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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Second SPFBO Semifinalist Update (by Cindy Hannikman & Mihir Wanchoo)

With Alec Hutson’s The Crimson Queen becoming our first semifinalist, its high time we nominate our second semifinalist. As I had explained in my 2017 SPFBO introduction post. We’ll be selecting one book semifinalist from every five books. These book groupings are random and sometimes we might have no semi-finalists or we might have more than one in one group.

With this group, my co-editor Cindy was super instrumental in selecting our semifinalist and helping with reading through our second lot. As with our earlier lot we tried to read at least five chapters or 20% of the book (whichever was longer). So here are Cindy’s and my concise thoughts on each of them:

The Rift (J. T. Stoll):

Cindy’s thoughts – This book had a very fast pace feel to it straight from the start. It was easy to read 10, 20 or even 30 pages in one sitting without realizing it. Unfortunately, in an effort to bring readers a fast pace, the book seemed to suffer. While it was easy/fast to read, it felt like I was reading a cliffnotes version of a story. It was almost like we were skimming the surface and not really getting to know characters/worlds or anything. This prevented me from being invested in the story.

Mihir’s thoughts – The Rift was an intriguing mix of portal & urban fantasy and as Cindy pointed out, it was a very quick read however it felt rushed. The world and magic system didn’t quite feel detailed or well-explained hence both of us didn’t feel strongly enough about it.

Warcaster (J. C. Staudt):

Cindy’s thoughts – When reading standard fantasy books, I look for 2 things – a unique plot or amazing characters I really want to go on a journey with. Warcaster doesn't have anything wrong with it, but it doesn't have that “it factor” or the spark to make it stand out from the dozens of fantasy books out there, either.

Mihir’s thoughts – I liked Warcaster’s blurb and had high hopes from this book. The story however didn’t quite match my expectations and while the story was very simplistic. The characters and plot pace did help the story but not enough to make it a standout one. Another title which started well but couldn’t carry through on its execution.

Wrath of the Exiled (D. N. Pillay):

Cindy’s thoughts – I liked where this was going in terms of word building, but it suffered from too much information at times. The novel had a very babbly-feel to it and the story seemed to wander with things that just didn't seem to matter to the main plot.

Mihir’s thoughts – This book is an ambitious one and it is easily apparent as you read the story to see the author’s efforts in crafting it. The storyline does promise a lot of bombastic stuff and the author lays down some pretty cool concepts however the characterization mars the story as its seems very archetypal.

Forgotten Relics (Tiffany Cherney):

Cindy's thoughts – On the surface this sounded amazing. Space pirates/a space setting, but this just didn't have that spark or it factor that made me want to continue past my (personal) set number of pages (approximately 65 – 75 pages). There wasn't anything that inspired me to read on.

Nefertiti's Heart (A. W. Exley):

Cindy’s thoughts – There are some weighty topics/scenes in here and a lot of romance, but I was captivated. I wanted to follow the characters, see what happened to them, and learn more about everything. It was these reasons that I voted to put it through to the semifinals.

Mihir’s thoughts – This story was an intriguing mix of historical fantasy and steampunk plus the author laid out the story intriguingly. What I loved most about was the inherent mystery within the main plot and the thriller aspect of the storyline. 

With this lot, for both Cindy & me it was an easy choice. Nefertiti's Heart was the perfect mix of plot, characters and mystery to intrigue both of us and we will be writing a dual review for it next week. The author has also graciously agreed to an interview and that will be posted next week as well. We hope to highlight why this was such a fun read for us and how it mixes several genre aspects to make a successful concoction.


Sabrina A. Fish said...

A. W. Exley is one of my favorite authors and definitely deserves this honor. Great choice!

Elisabeth Wheatley said...

I have NEFERTITI'S HEART and I'm definitely going to take a look at it now! Romance isn't a minus for me, TBH, and I look forward to Exley's interview!


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