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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Spotlight: Intriguing Titles in SPFBO Part II (by Mihir Wanchoo)


After yesterday's post about the titles that fascinated us. Here's part deux and similar to yesterday, the titles within this post have caught our eye due to their blurbs, their covers, as well as potential subject matter. A few we have read, reviewed and hence are on this list.

We would like to state that this list is in no way an indicator of our choices going forward in the contest. But simply details titles that we WOULD like to read.

So onwards to part II of the noteworthy titles (in random order):


Never Die by Rob J. Hayes


Official Blurb: Ein is on a mission from God. A God of Death.

Time is up for the Emperor of Ten Kings and it falls to a murdered eight year old boy to render the judgement of a God. Ein knows he can't do it alone, but the empire is rife with heroes. The only problem; in order to serve, they must first die.

Ein has four legendary heroes in mind, names from story books read to him by his father. Now he must find them and kill them, so he can bring them back to fight the Reaper's war.


Sweetblade by Carol Park


Official Blurb: Every decision she had thought was right had led her astray..

Perhaps it was time to make the wrong decision..

LIVES ARE SHAPED BY DECISIONS, and Ivana's decisions have destroyed her life..

She finds herself on the streets of Carradon, broken, destitute, and utterly alone. But perhaps not entirely without hope. A man named Elidor comes to her rescue and welcomes her into his home. But Elidor holds secrets of his own..

Lives may turn upon a single moment, and Ivana's decision to accept the hospitality of this stranger will transform her in ways she never imagined...or feared..


The Fox And The Hunter by Linn Tesli


Official Blurb: Fate does not wait for you to be ready...

Elva lives a peaceful life with her tribe, practicing to one day become the noaidi—the shaman. Her peace is shattered when two viking earls arrive in the camp. Her grandmother, the current noaidi, is accused of witchcraft, and is taken away to stand trial before the tyrant king Olav. The punishment is death.

Elva is not ready to become the leader of her tribe, nor is she ready to let go of her grandmother. She is nowhere near strong enough to fight the vikings in Nidaros, but she has to try. She's an outcast in her own land, on a journey that will challenge her convictions, her faith and even her heart. Can Elva overcome the powerful enemy and rescue her grandmother?

Or will she add her name to the fallen?


From the Shadows of the Owl Queen's Court (Yarnsworld #4) by Benedict Patrick 


Official Blurb: If you value your life, stay out of the forest.

As a captive of the Owl Queen’s Court, Nascha’s life has always been one knife’s edge away from disaster. But when she is threatened for nothing more than the colour of her hair, Nascha attempts the unthinkable: escape through the dreaded Magpie King’s forest. Hunted by sharp toothed and sharper witted foxfolk, and hated by all for being a witch, Nascha fears herself doomed until she joins forces with a mysterious young man. With him she finds a glimmer of hope, even as her own unpredictable powers flicker into existence.

But hope is fleeting.

The forces arrayed against her are insurmountable, and Nascha soon comes to realise that pursuit of her own freedom will come at a greater cost to the forest. As the darkness closes in around them, Nascha is forced to ask:

At what price is she willing to purchase her life?

How dearly is she willing to sell it?


Quill by AC Cobble


Official Blurb: The fate of empire is to crumble from within.

A heinous murder in a small village reveals a terrible truth. Sorcery, once thought dead in Enhover, is not. Evidence of an occult ritual and human sacrifice proves that dark power has been called upon again. Twisting threads of clues lead across the known world to the end of a vast empire, and then, the trail returns home.

Duke Oliver Wellesley, son of the king, cartographer, and adventurer, has better things to do than investigate a murder in a sleepy fishing hamlet. For Crown and Company, though, he goes where he’s told. As the investigation leads to deeper and darker places, he’ll be forced to confront the horrific spectres rising from the shadows of his past. When faced with the truth, will he sacrifice what is necessary to survive?

Samantha serves a Church that claims to no longer need her skills. She’s apprenticed to a priest-assassin that no one knows. Driven by a mad prophecy, her mentor has prepared her for a battle with ultimate darkness, except, sorcery is dead. When all is at stake, can she call upon an arcane craft the rest of the world has forgotten?

In Quill: The Cartographer Book 1, a pair of unlikely investigators walk a deadly path into the past, uncovering secrets best left alone.

The fate of empire is to crumble from within. Do not ask when, ask who.


Devil’s Cape by Rob Rogers


Official Blurb: Devil's Cape, Louisiana. Founded by pirates. Ruled by villains. Desperate for heroes.

In 1727, the masked pirate St. Diable created the city of Devil's Cape as a haven for his men and a place to begin his empire. Pirates gave way to outlaws, who gave way to gangsters, who gave way to gangs and organized crime. But the city has never escaped from its shroud of violence and corruption.

And now a stunning, murderous act has made Devil's Cape more dangerous than ever. Someone needs to protect the city.

Three people are willing to try. Jason Kale, part of a criminal family, who hides the abilities of Greek heroes. Cain Ducett, a psychiatrist and former gang member, who finds that he is turning into a monster. Kate Brauer, genius engineer, daughter of a slain superhero, who has lost more than most to the city and its criminals. But they're outnumbered and overpowered. Can they possibly make a difference?


Magpie's Song (The IronHeart Chronicles #1) by Allison Pang


Official Blurb: In the slums of BrightStone, Moon Children are worth less than the scrap they must collect to survive. It doesn’t matter that these abandoned half-breeds are part-Meridian with their ancestors hailing from the technologically advanced city that floats above the once-thriving, now plague-ridden BrightStone. Instead they are rejected by both their ancestral societies and forced to live on the outskirts of civilization, joining clans simply to stay alive. Not to mention their role as Tithe, leading the city’s infected citizens deep into the Pits where their disease can be controlled.

Nineteen-year-old Raggy Maggy is no different, despite the mysterious heart-shaped panel that covers her chest. Or at least she wasn’t… Not until her chance discovery of a Meridian-built clockwork dragon—and its murdered owner. When the Inquestors policing the city find Maggy at the scene of the crime, she quickly turns into their prime suspect. Now she’s all anyone can talk about. Even her clan leader turns his back on her, leading her to rely on an exiled doctor and a clanless Moon Child named Ghost to keep her hidden. In return, all she has to do is help them find a cure for the plague they believe was not exactly accidental. Yet doing so might mean risking more than just her life. It also might be the only key to uncovering the truth about the parents—and the past—she knows nothing about.


River of thieves by Clayton Snyder


Official Blurb: Cursed thief Cord relies on his partner, Nenn, to recover his body, stash the money, and convince the authorities that there are no leads left to follow. They spend their days hitting low-tier lenders and banks, but after a botched robbery, Cord begins to think they need something bigger, something that will set them up for life.

When that thing happens to be a heist no one else in the kingdom has the stones to pull off, he gathers a group of rogues with a particular set of talents—Nenn, handy with a knife and a cool head; Rek, cat-fancier and strongman; and Lux, undead wizard.

Together, they converge on the city of Midian to steal the heart of a saint and punish a tyrant. What comes out of the carnage is so much more—a conflict between gods that could decide the fate of every thief in the worlds.


Beggar’s rebellion by Levi Jacobs


Official Blurb: The Councilate controls everything except the truth. I have nothing save my discovery—but with this shall I destroy an empire.

Tai Kulga lost the rebellion and his best friend on the same day, stripping him of everything even as a strange power flooded his bones. When the friend returns as a spirit guide, it feels like a second chance—but his friend is not who he was, and the Councilate is not done oppressing his people. Trouble with lawkeepers lands Tai’s surviving friends in a prison camp, and he goes underground seeking the last of the rebels, to convince them to break his friends free.

Along the way he meets Ellumia Aygla, runaway Councilate daughter posing as an accountant to escape her family and the avarice of the capital. Curious about the link between spirit guides and magic, her insights earn her a place among the rebels, and along with Tai’s new power help turn the tide against the colonialists.

But as the rebels begin to repeat the Councilate’s mistakes, Tai and Ellumia must confront their own pasts and prejudices, before the brewing war turns them into the monsters they fight.


Chasing Graves by Ben Galley


Official Blurb: He's a master locksmith, a selfish bastard, and as of his first night in Araxes, stone cold dead.

They call it the City of Countless Souls, the colossal jewel of the Arctian Empire, and all it takes to be its ruler is to own more ghosts than any other. For in Araxes, the dead do not rest in peace in the afterlife, but live on as slaves for the rich.

While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor's throne in Araxes' cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost.

Only one thing is certain in Araxes: death is just the beginning.


Seraphina’s Lament by Sarah Chorn


Official Blurb: The world is dying.

The Sunset Lands are broken, torn apart by a war of ideology paid for with the lives of the peasants. Drought holds the east as famine ravages the farmlands. In the west, borders slam shut in the face of waves of refugees, dooming all of those trying to flee to slow starvation, or a future in forced labor camps. There is no salvation.

In the city of Lord’s Reach, Seraphina, a slave with unique talents, sets in motion a series of events that will change everything. In a fight for the soul of the nation, everyone is a player. But something ominous is calling people to Lord’s Reach and the very nature of magic itself is changing. Paths will converge, the battle for the Sunset Lands has shifted, and now humanity itself is at stake.

First, you must break before you can become.


Blood Of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke


Official Blurb: Lidan Tolak is the fiercest of her father’s daughters; more than capable of one day leading her clan. But caught between her warring parents, Lidan’s world begins to unravel when another of her father’s wives falls pregnant. Before she has time to consider the threat of a brother, a bloody swathe is cut through the heart of the clan and Lidan must fight, not only to prove her worth, but simply to survive.

Ranoth Olseta wants nothing more than to be a worthy successor to his father’s throne. When his home is threatened by the aggressive Woaden Empire, Ran becomes his city’s saviour, but powers within him are revealed by the enemy and he is condemned to death. Confused and betrayed, Ran is forced to flee his homeland, vowing to reclaim what he has lost, even if it kills him.

Facing an unknown future, and battling forces both familiar and foreign, can Lidan and Ran overcome the odds threatening to drag them into inescapable darkness?


The Blackbird and the Ghost (The Boiling Seas, #1) by Hûw Steer


Official Blurb: The Boiling Seas are the mariner’s bane – and the adventurer’s delight. The waters may be hot enough to warp wood and boil a hapless swimmer, but their scalding expanse is full of wonders. Strange islands lurk in the steamy mists, and stranger ruins hold ancient secrets, remnants of forgotten empires waiting for the bold… or lying in wait for the unwary.

On the Corpus Isles, gateway to the Boiling Seas, Tal Wenlock, the Blackbird, seeks a fortune of his own. The treasure he pursues could change the world – but he just wants to change a single life, and it’s not his own. To reach it, he’ll descend into the bowels of the earth and take ship on burning waters, brave dark streets and steal forbidden knowledge. He’ll lie, cheat, steal and fight – but he won’t get far alone. The ghosts of Tal’s past dog his every step – and one in particular keeps his knives sharp.

The Blackbird will need help to reach his goal… and he’ll need all his luck to get back home alive.


The Prince Of Cats by D. E. Olesen


Official Blurb: To stay alive, Jawad must succeed where all others have failed: he must catch the Prince of Cats. More legend than man, the Prince is draped in rumors. He can steal the silver teeth from your mouth in the blink of a smile. He is a ghost to walls and vaults, he laughs at locks, and Jawad must capture him before powerful people lose their patience and send the young rogue to the scaffold.

Ever the opportunist, Jawad begins his hunt while carrying out his own schemes. He pits the factions of the city against each other, lining his own pockets in the process and using the Prince as a scapegoat. This is made easy as nobody knows when or where the Prince will strike, or even why.

If suddenly collide, Jawad finds himself pressured from all sides. Aristocrats, cutthroats, and the Prince himself are breathing down his neck. Unless Jawad wants a knife in his back or an appointment with the executioner, he must answer three questions: Who is the Prince of Cats, what is his true purpose, and how can he be stopped?


Up To The Throne by Toby Frost


Official Blurb: Revenge is never simple...

Giulia Degarno returns to the city-state of Pagalia with one intention: to kill the man who scarred her and left her for dead. But Publius Severra is no longer a mere criminal, and has risen to become a powerful politician - and perhaps the only man who can save Pagalia from anarchy. Now, as Severra stands poised to seize the throne. Giulia must choose between taking her revenge, and saving her home.

Up To The Throne is a dark fantasy novel set in a magically-enhanced Renaissance: a dangerous world of assassins, alchemists and flying machines. It is a world where artists and scholars cross paths with feuding nobles and clockwork monsters - and death is never far away.


The City Screams by Phil Williams


Official Blurb: Tova's getting her hearing back.

She's going to wish she wasn't.

Alone in Tokyo for experimental ear surgery, Tova Nokes is finally shaking up her life. But when she starts to hear things she shouldn't, all she wants is to make it home alive.

There's a voice saying it's where she comes from that makes her special. If she can only survive violent stalkers, and the terrible screams, she might figure out why...

Experience the world through the eyes of a unique hero in this standalone fantasy thriller from the Ordshaw universe.


The Queen’s Executioner by Christopher Mitchell


Official Blurb: Would you kill for your sister?

High Mage Shella has a choice to make. When her sister decides she wants to be Queen at any cost, should she help her?

Or stop her?

Feeling restless in the claustrophobic and over-crowded metropolis of her birth, Shella is drawn to the power of her sister’s voice as she assembles thousands of their people, calling upon them to gather their possessions and follow her in a Great Migration. Her sister plans to lead them over the border into the Rahain Republic, whose unconquered army has just returned from victorious campaigns abroad. There, she intends to settle and crown herself Queen.

Shella’s mage powers have only ever been used for the good of her homeland. Now, in the service of her sister, is she prepared to use their darker side?

For Shella knows that if she cannot control her powers…

…they will consume all that she loves.


The Sword of Kaigen: A Theonite War Story by M. L. Wang


Official Blurb: On a mountainside at the edge of the Kaigenese Empire live the most powerful warriors in the world, superhumans capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For hundreds of years, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire's enemies at bay, earning their frozen spit of land the name 'The Sword of Kaigen.'

Born into Kusanagi's legendary Matsuda family, fourteen-year-old Mamoru has always known his purpose: to master his family's fighting techniques and defend his homeland. But when an outsider arrives and pulls back the curtain on Kaigen's alleged age of peace, Mamoru realizes that he might not have much time to become the fighter he was bred to be. Worse, the empire he was bred to defend may stand on a foundation of lies.

Misaki told herself that she left the passions of her youth behind when she married into the Matsuda house. Determined to be a good housewife and mother, she hid away her sword, along with everything from her days as a fighter in a faraway country. But with her growing son asking questions about the outside world, the threat of an impending invasion looming across the sea, and her frigid husband grating on her nerves, Misaki finds the fighter in her clawing its way back to the surface.

When the winds of war reach their peninsula, will the Matsuda family have the strength to defend their empire? Or will they tear each other apart before the true enemies even reach their shores?


The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King


Official Blurb: John Carver has three rules: Don't drink in the daytime, don't gamble when the luck has gone, and don't talk to the dead people who come to visit.

It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.

Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive.


The Steel Discord by Ryan Howse


Official Blurb: Zarachius Skie is presumed dead.

His mentor, the Arcanist Mordekai Gethsemane, had been arrested for conspiracy to commit regicide. Zarachius knew it was false. He did what had to, and snuck onto a military train to break Mordekai out.

But now, the Ancien Legion, vengeful anarchists, and Mordekai's old co-conspirators are doing whatever it takes to bring Zarachius out of hiding. They need to know what he knows.

They need to know the secret he uncovered on that train.


Blade’s Edge by Virginia McClain


Official Blurb:The Kisōshi, elite warriors with elemental powers, have served as the rulers and protectors of the people of Gensokai for more than a thousand years. Though it is believed throughout Gensokai that there is no such thing as a female Kisōshi, the Rōjū ruling council goes to great lengths to ensure that no one dares ask why.

Even as young girls, Mishi and Taka know that they risk severe punishment - or worse - if anyone were to discover their powers. This shared secret forms a deep bond between them until, taken from their orphanage home and separated, the two girls must learn to survive in a world where their very existence is a crime. Yet when the girls learn the dark secret of the Rōjū council, they discover that much more than their own survival is at stake.


From Legend by Ian Lewis


Official Blurb: Sober, serious, and driven, Logan Hale is the highest peace officer in Beldenridge, and he knows his city better than anyone: the labyrinthine streets, the vaulted architecture, and all the dark corners where tales of mutations and a vicious enemy still linger like hushed secrets. Logan is quick to dismiss these accounts as part of a storied past with which he’d rather not contend, but when a suicide investigation leads him to believe there’s something more sinister at hand, he questions whether that near-forgotten lore isn’t the stuff of legend after all.


In Numina by Assaph Mehr


Official Blurb: A rich landlord finds tenants are abandoning his apartment buildings, spouting tales of horrific events and whispering that the old gods - the numina - came alive and cursed the buildings.

Enter Felix, a professional fox. Dressed in a toga and armed with a dagger, Felix is neither a traditional detective nor a traditional magician - but something in between. Whenever there is a foul business of bad magic, Felix is hired to sniff out the truth. Now he must separate fact from superstition - a hard task in a world where the old gods still roam the earth.

In Numina is set in a fantasy world. The city of Egretia borrows elements from a thousand years of ancient Roman culture, from the founding of Rome to the late empire, mixed with a judicious amount of magic. This is a story of a cynical, hardboiled detective dealing with anything from daily life to the old forces roaming the world.


The 19th Bladesman by SJ Hartland


Official Blurb: His duty is to die young, but fate has something far more lethal in mind.

If Kaell breaks, the kingdom breaks with him. And prophecy says the 19th Bladesman will break...

The Bonded Warrior...

Kill. Die young. That's what a swordsman bonded to the ancient gods does. Without expecting praise from the man who trained him to survive this centuries-old, malignant war against the inhuman followers of an invincible lord. But Kaell wants more. More of Val Arques' attention, his approval. Just more.

The fire dancer...

Ice lord, spy, Heath never loses a fire dance. Yet he longs to know that thrill of danger down his spine as he kills for his god, to fight a warrior who might, just might be better than him.

The broken...

Val Arques is a bladesman of formidable power entrusted not only with Kaell's life but with the truth that will destroy him. Banished to a grim outpost of this doomed kingdom of sorcery, poetry, and treachery, he cannot afford to care about the young warrior. For love means loss. And Val Arques has a shameful secret...

A kingdom on the edge of chaos...

As a vengeful god escapes his ancient prison and Kaell is drawn into his web of deception, even Val Arques can't protect him from the dark prophecy awaiting him. Because you can't flee fate unless you're willing to do the unthinkable.


Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord


Official Blurb: A secret affair. A disfiguring punishment. A burning need for revenge.

Kyrra d’Aliente has a bad reputation and an arm made of metal. Cast out of the safe and luxurious world of silk to which she was born, played as a pawn in a game of feuding Houses, Kyrra navigates a dangerous world of mercenaries, spies, and smugglers while disguising herself as a man.

War destroyed her family and the man she loved.

Vengeance is within her grasp.

But is she willing to pay its price?


Cry Havoc by Mike Morris


Official Blurb: When the demons come, you either fight or you die.

The Black Dogs know this all too well. For seven hundred years, the warrior priests have sacrificed their lives to keep the island nation of Abios safe from the flesh-eating Nostros, while the rest of the world fell under the demons’ savagery. However, an armada now stands poised to invade mankind’s last bastion.

Child thief Jack Frey is saved from the gallows and joins the mysterious order. Trained with the bullet and the blade, Jack finds himself on the front-line of a centuries-old war. Across the Angel Sea, Lin is fighting for her life. As a slave of the Nostros, she knows death can strike at any time, either at the hands of her masters or her fellow humans.

Little do they know mankind's fate lies in both their hands.


Blood and Shadow (The Mage's Gift #1) by Robin Lythgoe


Official Blurb: A vengeful mage. A powerful gift. A naive youth. .

Sherakai dan Tameko never wanted to become a warrior like his well-known father and brothers. Satisfied with being fourth in line to inherit title and responsibility, he wants only to be Master of the Horse. But a shocking event turns young Sherakai's life upside-down and propels him on a course that changes his life forever..

When he discovers his magic is the key to a powerful secret, Sherakai must risk more than he thought possible and become greater than anyone dreamed if he is to escape the web woven around him. .


Lykaia (Sophia Katsaros #1) by Sharon VanOrman 


Official Blurb: "We are the terrors that hunt the night.And we have never been human"

In Greek mythology there’s a story of King Lykaonas of Arcadia and his fifty sons who were cursed by the father of the gods, Zeus, to become wolves. The very first Lycanthropes. Forensic pathologist, Sophia Katsaros, receives a cryptic phone call from Greece telling her that her brothers are missing and leaves to search for them. With the help of Illyanna, her brother’s girlfriend, Sophia examines the evidence but cannot accept a bizarre possibility: Has one or both of her brothers been transformed during the Lykaia, the ceremony where Man is said to become Wolf?

Who is Marcus, a dark stranger that both repels and excites her? And what is the real story behind the 5000 year old curse of King Lykaonas?


The Lord of Stariel (Stariel #1) by A.J. Lancaster


Official Blurb:The Lord of Stariel is dead. Long live the Lord of Stariel. Whoever that is.

Everyone knows who the magical estate will choose for its next ruler. Or do they?

Will it be the lord’s eldest son, who he despised? His favourite nephew, with the strongest magical land-sense? His scandalous daughter, who ran away from home years ago to study illusion?

Hetta knows it won’t be her, and she’s glad of it. Returning home for her father’s funeral, all Hetta has to do is survive the family drama and avoid entanglements with irritatingly attractive local men until the Choosing. Then she can leave.

But whoever Stariel chooses will have bigger problems than eccentric relatives to deal with.

Winged, beautifully deadly problems.

For the first time in centuries, the fae are returning to the Mortal Realm, and only the Lord of Stariel can keep the estate safe.

In theory.


Child of the Flames (The Seven Signs Book 1) by D.W. Hawkins


Official Blurb: In fire, some things are destroyed. Others are forged.

The men of the Galanian Empire came with the dawn, bringing swords and hunger. Seeking an ancient relic, they slaughtered Shawna Llewan’s family. They burned her life to the ground.

But blades are born of fire and tempered by its embrace.

Shawna Llewan is such a blade. Carrying her mother’s heirloom—the very relic for which her family was killed—she sets out on a quest, driving to the heart of a conspiracy that could plunge the entire world into darkness.

She is wrath. She is a blade pointed at the throats of her enemies. She is the child of the flames.


The Narrows By Travis Riddle


Official Blurb: "I can show you how to enter the Narrows to find what you seek."

Oliver and his friends have returned to their hometown of Shumard, Texas for the funeral of their close friend Noah. They each grapple with the loss in their own ways, trying to understand the strange circumstances of their friend's unexpected death.

While visiting the site where the body was found, Oliver stumbles across a chilling discovery that he knows must be related to what happened to Noah. Wanting to protect his friends from these newfound horrors, Oliver takes it upon himself to venture into the grotesque otherworld known as the Narrows to learn what happened to his friend and find a way to bring him back.

Entering the Narrows is one thing, but will whatever he finds there allow him to leave?

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