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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Spotlight: SPFBO 2021 Intriguing Titles Part I



 Over the past couple of years, with the start of every SPFBO edition. We have been raising a spotlight on some participating titles that caught our eyes. The books we showcase within today's and tomorrow's posts have caught our eye due to their blurbs, their covers, as well as potential plots. Some 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 lists titles that we WOULD like to read. 

So without further ado, here's part 1 of the noteworthy titles (in random order):

A World Broken by Carol A. Park



Official Book Blurb: They say that long ago, the world was unbroken. That there was no war—nor poverty, nor disease, nor famine. That the gods themselves walked among mortals—choosing some to be their instruments of peace and justice among the races. They even say that there was no winter.

Then, it all fell apart.

The five races of Erets have lived in one accord since the inception of the world. But now, the seeds of hostility are growing due to a dispute over an innocuous plant, and three people find themselves entangled in affairs they would have once found unbelievable.

An advocate—trained to promote mutual understanding between the races—must confront the unimaginable prospect that peace is out of reach.

A priest—one who refuses to bend the knee to the gods he serves—finds that the only vow to those gods he has made might be harder to keep than he expects.

And a seeker—a gentle warrior sent to uncover the truth behind an unthinkable murder—stumbles into a labyrinth of lies that could shatter the world.

These three must save the world that they know. But are they already too late?

The Throne of Ice and Ash (The Runewar Saga #1) by J.D.L. Rosell



Official Blurb: A  throne in peril, a tragic betrayal, two heirs struggling to save their land, and a prophesied war threatening to engulf the world…

Bjorn, youngest heir to the Mad Jarl of Oakharrow, has always felt more at ease with a quill than a sword. Yet when calamity strikes his family, he must draw a blade and lead a company of warriors into the cold, deadly mountains in pursuit of a mysterious foe. Though he seeks vengeance, an ancient power stirs within him, and the whispers of prophecy beckon him toward an ominous destiny...

Aelthena, Bjorn’s sister, was born with the aptitude to lead, and she’s eager to prove it. But her society’s rules for women, and her love for her brother, restrain her efforts to command. As she walks the fine line between ambition and virtue, enemies of both mankind and myth rally against Oakharrow, and even her allies question her right to rule…

The Runewar is rising - it begins with the fall of a throne.



 
Official Book Blurb: If your mind is the enemy, where do you run?

Years after a harrowing war experience, ex-mercenary Jespar Dal'Varek has taken to drifting. It's a lonely existence, but, barring the occasional bout of melancholia, he has found the closest thing to peace a man like him deserves. Life is "all right."

Or so he believes. Hoping to turn the page, Jespar accepts a mysterious invitation into the beautiful but dangerous archipelago of Kilay-and everything changes.

Plagued by explosive social tensions and terrorism, the tropical empire is edging ever closer to civil war. Kilay's merchant king is the only person able to prevent this catastrophe, but he has fallen into a preternatural coma-and it's Jespar's task to figure out what or who caused it. As the investigation takes him across the archipelago and into the king's nightmares, unexpected events not only tie Jespar's own life to the mystery but also unearth inner demons he believed to be long exorcised.

Battling old trauma while fighting for his life, his sanity, and the fate of Kilay, the line between dream and reality blurs until only one question remains: If your mind is the enemy, where do you run?

A slow-burning, riveting blend of fantasy, mystery, and psychological horror, Dreams of the Dying is a deep exploration of mental illness, morality, and the dark sides of humanity.
 
 
The Forever King (The Scalussen Chronicles #1) by Ben Galley


 
Official Book Blurb: Revenge loves company.

Mithrid Fenn wants nothing to do with magick. Magick is a curse word, banned by the vast Arka Empire and punishable by death. Its purging has finally brought peace to war-torn Emaneska. Only a stubborn rebellion, led by the warlord Outlaw King, raids and pillages the empire’s northern fringes.
 
To cliff-brat Mithrid, this is an age of tranquility and childhood games. That is until an illegal spellbook washes up on her shores, and she finds herself thrust into a war she never knew existed.
 
Now hunted by daemons and mages, she is dragged inexorably north to Scalussen and its rebels fighting doggedly to preserve a memory of freedom. Mithrid holds no such ideals. She fights for revenge and nothing nobler. If spilling blood means helping the Outlaw King, then so be it. Even if it means all-out war.
 
 
Kept From Cages by Phil Williams
 


Official Book Blurb: No one returns from Ikiri.
 
Reece’s gang of criminal jazz musicians have taken shelter in the wrong house. There’s a girl with red eyes bound to a chair. The locals call her a devil – but Reece sees a kid that needs protecting. He’s more right than he knows.
 
Chased by a shadowy swordsman and an unnatural beast, the gang flee across the Deep South with the kid in tow. She won’t say where she’s from or who exactly her scary father is, but she’s got powers they can’t understand. How much will Reece risk to save her?
 
On the other side of the world, Agent Sean Tasker’s asking similar questions. With an entire village massacred and no trace of the killers, he’s convinced Duvcorp’s esoteric experiments are responsible. His only ally is an unstable female assassin, and their only lead is Ikiri – a black-site in the Congo, which no one leaves alive. How far is Tasker prepared to go for answers?
 
Kept From Cages is the first part in an action-packed supernatural thriller duology, filled with eccentric characters and intricately woven mysteries. Start your journey to Ikiri today.
 
 
Order of the Magi by Christopher Scott


 
Official Book Blurb: Cantus dreams of glory in magical combat. He should have ample opportunities to win fame by hunting down rogue spellcasters for the Order of the Magi. But when a seemingly simple mission leaves him permanently disabled, he must journey to the center of the Auduwyn Empire to track down the errant mage who can heal him before his magic disappears entirely. To make matters worse, he soon discovers a growing threat that challenges the very fabric of the Order and the lasting peace it has established.
 
A story about hubris, fear, and the occasional fireball, the self-contained novel Order of the Magi transports readers into a world where magic only complicates matters and glory comes at a grisly cost.
 
 



Official Book Blurb: Aletheia Vjolla is a walking heresy: a girl born with a man’s magic, she studies among the city’s revered monks only on the authority of her father, head seer of the temple. Already disliked for her gender and blasphemous magic, things fall apart when her father is deposed and murdered. Searching for answers to his sudden death, Aletheia stays on at the temple only by being the best—and by burying her grief in the quest.
 
It isn’t enough.
 
Enemies in her class bring her to the new head seer, who publicly sentences her to death while privately admitting he killed her father. Calling on those few loyal to her father, Aletheia manages to escape, but finds herself alone in a hostile city, unsure how to survive and unable to hide her heritage. Hunted by the temple and darker elements in the city, to vindicate her father she must first learn the lesson he couldn’t teach her: how to find the strength in her heresy.


 
Official Book Blurb: Two strangers aide one other on a dark country road; and vow to meet again at the local Renaissance Fair. To do so they must learn to see beyond their own masks. And united, to win past a host of fairy glamours, crazed role-players, angry jugglers, sinister bikers and the secret of the ancient charter of Strawberry Fair itself.
 
I will find you at Strawberry Fair,
I will win you a lion, a tiger, a bear.
I will buy you ices, electronic devices
And give you a kiss for finding me there.
 
A romance in masks.
 
 
Ringlander: The Path and the Way (The Ringlander #1) by Michael S. Jackson


 
Official Book Blurb: Holes between worlds are tearing through Rengas. Firestorms are raging as multiple realities battle for control of the elements. Even the Way, the turbulent channel that separates Nord, Határ and Kemen, the lifeblood of the city of Tyr, has turned.
 
Kyira’s search for her missing brother draws her away from the familiar frozen lines of Nord and south into the chaotic streets of Tyr where games are played & battles fought. As reality tears Kyira must choose between her family or her path before the worlds catch up with her.
 



Official Book Blurb: Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn't know it yet.

Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more.

Much, much more.

Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders.

Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.



 
Official Blurb: Trial by battle is a holy rite on Hillside. Hired blades bleed their foes in savage duels, settling everything from petty grievances to the corporate laws that keep their citizens in line. Embroiled in these cutthroat political games is John Chronicle, an impoverished swordsman with no better prospects, seeking the duel that will free him from the Dregs.Meanwhile, John’s boyfriend Edwin, an autistic university student, befriends a fellow scholar who claims to study the arcane art of thaumaturgy. When she offers to teach Edwin this subtle magic, he hopes that he can use it to bolster John’s skill with a blade.

But thaumaturgy is a dangerous magic, and the forces that drive it have other plans. The couple soon find themselves entangled in the web of intrigue surrounding the swordsmen and their sponsors, and they’re forced to question how bloody they’re willing to get to escape poverty — and they don’t come away with the same answer."



Official Blurb: A centuries-long stalemate endures over possession of a sentient world.
In one corner, a dwindling cabal of shamans holds onto a desperate defense; in the other, a colony of aliens try to control a bio-engineering experiment run amok.

In the middle stands a youth who has been genetically altered to ‘Shape’ the elemental powers. Yet if Tokela claims his power, it will make of him an outcast, a catalyst--and a weapon.
The stalemate is about to break...




Official Blurb: It starts with a rift that burns a thousand scars into the sky. It makes the winds stop. It makes the stars go dark. It awakens an ancient beast. And with it, a new reign of blood. It is the Summoning. And at the heart of it is fire. ***

When the Summoner's army blasts through her village, Dove is forced into hiding. Torn from everything she knows, she begins training in the elements with only one goal in mind: to find her brother. She just needs to get past the Summoner's army—but how can she slay a dragon that is already dead?




Official Blurb: Drowning is only the beginning...

Edda Gretasdottir is a raider, a fell-handed shield-maiden, feared along every coast. Hers is a life woven in battle scars.

But she never wanted to walk the warrior's path. All she wanted was freedom, to earn enough gold to buy her family their own remote farm, and to escape their oppressive chieftain. Now, she has enough plunder so that she can finally hang up her shield and live in peace.

That peace is stolen from Edda, however, when raiders burn her home, destroy all that she loves, and toss her, wounded and bleeding, into the ravenous ocean. 
But the fates are cruel and this is not the end for Edda: she rises from the bloody surf as a Windborn, a cursed warrior whose supernatural gifts are a poor exchange for everything she has lost.

Fuelled by rage and armed with strange new powers Edda will hunt for whoever sent the raiders, for whoever is responsible for taking everything from her. She will show them the sharp edge of her axe... or die trying.

Windborn is a dark, character-driven Norse fantasy packed with emotion, deadly foes, and vicious battles.
 




Official Blurb: Georgina Skyler Carey is not a necromancer. She's the daughter of one. And now she's dead.

George has grown up hidden away, trying to live a normal life after her mother was executed for a ghost uprising which killed millions. Every year, the Anti-Necromantic Unit drags her in for testing, while the Empress of Life watches. And every year; nothing.

Until she turns twenty, and the wards which were hiding her and binding her are finally erased, and Georgina discovers that she's still not a necromancer, just the immortal body designed to host the soul of an aeons-old goddess.

Ousted from her meatsuit and trapped in the afterlife, George is determined to get her body back.

It's not going to be that simple. George discovers that the afterlife is nothing like she could have imagined and the only people who might be able to help her have bigger issues to deal with. She's trapped in an afterworld that is slowly being consumed by the Hollow Dark which waits at the end of all things. There's a lot more at stake than one life - the entire realms of life and death will fall to the endless nothing of the Hollow Dark if the King of Death isn't returned to hold his throne. The worlds are crumbling all around her, and George is going to lose more than just her body if she doesn't find the King, and with him, the truth about her creation.




Official Blurb: They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.

Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.

To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.
When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.




Official Blurb: Norylska Groans...
with the weight of her crimes. In a city where winter reigns amid the fires of industry and war, soot and snow conspire to conceal centuries of death and deception.

Norylska Groans...
and the weight of a leaden sky threatens to crush her people. Katyusha Leonova, desperate to restore her family name, takes a job with Norylska's brutal police force. To support his family, Genndy Antonov finds bloody work with a local crime syndicate.

Norylska Groans...
with the weight of her dead. As bodies fall, the two discover a foul truth hidden beneath layers of deception and violence: Come the thaw, what was buried will be revealed.




Official Blurb: There is a price to pay for becoming a story.

Kaimana has defied the gods and won the freedom to spend the rest of her days travelling the collection of tropical islands she calls home. But the people of the islands have taken notice of her.

They have started to tell her story; for many children, one of their favourite fireside tales is now that of the Taniwha Girl, the brave woman who befriends monsters. Some islanders even pray to her.

The gods are displeased, but they are not the only ones paying attention to Kaimana’s rise to fame. On the borders of the island ring, an ancient demon - an old enemy of the Crescent Atoll - spreads its influence, and a spider-faced figure shadows Kaimana’s movements.

To secure her own safety, and that of her island home, Kaimana has to make a choice: turn her back on the people of the Crescent Atoll and continue enjoying the life she has won for herself, or give up all she holds dear to live up to the legend of the Taniwha Girl.
 



Official Blurb: Two families. Two species. One destiny.

Anyinn and Canumon are old warriors long past the adventures of youth, but destiny is coming for them all the same. One seeks to protect her ancestral homeland, the other to enter it. As they each become the representative of their nation and species, the conflict will draw their families together in a way they never imagined. Can their friendship survive the tides of history?



Official Blurb: A city ruled by Gods, a mortal champion, a misfit girl and a disobedient dragon…

Stolen from his home, Corthie Holdfast has arrived in the City of the Eternal Siege as a new Champion. He must fight alongside the Blades, whose lives are dedicated to the defence of the City against the hordes of monstrous Greenhides; or die at the hands of the Gods who rule.

Maddie Jackdaw, a young Blade, faces her last chance. Thrown out of every unit defending the City, either she takes on a new role, or she will be sent to the Rats, a company of misfits given the perilous tasks beyond the Great Walls.

Her new role, if she takes it, will bring her face to face with her deepest fears, for beneath the walls, in a secret and hidden lair, lies a dragon, imprisoned and waiting…




Official Blurb: Domaren constructs peace using his tools of war. He is a silencer of rebellions and a butcher of tyrants. To some, he is a champion defender. To others, he is a merciless eradicator. Together with his fellow Godknights, Domaren wields might and magic to carry out the will of the creators.

But the creators have suddenly gone silent.

As the last living Godknight present during the ancient rebellion known as Wrathlore, Domaren must rise above suspicions of deceit, faltering powers, and a world erupting in chaos if he hopes to learn the fate of the missing creators.




Official Blurb: Torako has done many things to protect the valley that she calls home, but she’s never looted a corpse before. So when the katana she steals off the still-cooling body of a bandit turns out to be possessed by a grumpy wolf kami, she can only assume it’s because she’s somehow angered the spirits. An impression that’s only reinforced when she returns home to find her wife abducted and her daughter in hiding. But angry spirits or no, Torako isn't about to let bandits run off with the love of her life, even if it means taking their 3 year old on a rescue mission.

In all Kaiyo's years as Captain of the Wind Serpent she has never once questioned her admiral’s orders. So when she receives the command to abduct a civilian scribe with the help of fifteen felons, she registers her objections, but does as she is bid. Yet, as the mission unfolds, Kaiyo finds herself questioning everything from her loyalties to her convictions.

As Torako and Kaiyo’s fates cross like dueling blades, their persistence is matched only by their fury, until they uncover a series of truths they may never be ready to accept.





Official Blurb: Branded as a Flesh Eater, Coal is on the run from Palace Stingers: soldiers tasked with tracking down those who have consumed flesh and locking them away in specialized prisons.

After a year of avoiding capture and struggling to scrape by working odd jobs for a local crime lord, Coal is growing desperate. He learns of someone in the city's underbelly who can erase his record, but her services don't come cheap.

Seeing no other option, he enters a spiderback race with a grand prize valuable enough to pay for his fresh start. But he's not the only one after the prize, and Coal is about to find out exactly how far he's willing to go to win.
 




Official Blurb: ‘We Men of Ash and Shadow’ is the first book in the Vanguard Series and follows the journey of protagonist, John Vanguard, through the dark and corrupt city of D’Orsee. A Grimdark gas lamp novel, ‘We Men of Ash and Shadow’ explores themes of redemption, loyalty, and betrayal against the backdrop of a world where survival often means compromising your values.

Amidst the gas lamp shadows former soldier-turned-mercenary John Vanguard hunts criminals at the behest of his corrupt employer, Captain Felix Sanquain. Shamed by his deserter past and seeking to make amends for his many misdeeds, a chance encounter with Tarryn Leersac – a skilled young would-be-assassin fallen from the graces of high society – leads Vanguard to become an unlikely mentor.

Charged with hunting down the killer of two guards left washed up on the banks of the canal, the further Vanguard delves into the underbelly of the city the more he finds himself entangled in a web of secrets and lies. A prominent aristocrat is missing. Crime lords, con men and harlots run amok and the city teeters on the brink of another revolution.

With his already precarious reputation hanging by a thread, Vanguard must piece together how and why the last war came to pass, find a way to earn redemption for his mistakes and come to terms with the past in a city where few survive, and even fewer can be trusted.
 




Official Blurb: Exiled for an unjust crime and forced to use whatever means necessary to survive, a figure of hope emerges from Sherwood Forest. But what most people know about Robin Hood (the enemy of Prince John and nobleman loyal to King Richard) was an invention of a playwright nearly three hundred years after Robin Hood died. However, there are older stories about the real Robin Hood.

USA Today bestselling author Kate Danley weaves the original 13th century ballads, Robin Hood traditions passed down through ancient pagan rites, and historical evidence together into a noblebright epic fantasy. Enter a world of adventure and chivalry as you discover the man behind the myth, as you meet the Olde Robin Hood.
 




Official Blurb: No one remembers when the cities drowned.

A great wave swept the world clean of its old corruption and the age of sorcery was done. For those who remain life has narrowed into the simple rhythms of survival. The villagers living in the flooded reed lands are content to keep their past submerged and Marisha is no different... at least she tries not to be.

For as long as she can remember Marisha has pretended to be human, but in reality she’s a shifter, blessed with ability to take on the form of other creatures.

A blasphemy to the priests who rule this tiny world, but one that has gone unnoticed, until a sorcerer steps out of legend and into her father’s hut...

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