Introducing Team Queen's Book Asylum SPFBO 8

SPFBO 8 – Introducing Team Queen’s Book Asylum!

I hope you missed us, because the good news is, Team Queen’s Book Asylum is back for SPFBO 8 after taking a well-deserved break! When I retired back in 2021 I knew I wasn’t quite done with SPFBO yet, but I never imagined I’d be back so soon. But no one can escape the siren call of the competition, and I started playing with the idea. Except, I didn’t have a team, so I decided not to pursue it for another year. Then I suddenly found myself having a team and when Mark gave us the green light, we were suddenly in. Just like that. I don’t think I even had time to reconsider, lol. But I’m excited to be back and discover a whole lot of new gems along the way!

This time I have a whole new team with one fellow returning judge, and a slightly updated process which I’ll explain in this post below. So, come and meet Team Queen’s Asylum and check out what we are sending into the Cover Contest!

What is SPFBO

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off is hosted by none other than Mark Lawrence, author of The Broken Empire, The Red Queen’s War, The Book of Ancestor the Impossible Times, and the Book of Ice trilogies. 300 books compete, judged by 10 blogs and at the end of 11 long, bloody months 1 winner will emerge. You can find every detail on Mark’s SPFBO page along with the process of all 10 blogs in Phase 1.

Our Process

As we did in the previous years when we participated, we will try to put out content regularly once we get the ball rolling. We will also attempt to write at least mini reviews for books we’ve cut and full reviews for our semi-finalists and eventual finalist.

This year Team Queen’s Book Asylum will have 4 full-time judges and we are welcoming our own ghost judge or otherwise known as ghostie – because, come on, we are an Asylum, duh – who will mostly stay in the background, reading a couple of books, helping out with decisions, adding comments and views, haunting our halls and playing tag with our pet demon.

So what our process will look like?

  • The 4 full-time judges will get 7 books each, and our ghostie will get 2. Every judge got to pick 3 books from our batch they really wanted to get allocated to them and 3 they thought wouldn’t fit their tastes. Every judge got 3 of the books they wanted – after some long and bloody fights over who gets what -, and the remaining titles were divided randomly, taking into account which they really didn’t want to get.
  • Each judge is free to handle their lot as they see fit, but they are required to read at least 20-25% before they decide to move on.
  • Each judge has to sample/read their allocated books by the middle/end of August and choose their semi-finalist(s). Judges can pick up to 2 semi-finalists, but we’d like to keep the number no higher than 6. Any judge can pick up any of our ghostie’s books as a semi-finalist if they see fit.
  • Each judge – except our ghostie – will get two posts on Queen’s Book Asylum to write mini reviews of the 5-6 books they eliminated and announce their semi-finalist(s). Books that get cut won’t be rated, only the semi-finalists.
  • Between September and October, we will read the semi-finalists (up to 50% at least), rate them, and eventually, our finalist will be the book that got the highest average score from us.
  • We’ll do joint review posts of our semi-finalists before announcing our finalist sometime in October. Our scores for each semi-finalist will be revealed when we announce our finalist.
  • The judges (and our ghostie) are welcome to read and review any book not allocated to them, and chip in with their opinion but the final decision regarding its place in the competition (i.e. cut or advanced to semi-finalist) remains with the judge it was allocated to.

As usual, you’ll be able to follow our progress on the SPFBO 8 Phase 1 page or on social media if you follow the #TeamAsylum and #SPFBO hashtags. Or you can follow the slightly creepy noises our pet demon makes when excited about new people, but let me warn you that it might not result in the desired outcome. It likes to make detours along our corridors and get people lost in the process. But hey, we love that you are so adventurous, keep up the spirit!

About the Team

Now, we are a friendly bunch – contrary to the rumors 😛 – and don’t mind interacting with people on Twitter or in the SPFBO Facebook group, and we are more than happy to help you if you have any questions. But please don’t step over the boundaries. I believe in civilized conversation and problem-solving. The aim of this competition is to forge friendships and connections not to cause drama. We aren’t what you’d call harsh reviewers – I think -, but we’ll be a touch more critical since this is, after all, a competition. I believe the process explained above, will help to make sure that every book gets the same amount of attention from us. What I can promise you, is that we are going to be true to ourselves, we are going to be honest about our opinions, but we will never be hurtful intentionally. We are not here to tear you down and it’s not our style anyway.

That said, let me introduce to you Team Queen’s Book Asylum!

I swear I wanted to use a drumroll GIF, but then this happened, and instead, I’m going to say let’s get the ball of fur rolling!



Arina (she/they) is a developer by trade and a book reviewer by passion.

Long entranced by the art of storytelling, she eagerly devours its every form, finding herself most at home within the vast worlds of speculative fiction.

When not championing the hidden gems of SFF, she loves playing rpgs, messing around with 3D modeling, and conversations on the future of AI.

Ever since I heard of SPFBO, I longed to get in on the action. To give back a bit of the passion that other reviewers and authors fanned within me when I first joined the self-published fantasy community. So when Timy put forward the thought of assembling a team for SPFBO, I side-eyed my backlog for a few days before giving in.

This past year I’ve had the privilege of leading a team through SPSFC, SPFBO’s newly-minted little sister. It’s been an eye-opening journey, growing my love for the genre. Like SFF often teaches us, the greatest gems are often under the surface.

These are exciting times to get involved in the incredible worlds of self-published fantasy, and I’m honored to have become a small pebble in its vast ocean. There’s nothing like diving into a story that speaks to you personally, alongside reviewers you are eager to work with.

Thank you to all the authors who’ve put their work in our hands and may the win stick favor you.

Follow Arina on social media:



Nick Borrelli

Hello, my name is Nick Borrelli and I review new and soon to be released Science-Fiction and Fantasy books on my blog Out of This World SFF. I’ve also been known to do cover reveals, author interviews, giveaways, and participate in various blog tours. You can find me on Twitter most days making a fool of myself. Born and raised in Philadelphia, I currently make my home along the southern coast of New Jersey with my wonderfully amazing wife and our two daughters.

After a much needed year off, I am very excited to be rejoining my good friends at Queen’s Book Asylum as a judge for this year’s contest. Self-published fantasy has always been near and dear to my heart, so being able to be part of this amazing competition is incredibly special for me personally. And working with such a magnificent team makes it doubly so. The importance of shining a light on these stories can’t be overlooked in my opinion, and that is why I love being an SPFBO judge. There’s simply nothing that compares to the feeling of getting those initial 30 titles and plowing through each one to discover that stand-out read that will become your team’s eventual finalist. I have butterflies just thinking about it and am truly looking forward to getting immersed in some fantastic reads over the next 11 months or so. Good luck to all of the authors who entered and may the best book win!

Follow Nick on social media:



Paul English-Wolfe

Paul is a man of few words but the owner of many, many books. While he is predominately a reader of sci-fi and fantasy, he has a passion for all things ancient and medieval, so historical fiction/non-fiction litter his chaotic shelves like potsherds at a dig site.

Raised on The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, he fell in love with fantasy at an extremely young age but soon began devouring science-fiction after his mother stole him a copy of 2010: Odyssey Two from a hospital library.

In a previous life, he’s been a biomedical scientist and an immunological researcher, but these days is a civil servant who spends his days wishing he wasn’t. Paul lives on the gelid shores of North East England, where he lives with his glorious wife and two cat-shaped demons. 

Before taking my first tentative blogging steps back in January 2020, I hadn’t read a single self-published book; in truth, I didn’t even know self-publishing was a thing. On a whim and enticed by the cover, I picked up a copy of Never Die by Rob J. Hayes and my life was forever changed. Flash forward to the present day, and I’ve read scores of amazing self-published novels from tremendously talented wordsmiths, I’m looking at you, Bjørn – hey teamie!

Joining SPFBO (SPIFFBO) as a judge is an absolute dream come true, and being on this team with people I respect so damn much is an honour beyond measure. Self-published fiction is a hotbed of creativity and imagination, and SPFBO celebrates that with passion and gusto, that my voice is part of this year’s choir is a gift.

I can’t wait to dive into this year’s ball pit of fantasy goodness to see what treasures await, though I’m not sure how well I’ll do in the eventual fight to the death necessary for a blood-soaked champion to be crowned.

Follow Paul on social media:




Timy, also known as Queen Terrible Timy hails from a magical land called Hungary, born and raised in its capital city, Budapest. Books have been her refuge and best friends ever since she can remember along with music. She might be a tiny bit addicted to the latter. Timy is the owner and editor of Queen’s Book Asylum. In her free time (hah!) she likes to create things, collect panda stuff, go to concerts, travel, and take the literary world one book at a time.

I don’t know if SPFBO missed me, but I certainly missed it! As good as this one-year break was for my mental health and general well-being, I once again feel that building anticipation that comes with wondering what our 30 books will hold for us. My favorite thing about SPFBO – apart from the fact that we are supporting self-published authors, which was always at the core of the foundation of this blog – is finding those gems that were hidden from us until now. I look forward to finding that book or books I will fall in love with, to once again challenge myself to have an open mind about books I might not pick up otherwise, and the inevitable bloodbath that will emerge once we get to the decision making part.

But what makes me the most excited is that I can take on this journey with these amazing people I can call friends. I see much laughter, tears, and probably blood too in our near future. I only hope that it will be an equally enjoyable time for you brave Asylum dwellers who entered our halls in pursuit of the glorious stick and everything that comes with it. We know it’s not easy from the other side, but my advice would be to enjoy it as SPFBO is truly an excellent experience that would be a shame to miss out on.

Follow Timy on social media:


Bjørn aka our ghostie

Bjorn Larssen

Stabby-nominated and Qi winning Bjørn is a curious medical phenomenon – most of him lives in a Dutch suburb, but his heart got lost in Iceland. He self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one, following this achievement several decades later with books containing multiple sentences. His writing is described as ‘dark’ and ‘literary’, but he remains incapable of taking anything seriously for more than 60 seconds. He has never judged anything before and is terrifiedly excited about the coming 11 months.

Last year I got to see SPFBO from the author side – this time I’m the ghostie behind the curtains. Due to health reasons my involvement will be limited – and I thank the team for accommodating my needs and constraints. As we ghosties do, I will haunt all other judges and tell them their scores are all wrong. Well, mostly. Once I decide which books are my favourites, I will proceed to never shutting up about them, because everyone deserves to know how wonderful, weird, twisted, complex, funny, interesting self-published books can be. For you – for us, indies – there are no limits. Indies can do anything and take me anywhere, and there are 300 new worlds to see. (I won’t be visiting the grimdark or horror adjacent ones.)

Follow Bjørn on social media:

Go and check out all of our books and how we divided them between us on our SPFBO 8 Phase 1 page!

Cover Contest

At last but not least, feast your eyes on the 3 covers we picked to participate in the Cover Contest!