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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*:



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

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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 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

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.

Monday, November 27, 2017

SPFBO: The Final Semifinalist Update (by Mihir Wanchoo)

For the last batch of books, I decided to combine all the remaining ten books into one group and see which books would join the 5 previous semifinalists. So here are my thoughts on all of them:

Miss Landon and Aubranael by Charlotte E. English: ML&A is a delightful story mixing romance and fairytales and the author wonderfully writes these characters who are endearing to say the least. A simple story told with gusto and a truly vibrant cover made this book a worthy read. Plus as a reader who generally doesn’t get hooked by Regency romance plots, this book had me chuckling along and enjoying myself with its flair and pace.

The Heartstone Thief by Pippa DaCosta: The Heartstone Thief was another intriguing title which had a spectacular cover. The story was a dark one and I enjoyed that aspect. The characterization wasn’t spectacular but it kept me intrigued and in the end while I enjoyed the story settings. I didn’t find the plot to be gripping enough and so while I completed the story, it didn’t leave an impact..

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale by Danielle E Shipley: This was a unique book with regards to its plot and settings as it mixed the Robin Hood mythos within an urban fantasy setting. The story however was a bit drier than I would have liked and the pace was also on the slower side. Hence this book didn’t work for me.

Shadows for a Princess by Dominique Kristine: This was an epic fantasy book with some really terrific female characters however the plot is more than a bit standard and hence this book didn’t make the cut for me.

The General's Legacy by Adrian G Hilder: Adrian Hilder’s fantasy debut checks all of the boxes that fantasy fans love. Epic action and battle sequences, check. Relatable, heroic characters check. A world filled with magic & intrigue double check. All in all this was a book that while ending on a cliffhanger-ish situation (due to the book being split into two volumes, of which this is the first). I appreciated that the author had given me the heads up about it. This book while not doing anything out of the box, certainly provides a very enjoyable fantasy story. That’s something that every debut author should strive for.

Thunder Hunter by Rachel Medhurst: Thunder Hunter had me excited as it was an urban fantasy which had its roots in norse mythology. The writing style and the main character voice reminded me a lot of Tim Marquitz in terms of action mixed in with the machismo of the main character. However unlike Tim Marquitz’s Demon Squad series, this book didn’t have that flair to carry it across and I lost interest in the middle.

Gods of Color by C.H. Baum: C. H. Baum’s debut effort was a nice mix of dark and epic fantasy and to top it off there was an interesting magic system which reminded me a lot of the one in Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker. The book’s pace also helped in this read and it was a dark and strong effort.

Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds by Dale Kutzera: This was such a fun book, I loved the author’s twist on the War Of The Worlds storyline and how he managed to infuse this children’s book with so many antics. Overall this is a book and series which pokes fun at the classic SFF stories and it will definitely have its audiences among the adult and kid audiences.

Haven of Shadows by Ken Lozito: After reading Haven Of Shadows, one thing is imminently clear Ken Lozito certainly knows how to write and write well he does. This book had shades of epic fantasy mixed in with S&S and to top it off the characterization was very engaging. Overall this book had me reading it all the way till the end and I had very few complaints from it.

Night of the Chalk by Samuel Gately : This book was the one whose cover had me intrigued and once I started reading I found there were even more things to make it stand out. Firstly kudos to the author for the world building and for creating a plot that engages the reader to look further for clues. I certainly enjoyed the “less is more” aspect of the author’s writing style as he carefully constructed each chapter to build upon the last and increasing the claustrophic confines of the story. Mixing spy craft, dragons & good writing, Samuel Gately certainly won me over.

Overall within this round, I had quite a few good titles and authors mixed in and it was certainly hard to narrow down my choice to just two titles but I felt that would a fair decision. So the two titles which made the semifinal cut are The General’s Legacy(Part I) and Night Of The Chalk. A tip of my hat to Charlotte English, Dale Kutzera, & Ken Lozito who narrowly missed out.

I’ll be reviewing all the three remaining semifinalists within this week and will be announcing the FBC’s finalist by the middle of next week. Many congratulations to our seven semifinalists as I believe this lot of 30 books had a lot of good titles and I can safely say that this was the group of death in SPFBO 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

GUEST POST: "Emperor Calvo Reviews The HIdden Face" by S. C. Flynn

Today’s post is written by Calvo, emperor of Faustia. Here is his meeting with Dayraven the main character, who has just returned to Faustia after fifteen years as a hostage in the rival Magian empire:

Dayraven walked to the edge of the pool and stared across the steaming water at the man aged about sixty on his own, leaning back against the far side of the pool. Emperor Calvo the Great. His beard was silver now.

The emperor seemed to wake out of a daze and peered through the rising steam. ‘Urland? Urland? Can it really be you?’

I’m Dayraven, my lord - Urland’s son.’

Oh. You’re so like him, even with that touch of southern sun on your face and that beard. I thought for a moment -.’ 

The emperor lent back and gazed upwards through the mist of vapour. ‘We were all young and strong back then. Great days, with Urland at my side - and now his son is here. Welcome back to us, Dayraven.’

You will already be aware that I have issued an edict banning this book, ordering the destruction of every copy in existence and imposing harsh penalties on anyone possessing, producing or distributing a copy. As an “enlightened” ruler, I will explain my reasons.

If widely read, this book would have a damaging effect on the empire. I found this work so offensive that I was unable to even finish the first half of it. However, it is clear from those pages that the author is a paid agent of my enemies and rivals, the Clovian dynasty.

I am shown as an old fool, spending all my time bathing, feeding my pet elephant, gorging on red meat and living in the past, rather than running the empire. I am the emperor, and what kind of empire would it be if I were not free to do as I wish?

The author’s obvious bias towards my Clovian enemies is equally deplorable. In contrast with my unflattering portrait, they are shown as clever manipulators and black magicians, dressed in striking cloaks decorated with golden bees.

You have been warned of my disapproval. This notice to be posted in all public places by my order.

Calvo, regnal year 36. 575 FE.

[NOTE: Despite the above, Emperor Calvo couldn’t resist later reading the entire novel. Fortunately, he then decided that his ban was too severe and revoked it.]



GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: S. C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian. He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him.

S. C. has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years. THE HIDDEN FACE is his second novel and the first book in the Fifth Unmasking series. He blogs over at He is on Twitter @scyflynn and on Facebook.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A face without a face - an unmasking that leaves the mask.

Once every few hundred years, the sun god, the Akhen takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another; the last one created the Faustian Empire. Where and when will the Face next appear, and who will he – or she – be?

Dayraven, son of a great hero, returns to Faustia after years as a hostage of their rivals, the Magians. Those years have changed him, but Faustia has changed as well; the emperor Calvo now seems eccentric and is controlled by one of Dayraven’s old enemies. Following the brutal death of his old teacher, Dayraven is drawn, together with a warrior woman named Sunniva, into the search for an ancient secret that would change the fate of empires.

Powerful enemies want the secret as well, including a dynasty of magician-kings who were thought to have died out long before, a mad, murderous hunchback and a beautiful, deadly woman who is never seen. Sunniva and Dayraven fight to survive and to solve the mystery while their own pasts come back to life and the attraction between them deepens.

The Hidden Face is a fantasy mystery drenched in the atmosphere of the Early Middle Ages and in Kabbalistic riddles, and is the first book in the Fifth Unmasking series.

Checkout all the stops in The Hidden Face Blogtour:
23rd November - Bookworm Blues
24th November - Fantasy-Faction
25th November - Fantasy Book Critic 
26th November - Bookwraiths
27th November: - The Tattooed Book Geek 
28th November - Beauty in Ruins
29th November - MightyThorJRS
30th November -  The BiblioSanctum

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