The elimination round is rolling on, this week it’s Bjørn’s turn to give you an update about his batch. He also decided to add songs to his reviews, so, enjoy!
These titles sadly didn’t make it but we are grateful to every author who entered this year, we are sorry to let books go but this is how the competition works and so we obey the rules. However, we might have decided not to forward any of these into the finals, but we encourage you to check them out nonetheless. So, let’s say goodbye to two more titles then!
Ironcraft by Pedro Gabriel
In the beginning, a peaceful race of giants populated the world of Dumah. But a sylphid, a spirit from the stars, came down from the heavens to deliver a dreadful prophecy: a new race of beings, called men, will one day dethrone the giants and destroy them. To protect them from this threat, the sylphid will teach the giants the art of ironcraft. But this gift will unleash war upon the land of mortals, as the giants try to conquer a mythical city where men are foretold to appear…
One of Ironcraft’s reviews on Goodreads compares it to The Silmarillion and The Holy Bible. Those comparisons are apt. The word “epic” was invented to describe books like this. In Ironcraft, a title appealing to a blacksmith, the arrival of the Iron Age is not a positive development – think Tolkien’s Shire turning into Mordor. The book was inspired by Egyptian and Mesopotamian mythology, rather than the “usual” Greek/Roman/Norse/Slavic. This, combined with Gabriel’s deep interest in the Church affairs and Catholic theology, creates something truly unique. Unfortunately, the Bible comparison is correct because of the writing style.
In Hollywood movies actors will initially exaggerate their, say, Irish accent, dialling it down as the movie progresses. It’s no longer necessary, as our subconscious registered this character’s Irish. Ironcraft does the opposite. The language, accessible in the beginning, grows more and more archaic as the book progresses, until the text becomes unintentionally funny. “And yet… you are so far away, and they so near at hand! I already smell in my very nostrils the fumes of their attacks! The floral odour of your aid is so tenuous, so distant, it cannot dissipate these noxious vapours at my doorstep!” would have been an amazing paragraph if the novel was a send up of itself.
The story held my interest long enough for me to reach the 39% mark, but as the prose became more and more florid, I found myself reading more and more slowly. Finally, the style wrestled the story (or me) to the ground. I wanted to find out how the book ended, though. I skipped to 90%, glanced at the page, saw the sentence “If thou wishest to survive with thine army, thou must flee at once!” and did not continue. Unfortunately, Ironcraft’s prose saw its face in a pool of water and never looked away again.
Recommended for people who enjoy truly unique, deep, bittersweet, non-graphic (in the first 39% at least) literary fantasy that reads like the King James version of the Old Testament.
Azalea & Syzygy by Lorain O’Neil
Nuns. Super Soakers. Oversexed Assistants!
An ancient organization of women who suck cruelty out of people tasks one surly centenarian with a bubble-brained teenager to save the world.
Yup, the world is in some pretty deep doo-doo.
Bonus chapters from some of the author’s other books are included.
The fact that Azalea & Syzygy and Ironcraft even ended in the same competition is the best testament (sorry) to the diversity of indie fantasy.
Where do I begin with this book?
In 2007, Britney Spears was at her mental and emotional worst. She also recorded Blackout, her best album, which appears on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. How is this related, you probably wonder? Before the release, Britney posted on her website, asking which of the potential titles the fans liked best. One of them was What If The Joke Is on You?
Azalea & Syzygy collects everything that gives self-published books a bad name. No proofreaders were harmed in its making. For each “hath” Pedro Gabriel used, Lorain O’Neil has a “hafta.” Unlike commas, thesauruses aplenty have contributed. Syzygy razzed and tittered, Azalea espoused irritably, and Gerald sniffed impassively before adding in an addendum. All the verbs. All the adverbs. All the head-hopping.
What if the joke is on me?
The Falconers, who feed on cruelty sucked out of evil people’s minds, leave behind empty shells. When someone’s identity was gradually reduced to hurting others, and suddenly both the urge and ability to do so disappears… what’s left? A mother confronted with the daughter she has tortured for years and nearly killed because of Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy insists she has done nothing wrong. She was the best mother she could be. Is it cruelty if she believes it? Even though Azalea waggles her shoulder truculently, this YA urban fantasy is satire rather than mindless comedy.
Interestingly – what were the odds? – the plot (tight, well paced, multilayered, full of twists) is also inspired by Biblical themes. (Not just because of the oversexed nuns advertised in the blurb.) But then the author, Down With The Kids, introduces us to words such as “roofy,” “jeeze,” and “Justin Beiber.” Azalea’s identity crisis and Syzygy’s puppy-like eagerness and silliness would be so much better if the “haftas” and “needtas” didn’t make their voices near identical. What if that was the point, though?
When “All in all he gave the impression of an unpublished poet who wouldn’t have the guts to turn off autocorrect” meets “This time there needsta be an unconditional schtupping embargo, ‘cause if it all goes kerplooey I am not falling on a grenade for everyone” it’s on purpose, right? Have I hurt the author’s feelings with this review or made her smile? Have I failed to find even deeper layers or created ones that were never there? What if the joke is on me and I don’t even know what the joke is?
Chapter Five definitely answers those questions. Unless it doesn’t.
Conclusion: SPFBO – cut, satire unless not – recommended.
To keep up with our process and the competition, please check out our SPFBO 8 Phase 1 page!