SPFBO: Final Round of DNFs by Jen

Well, obviously this is a little after the fact (I was just a little bit late getting these done in time to fit into the schedule) but here are my final DNFs!

Thank you to all the participants! It’s been a blast!


Please note, that this is only my personal opinion and rating! 

Team RockStarlit BookAsylum’s finalist already had been choosen. Everything that happened during Phase 1, you can read about on our SPFBO page! Learn more about our team and fellow judges!

Here we go…

After The Fall: Children of the Nephilim by Paul Freeman

after the fall

No one knew where they came from or why they chose that moment to crawl out from the shadows. In a devastating orgy of terror and violence blood-drinking monsters rose from the dark to gorge themselves on the blood of humans. Facing this threat, mankind turned on itself in a devastating wave of self-destruction.

Twenty years after the Fall and what’s left of mankind is eking out an existence in a post-apocalyptic world. With much of the Earth now a nuclear wasteland, civilization has been knocked back two hundred years. By day the remnants of humanity gather together in small groups drawing from the land what they can in their new technological wasteland. By night they hide behind walls and bank up fires in an attempt to ward off the evil stalking the land during the hours of darkness.

The world needs a savior. A hero unafraid to face his own fears and terror of the vampires. An ex-preacher disillusioned by the world and his god is not that man… or so he says.

Series: #1Rating: 4.5/10
Read: 30%Genre: fantasy/post apocalyptic
Number of pages: 242Available: Amazon

Post-apocalyptic world with vampires! Nice change from zombies but not a lot different in a survival stand-point between the two.  This reminded me a bit of Jericho mashed-up with something like Daybreakers or Pitch Black.

At the quarter we have a good idea of how the world got to be the wasteland it is now and how humanity is managing to endure. The population is reduced to living in little communities, surviving and avoiding the dangers outside the walls at night, while trying to scrape together enough during the day to get by. Though the daytime can be just as hazardous outside the walls, with marauders and other unsavory people that are just as risky as the Feeders.

We are introduced to a few members of the community right off, and get some good background on them so they are not just names that are getting knocked off, which I liked.

We also get to see some of the more human side of a community and a people that have grown up in this atmosphere where the protection that has become a standard gives a false sense of security; allowing room for mistakes when they can’t afford to make them.

  • Where I left off there were hints that the newcomers seeking shelter, may have more to them than they appear.
  • The Preacher may be more than just a man of cloth with a grudge.
  • And the young child introduced, is possibly more than just an average type of feeder (this is where I thought of Daybreakers).

This was one of my first reads that I came back to and tried again after my first attempt, because the writing is very good and I made it to around 30 percent before deciding to move on.

This had some decent writing, tension, and good atmosphere at the point I left off (though the question of how the cows are ranging without being slaughtered like the horse, drove me nuts).

This DNF mostly comes down to taste I think, as post-apocalyptic vampire/zombie stories aren’t my favourite thing, so they really have to grab me to keep my interest, or have a character I want to see succeed.

This was feeling a little “been there done that” and is also on the bleak-side. That combo and no character that I was invested in was the killer and  though the writing was great, I was easily distracted and/or losing interest.

This one is perfect for fans of the survival/apocalypse type stories and it reminded me a bit of the Wolves of Calla, so definitely if you enjoyed that you may enjoy this one.


Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen

beneath cruel fathoms

After a violent storm destroys her ship, Isaura Johansdottir knows better than to hope she’ll be rescued from Eisland’s vast Failock Sea. Adrift and alone, her plans to start over lost, it’s a tragic conclusion after the disastrous end of her marriage—until she’s saved by Leonel, one of the merfolk, a creature long believed extinct. In repayment for her life, Leonel enlists her help to investigate the Failock’s mysterious and deadly plague of squalls. But when Isaura discovers Eisland’s ruthless new Lord commands the storms, her life will be in more danger on land than it ever was at sea.

As guardian of the Fathoms, Leonel must find the cause of unnatural storms ravaging the tidal currents and destroying the sea life. There are rumors of dark magic stirring in the Orom Abyss, the resting place of old, vanquished gods who tried to submerge the land millennia ago. Yet without proof, no one in King Ægir’s court will listen to him. And if it’s discovered he broke the Blue Laws to save a shipwrecked landweller, he might not survive the consequences.

As storms spread, Leonel and Isaura uncover secrets as forbidden as the bond that grows between them. Betrayal lurks in the restless sea, and when ancient powers lay siege to Eisland’s coast, the truth may be drowned along with everything else.

Series: The Bitter Sea #1Rating: 4.5/10
Read: 30%Genre: fantasy
Number of pages: 386Available: Amazon

Isaura – newly apprenticed healer and divorcee, is sailing home when a freak storm brews, tossing the ship she is aboard and she finds herself in the sea.

Leonel – mortal merman, rescues Isaura. By doing so, he is going against the Blue Laws that prohibits that sort of thing, in hopes that she can answer some questions about the unnatural storms that have been on the rise.


This really did seem my speed – it has that romance feel, the leads seem ok; I was not too attached to either but that could have changed. I like the brother. I love sibling relations that are fun like this felt like it could be. And the mystery of trying to find who is messing with the storms was intriguing enough.

This was weirdly YA/NA feeling up to this point but with older people. That may change because I was only at the one-third mark. I think it was some of the conversation that felt young. I am not sure why they gave me that impression.
A few other things I found that niggled- mostly to do with Isaura’s thoughts about being broken and they way it was presented which felt a teeny bit heavy-handed. But then again, reflective thoughts about that sort of thing aren’t my favourite way to learn why a character psyche is damaged.

This is another where the writing, editing, and everything is presented very nicely but the story and/or characters just didn’t grab on to me right off. Couple that with more of the reflective thoughts about why the characters are so damaged, instead of showing us by their actions, than I’d prefer and I decided to move on from this one.


Feast of the Raven by Catherine Spader

feast of the raven

Torn between ancient magic and the new Christian order In 782 AD, a beast prowls the forests of northern Germany. He is wulfhedinn, wolf demon-scourge of the Christian Franks. He is also Gerwulf, the man, a scorned outcast and bastard of a Christian woman and pagan father. Gerwulf emerges from the shadows to escape his demons and seek deliverance. To save his mortal soul, he battles for God, serving the legendary Charlemagne in a savage Holy War against the pagan Saxons. His journey leads to his greatest battle-reclaiming humanity in a dark age when beasts lurk inside all men. …and the Raven Te Eater of Souls She soars above Hungering to feast on the bloodguilt of all..

Series: The Wulfhedinn Series #1Rating: 4/10
Read: 28%Genre:  fantasy
Number of pages: 258Available: Amazon

Gerwulf is Wulfhedinn the demon wolf warrior. He seeks the Christian relics to calm the darkness inside him, to give him back peace and his humanity.
Brother Pyttel- Monk and ordained priest convinces Gerwulf to fight for God by joining King Karl in his campaign against the Pagans.


This looked to be the start of a really different styled story and it was a very quick read to get to the 30%. Mostly because the story has what I thought were in-world poems, but as the story continued, I realized these were actually kind of like an inner battle of wills with the beast within himself that Gerwulf was trying to keep tamped down. I found it odd at first, but once I got used to the cadence, I didn’t mind them so much and I kind of liked the ballad feel it gave the story. I even thought to myself a few times that this might make a great play.

The beginning though was a bit to muddle through for me – especially at the garrison feast where we meet all the king’s people, and where we were just starting to get an idea what’s going on by then with the verses.

I did think the story might get stronger as it goes because it takes some mad skills to write in verse, and match it to the tone of the story or vice versa. I’m just not sure if it worked for me as well as it would others. I did find myself skimming through them a bit until I realized how they were part of the story and that they weren’t just there to give it an old-world/ballad feel.


When the Elves are Gone by J.B. Allen

when the elves are gone

“When the elves of Solinthilus are gone, blotted from the pages of history, who will say they remember them? I wish to say at that time, ‘I do.'”
-Agonni Grimweller

When an extraordinary power is discovered deep within the bowels of the elven kingdom of Solinthilus, the fragile peace among the races of Solinth is threatened. As war looms once again, the dwarves of the kingdom of Stone Deep must now deliberate working with the human’s they’ve spent a lifetime waging war against to claim that power.

The enslaved elves of Solinthilus must face unimaginable odds to survive the army at their doorstep–or risk the annihilation of their race. 

Agonni Grimweller, second son to the deputy clan chief of Clan Grimweller, was once revered in the kingdom of Stone Deep as a devoted husband and fierce soldier with an unsatiated taste for human blood. But one horrible event twenty years earlier had changed everything. Now, the tortured dwarf finds himself unexpectedly cast from his home and set on an impossible journey with unlikely companions to confront this new threat on Solinthilus.

The race to seize this great power has begun. Will diplomacy triumph? Or will war be the only option? 

Series: not sureRating: 4/10
Read: 42%Genre: fantasy
Number of pages: 386Available: Amazon

This was an interesting, albeit dark book. It takes one of my favorite fantasy tropes- Elves being the superior beings and basically grinds the race into the ground, virtually decimating the population and leaving the survivors barely eking out an existence.

I am no stranger to grim and dark books; I’ve read a lot of it over the years but for some reason this one just felt bleak as hell. A lot of the time with this sort of a story we have either a glimmer of hope, gallows humor, or a snarky character in the group to take the edge off that sharpness of the darker material.

There was none of that here.

One of the main characters we follow is the dwarf Agonni. The son of a clan chief, he lost his beloved wife in childbirth years ago and now spends his time drinking and wallowing in his grief and anger. Most of that hatred and anger is directed towards Jarr, the half Orc son born to his wife, who has the intellect of a child.

Agonni’s headspace is a dark and bitter place to be, and his mistreatment of Jarr made it hard to sympathise even when I understood where his resentment and rage was coming from. I didn’t like him much at all.

I read to around the 40% mark. I had been hoping for a little light in that darkness to appear but by this point it was still pretty bleak and there wasn’t a huge amount of progress in the plot either. Lack of progress, pov problems, and a bit of repetitiveness, all were big contributors to my choice to drop this one- even though I found the premise quite intriguing.


 Blood and Shadow by Robin Lythgoe

blood and shadow

Sherakai never wanted to become a warrior like his father and brothers. Satisfied with being fourth in line to inherit title and responsibility, he wants only to be Master of the Horse. But on the eve of his sister’s wedding, a terrible gift arrives and Sherakai’s course changes forever. His magic is the key to secrets he does not know or understand, and he must learn to fight to escape a future he doesn’t believe in. Now he must use what he hates to regain what he loves.

This latest novel from Robin Lythgoe, Blood and Shadow, is a new addition in the wonderful high fantasy tradition of Lois McMaster Bujold, R.A. MacAvoy, and Carol Berg.

Series: The Mage’s Gift #1Rating: 4/10
Read: 30%Genre: fantasy
Number of pages: 518Available: Amazon

Sherakai (Kai) youngest son of house Tanoshi is an untamed mage. He thinks he wants to be a horse Master but he really doesn’t know what he wants to do, he just knows it’s not be a warrior like his brothers.

Kai’s sister Mimeru is getting sicker with a mysterious illness. Bairith (her husband) wants to take Kai back with them to their home, to train him and to help with Miremu but we all know what Bairith really wants. I was wishing here that we didn’t know Bairith’s intentions because there isn’t enough tension build when you do know and this story is just tropey enough to see the writing on the wall.

This was one that I thought would be my cup of tea, some of the ideas made me think of Courtney Schafer’s Whitefire Crossing, which I really enjoyed and I even thought I had an idea how this one might play out.

I started getting frustrated though when it seemed like the story came to a stand still, events that I thought were going to spur the mc into action resulted in a few false starts- making me wonder when this was going to get the show on the road or if Kai was just going to be learning how to be an heir.

I did enjoy seeing the family interact and there are lots of playful banter and sweet moments between the siblings. There isn’t enough of that sort of thing for me in fantasy so I am always happy to find great relationships.  I might come back to this one later and give it a bit more time to get moving but for spfbo purposes, I am moving on.