SPFBO 10 Elimination Round

SPFBO 10 Elimination Round: Timy

We continue with the SPFBO 10 Elimination Round! In case of any confusion: this is not an official SPFBO thing. We here at QBA decided to section Phase 1 into Elimination Round (once known as The Reaping), Semi-Finalist Reveal, and Semi-Final Stage.

What does this mean? Each of us will cut 2 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 (fair warning: not all of us might pick one) and saying goodbye to the remaining titles. Pretty much the same way we did for SPFBO 9. In the second half of Phase 1 (also known as Semi-Final Round), the team will review each of the semi-finalists.

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 Tru’s batch. As a reminder, you can check out our SPFBO 10 page to see how we allocated our books and follow our progress.

Previous Elimination Round posts: Tru

Note from Timy

My mini-reviews are based on the first 20% (or thereabouts) of every book. My process with my batch is to read about 20% of each book and decide which ones appeal to me the most and have the potential to become a semi-finalist. Those I continue with, the rest gets 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 Elimination

They Left Magic in Their Wake by Marilyn Peake

They Left Magic in Their Wake by Marilyn Peake

At the end of the world, there will be magic.

Earth has been decimated by climate change. Humanity has fractured into isolated tribes. A child born in the southwestern desert of the United States appears to have magical powers, a strict taboo in his part of the world. In four other locations, people discover magical items. No one knows how they work or where they’re from. Although these strange objects capture the imagination, using them is risky and dangerous.

The five tribes at the heart of this novel:

Southwestern Desert Tribe: Zadie and Nora have fled their tribe where human reproduction is so rare, pregnant women are burned at the stake as witches. Zadie gives birth to triplets, only one born alive. The surviving infant shows signs of having magical powers, another punishable taboo.

Northeastern Mountain Tribe: Finley is a young boy too curious for his own good. Meddling with strange technology he finds in a cave, he eventually boards a flying ship that takes him far away from the only world he’s ever known.

Tribe in Akihabara, Japan: Exploring post-apocalyptic Tokyo, Emiko, Katsuki, Rin and Ko discover ancient manga and D&D items, as well as glowing cubes they mistake for dice. When the long-dead neon lights of Tokyo begin to flicker, the teenagers get caught up in the most intense adventure of their lives.

McMurdo Station Tribe—Located in the Land of Magical Ice, Formerly Antarctica: Settlers at the abandoned McMurdo Station practice a form of mysticism, their ancestors having fled religious persecution as well as the droughts and fires of Australia. Arthur Campbell and Harrison Clark are researchers studying the strange technology that runs the place.

Vostok Station Tribe—Located in the Land of Magical Ice, Formerly Antarctica: The original settlers of the abandoned Vostok Station fled the extreme heat, fires and droughts of Brazil. Years later, giant squid and a spaceship emerge from Lake Vostok as the ice begins to melt. Salvador Siqueira and his crew leave their station to investigate.

Read: 20%

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of dystopian fiction in general, but the good thing about SPFBO is that it forces you to keep an open mind and try books you might not have picked up otherwise. And that’s the case with They Left Magic in Their Wake, too. Turns out, my biggest issue wasn’t it being dystopian at all, so hey, there still might be hope for me. Actually, the setting was probably the only thing I found interesting.

So in this world, humanity lives in tribes after Mother Nature decided to give the finger to humanity (or probably a double middle finger at that, if she (it?) had any hands, to begin with. Anyway.) in the form of weather-related catastrophes that destroyed a good portion of the world. Different tribes deal with the consequences differently, but they are usually close-knit communities. The first 20% of the book hops between different characters based in different parts of the world. Most of them are teenagers, and what’s common in their POVs is that they are a bit of adventurers, finding long-forgotten places. And then there is Zadie, who is in her early twenties, and just gave birth to a baby and has to run away from her tribe, because they believe that humanity has become infertile and anyone who gets pregnant is treated kind of like a witch. Found that a bit weird, because if humanity is slowly dying out, you *surely* need babies, no matter how few you get.

So, as I didn’t get very far into the book, and because there were a couple of POVs (more than I’d like, personally), I couldn’t form a clear idea of what the main plot was going to be. And I think it was also one of the reasons why it lost my interest early on. When a series of characters are introduced in quick succession, I tend to lose focus. And the POVs (except for Zadie) were quite similar too, making it hard to sort them out in my head. It also made it hard for me to build any kind of connection to any of the characters. Even so, these POVs were still more interesting to me than Zadie’s, who I think is the MC of this story. I’m also not sure who the audience of this book is. Most of the POV characters are young, in their teens and those chapters have a YA adventure feel to them, and then there is Zadie, who is clearly older and a mother at that. As I’m a nearly 40-year-old adult myself, I find it hard to connect with kids, but I’m not a mother, so that didn’t help me with Zadie either. All in all, probably I’m just not the right audience for this book.

I know 20% doesn’t seem much to make these kinds of decisions, but I tend to know fairly early on if a book grabs me or not. They Left Magic in Their Wake did not, and so I decided to cut it from the competition.

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The Call of the Valkyries by T J Mayhew

The Call of the Valkyries by T J Mayhew

A god powerless against his fate. A girl determined to make her own destiny. A prophecy that binds them together…

Freydis dreams of being a shield-maiden but her parents have other ideas. When she learns of her their plan to marry her off to a local fisherman’s son, Freydis’ need to break free from her life intensifies.

With Olaf the Red’s arrival, she sees her chance of escape and, with the help of her friends, begins to put her plan into motion. Leaving her home, and family, behind, Freydis embarks on the most dangerous adventure of her life.

But life on the whale road is nothing like Freydis expected and she’s soon asking herself: how will she survive her first raid if she can’t even survive her first voyage?

With forces beyond her control, or understanding, conspiring against her, how long will she be able to resist the call of the Valkyries?

The Call of the Valkyries is the first in a historical fantasy adventure series, featuring some of the greatest Norse myths and legends. Download your copy and discover a new adventure today!

It’s a fairly well-known fact that I have a thing for mythology, but I somehow never warmed up to Norse mythology. Maybe because there are just way too many books and media out there, or maybe because I’m friends with people who are into it and I just need a break from it every once in a while. So, guess who landed the book based on Norse mythology? Yup, that’s right, it’s me.

Based on the blurb, I expected a Viking story, with regular people, maybe some battles. Something along the lines of Alex S. Bradshaw‘s Winborn Saga series. So I was rather surprised when the first 20% (and I checked further, the first 30 or so %) is basically a retelling of a confrontation between the Aesir and Vanir gods. I kept thinking I was reading the wrong book, because the blurb didn’t seem to have anything to do with what was actually in the book. And I’m sure the story actually does start eventually, and I’m also sure the altercation described has consequences later on, but from what I know, the MCs don’t even show up third way into the book. Unless Gullveig *is* an MC, but then she barely shows up, in the beginning, to set things in motion, and then the rest of the gods fight it out between themselves.

That said, I needed to readjust my expectations. Now, I normally enjoy reading about gods giving shit to each other, which can be fun, but The Call of the Valkyries didn’t quite deliver. The book is more character focused than action. I daresay that sometimes it felt like the plot was just there as an excuse for the characters to do things – mostly hate each other. We only see glimpses of the battle and it doesn’t last very long anyway, which I’m normally fine with, but then I want to be invested in the characters. And the problem was, that I didn’t find any of these characters even remotely interesting. They all felt like cardboard cutouts to me. I think I can see what the author intended to do with these gods, but I’m not quite sure it worked out. There is a lot of backstory we are not told, especially how Loki became part of the Aesir – and even then is not really part of them as he everyone hates his guts. Which is funny, considering they were trying to make Gullveig join their ranks too. Make up your mind whether you want them to be part of the gang or you just need a punchbag. Or two.

Sorry, got a bit carried away. As you can tell The Call of the Valkyrie didn’t work for me on many levels, and so it’s also cut from the competition. And even though it did not work for me, it might for you, if you are interested in Norse mythology retellings, and gods wreaking havoc in general.

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To keep up with our process and the competition, please check out our SPFBO 10 page!

If you’d like to know more about the QBA team, then meet us in our introduction post!

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