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Monday, October 28, 2019

SPFBO: FBC Finalist Announcemement (by David Stewart, Justine Bergman, Łukasz Przywóski, & Mihir Wanchoo)



Today is the day! We have chosen our champion, and we’re excited to announce
the winner and runners-up.

First, we want to thank each and every one of you who took the time to participate in the contest. We sincerely appreciate it, and we had a great time reading all of your entries. After getting through the batch of thirty books, we’ve picked six semi-finalists, each for a different reason. We’ve enjoyed all of them, and the prospect of sawing off another five entries held no appeal to us. Unfortunately, SPFBO rules require us to make tough decisions. Such is the harsh reality of this bloodbath contest.




The Semi-Finalists

Our semi-finalists represent various subgenres, from epic fantasy to steampunk. We can’t advance them all to finals, but you can read them, and trust us, it'll be time well spent. Here are our choices in the order they were announced.

The Fox and The Hunter
~ LUKASZ'S PICK ~

The Fox and The Hunter by Linn Tesli
The Fox and the Hunter won us over with its focused narrative, a solid characterization and a promise of an exciting sequel. Plus, who doesn’t need more Viking lore in their life?

Shadowless
~ MIHIR'S PICK ~

Shadowless by Randall McNally
Shadowless is a debut that is strikingly original in scope, execution, and plot. Mihir described it as the bastard child of Clash Of The Titans and Rob J. Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy and we can’t help but agree with him.

Ayana: The Journey
~ MIHIR'S PICK ~

Ayana: the Journey by Geetha Krishnan
Ayana: the Journey dives into Indian mythology and reimagines parts of Ramayana. The writing style is simple and accessible to all, and the action sequences, while not masterfully conveying every nuance, make for fun reading.

Pursuit of Shadows
~ JUSTINE'S PICK ~

Pursuit of Shadows by JA Andrews
Pursuit of Shadows appealed to all of us with its clean prose and engaging plot. Fans of classic and epic fantasy will love it - it’s a charming, yet modern take on the core elements that generally define the genre. A page-turning goodness, trust us.

Beggar's Rebellion
~ DAVID'S PICK ~

Beggar's Rebellion by Levi Jacobs
Beggar’s Rebellion is a perfect choice for fans of epic fantasy in need of a fix. The book does most of the things usually done in the genre right. It takes place in a well-developed secondary world, introduces interesting characters and intriguing magic system. While drawing from the classics, it incorporates fresh ideas to the story.

Magpie's Song
~ GROUP PICK ~

Magpie's Song by Allison Pang
Magpie’s Song is superbly written and a dark story that defies easy categorization. It mixes elements of steampunk, dystopia, coming-of-age, and dark fantasy into a singular blend. We loved morally gray characters and unique world-building. If it lacks anything, it’s the sense of closure (it’s the first book in the IronHeart Chronicles trilogy).

At this stage we had to decide how to evaluate one good book against another and whether it is at all possible to come to some sort of fair and objective decision. We tried to base our choice on following criteria (listed in alphabetical order):
Characterization
Editing
Personal Enjoyment
Plotting
World-building
Writing Style


Each of these titles had their own strengths and a few drawbacks, which were touched upon in our reviews. After long and tumultuous discussions we’ve agreed to pick the finalist amongst the three following titles:

Magpie's Song

If you think, for a second, that things got any easier after the initial narrowing, you’re wrong. We strove for a degree of objectivity in our discussions, but all of us were swayed by visceral reactions to each book. We wanted to reach a unanimous decision, but couldn’t. That’s why we’ve offered the place in the finals to the author who offered us the highest bribe.

Joking. Just joking.

In reality, we’ve discussed each entry, tried to keep things civil and failed. Then tried again. And again.

Despite their awesome premises and strong execution, each entry had some minor issues. Shadowless is unique in its episodic structure and deliciously dark. As a result, some will love it, others not so much. Plus, we’ve identified some unwelcomed POV’s switches mid-scene. Pursuit of Shadows is an exciting page-turner, but we feel the resolution of the conflict comes way out of left field. While it works as a standalone, we feel readers who’ve read the first book in the series will appreciate the ending more and catch more nuances than those who start their adventure in The Keeper Chronicles's world here. Beggar’s Rebellion is an exciting start to the series but could use some additional polishing and, maybe, fine-tuning Tai as a character. Plus, Jacobs is clearly in love with Sanderson’s writing (not a bad thing, just slightly limiting).

Focusing on those issues helped us to reach some agreements but we still couldn’t decide. We asked ourselves which of the three will appeal to most readers and judges? This question helped us to pick our winner. We strongly believe our finalist, while drawing from the classics and flirting with tropes, breaks the mold to bring readers fresh ideas, exciting plot and strong execution.
So, without further ado,
the FBC finalist for the SPFBO 2019 edition is...


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Beggar’s Rebellion by Levi Jacobs

Congratulations Levi, and good luck in the finals!


Beggar’s Rebellion has it all: fencing, accounting, fighting, torture, revenge, chases, escapes, true love, miracles, magic-inducing plants, and more. We’re excited to see where the series go and we encourage you to join the party.

Official SPFBO rating: 8/10

Is that all you might ask, well amid the top 3 titles, there was a minority report as well. There was another title which caused a lot of discussions among us. We noticed it has a unique structure and while it might not be everyone's cup of tea. We would like to offer Shadowless by Randall McNally as a SSN (Senlin Safety Net) candidate to the other nine blogger groups to decide if they want to give it a crack.


So all the best to Levi Jacobs for his SPFBO finals adventure and to Randall McNally for his SSN journey. That's the end of Phase 1 from all of us at Fantasy Book Critic. Thank you to all thirty of our authors for giving us the chance to judge their hard work. We look forward to the other finalist choices and here's wishing for a very exciting phase 2.

2 comments:

levi jacobs said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm humbled and honored. Thanks for reading ALL these books and giving us indies a little boost in the bigger world. I know the choice was close between us, and someone else could easily have been the pick. Humbled that you picked me, and hope to do FBC proud in the finals! Thanks especially to David for liking it so much in his initial batch, and giving me a boost at a time when the book wasn't selling super well.
The bribes probably helped.
Kidding!
Thank you again, and congrats to my fellow semi-finalists for making it this far. May our readers find more great books!

Łukasz said...

Hi Levi,

We count on you so don't let us down ;)

Jokes aside, we enjoyed Beggar's Rrebellion a lot and we hope others will share our enthusiasm.

Best,

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