not much of a fan of books like this where high-schoolers are juggling crushes and love triangles and are trying to cope with hidden powers that they don’t fully understand.  It’s a trope that has been done so many times and this book unfortunately didn’t offer much to keep me wanting to read.”
Our Combined Rating: 3.9/10Available: Amazon

Dragon Destiny by Helen B. Henderson

Dragon DestinyDragon Destiny has been released as the first book in the Dragshi Chronicles.For a human, a dragon form comes with more than just the freedom of the sky.Branin is the last dragon shifter born in over three hundred years. As a dragshi, he can take the form of his dragon soul twin, Llewlyn and knows the freedom of flight, but not happiness. Both are the last of their kind and have waited millennia for their mates.The raider, Lady Broch of Ky’port is more than willing to fulfill that position — with or without Branin’s willing cooperation. When a faint thought impinged on Branin’s mind, hope for an ending to eons of loneliness soared.Plagued by doubts because no signs of a dragon shifter’s birth have been seen, Branin searches the world for the mysterious girl he only knows by the name, Anastasia.Jen: “The timeline – I wasn’t sure if a day had passed, a week, or an entire winter. I did like in the little bit of time I saw of Branin, through conversations with others that he seemed to be considerate of Anastasia – her age and choices she wanted to make. Not the big alpha-male attitude (at least from the bit I read and generally that’s established quite quickly with those sorts of males in romance). I also liked the support cast that surrounded him.”

Read more about Jen’s thoughts

Timy: “I’ve mixed feelings. I’m not a fan of romance books, especially which has insta love – to be fair, this book doesn’t have that, but it’s really close. It’s a fast and easy read and I was interested to learn more about the world and the dragshi and how all the soul-mate thing works. On the other hand, it needs a bit more editing to smooth out the hard edges and to make us get to know the characters better. I quite liked Branin and Anastasia, and instantly hated Broch. Who, by the way needs a bit more characterisation, because that someone is a bitch, doesn’t make them a good villain necessarily.”Nick: “Another Fantasy-Romance that just didn’t click with me from the very beginning.  The main character is a dragon shifter who can take the form of his dragon soul’s twin.  Sounds cool right?  Unfortunately not much is done with this and the majority of the first quarter of the book is spent on a love story and not much of that is very compelling.  Again, just not my cup of tea and the story taking a backseat to the romance element turned me off to reading any more of this.”
Our Combined Rating: 4.2/10Available: Amazon