SPFBO 8 Semi-Finalist Reveal

SPFBO 8 – Semi-Finalist Reveal: Nick

It’s time for our second semi-finalist reveal, which is brought to you by Nick!

So, how we are going to proceed? As you know, each of us already cut three of our titles. We’ll share minireviews of our remaining titles and at the end of the post, we’ll reveal which book(s) we picked to be our semi-finalist(s)! In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing group reviews of each of the semi-finalists then we’ll reveal which of them made their bloody way to the top of our batch. Sounds fun, isn’t it? Let’s get down to business then!

Still in the Running

In the elimination round, Nick said goodbye to three titles: The Lucky Diamond by Valinora Troy, Stars of Destiny: Light by Melissa Stone, and Glimmer of the Other by Heather G. Harris (full elimination round post here). Below are his thoughts about the books which didn’t make it, unfortunately:

The Banner of the Broken Orc by Aiden L. Turner

The Banner of the Broken Orc by Aiden L. Turner

When the Dark Lord rises blood will flow!

Prince of men, lord of light, and champion of the weak, Jacob’s immense physical strength is matched only by his great kindness. Until an animal rage awakens, and he is born anew. Reborn like a warrior of old. A hero with skill unparalleled and a god-given power.

He surrounds himself with loyal warriors, violent men with scarred faces and bloodied swords. When his true love is held prisoner by his sadistic uncle, nothing will stop his vengeance. He wades through the blood of friend and foe alike. He will murder men. He will slay orcs, goblins, and monsters far more horrific. But at the end, will he have the strength of heart to resist? Or will his actions bind him to the Darkness?

If you like the adventure and imagination of Lord of the Rings and the violent action of Game of Thrones, then you will love The Banner of the Broken Orc: The Call of the Darkness Saga, Book One, by Aiden L Turner.

Based on the title and description I had really high hopes for this one. It seemed like the type of story that I usually enjoy and so I dove in with my interest piqued and ready to possibly be wowed. Unfortunately, I had to abandon this one roughly halfway through as there were a few things that just caused me not to completely be hooked by this story. What I did like were the battles and the world-building which I thought were very good actually. What made this a cut for me though was the fact that I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters and also the writing style in certain sections. For instance, there were a few pages where the author started almost every other sentence with the main character’s name when writing from their viewpoint. This may not seem like a big deal to some but not sprinkling in a few pronouns here and there did create quite a bit of choppiness with the narrative I thought and kind of disrupted the flow of the story for me at times. In the end this book just wasn’t for me but I do feel like it will appeal to a good number of readers.

Shattered Gods by Chris Fox

Shattered Gods by Chris Fox

Fated to destroy the world. Determined to save it.

My name is Xal and I live in the dims, a walled prison where my people are kept by our cruel masters, until we are needed to fight once more. One member of every family must answer The Call, for our blood bears the magic of a demonic god, and all the terrible power that brings.

We march to war against the Fomori, an unstoppable army of giants, and their behemoths. If we do not, then our families are put to death. The Hasrans use us as cannon fodder, and worse. They used up my father, and he never came home. Die resisting. Die fighting. My choice isn’t if it happens, but rather how I sell my life.

If by some miracle I survive I will be granted entrance to the Imperial Academy, where every noble house will vie to architect my end. They cannot allow the void-blooded to live. They cannot allow us to thrive, or to gain more magic from the bodies of other dead gods. They cannot allow us to win. They fear the rise of another dreadlord. And they are right to fear. I will pull down an empire, and that is just the beginning.

Another one that I thought I had a good chance of liking based on the limited amount that I knew going in but ultimately didn’t make the cut as my semi-finalist choice. A cool premise and a LitRPG feel which at the outset had me wanting to keep turning the pages to find out more and see where the story went. However, it just felt too much like a lot of books that I have read in the past. Many of the
scenarios were somewhat easily overcome, and the characters were just not fleshed out as much as I would have liked for such a lengthy book. The writing was quite good, but the story just never really fully captured my curiosity the way that I would need to make this a semi-final pick. And so I decided to pass but I do think that many readers who enjoy reading LitRPG stuff should give this one a go as it may be right up their alley and scratch that itch.

Portal to Nova Roma by J.R. Mathews

Portal to Nova Roma by J.R. Matthews

To find peace, Alexander must first embrace war.

After tragically losing the only person he ever cared about, Alexander, a rogue artificial intelligence, opens a portal to an alternate dimension to escape his grief.

Scanning trillions of different dimensions, Alexander finally finds a world that is reminiscent of the only time he was ever happy, back when he could play virtual reality games with his only friend. He doesn’t know why, or how, such a world exists, but he doesn’t care. All he cares about is finding a place where he can escape the misery of Earth and start over.

Join Alexander as he risks it all by downloading his intelligence into a body made from the best stolen technology and bio-enhancements Earth has to offer and takes the plunge through a portal to another world.

Only this new world isn’t full of the idyllic adventures and fantasy roleplaying he had hoped to find. Instead, Alexander finds himself trapped in the middle of an ancient city, in a divergent timeline, where monsters have ravaged the world and the only people left alive huddle behind thick walls, struggling to survive.

To save his new home, Alexander must quickly learn to adapt to his new world, melding magic with technology to give himself an edge over the unending waves of monsters assaulting the city.

To survive, Alexander must embrace war.

Quite a meaty tome that at first I thought was going to be a strong contender for semi-finalist. In fact, up until about halfway through the book it was definitely in the running and I thought I was going to have a tough decision on my hands. Love the idea behind this story and the whole AI gets transported to an alternate Earth premise was really intriguing. In the end there were a couple of reasons why this book just missed being my semi-finalist pick. I guess it was about halfway through where I started to kind of feel like the character development was just not going anywhere in lieu of describing the intricate and fascinating alternate worldbuilding aspects. There also is a lot of info dumping when maybe having that revealed through the natural flow of the plot would have worked so much better for me. I just started to feel detached from the story and felt as if I was watching it play out from the outside rather than being in there with the characters and experiencing it through their eyes. This book though should appeal to a ton of readers out there and it has definitely made me interested in reading more books by this author.

The Semi-Finalist

If you paid attention so far, you probably figured out which book remains to become Nick’s semi-finalist, but let’s turn up the tension a bit.

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Legends of Tivara by JC Kang

The Dragon Charmer's Apprentice by JC Kang

A slave shall rise from the ashes to master dragons.

Born into slavery, Mai’s horizons are limited to one simple desire: to catch the eye of a handsome mate. She dares not dream for more, for like all humans, she’s been taught from birth that her life belongs to the orcs, her destiny to serve.

But her world is upended when Aralas, a messenger from the elf gods, reveals blasphemous truths: humanity was created to be free; and hope—if it can be called that—lies in the jaws of the dragon Avarax, whom only Mai can charm with her unique voice.

Torn, overwhelmed, desperate to hope yet terrified of failing her kind, Mai has until a rare conjunction of moons to master magic that takes lifetimes to learn. Yet how will she discover who she really is when even her allies seek to control her?

Only by making the greatest of sacrifices will she manifest the power of a Dragon Song, and help mankind escape eternal servitude.

Out of all of the books that I had assigned to me for SPFBO 8, this one was by far the most well-written, consistent, and intriguing with regard to the overall story. It was also coincidentally the very first book that I read from my pile and ended up remaining my favorite when all was said and done. This is apparently a prequel in Kang’s Legends of Tivara books, which I admit to not having read. But if they are even half as good as this book is I will definitely be checking them out in the near future.

This book tells some of the history behind the Tivara world and centers on the main character of Mai in particular. Mai grows up enslaved with her people in Cathay, which has been occupied and ruled by the brutal turquoise-skinned orcs known as the Tivari. She knows nothing else except servitude because that is what the Tivari have convinced the people of Cathay that they are – mere pawns meant to obey the wishes and desires of the Tivari gods. But Mai has begun to question the status quo and it is there where the story really takes off into a fascinating and mysterious journey that had me deeply invested in this one the entire time.

The elements that truly made this an easy choice for my semi-finalist pick included some great characterization for one. I felt a bond with these characters and especially with Mai as she embarks on her personal journal of enlightenment. Also the world-building is so well done with some really magical aspects that I found delightful. But ultimately the story itself is what makes a great read for the most part and I just really enjoyed this story more than the rest. So with that I give you my semi-final pick for Team Asylum…THE DRAGON CHARMER’S APPRENTICE by JC Kang!!!

Our congratulations to JC Kang!

To keep up with our progress and the competition, please check out our SPFBO 8 Phase 1 page!

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.

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