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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Bound by Mark Lawrence (Reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski & Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Order BOUND over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (LUKASZ): I don’t know how Lawrence did it, but he made me care deeply for murderous nuns. I’m sure the Books Of The Ancestor will become one of my favourite series ever. Unless, of course, Lawrence messes up everything* in Holy Sister.

Bound happens between the events of Gray and Holy Sister. It is, essentially, the story about the power of a kiss. A kiss can kick-start passion, but in the world of the Ancestor, its powers run much deeper and may turn lethal.

Beautifully written, packed with action and mystery, Bound blends moments of sweetness and with violence and bloodshed. I expected nothing else.

Flaws? It only whetted my appetite for more stories in the world and April is still too far away.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (MIHIR): Bound is a short and snappy story that focuses on Nona and a few of her classmates as they get involved in the mystery of several murders. Nona, Ara, and Ruli are looking forward to some hooch when they overhear sisters Kettle and Apple discussing a series of murders.

Things escalate as they usually do and the funnies thing is that it all begins with a kiss. But since this is a Mark Lawrence story so this isn’t your regular romance at all. It deals with love and possibly hate. Nona has matured beyond her years and now knows more about the world than most girls of her age. But in many ways she’s still a young person and has never truly known love. This story explores that angle while providing the requisite amount of thrills and action.

The story is definitely set after the events of Grey Sister and while readers can read this story as a standalone. There are quite a few references and events mentioned that would only make sense if you have read the Red & Grey Sister.

This story held my attention completely with all of its twists and minute touches to the long-form books. For those enraptured by Nona, the sisters and the weird world that they live in. Bound will be a welcome addition to the Books Of The Ancestor saga and will only serve to who your appetite for the finale in Holy Sister in 2019.

Monday, December 10, 2018

SPFBO: FBC Finalist Announcement (by Mihir Wanchoo)


Read Fantasy Book Critic's First Semifinalist Update
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Second Semifinalist Update
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Third Semifinalist Update
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Fourth Semifinalist Update

So here we are at the end of the phase 1 of SPFBO 2018 and we are at another crossroads. We have seven semifinalists this time around, and a tight race to the finish. We had a medley of fantastic reads to bewitch us. One title is the first of an exciting LitRPG trilogy, another is a weird horror-comedy, and another is a comedy-fantasy mix about a psychopath. There’s also a novella that wonderfully showcases family drama amidst a tropical fantasy setting. Plus a pure comedic fantasy and then lastly a book that defies classification and is a title that perhaps is the most unique across all four SPFBO editions.

Here are our seven semifinalists:

- Death March by Phil Tucker

- The Blood Tartan by Raymond St. Elmo

- The Firebird by Nerine Dorman

- The Boy Who Walked Too Far by Dom Watson

- Here Be Dragons by David Macpherson

- By Raven's Call by J. A. Devenport

- Hell Comes To Hogtown by C. D. Gallant-King





What we were looking to grade the books on, were the following six factors:

- Writing style

- Editing

- Plot

- Characters

- World building

- Personal enjoyment

Each of these titles had their own strengths and a few drawbacks. We touched upon them in the reviews . As with the last year, among the seven, here are our top three aggregate choices (between Cindy, David, Lukasz & me in random order):

- The Boy Who Walked Too Far by Dom Watson

- The Firebird by Nerine Dorman

- Death March by Phil Tucker

These three titles scored very high in almost all of the six aforementioned categories and overall were very fine reads. Amidst the three, Death March is perhaps the most popular one. Having an overall rating of 4.27 across 527 entries, it showcases some excellent highlights of the LitRPG subgenre as well as Phil Tucker’s signature twists and action sequences. Nerine Dorman's The Firebird was a beautifully written novella that encapsulated familial struggles and a tropical world that the author described to the fullest extent. Lastly there is The Boy Who Walked Too Far and this was the one title that captivated us all to the fullest degree.

So it's among these three titles, that we were going to choose our finalist from. After talks among all four of us, we were earnestly trying to find which one of these would triumph over the others. Between Death March and The Firebird it was difficult to choose as they had differing strengths. Firebird was a novella which packed a punch as big as any doorstopper novel. Death March was a solid mix of a thriller and action within a LitRPG setting that has made it so popular.

The only way we could separate them was to look at their flaws and even in this regard there wasn’t much to nitpick about. The only thing that perhaps came to mind was that Death March was a trilogy opener and hence didn’t give the full story while ending on a solid cliffhanger. The Firebird while a fascinating story was a novella and hence didn’t give the full immersive experience seen in the longer form.

In the end Death March nudged The Firebird to claim the silver spot. The top spot of course went to The Boy Who Walked Too Far as it gave us a read that was mind-bending, and unique all at the same time. Dom Watson’s imagination is certainly in full flow as he wrote a story that perhaps is fantasy (very loosely yes but that link is there). But the story is one that will have its fans who will love it to death, and perhaps its detractors as well. While we felt strongly that the story’s shining points would overcome any drawbacks it offered. Hence it was easy to crown it as the best among out lot but then there came a twist as good as in TBWWTF….

So far three 2018 SPFBO finalists have been announced and for only the second time ever, a Senlin Safety Net candidate had been selected. Petros, the owner of Booknest had a tough choice and he was gracious enough to offer a second chance to Devin Madson’s WE RIDE THE STORM. We as a group were able to get a copy of the book and while Lukasz had read it before the contest began. I was glad to read it and after finishing it, was thoroughly impressed by the book and now we had a quandary on our hands.

Do we go with the most unique book (in all four editions of SPFBO) that graced our lot and provided a wonderful read or do we go with a solidly spectacular book that perhaps had the unfortunate luck of being in the group of death. We also wanted to address any accusations of favoritism that might be assumed with this move. I can vouch that none of us know Devin personally and neither have we read any of her previous works. The finalist decision wasn’t’ a light one and we were all pondering as to which title we should send forward The Boy Who Walked Too Far or We Ride the Storm.

Both titles were significantly different from each other. One was truly unique in every meaning of the word. The other one while sticking to the genre demands, demonstrated enough of a flair and non-typical world settings to provide a story that captivated thoroughly.

In the end, all four of us agreed that the pathway was clear and while it wasn’t an easy decision, it was a decision that was needed. We decided to put forward a book that deserved to be in the finals and compete with the other nine finalists. In this regard one was just a little bit better than the other. This is not to say that the other title isn’t worthy. It definitely is a masterpiece but perhaps needs a little bit of an editing finesse to smoothen its uneven edges.

So without further ado, the FBC finalist for the SPFBO 2018 edition is.

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WE RIDE THE STORM by Devin Madson. Congratulations to Devin and we look forward to seeing how it fairs in the finals. Many congratulations to our top three titles and our sincere apologies to Dom Watson, TBWWTF was a worthy finalist choice and caused many a consternation in our debates. It was a very difficult choice and such is the nature of SPFBO.

We look forward to how WRTS fares in the finals and how the other judges find it to be.

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