Welcome to the SPFBO 9 Elimination Round! Today it’s Paul’s turn to say goodbye to two of the titles in his batch.
A bit about our process ICYMI. 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. Previous Elimination Round posts: Timy’s cuts, Bjørn’s cuts, Jen’s cuts, Liis’ cuts.
We’d like to thank each and every author who submitted their book to SPFBO this year. We know how hard it must be, but sadly, we can’t forward all of you to the finals. As a reminder, you can check out our SPFBO 9 page to see how we allocated our books and follow our progress.
Note from Paul:
So, eliminations are here again, probably the worst part of the SPFBO process for everyone involved. I’ve been knocking about in the bookish community enough to know that while there are people out there that love to write a negative review, you’re unlikely to find any of them amongst the competition judges. The first round of SPFBO is an exercise in RNG of the most tortuous kind, there could be a hundred judges that are going to love a book, and by some twisted thread of fate, it ends up in the hands of that one person who is not going to enjoy it.
While it’s extremely easy for me to say, a cut is not an indication of quality, it does not make for a bad book, and is instead more of a case that I’m an ill-matched reader. As with the rest of Timy’s Teamies, I’m in awe of the skill it takes to write a book as well as the courage it takes to enter it into such a public competition.
To each and every author I wish you all the best, in SPFBO, in your careers, and in your craft.
The Untold Prophecy by R. R. Hunter
Lord Berik Eddingson, a man known for his ability to handle any situation, faces his toughest challenge yet when he is tasked with unraveling a one-thousand-year-old prophecy that foretells his failure. Fate seems to be against him, and his only leads are a heinous crime, a cursed artifact, and an orphaned girl named Joell.
On the continent of Karata, athier-powered machines have propelled society from an agricultural to an industrial age in a time when magic is slowly dying. Those few with the talent possess abilities to see through past, present, or future, or the ability to alter the very world around them.
The ancient Templar, a powerful and overbearing force, are struggling to maintain order in the provinces of the Karatian Palatinate as unseen forces chip away at civilization’s foundations. Berik soon realizes that the fate of his homeland is inextricably tied to the secrets he seeks to uncover, and he must decide what he is willing to sacrifice to hold onto his beliefs. When everyone and everything has a secret, he must not only pay a steep price but also justify it when that price is too high.
Do the gods of Fate stand by and watch as the world crumbles, or can fate be changed?
The Untold Prophecy by R.R. Hunter was a book that, based on the blurb alone, I was really looking forward to reading, and the opening chapters certainly did promise a great deal.
Hunter’s world is split between the more ‘civilized’ Karatian Palatinate and the more ‘tribal’ Wildlands, both of which have a great number of alluring features about them. The Palatinate is in somewhat of an industrial revolution with magical orbs known as athiers able to be used to power all manner of mechanical constructs enhancing agriculture, construction, and myriad other pursuits. The athier themselves are hidden across the land in various ruins and tombs, expeditions set out to discover them, and the spoils of these hopeful expeditions are inspected and logged by the Templars. There is also your traditional wizardy magic, seemingly limited to two schools; transmutation (energy transfer) and clairforescence (seeing the future), though these abilities are on the decline amongst humans.
While these really juicy plot hooks are dangled before your eyes in the first 25% or so, they’re never really expanded upon and I found that really unsatisfying. The narrative veered towards info-dumping and there were a great many things and people appearing on the pages that hadn’t been mentioned previously, weren’t explained after, yet were obviously integral to the characters or plot despite the lack of any meaningful context. The final three-quarters of the book felt quite flat compared to the strong start and in truth, there was an awful lot of plot contrivance and convenience that significantly reduced the tension and consequently my engagement. It felt as though it became somewhat of a rush to the conclusion and jumped from action-scene to action-scene, all of which felt rather samey.
There was also an aspect of world-building that I took issue with. The world feels predominantly white, there are perhaps a couple of background characters described as being dark-skinned and of the near ten characters who have a voice, just one (I believe) is dark-skinned. One of the very first things said to this character, Kughan, is: ‘What is that old Outlander belief about those who are of dark skin? Something about ancestors who laid with demons, right?” He continued more sarcastically, “I just want to to know that I do not believe that heretical nonsense.” Come the end of the book, and after meeting the dark-skinned big bad, we discover that there is ancestry, and while it may just be between these two characters, it still left somewhat of a bad taste in my mouth.
Platinum Tinted Darkness by Timothy Wolff
The Kingdom of Boulom has been lost.
The realms have already seen what happens when the Gods and their Harbingers are left unchecked.
The Gods cannot be trusted. No one knows that better than David Williams, the leader of the Guardians tasked to protect the realm from the gods and their powerful Harbingers ever since the fall of Boulom.
Six Guardians take their pledge to leave the squabbles of kingdoms behind and live only to stop the Harbingers and protect the realm from the gods.
Serenna Morgan, a famed Crystal Mage and Guardian, struggles with the Guardian Pact when the Kingdom of Terrangus invades her home.
She’s supposed to stay out of it.
But she can’t.
When she breaks her Oath and joins in the skirmish, she earns the favor of the God of Death when the conflict escalates to an all-out war.
And he makes her an offer, one that’ll make sure she’ll never fail in her goals again.
To become his Harbinger. To partake in the ecstasy of destruction.
In Timothy Wolff’s world, the Gods are not benevolent or nurturing, instead, they are power-hungry and constantly grasping for influence with a caveat that they need to seduce a mortal to become their Harbinger in order to have a physical impact on the world. To combat this, The Guardians, a team of six powerful mortals was created with the stipulation that they need to remain neutral in all mortal affairs, kind of like the Swiss Power Rangers.
Sadly, I had issues with Platinum Tinted Darkness from the off. The writing style felt ‘clunky’ and never settled into something that I found easy to read and, while not normally bothered by such things, there were a number of odd grammatical choices that hit me like a speed bump requiring a re-read or two. In the opening chapters, there’s an awful lot of background information being told, without context or narrative anchor. One example is Zeen constantly comparing things to ‘that time in the Koulva mines’ but in the 30% that I read there was no explanation of what happened, I’ve since searched the book and while mentioned a number of times after, there’s still no actual explanation.
The characters themselves didn’t have enough about them to keep me moving on through the book. Their dialogue and actions seemed very juvenile, which isn’t in and of itself an issue, but seemed at counterpoint to the tone that the book was trying to set.
Overall while I do still think the premise is a really good one, the execution just didn’t work for me.
To keep up with our process and the competition, please check out our SPFBO 9 page!
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