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Monday, July 1, 2019

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

With the fifth edition of SPFBO starting today. We thought it would be fun to highlight a few titles among the 300 books that caught our eyes. However once we started noting down the title names, we quickly realized that a few wouldn't cover it at all. Quite a lot of books caught our attention and so we decided to split our post into two.

The books we showcase 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. Some are from our lot and hence we look forward to them with eagerness.

So without further ado, here's part I of the noteworthy titles (in random order):

Ghosts of the Sea Moon (Saga of the Outer Islands #1) by A.F. Stewart 

Official Blurb:In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean.

Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World and defend the seas from monsters. Rafe has dedicated his life to protecting the lost, but the tides have shifted and times have changed.

His sister, the Goddess of the Moon, is on a rampage and her creatures are terrorizing the islands. The survival of the living and dead hinge on the courage and cunning of a beleaguered captain and his motley crew of men and ghosts.

What he doesn’t know is that her threat is part of a larger game. That an ancient, black-winged malevolence is using them all as pawns…

The Kishi (Tales from Esowon #1) by Antoine Bandele

Official Blurb: A pacifist monk. A threatening darkness. An innocent village hanging in the balance.

Hoping to escape his dark past, Amana travels to the great village of Bajok in search of redemption. The day he arrives, a young woman is slain and the locals point their fingers at the new arrival. Amana must overcome the village's trepidation. A demon is on the loose and he fears more will die. The solution is obvious—a swift and brutal counterattack.

But his vow of peace is the last virtue that remains in his tattered soul. Is his personal peace more valuable than the lives of the innocent, or will Amana be swallowed by the darkness that has hounded him his entire life?

The God-King’s Legacy by Richard Nell

Official Blurb: God-king Marsun, the 'Demon King', has ruled for centuries. But nothing lasts forever. Once just an illiterate tribal chief, Marsun trapped an ancient evil within his mighty soul, united scattered tribes, then retreated from the world. But his sacrifice is all but forgotten by those he now rules. Technology marches on; new ambitious powers rise; unhappy lords plot rebellion; and from every corner of civilization, savage enemies gather. The God King's legacy has just begun...

From the author of Kings of Paradise comes two tales in a world of knights and demons, muskets and cannon fire. Flintlock fantasy mixed with the grit of Game of Thrones.

1) Rebellion of the Black Militia - Johann Planck, bastard and scribe of the god-king's tower, is yanked from his peaceful life of academia, and ordered to capture an immortal creature of darkness. If the knight he's accompanying doesn't kill him, or the demon 'Sazeal', fresh rebellion just might.

2) Devil of the 22nd - A crumbling empire. An abandoned army. Kurt Val Clause is an ordinary soldier trying to keep it all together because no one else has the balls. Now he has one chance to win a glorious future, die in agony, or lose his soul. He just might do all three.

Women of Wasps and War by Madeleine D'Este

Official Blurb: Women of Wasps and War is a grim, gripping tale of power and politics, and the heart-breaking struggle between love and honour.

Agata, the Duchess of Ambrovna, was never meant to take the throne. In a land where men rule, her sole purpose was to smile and curtsy.

However, when war left her land leaderless, the Fatherhood religion begrudgingly allowed a first; a woman to rule. Now the war is over the men have returned more arrogant and cruel than ever, and the Duchess is shoved back into a life of needlework and silence. But with her new thirst for justice, Agata is reluctant to allow her country to return to its old ways.

Without her position of power, Agata and her circle of women look to the taboo wisdom of the Wasp Women for answers. But this ancient knowledge comes with consequences, and with death and treachery on the horizon, Agata must decide whether it is worth the risk.

The Silk Mind by Pete Alex Harris

Official Blurb: Ashlin Smith is dissatisfied with his pointless job as supervisor of the Royal Badger Survey.He wants nothing more than to quit and go back to being a blacksmith like the rest of his family wanted.However, due to politics, and an inexplicable plot set in motion decades earlier, his job is about to become a lot more interesting, and not in a good way.A giant badger, murderous cultists, abominations and dinner guests straight from the fairy tales, and a frighteningly clever and stubborn empress soon stand in the way of Ashlin's desire to return to a quiet life.

Eyrie (Gryphon Insurrection #1) by K. Vale Nagle

Official Blurb: Zeph is the craftiest gryphon in his pride. Living in the untamed wilds, he hunts in the shadow of the massive sky-cities of the opinici, evolved gryphon cousins. His taste for parrots leads him to a murder scene and a blood-stained notebook—a notebook the opinici will do anything to get back before he unravels the mystery at the heart of the eyrie.

Kia is a serious opinicus scholar with no time for gryphons, but when her best friend goes missing and only a strange notebook holds a clue of his whereabouts, she’ll even team up with an uncivilized parrot hunter to get him back.

When the peace that has held for so long is shattered, they’ll find themselves mixed up with curious songbird scholars, legendary cranes, murderous owl gryphons, mad scientists, and the cunning peafowl who rules them all. Will Zeph make the sacrifices necessary to protect the life he’s always known, or will both their worlds crumble to ash?

The Not-So-Grim Reaper by Sergio C. Pereira

Official Blurb: Because death should be a laughing matter!

Already down on his luck, Claudio Chillwell has a day that goes from bad to worse - he dies on his way to a job interview. A chatty grim reaper named Gee feels horrible about the embarrassing way that Claudio slipped off this mortal coil and decides to give him a second chance at living.

However, the Dead Council frowns upon necromancy, and there are consequences for those who contravene the rules. Gee ends up on the run and seeks sanctuary at Claudio's home. The suits are having none of it, though, and track down Gee and his new human friends, promising to torment them with hellhounds, soap operas, and bad haircuts.

Will Claudio and Gee survive the bureaucracy and live to tell the tale?

Errant Gods (Blood of the Isir #1) by Erik Henry Vick

Official Blurb: What would you do to save the ones you love? KILL A GOD?

Hank Jensen knows what he must do. If he gives in to his disability—his curse—he will never see his wife or son again. Not alive.

In perpetual pain, enervated and exhausted, his time for accepting the limits of his illness is over. He must follow the trail left by the twisted serial killers through the cave where the pair stored their victims and across a shimmering portal into the mythical worlds of the Norse Sagas.

A White Horizon (Stars and a Wind #1) by Barbara Gaskell Denvil 

Official Blurb: In the cold frozen north, the smell of magic was in the air. A fugitive princess. An assassin in pursuit. Can she outrun a curse she never cast?

Norway, 804. Viking princess Skarga hides her insecurities behind a cover of strength. And after the young girl’s cruel father puts a price on her head for false claims of black magic, she’ll need all the might she can muster. Fleeing the family fortress with her adopted child by her side, she vows to survive the brutal winter.

With a notorious assassin on her heels, one wrong step could spell their doom. For the hunter who chases her is more than he seems… and in the frozen tundra evil takes many forms. Can Skarga uncover the frightening truth before she and Egil meet the bloody end of a sword?

A White Horizon is the first book in the epic Stars and a Wind Norse fantasy trilogy. If you like determined heroines, rugged wilderness, and heart-wrenching twists, in a world where magic is hidden, then you’ll love Barbara Gaskell Denvil’s original adventure.

Husk (Plague Demon Chronicles #1) by D.P. Prior 

Official Blurb: A powerful husk crosses the mountains, leaving a trail of the dead in its wake. When efforts to track the killer end in disaster, the task falls to a man not expected to succeed: Jebediah Skayne, Lothario, hustler, hunter of demons. They call them ‘husks’, the demons that cross the Farfall Mountains, leaving a trail of blood in their wake. No incursion goes unmet; otherwise the cancer would spread until the whole world was consumed by nightmares.

That’s why the Maresmen were formed—trackers and warriors charged with holding back the tide. Each of them is different, uniquely suited to the task in hand, but one thing they hold in common: they are half-breeds, part human, part husk; and they are bound by an inviolable rule: Hunt the husks, or be hunted themselves. Jebediah Skayne has been hunting husks his entire adult life, but there’s something different about the trail leading to the fishing town of Portis on the shores of the Chalice Sea: no spoor, no footprints; nothing save the unmistakable feeling of wrongness.

Finding a husk in Portis would be near impossible for someone who didn’t have the sixth sense, but the instant Jeb arrives, all trace of the incursion vanishes. Forced to rely on more mundane methods of investigation, he starts to uncover a town rife with corruption, where a man will kill you for looking at a woman the wrong way; a town that’s seen its share of incursions from the land of nightmares before.

As events start to slip from his control, he realizes the husk he's come to kill is one step ahead of the game, and it holds a secret that will shake his world to the core.

Dissident (Forbidden Things #1) by Nikki McCormack 

Official Blurb: Ascard power can strengthen, heal, and create. It also has great potential to destroy. Indigo’s country restricts the use of ascard, so she must channel her ability into the healing arts or risk severe punishment. An orphan from a disgraced family, trapped by her father’s treason, she is struggling to find her place in society.

Then a mysterious stranger from a neighboring country asks for her help escaping his prison so he can bring an end to his emperor's oppressive rule. His devotion to his cause and the passion behind his cool arrogance move her. She decides to use her power in forbidden ways to help him at the risk of being branded a traitor like her father.

Dragon Destiny (Dragshi Chronicles #1) by Helen B. Henderson

Official Blurb:Lord Branin of the dragshi, is more than just a man, but two beings—one a dragon, the other a human. The pair share one body in space in time and are able to change forms with the other at will. From the time Branin's twinned soul, Llewlyn, awoke, Branin knew the freedom of flight. However, being a shifter comes with a price. Branin and Llewlyn are the only two of their kind who have not found their intended mates, despite millennia of waiting... and searching. The red-haired firebrand, Broch of Ky'Port plans to fill that position in Branin's life—with or without his cooperation.

For eons, he fears he would never find a woman with her own dragon soul partner—until one day another's mind touched his.

The Ukinhan Wilds (Warder #1) by Eldon Thompson 

Official Blurb:Assassin. Rogue. Demon’s bane. Dragon-slayer. Kylac Kronus has been called many names, and earned every one of them. Months shy of his seventeenth spring, he is already the deadliest man alive. Nothing—be it man or beast—has been able to prove otherwise.

Uncomfortable with his newfound fame following the War of the Demon Queen, Kylac seeks fresh adventure overseas, recruited by a band of outlanders under royal commission to escort a kidnapped princess back to her father, King Kendarrion, ruler of the Sundered Isle. They warn him that, to do so, he will brave tempest seas full of raging leviathans while seeking to evade those responsible for the princess’s abduction—including a terrifying mutant left over from the days of the Mage Wars.

Kylac readily agrees.

But when the mutant proves as cunning as it is savage, the perilous voyage gives way to an even deadlier trek across a poisoned wilderness once home to the ancient Gorrethrehn—“Breeders”—a sect of magi known for their foul creation practices. Stalked by bestial denizens, treacherous companions, and horrors that his blades cannot touch, Kylac finds himself embattled as never before. For the mutant is relentless in its hunt, the island’s terrors do not rest, and not even the deadliest man alive can hope to emerge unscathed.

The Golden Unseen by L.W. Fells

Official Blurb: Northmen—who know no loyalty beyond that of kin—are about to invade the imperial City of Caldesia, the home of the Alminster family.

Thrift, the younger of two sons, sails for an academy he has always planned to attend. An intriguing girl and a sinister mercenary accompany him on the voyage. Soon the cruel and arbitrary way of the sea takes a psychic toll. And when Thrift winds up stranded in a lawless city, he must decide whether to relinquish his dream of attending the academy.

Thrift’s twin sister, Josefina, sets out to cross an enchanted forest. A determined and inquisitive girl, she struggles as a chasm opens between her and her mother and as she is confronted with a new side of a childhood adversary. Navigating the onset of adulthood, she encounters a bewitching sylvan people who harbor a grievance toward civilization.

The older brother of the twins, Michel, vows to stay in Caldesia to fight the Northmen. A conservative knight who favors restoration, Michel is vexed by differences he has with his childhood friend Joe, a mariner and fledgling revolutionary, who sees the imperial order as unjust. The center may not hold, it seems, as localism asserts itself along the periphery of the Empire and the old aristocratic order trembles. Wrenched away from one another and from the world that they knew, the siblings come of age as an ancient enmity is rekindled.

Shadowless by Randall McNally 

Official Blurb: What if the gods themselves wanted you dead?

A young boy lies on a beach on a warm summer's day. While trying to block the sun from his eyes Arpherius makes a shocking discovery; he has no shadow. Confused and bewildered he asks his uncle why he is shadowless. What he learns is a terrifying secret that will change his life forever.

Set in the Northern Realms, Shadowless is a fantasy novel about individuals born without a shadow. Spawned by the malevolent deities of this world these children of the gods are persecuted at every turn. Hunted by the high priests who carry out the wishes of their gods, hunted by the Shadow Watchers; armed soldiers who are assigned to each temple, and hunted by the gods themselves.

Part-mortal and part-god, the Shadowless live for centuries and face a battle for survival, constantly on the run or hiding in far-flung corners of the Northern Realms. Soon their lives and fates become intertwined, expedited by the mysterious monk Amrodan. Driven by a series of visions Amrodan travels through the Northern Realms, seeking out the Shadowless and trying to enlist their help to take a stand and fight back against the gods.

Over a God's Dead Body by Joel Spriggs  

Official Blurb: Three gods walk onto a college campus looking for a dead body. A bad joke, a bad day, or both? Loki hates being bound to Seth, the most micromanaging of all the Egyptian Gods. But when their quest to regain Seth's crown leads to a boring midwest town where nothing happens, Loki discovers a family he never wanted to admit may exist.

Esmy is singularly frustrated by the lack of pockets in women's clothing and being stuck in a rut with fixing the same crappy WiFi issues day in and day out. But when it turns out her great-grandfather is Loki, that ignites her life like a powder-keg. Leading her to discover her own college campus's mysterious depths, involving voodoo priestesses, sasquatches, vampires, Canadians who hate girl scout cookies and the magical ability to have a pocket bigger than a closet.

In a high-stakes game of maneuvering, Loki's freedom and Esmy's survival come down to a fight over a God's dead body.

The Blade Within (Raike #1) by Jackson Lear

Official Blurb: Someone kidnapped the wrong girl.

Twelve hours ago Raike didn’t even know she existed. Nor would he have cared. That was until the only clue to her kidnapping lay in a cryptic note foretelling her death - a note Raike has seen once before. Now he’s prepared to lose everything to get her back.

Standing in his way is an alliance of two mercenary companies, a city watch who cares more about stopping Raike than finding the missing girl, and an imperial general who had little to fear – until Raike came along.

A gripping fantasy thriller that will keep your heart racing until the very end.

The Map Maker of Morgenfeld by Sean Monaghan

Official Blurb: Cole Palmer lives an idyllic, quiet life in a small village, trying to put his life together after Liddy disappeared. He sketches and does odd jobs for neighbors, and misses her. A murder in distant, sprawling Morgenfeld changes everything. And not for the better. The chaotic world of the vast kingdom-building shoves Cole into unimaginable situations. Cole just wants to go home. If he can survive. The perfect journey for readers who love the fantastic worlds of Mervyn Peake and Michael Moorcock.

Guns of Liberty by Jamie Mauchline

Official Blurb: "First rule of piracy: be in the wrong place at the right time."

Guns of Liberty is an age of sail fantasy where Airships rule the skies, Pirates stalk the misty main, and Occultists dabble in profane magics left behind by dispossessed gods. Join Rachel Masters, Inquisitor of the Liberty Empire, as she sets sail to discover the source of ancient magic artifact that could bring war to the empire, and secure it before it can fall into the wrong hands. But she's not the only one looking for the artifact... and when the elusive pirate captain Genevieve Jones kidnaps a duchess, Rachel might have just met her match. If she's going to rescue the duchess, secure the artifact, and save the empire she'll need to put aside her prejudices and find unlikely allies...

The Knight with Two Swords by Edward M. Erdelac

Official Blurb: Before Arthur, There was Uther.
Before Lancelot, There was Balin The Savage.
Before the Holy Grail could be had to be lost.

Balin grows up revering the memory of his father, a storied knight of the High King Uther's time. He is held back from following in his footsteps by his mother, a priestess of the old religion whose capitol is the Isle of Avalon. When she is burned at the stake as a witch by fanatics, Balin blames the corrupting influence of Avalon and sets himself against all that is pagan.

A new high king arises; Arthur, whose rule must unite pagan and Christian alike. Sir Balin, now known as The Savage for his ferocity in battle, answers the king's call for champions, but in his heart, questions the presence of the shadowy wizard Merlin beside the throne. When a vengeful enchantress comes to Camelot bearing a cursed sword that will make Balin the greatest knight in all Albion, but doom him to slay his beloved king, Balin sets out on a long quest that will veer between God and glory, love and madness, justice and revenge, and change the land forever.

Song of a Dead Star by Zamil Akhtar

Official Blurb: When Kav sleeps, a firefly whispers in his ear that his wife is not dead. But to find her he has to kill the three Magi that protect the land of Eden. The same Magi destroyed Kav's hometown four years ago to crush a rebellion, and he hasn't seen his wife since.

As Kav plots to kill the Magi, a flying armada bent on conquest and destruction invades Eden. Only the Magi and their ability to turn sunshine into magical energy can stop them. Granted the same power by the firefly, Kav must either kill the Magi to reunite with his wife, or let go of his longing for the sake of Eden and its people.

Pursuit of Shadows by JA Andrews 

Official Blurb: Killien, the unyielding clan chief who’s becoming increasingly volatile.
Sora, the suspicious ranger who sees more than she should.
A swarm of frost goblins that devour with tooth and claw.

The list of people and things that could get Will killed keeps growing.

While Alaric is in Queensland, searching for Kordan’s Wellstone, Keeper Will is over the mountains in the hostile Roven Sweep, searching for his missing sister.

After catching a glimpse of a woman who could be her in a Keeper-hating Roven clan. Will convinces Killien to let him travel north with them to their summer homes.

Under the relentless suspicions of Sora, a tenuous friendship grows between Will and Killien, who talks of building peace among the hostile Roven.

Except Will’s thin disguise as a storyteller is crumbling quickly and Sora may already know who he is.

The more Will gets to know Killien, the more troubling things he learns. Killien’s hatred for Keepers runs deep, and for all his talk of peace, the man’s greatest wish is to control a vicious army.

And a dragon.

But Will doesn’t know that the chief has taken more from him than just his sister.

And Killien controls enough power to gain everything he wants.

The Thorning Ceremony by Andrew Einspruch

Official Blurb: A slightly OCD princess. Her ambitious twin sister.

And the worst rite of passage in the history of all the realms.

Princess Eloise Hydra Gumball III is on track to become the Future Ruler and Heir to the Western Lands and All That Really Matters. That is, if she can survive the grueling training of the demanding Thorning Master, stave off her sister’s desires to take on the role, and get through the horrific Thorning Ceremony.

The Thorning Ceremony is a humorous story set in a unique fantasy world that features weak magic, equality between species, way töö mänÿ ümläüts. It's a funny and witty standalone prequel novel to the Western Lands and All That Really Matters series. If you like quirky, clever characters, lively dialog, and a fun Discworld-ish fantasy setting, then you'll love this book from Andrew Einspruch.

Necromantica by Keith Blenman

Official Blurb: Storm the castle. Raise the dead. Bring the world to its knees.

Best. Date night. EVER.

In this heart-stopping, dark fantasy, two thieves charge through an epic battle between monsters and men. One, a necromancer, a sorceress who uses black magic to manipulate the dead. The other, a rogue assassin and skilled swordsman. Enemies to both armies, allied only to each other, they face doom at every moment on a suicide mission to steal from a holy king.

Hound of The Mountain (Lawless Ink Book 1) by Stephan Morse

Official Blurb: The weight of the world shouldn’t rest on a 17-year-old’s shoulders, but that’s what it feels like for Chase Craig. With his daddy’s last breath, he was given a goal: save Momma from The Mountain.

Escaping this monstrous shadow will take money, lots of it, and Chase’s best option is to join The Rangers—an elite group who hunt dangerous ink-touched beasts that spawn from The Mountain’s depths. Only one person will be chosen out of the several dozen who apply, and if he doesn’t get a magic tattoo before the Trials, he’ll be out of the running.

Cloak of the Two Winds (The Glimnodd Cycle Book 1) by Jack Massa 

Official Blurb: Pirates, sorcerers, and witches battle for an ancient magical treasure

To the Iruk people of the South Polar Sea, the crew of a hunting boat is sacred—a band of men and women warriors bound by oath and a group soul. But when Lonn leads his crew away from the hunt to pursue his dream of a treasure ship, they find more than an easy bit of piracy.

The ship belongs to the witch Amlina, and after the Iruks carry off her possessions, they are robbed in turn. Worse, one of their band is also taken—Glyssa, the woman Lonn loves.

To rescue her, the Iruks must join forces with Amlina on a perilous voyage far from the seas they know. To Lonn and his mates, nothing matters but saving Glyssa. But Amlina knows much more is at stake. Among her possessions is an object of ancient power. In the wrong hands, the Cloak of the Two Winds can unravel the age-old magic that keeps the world from chaos.

The Empress of Timbra (Hidden Histories, #1) by Karen Healey & Robyn Fleming

Official Blurb: My father's eyes were steady on my face as I blew out the last bubbles of my breath. I pressed my knife into his hand but he could not make his fingers close around the hilt. I screamed for help with my first lungful of air, and dove again with my second. I was too late.

Fourteen-year-old Taver didn't know he was a nobleman's bastard until his real father died. Eleven-year-old Elaku has always known she was the bastard daughter of the same nobleman. When the two siblings meet in the Empress of Timbra's palace, they become fast friends.

Around them, intrigue and rumour swirl. Not everybody is happy with the rule of the Empress of Timbra. Some have plans for Taver and Elaku. And when treachery and war threaten their home, Taver and Elaku must rely on their magic, their wits, and each other to have any chance of preventing disaster.

Broken Crossroads (Knights of the Shadows #1) by Patrick LeClerc 

Official Blurb: The city of Laimrig, once a mighty hub of commerce and a seat of power sinks into corruption and decay. Slavers, crime lords and corrupt officials hold sway while the ruling nobility wallow in decadence. War rages beyond the borders, while within rebellion simmers and sinister plots unfold.

Trilisean is an acrobat turned burglar. Conn is a jaded former mercenary. Against the background of deadly blades, subtle schemes, glittering treasures, dark sorceries and fell servants of forgotten gods, fate has thrown them together.

Fate has a sense of humor.

The Skald's Black Verse (Dreadbound Ode #1) by Jordan Loyal Short

Official Blurb:A last ditch rebellion. A powerful curse. An omen of disaster. Dark, epic, fun – a new world full of wonder, dread, and gallons of blood!

When a sinister creature murders one of the conquerors’ soldiers, Brohr’s violent reputation makes him the prime suspect. Haunted by a rage-filled ghost, Brohr’s disturbing possessions quickly become the reason for all of his troubles…and the only way he can survive.

With a grandfather bent on dragging him into a failed rebellion, and a deadly comet hurtling toward his embattled world, Brohr sets off on a quest to save his people and uncover the secrets of his own past!

Yesterday's Demons by Michael Ripplinger 

Official Blurb: When he was a boy, Siv McCaig came face-to-face with a monster. After a childhood lived in fear, he encountered it again.

Siv just wants to work his trade as a blacksmith, play cards at the saloon, and watch the stars. But he'll never be at peace without answers. What was the monster that burned down his house? Where did it come from? And will it ever come back again?

His search becomes a battle for his planet's survival. Only two things might keep all of Verde from falling to the horrors of Siv's nightmares, but they've been lost for two hundred years: technology and magic.

Ayana: The Journey by Geetha Krishnan

Official Blurb: Captured by an evil that has been stalking her since her previous birth, Sita's only hope of rescue lay in her husband's love and tenacity. But neither Rama or she is aware of their true purposes or of the destiny that is in store for them



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