The time has come when we have to say goodbye to the last 4 books and crown (pun totally intended) Team Queen’s Book Asylum’s SPFBO 8 finalist.
These past few months went away in a blur, but you know what they say – time flies when you are in good company. So I’d like to take this chance to say thank you to all the authors who submitted their books this year for our reading pleasure, as we all certainly found books to love, that provoked our thoughts and that ultimately made us have very different opinions and sparking a lot of conversations among the team. You are amazing, and no matter what the results today will be, keep up the good work, and know that you are always welcome at the Asylum!
To my team (Arina, Bjorn, Nick, and Paul), thank you for your work and patience and generally, for being the best teammates I could ask for. I just wish you weren’t so boring and super nice. I mean, not even a drop of blood was shed during any decision-making!! Shame on you! I probably should use the whip more freely. Oh well. I love you anyway. Here is to the next six months!
That being out of the way, time to be serious. We’ll take a quick look at our semi-finalists and then at the end of the post we’ll let you know who we’ll advance into the SPFBO 8 Finals!
Semi-finalists are listed in the order as we announced them, including a quote from the review of the judge who picked it, and a link to the post where we all shared our thoughts. At the end of our review posts, you’ll find our scoring and links to buy the book. Or, you can head to our SPFBO 8 Phase 1 page to find everything in one place.
Timy’s Pick: Small Miracles by Olivia Atwater
What I found refreshing about it is that it has a bit of a slice-of-life feel to it. The conflicts are small scale, there is no world-threatening big baddy, no imminent war on the horizon. It’s about the life of a family who knew grief and has no idea how to mend the gap between them. It’s about love and friendship and self-discovery and acceptance of others. In short, it’s a book that pushes all the right buttons for me.
Nick’s Pick: The Dragon Charmer’s Apprentice by JC Kang
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.
Arina’s Picks: The Umbral Storm by Alec Hutson, and Penny for Your Soul by K.A. Ashcomb
The Umbral Storm was initially my favorite book of the batch but it’s not without some major flaws. It set a high bar for other books in the way it flawlessly tells its story: the plot thickens with each page, most main characters showcase progression (wanted or not), and the world is a delicious amalgamation of classic fantasy tropes and elements that will hit the right mark for every age-long fantasy lover.
Penny for Your Soul is a witty, fun satire in the spirit of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Yes, comparisons and comps are often backstabbing and annoying (and yes, I like my comps, come at me), but I dare you to try this one and not go there yourself.
Paul’s Pick: The Witch Hunter by Casey Hollingshead
Now, when it comes to Grimdark, there’s Grimdark, and then there’s GRIMDARK. The Witch Hunter belongs firmly and openly to the latter, wearing someone else’s stolen and partially chewed heart on its sleeve. The first half of the book is decidedly darker, with references to rape and the murder of older children, which will understandably turn people away. But if you persevere through to the second half, you are rewarded with some of the best battle sequences I’ve ever read, alongside delectable tongue-in-cheek dialogue and enemies to sworn brothers (who would probably still kill each other) vibes.
If you followed our reviews, then you probably realized that we had very differing opinions on some of the semi-finalists. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise, that after we finished reading our semi-finalists and looked at the scoreboard, two things became apparent: we had a clear winner for the SPFBO 8 finalist title with the highest average, and we had a book that 3 of us (out of 5) marked as their favorite (based on their scores). And these two are Small Miracles by Olivia Atwater and The Umbral Storm by Alec Hutson.
The question we faced was: to go with the one the two of us rated high enough to make it to the top, or pick the one the majority of us liked more? I’d like to say we had a veeery long, and bloody discussion about it, but as I mentioned before, my team is just sickeningly sweet and agreeable, so we came to a (slightly disappointing) quick decision. Which I’m going to share with you now. Our SPFBO 8 finalist is…
But wait. We have something more to say! We clearly couldn’t ignore the fact, that The Umbral Storm by Alec Hutson made an impact with the majority of the team and we thought that it still would deserve a chance at being a finalist, so we are offering it as our SSN. What does this mean? SSN stands for Senlin Safety Net. When a team feels very strongly about two of their books, they can candidate one as their SSN, meaning that any other team who might not have as strong a batch could choose it as their finalist. Basically, this is a second chance at advancing into the top 10. We look forward to seeing if any of the other teams will pick it up. *fingers crossed*
Congrats to Olivia Atwater for Small Miracles being chosen as Team Queen’s Book Asylum’s SPFBO 8 Finalist, and good luck to The Umbral Storm by Alec Hutson, the Asylum’s very first SSN candidate!