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Monday, December 11, 2017

The Lost Lore Anthology Cover Reveal + Interview with the editors & authors (by Mihir Wanchoo)


Today at Fantasy Book Critic, we have the wonderful opportunity to do the official cover reveal for the LOST LORE Anthology that features sixteen authors and several luminaries from the past and present editions of SPFBO (hopefully some future SPFBO contenders as well).

The creative minds behind this awesome collection were very kind to grant me the opportunity to reveal the magnificent cover for it featuring artwork by Andreas Zafeiratos & design/typography by Colleen Sheehan. Check it out in all its glory above.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Hidden pasts. Secrets untold. Legends half-remembered. Sixteen fantasy writers gather to bring sixteen tales to life, each one a unique glimpse into a wholly original world.

In Midgard, a humble priestess takes it upon herself to move Valhalla and earth to bring justice to lands unfairly ruled by men, gods, and giants.

On the Emerald Road, a dead Sage triggers a brutal trial beneath the forest floor. There, a young man must fight—and kill—both friends and enemies to become the next wielder of the fabled Emerald Blade.

And in the Yarnsworld, the Magpie King teaches two brothers a dangerous lesson about the power of stories. Sticks and stones may indeed break bones . . . but they cannot hurt the Bramble Man.

In worlds ravaged by flood, fire, and frost, mere mortals strive to make their own legends amidst demons and deities alike. And in lands racked with human strife—where evil endures and no one is ever safe—scarred heroes fight forces even darker than their own personal demons.

Why do they fight?

Some seek to better the world, or themselves. Others are out to right old wrongs. But whatever their goal - reward, redemption, or just respite - the truth will out eventually. For no story is ever truly lost so long as there exists one to tell it.

So there you have it, featuring sixteen different tales by sixteen exciting voices, readers will have the opportunity to be transported to several different realms and find out more. The anthology will be released on all platforms on January 15th 2018.

The line up consists of the following authors:
 - Alec Hutson
 - Ben Galley
 - Benedict Patrick
 - Bryce O' Connor
 - David Benem
 - Dyrk Ashton
 - Jeffrey Hall
 - J. P. Ashman
 - Laura M. Hughes
 - Michael R. Miller
-  Mike Shel
- Phil Tucker
- Steven Kelliher
- T. A. Miles
- Timandra Whitecastle
- T. L. Greylock

In addition to the official blurb and cover reveal, we are glad to have Taya (T. L. Greylock), Teri (T. A. Miles), & Benedict Patrick to answer a few questions about the anthology, its inception & more...

Q] Thank you for this opportunity and welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. Could you tell us about the inception of the Lost Lore anthology and how did you get involved for this project?

Benedict: Thanks, Mihir! How the anthology came about? The very boring answer is that this is the project that made the distance. There’s an ever-growing group of us who chat about writing/publishing/Netflix on a daily basis, and we are constantly suggesting stuff we can work together on. This is pretty much the first project (hopefully of many) that has managed to escape that bubbling pot of creation to make it out to the general public. We enjoy hanging out online together, we want to work together, and an anthology like this seemed like a good place to start.


Q] Can you tell us about the lineup of stories assembled in this anthology? How did you go about selecting the authors for the collection?

Taya: Selection took place via death matches. Okay, not really. Basically it sprouted from what was initially a group of SPFBO authors and grew to include a bunch of cool people we had met.

Q] As authors who had to make a switch to the editorial side for this anthology, how did you prep for it?

Teri: For me, preparation started months ago. At the time that I joined the group, I was not acquainted with many of the others and had not read any of their works. Our book designer, Colleen, is also my partner and several of them are her clients, so I had been exposed to various names and titles that way. When I volunteered to be on the management team for the anthology and to assist with editing, I decided I should become more familiar with the themes and styles of my fellow contributors.

So, I collected several of the Book 1s in their respective series and set about reading them. Regrettably, I have to admit that I didn't find the time to finish reading all of them, but what I did read helped me settle into the waters and recalibrate my brain from writer to reader and editor. By twist of fate, I had been asked around the same time to do a critique for someone outside of the group and I feel that all of the ahead studying and reading definitely helped me to transition.

Taya: I think we all brought different strengths to the organization and creation of this anthology, and right from the start we knew we could delegate areas of work that played to those strengths. Phil (Tucker), for instance, could work the cover angle, since we had agreed to use his regular artist. And Colleen, being our resident formatter/typesetter/book designer extraordinaire, would, of course, be tasked with that part of the project. Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m here....

Q] With two or more editors involved, I'm sure readers are curious as to how you all work together and so can you give us a glimpse of the process?

Taya: One of the most vital parts of the process was handing off the decision making on story order to Teri. The time, effort, and thought she put into creating that order far outweighs, I’m convinced, the work put into most traditionally published anthologies. Each story has been given a place for a reason; each story follows its predecessor for a reason. A reader might not make each and every connection, but I think there’s a subconscious flow to the collection that will resonate. And I think I speak for the rest of the team when I say that we were blown away upon seeing the work Teri did.

Benedict: Oh, geez, Teri’s dedication and passion for this project can’t be overstated. I was blown away by the work she did in pulling this all together.

Teri: I’ve never participated in the editorial aspect of an anthology before, so I was truthfully just winging it. Either way, I wanted to give it as much attention as I would one of my own publications.  Transitioning to editing mode did not turn off storyteller mode entirely, so I wound up approaching the story order as if it was actually one large story.  Though there is no shared plot and there are no related characters, it was my aim to create a beneath the surface sensation of each story handing off to the next.  With luck, readers will feel that there’s a flow to the stories and be carried from one to another seamlessly. (I also may have simply overthought the whole thing…)

Q] This question might be a bit difficult, but among this varied collection which ones are your favourite ones as a reader?

Taya: One that I found exceptionally entertaining was Laura’s I, Kane. It has a wonderfully luscious mix of humor and underlying terror. If you’ve read her novelette, Danse Macabre, you won’t be disappointed.

Benedict: Timandra’s Into the Woods was an eye opener for me. This is not a story you forget in a hurry, and pulls no punches.

Teri: I prefer to save choosing favorites for caffeinated beverages. Each one of the stories has left some imprint on my mind and has some detail about it that will forever remind me of the tale.  For me, as a reader, what really qualifies a story is whether or not I remember it with any detail which rekindles an emotional impression (of the characters especially). Something that I commented on to the group after reading all of the submissions was how distinctly each plot and each protagonist stood out from one another.

I think the odds are often high that if someone picks up sixteen stories by different authors, among them, they’ll find two or more protagonists or core plots that could serve as each other’s doppelgangers.  That was not so here, and I found that impressive, especially considering the amount of shared interests among the group.

Q] Conversely among all the stories, which was the story/s that surprised completely depending on the author’s previous work or pedigree?

Benedict: Not quite the answer you’re looking for, but I’m really excited to read Mike Shel and Jeffrey Hall’s stories. At the time of this interview, both of them are unpublished authors (if you discount Mike’s extensive career writing RPG adventures), and I think it speaks a lot for this group and this anthology that their work is included. Lost Lore represents work from a wide range of fantasy authors, including those for whom writing is their sole career, to writers who have yet to put anything out into the great, wide world.

Teri: Among all the stories, I think that I was the most surprised by Steven Kelliher's A Tree Called Sightless, simply for the fact that his prehistory takes the point of view of a much darker character than Valley of Embers' protagonist. There are quite a number of dark characters and situations among the stories in this anthology, but the nature of this character and his specific situation were not anticipated.  I think it will give valuable insight to readers of the Landkist Saga and tempt new readers to carry forward.


Q] Will this anthology be a one-time thing or is there a possibility for it becoming a series perhaps further exploring different aspects of this genre?

Benedict: Who knows? I think it is more likely to hear from us as a group, but doing something totally different, as opposed to a repetition or continuation of this project. Our hope is to have created a high quality, evergreen experience that will be discovered and enjoyed by readers for years to come. Most of the stories in Lost Lore tie in to our own story worlds, so if people are looking for continuation of the threads started here, diving into an individual author’s work is the best place to go.

Taya: We’ve got a great group of people to work with. I’d love to see us continue to create together in different capacities.

Q] So what can readers expect from this amazing collection and what should they be looking forward to according to you?

Taya: I think readers can expect a staggering variety of stories, in terms of both subject and style, that, as a whole, really excels at capturing this idea of lost lore. This anthology is basically a hit list of some of the best bits of history, legends, and backstories from our novels that you’re dying to get the truth about.

Teri: I like Taya’s answer. But, expanding on that gratuitously, I would say that readers can expect to find a sensible introduction to the various worlds each of us has cultivated in our own series. For those already touring any of these worlds in previously published works, I think readers will find a source for further insight that they can appreciate. Many of the stories contain their own Easter Eggs that should satisfy the familiar audience while intriguing newcomers.

Q] In closing, do you have any last thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

Taya: The anthology is free! And always will be. We’re really excited to share our worlds with new readers and give our fans new glimpses into the worlds they’ve already come to know. And there’s no better way to do that than to make Lost Lore free for everyone.

*---------------*---------------*---------------*

Friday, December 8, 2017

The SPFBO Finalist Announcement (by Mihir Wanchoo)


The 2017 SPFBO has been an absolute thrill ride for me personally. This year I’ve read so many great books in my lot that I wasn’t sure how many semifinalists I would be selecting. After reading through all of the FBC lot along with Cindy, we were able to narrow it down to seven semifinalists. Here are all of them:

- Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson

- Nefertiti’s Heart by A. W. Exley

- The Songweaver’s Vow by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

- The Woven Ring by M.D. Presley

- Where The Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick

- Night Of The Chalk by Samuel Gately

- The General’s Legacy: Inheritance by Adrian G. Hilder

Previously I had mentioned that we at Fantasy Book Critic were the group of death and here’s the some fun stats by M. D. Presley. Looking at books with more than 10 goodreads reviews and an average score of 4 or higher, the average number of books that met that criteria for each of the other nine blogs was six. FBC’s score was 12! The next closest one was Fantasy Faction with 8. Not that it means that the other blogs had it easy but this time around we truly had some wonderful competition.

Selecting a finalist from these accomplished titles is again a harder task as I enjoyed all of them and the main characteristics that I was looking for in selecting a finalist were:

- Plot

- Characters

- World building

- Personal enjoyment

Trying to quantify all of these points in all of these seven books was weird but I had to do it for selecting among these seven. So after looking through them, I tried to create a top three and even then I cheated a bit:

1] The Crimson Queen & The Woven Ring

2] The Songweaver’s Vow & Where The Waters Turn Black

3] Night Of the Chalk

As you can see, even while selecting three, I went ahead and selected five books as such was the caliber of all these titles. Coming to my main two titles, I have to interject how good The Crimson Queen & The Woven Ring are. Both books focus on different genres of fantasy but are written so well that if not for the presence of the other, the specific title would be my straightforward finalist.

With The Crimson Queen, it was a wonderful epic fantasy that had superb characterization, a blistering pace and a world that merges Asian & certain European influences which made for an enthralling read. The Woven Ring is absolute world-building gem that mixes two timelines while focusing on the same character and gives the reader an utterly absorbing read.

What was even more surprising that both of these books are debuts and to be this astoundingly good is nothing short of extraordinary.

This is the part wherein I dread being the judge because I’m forced to choose between two titles which I’ve loved. I look forward to both of their sequels and so you all can understand why it’s extremely, extremely hard for me to have to choose between these two.

I reread both titles again just to see if they hold up on the re-read and if I noticed any new drawbacks. No such luck as I enjoyed them as much as I did the first time around if not more. So again I want to reiterate how good both these titles are.

At this point, I had to start to nitpick between the two to be able to choose my finalist and it’s only by a hair's breadth that this title overcame the other. So without any further ado our 2017 SPFBO finalist is *drumroll*:

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THE CRIMSON QUEEN by ALEC HUTSON



My commiserations to M. D. Presley as his book was really that much amazing and it was only by a hair's difference that Alec Hutson’s debut superseded The Woven Ring for the final spot. I feel that like last year’s Senlin Ascends, The Woven Ring will be a book that will leave a mark on the readers that give it a chance. It’s a mind mindbogglingly great debut and I hope more of you give M.D. Presley a shot as I will be reviewing the sequel soon which is out as well.

My congratulations to Alec Hutson and I look forward to see how The Crimson Queen fares with the other judges and among the other finalists.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

GIVEAWAY: Win a Copy of the Children's Fantasy Book Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend






Visit the Official Site
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Fantasy Book Critic is excited to partner with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers to host a giveaway. We have one prize pack to offer one lucky winner. The winner will receive a copy of Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, a branded Nevermoor lapel pin, and a branded Hotel Deucalion pen and notebook.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is the first of a new series by Jessica Townsend. It has been on my 'to read' list. I am very excited to offer everyone a chance to win this novel! 



Rules for the giveaway are below. However, before we can get to the giveaway, I'd love to share more about Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow and this wonderful debut author!

Learn more about Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow:

A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world--but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks--and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart--an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests--or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

Perfect for fans of the Harry Potter series and Neil Gaiman, this fast-paced plot and imaginative world has a fresh new take on magic that will appeal to a new generation of readers.



 Photo Credit: Lani Carter

Learn more about debut author Jessica Townsend:
Jessica Townsend lives on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, but has lived on and off in London for a few years. She was a copywriter for eight years, and in a previous role, was the editor of a children's wildlife magazine for Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is her first novel.

*******************************************************************

 
Giveaway Rules
1. This contest is open to the US.

2. Contest starts December 5, 2017 and ends December 12, 2017 at 12:01 a.m. EST. Entries after this time period will not be considered. 

3. Only one entry per person. 

4. To enter please send an email with the subject "NEVERMOOR" to FBCgiveaway@gmail.com. Please include your name, email, and physical address you want the book sent to. 

5. One entry will be picked at random to win a copy. 

6. All entries will be deleted once a winner is picked and contacted.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Blog Update from Cindy





Hi Fellow Blog Readers,

I have been meaning to do a quick blog update, but I always forget.

You have probably noticed I have been a bit silent at Fantasy Book Critic. Unfortunately, an unforeseen and very lengthy family emergency came up. Without going into too many details, my dad has been in the hospital for 70+ days many of which were in the ICU. I didn't expect it to be as time consuming and emotionally draining as it turned out to be. While I did a lot of reading, I was unable to review at the time.

Things have slowed down a bit and I'm ready to get back to reviewing.

So, first I want to apologize if I agreed to review any book, run a guest blog, or do a contest for you. I will be slowly catching up over the next few weeks. It will take a little bit of time, but if I agreed to review anything for you or post a guest blog, I will get it up. Don't hesitate to message me at the blog email to remind me.

The second thing I want to do is thank you for being a loyal reader. Thanks for sticking it out. I have a lot of wonderful books I can't wait to share with you.

With that said, happy reading!
Thank you all so much
~Cindy

SPFBO Semifinalists: Where The Waters Turn Black, Night Of The Chalk, The General's Legacy: Inheritance (Mini-reviews by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Order the book HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Where The Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick has many things going for it. It’s the winner of the best cover in the 2017 SPFBO competition as well as it’s a very unusual cross between Moana & the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. This book while being a standalone is set in the Yarnsworld setting.

I loved Benedict Patrick’s debut They Mostly Come At Night and so I was even more excited when WTWTB was in my lot. The story focusses on Pukotala and the neighboring Atoll islands as it is a veritable paradise with sandy beaches, coconut trees, tropical atmosphere and a laid back people who support themselves by fishing and other coastal activities. In this setting we meet our main character Kaimana who is incredibly talented in music or as the islanders say she has a “Knack” for music. She has spent the last three years traveling with a musical troupe across the islands and has returned to her home in Pukotala to convince her parents that this is the life she wants. Unlike leading a much simpler existence being wed to someone and living as a fisherwoman or the spouse to one.

The first line of this book is “There’s a monster in the village” and it’s from that exciting beginning we find out more about taniwhas or the term that describes the monsters (of various sizes, shapes & temperaments) across the crescent atoll islands. Kaimana tells the toddler who tells her such that there’s no taniwha haunting their village but goes to investigate nonetheless. It’s from this moment onwards that the plot really tightens up and we get to see if there really is a taniwha and the author very smartly alternates every chapter with a retelling of a legend/myth which is local to these islands. Thus the story goes forward and thematically backward as well.

Benedict Patrick is a good writer but the Yarnsworld is truly something exciting as each book has focused on a different part of the world and this story is no different. He builds up an incredible world with the flora and fauna, the sights and sounds, and the legends and the gods as we are completely submersed into a tropical setting. This experience was something that he has done admirable across all three of his Yarnsworld books (having read all three I can attest to this). This story mixes humans, gods, monsters and a whole bunch of legends, I loved this aspect of the story and there’s a couple of gods featured as side characters who might become fan favorites based on their interactions with the main characters.

Overall I would say this book can be read as a standalone but of course if you read it after They Mostly Come Out At Night, you might even see someone from that book make a cameo. Where The Waters Turn Black is a special book in a special series and you definitely need to read this magical story to inject some magic into the mundane everyday life.


Official Author Website
Order the book HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Night Of The Chalk is another intriguing title that comes with an eye-catching cover. Samuel Gately’s debut introduces us to a world wherein spycraft, dragons, and magic come together in a dangerous pattern. Set in the city of Delhonne and over the period of five nights, the author presents a story that is very much a thriller with strong shades of spy stories mixed in with some good ol’ fantasy leanings.

The story begins with one of our protagonists Cal finds himself on the run from a card game as he finds himself betrayed by his debtors. Things however don’t quite work out the way as planned for his pursuers and Cal is left bloodied but intact. He soon runs into his old friend Aaron Lone who informs him of the upcoming war that will be breaking out soon. Reunited with his friend Aaron after quite a many years, Cal finds himself thrown into a struggle that will need his contacts and Aaron’s skills to master and survive.

This story is a nice action packed story that is set within the city of Delhonne and spaced over the entirety of five nights. What I enjoyed most was that the author really strived to inject some street level smarts and back alley spy battles into the story. While this story also has dragons, they aren’t necessarily the fire breathing monstrosities made famous in Game Of Thrones. Sure they are on the larger side and can potentially exhale fire but they are demonstrated more from a military and policing perspective. The main story is how Aaron & Cal combine their smarts, knowledge and skills to face down an enemy who clearly is stronger and more devious than anyone thinks.

The action sometimes takes a backseat to shadowing and schemes that are crucial to the plot. The author also cleverly uses the city and this environmental factor adds to the claustrophobic conditions of the plot and things are brought to the fore by the various factions fighting on the sly. The blurb mentions an aspect of James Bond’s spy stories and while this isn’t entirely untrue, there’s enough nods and throwbacks to that genre. The plot pace also slowly builds up and then ends on a strong note as the climax unspooled.

Overall this was a story that I enjoyed very much and even brought the sequels when they were released. I want to read more of the intriguing world that Samuel Gately has created and he has marked himself out as a writer to watch out for. Night Of The Chalk is definitely a debut that I would recommend for those looking for something different than the usual cup of action fantasy tales.




Official Author Website
Order the book HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Adrian G. Hilder’s debut The General’s Legacy: Inheritance was a fantasy story that stays true to several beloved fantasy tropes and this was a story that does several things in a solid manner.

The story opens up in midst of an epic battle with soldiers, magic and monsters, we get several viewpoints in to this fight and get to meet several prominent characters such as General Garon, Zeivite the mage and the indomitable warrior Quain. Soon after the events of the battle in the prologue, the real story opens up nearly fifteen years later. We get to meet the grandchildren of general Garon and see how crucial the events of the battle were. The plot soon picks up as we are given may POV characters to follow but the main protagonist prince Cory is the one to watch out for.

Like I had mentioned in my short blurb that The General’s Legacy: Inheritance doesn’t do anything extraordinary. What it does quite well is that it focuses on the known tropes in epic fantasy:

1) Fantastical world settings

2) Heroic characters

3) Lots of action, snappy dialogue and rapid pace

This serves the story quite well as the reader will be taken on for quite a thrilling story as they witness Prince Cory doing his best to live up to his grandfather’s legacy and save the kingdom of Valendo from certain ruin. The action is often intense but never gritty, we know that the characters will be making out horrid scenarios with most of their wits and limbs intact. This aspect of the book might not appeal to jaded readers of the fantasy genre but to a younger audience or to readers who keep an open mind will definitely find something to enjoy with this book. The story also ends on a cliffhanger of sorts as I believe the author had to chop of the book into two parts because of its burgeoning length. This aspect is good to keep in mind as the climax isn’t artificially planned but done to better separate the two parts.

Overall this story was very much in line with the earlier books of Terry Brooks, Raymond Feist and to a certain extent by John Gwynne. Focusing on epic action, heroic characters, and an “easy to follow” magic system, Adrian G. Hilder crafts a terrific fantasy story that will have its fans and some detractors as well. I liked what I read and thought his efforts deserved a semifinal spot for its earnestness. The General’s Legacy: Inheritance is a story that will not surprise in terms of its scope but think of it as an excellent brew that you know hits the right spot always.

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