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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

SPFBO 7: FBC Finalist Announcement



TODAY IS THE DAY!

We have chosen our champion, and we’re excited to announce the winner and runners-up.



First, we want to thank all SPFBO participants. We sincerely appreciate your involvement in the process, and we had a great time reading all of your entries. After getting through the batch of thirty books, we’ve picked four semi-finalists. We’ve enjoyed all of them, and the prospect of sawing off another three entries held no appeal to us. Unfortunately, SPFBO rules require us to make tough decisions. Such is the harsh reality of this bloodbath contest.

The Semi-Finalists

Our semi-finalists represent various subgenres, from epic fantasy, through dark fairy tales to dark fantasy horror. We can’t advance them all to finals, but you can read them, and trust us, it'll be time well spent. Here are our choices in the order they were announced.


LUKASZ'S PICK




Windborn by Alex S. Bradshaw is well-written, entertaining, and held aloft by cool ideas, immersive setting, and compelling characters. Plus, you can't go wrong with Vikings with superpowers. This is a fact.

JONATHAN'S PICK




Gumnetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar is a fast-paced epic fantasy that never lets up. We loved its excellent plot and compelling setting. Any fan of grimdark should check this one out.


JEN'S PICK



To Dream And Die As a Taniwha Girl by Benedict Patrick is another fantastic entry in the Yarnsworld series. We loved how the author linked the main story with dark fairy tales inspired by the myths and legends of South Pacific island cultures. 

MIHIR'S PICK



Norylska Groans by Michael R. Fletcher & Clayton W. Snyder impressed us with the fascinating "magic" system, the setting (Norylska is a character within itself), and immersive character arcs. It's bleak, dark, and brutal but somehow never becomes nihilistic. It made us realize we need more crime-noir-fantasy mashups in our reading lives.


At this stage, we had to decide how to evaluate one good book against another and whether it is at all possible to come to some sort of fair and objective decision. We tried to base our choice on the following criteria (listed in alphabetical order):

  • Characterization
  • Editing
  • Personal Enjoyment
  • Plotting
  • World-building
  • Writing Style

Each of these titles had its own strengths and a few drawbacks, which were touched upon in our reviews. After long and tumultuous discussions we’ve agreed to pick the finalist amongst the two following titles:



Despite their awesome premises and strong execution, each entry had some minor issues (mentioned in our reviews). 

Norylska Groans is fascinating and immersive but also brutal. Its unflinching approach to violence won't sit well with everyone. Additionally, each author wrote another character and their styles are slightly different. 

To Dream And Die As a Taniwha Girl has a stunning cover (not related to the book but Jenny Zemanek deserves all the praise :) ), a mean twist, and a great redemption story to offer. It's wildly entertaining on its own but readers who read Where the Waters Turn Black first will profit from an emotional connection with Kaimana and Rakau, the story's protagonists.

We hate tough choices. 

But we have to make them.

Blame Mark Lawrence.

So, without further ado, the FBC finalist for the SPFBO 2021 edition is...



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Norylska Groans by Michael R. Fletcher & Clayton Snyder

Congratulations guys, and good luck in the finals! We think you're the first writing duo to make it to SPFBO finals and a special tip of the hat to Michael R. Fletcher who becomes the second Finalist (after Rob Hayes) to repeat but the first author to do it consecutively!


Norylska Groans is a dark novel set in Norylska, the city that hates you. A twisted maze of streets and houses that reek of piss and decay. Despite its bleak setting and tone, it never gets nihilistic. We loved deeply personal and visceral storylines of two characters trying to survive in a dangerous place. We hope our fellow judges will appreciate the story as much as we did!




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