The time has come to officially kick off the SPFBO 9 Elimination Round! What does this mean? Each of us (except Olivia, who decided to go straight to revealing her semi-finalist) will cut 2 or 3 of our titles in the Elimination Round. We’ll add our mini-reviews, explaining our reasons. Once that’s done, we’ll start revealing our semi-finalists and saying goodbye to the remaining titles. Pretty much the same way Olivia did. Fair warning: not all of us might pick a semi-finalist.
I’d like to thank each and every author who submitted their book to SPFBO this year. I know how hard it must be, but sadly, we can’t forward all of you to the finals. That said, it’s time to say goodbye to two of the books in my batch. As a reminder, you can check out our SPFBO 9 page to see how we allocated our books and follow our progress.
Note: my mini-reviews are based on the first 20% (or thereabouts) of every book. My process with my batch was to read about 20% of each book and decide which ones appealed to me the most and had the potential to become a semi-finalist. Those I continued with, the rest got eliminated. These are mostly my first impressions and feelings, which doesn’t mean that they might not appeal to others or that they are bad. I encourage everyone to give any of these titles a go.
The Spider’s Friend by M. C. Burnell
Murdered shamans. Tortured gods. A shadowy villain behind it all. Maru knows the culprit is one of his brothers but not which; a week ago, he didn’t know he had a family. An army of zealous bison waits in the wings, preparing to invade, and the only person with any solid information is a talking plant who can’t get the humans to listen to him.
And the worst thing is?
Before he can worry about any of it, Maru has to save the lying magician who conned him into getting involved in this.
Reading the blurb of The Spider’s Friend, I was curious about it. I thought it might be up my alley. Unfortunately, it became clear quite early on that The Spider’s Friend and I aren’t well-matched. I can’t comment much on the plot as I gave up reading 11% into the book, which didn’t provide me with enough context. We got to know Maru a bit though, who just got swept into a life he never asked for. By some strange guy with quite an ego. I wouldn’t mind punching him… Neither of them came across as likable, and I thought Maru took everything in stride, while if it was me, I certainly would have asked some hard questions.
What I struggled with, though, was the writing. A lot of the time sentences didn’t make sense, and I felt less would have been more. It might be a taste thing, but I prefer shorter, simpler sentences to make the story flow. I never managed to get into the story as the writing kept throwing me out of it. As I barely could go past the 10% mark, unfortunately, I decided to say goodbye to this one.
Endless Seas by John Champaign
Captain Joseph Baxtor and his crew on the sailing ship Phoenix cross dimensions through underwater portals on behalf of ‘The Pantheon’, a collection of cultures each led by their own created god.
On their maiden voyage, they are sent to establish diplomatic relations with the El-Fax, a recently discovered, friendly culture. Rather than being the routine voyage expected, everything may not be as it first appears.
Another one of my titles I was curious about. It has some interesting ideas to begin with, such as a ship that can go underwater thanks to an Elementalist.
The setting is that there is the Pantheon, a big empire. They send a ship to this newly discovered place which is undersea. We follow a bunch of characters, hopping between them in short scenes that provide more telling than showing, and which I found a bit annoying. It’s hard to get yourself immersed when the story jumps to different people in different places all the time. I kind of get what the intention was with this type of storytelling, but it’s not really working.
There are almost no explanation for things, some events just happen out of the blue without any logic, and although we follow a bunch of characters there are just no emotions coming through. It’s hard to connect with characters if we barely get to know anything about them, and for me personally, characters are the most important parts of any book. I also had the feeling, that there is a lot of context missing, that the reader is expected to have knowledge about the world or characters, but it’s just not there. A shame, because I think this one has some potential with an intriguing world and a varied set of characters. It’s the execution where it all fell flat, and so another title I sadly have to cut.
To keep up with our process and the competition, please check out our SPFBO 9 page!
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