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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Spotlight: SPFBO 8 (2022) Intriguing Titles Part I

 


Over the past, few years, with the start of every SPFBO edition. We have been raising a spotlight on a few of participating titles that caught our eyes. The books we highlight within today's and tomorrow's posts have caught our interest due to their blurbs, their covers, as well as potential plots. Some we have read, and reviewed, and hence are on this list.
 
We would like to state that this list is in no way an indicator of our choices (or the other judges) going forward in the contest. But simply lists titles that we (at FBC) are INTRIGUED by and WOULD like to read (time & fate permitting). 
 
Therefore, without further ado, here is part 1 of the noteworthy titles (in random order):
 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: King Jide Adelani has ruled the lands of the Yoruba in West Africa for many peaceful years, but now his kingdom is in turmoil and the cold grasp of death's embrace is closing in around everything he holds dear.
Jide spent years garnering the respect and loyalty of the tribes in the hopes of uniting them into one cohesive empire when his half-brother, Prince Olise, returns from banishment to claim the throne as his own.
The offspring of a union between the late King Adeosi and the evil enchantress Ekaete, the bitter Olise has devoted the last decade to one purpose; to seize the throne and rule the kingdom. If he fails, he risks his name being erased from the history of the tribes.
With the support of his mother, a powerful witch whose name is whispered in fear across the lands of the tribes, the outcast Olise now seems unstoppable in achieving his goal.
Facing overwhelming military might and dark forces that he cannot comprehend, Jide must either choose to ignore the warnings of the gods, and seek help from those who also practice dark arts; or risk losing his kingdom.


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: He will die as many times as it takes.
The Ipian Empire was once a land that welcomed dragons and spirits alike, but a century of war and bloodshed saw them all but vanish. Now, the lost things are returning and the Onryo have gathered. Five legendary spirits with mysterious powers, bent on freeing an ancient evil that would wreak havoc on humanity.
Haruto swore his soul to the God of Death for the chance to hunt down the vengeful ghost of his wife. Now an onmyoji, he’s tasked by the Imperial Throne to hunt down monsters and malicious spirits. But he knows not all spirits are evil and not all deserve the peace of the sword.
Kira is a student at Heiwa, an academy for children with dangerous techniques. But she has a secret, she’s not like the other students. When the school is attacked, she flees with one of the tutors, determined to hide both from those who would kill her, and those who would use her.
As a plague of spirits sweeps across the land, the Onryo leave a bloody trail for Haruto to follow. But who’s hunting who?


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Miss Mildred Percy inherits a dragon. Ah, but we’ve already got ahead of ourselves…
Miss Mildred Percy is a spinster. She does not dance, she has long stopped dreaming, and she certainly does not have adventures. That is, until her great uncle has the audacity to leave her an inheritance, one that includes a dragon’s egg.
The egg - as eggs are wont to do - decides to hatch, and Miss Mildred Percy is suddenly thrust out of the role of “spinster and general wallflower” and into the unprecedented position of “spinster and keeper of dragons.”
But England has not seen a dragon since… well, ever. And now Mildred must contend with raising a dragon (that should not exist), kindling a romance (with a humble vicar), and embarking on an adventure she never thought could be hers for the taking.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A Mind Imprisoned Is The Greatest Of Hells. 1853. South China Sea. While on patrol between the Opium Wars, the crew of the steam frigate HMS Charger pursues a fleet of pirates that have been terrorizing the waters surrounding Hong Kong.
But now the hunters have become the hunted. Something else has come to the South China Sea, something ancient and powerful and malevolent. Now, the crew of the Charger must face their worst nightmares in order to survive the terrible creature they come to know as the Darkstar.
A Song For The Void is a haunting, terrifying historical horror novel that will keep you turning the pages and jumping at the shadows.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Petra and Maisie Everturn just want to run their family’s tea shop, but when their explorer brother Jiordan goes missing while looking for an alchemycal artifact, none of them are safe.

The sisters must enlist the help of another explorer in order to find Jiordan or the artifact—before the mysterious alchemyst society finds them first.

However, when one of the sisters stumbles into the clutches of the most dangerous alchemyst in the city, the race to unravel the clues becomes desperate. And when they discover the truth about the artifact, their quest to infiltrate the alchemyst’s secret society becomes a matter of life and death. 
The sisters must enlist the help of another explorer in order to find Jiordan or the artifact—before the mysterious alchemyst society finds them first.
However, when one of the sisters stumbles into the clutches of the most dangerous alchemyst in the city, the race to unravel the clues becomes desperate. And when they discover the truth about the artifact, their quest to infiltrate the alchemyst’s secret society becomes a matter of life and death. 
 
 



OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: How far would you go to save your skin?
I'm a selkie, trapped above the waves until I can recover my skin. Humans used to call us seal-wives many years ago - before they broke the planet. I thought that less humans, after the warming, would mean less danger. My kind believed our world was finally recovering. We were wrong.
Up here, the magic is fading and Old Ones like me are being traded as trophies for rich and powerful humans to display in collections.
Without the Old Ones, the magic fades, without magic, the planet dies. Humankind has gone too far and someone has to put a stop to it, I just wasn't expecting it to be me.
As the selkie begins her hunt, far to the south on his enormous pleasure ship, Barge, Lord Sal hunts for missing Old Ones with a grand plan to leave his own mark on the world. Icidro and Prince Ulises are searching for them too, and this is a world where money talks louder than morals.
 


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Evil stirs in the forest of Downing, spreading blight across the ancient boughs. Busy with troubles of her own, Maud the village witch just wants to be left alone. Peace and quiet should be easy enough when you're dead, right?
Wrong.
Reborn as a powerful lich, Maud is suddenly faced with the attentions of all the righteous heroes, holy clerics, and nosy neighbours of the realm. Now instead of whiling away the days in her garden with her cat and her knitting, Maud must figure out how much force is required to crush a man's spine, the proper storage solution to keep a spoiling cadaver, and how best to display the remains of the fallen for maximum scare.
 


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: After the brutal execution of Provenci's King by the roving forces of Tarraz, a new military government vaults into power with the nefarious Alvarez at the helm. Hell-bent on bloodshed and the glory of an imperial past, he amasses the largest army seen in a generation and plunges the two nations into a bloody war, against the will of the god-like being known as the All-Mother.
Cavara, a general of the army at odds with her superiors over the war, is ground under the heel of the scheming Commander Revek and betrayed by her own people, left for dead on a distant shoreline. Saved by a passing ship and taken to the other end of the world, she is plagued by visions of a white void and a figure known as the Shadow Woman, who begins to unravel the true nature of the war - a conflict not only of men, but also of gods alike.
In a story of hope, power, greed and hatred, all are driven mad by the enemy within - none are safe from the Fangs of War.

 


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Over a decade ago Jlayn Syr, cartographer, embarked on a mission to map the world on behalf of the Ursal Federation. He returned with most of his crew dead and two strange rune stones.
Stones that changed everything.
He asserted that he had found a strange ‘rift’ in the ocean. A gateway to another world. A world populated with strange and horrifying monsters, broken tombs and strange writings.
Now he is the leader of the Wayfarers. A mercenary troop dedicated to entering the rift and returning with new rune stones. The Ursal Federation has utilised the impossible magic of the rune stones to cement themselves as the foremost world power and the location of the rift is a closely guarded secret…one that many would kill for.
With forces gathering to take control of the rift, Jlayn and his adopted daughter Sesha must embark on the newly built Draconis to explore this new world once again…but with a large target on their heads the days of the Wayfarers may be numbered.
 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Ren, a state-trained thief working in a world where everyone has magical ability except for him, doesn’t kill people.

Tensions are already high in the walled realm of Lenmar, and when the nobility start dying with no trace of magic that isn’t from the victims, Ren immediately becomes the prime, and only suspect. Hunted by magic-eating Inquisitors and the Captain of the Royal Guard, his life becomes one of flight and fear through a realm on the brink of civil war.

All Ren wants to do is stop a serial killer, clear his name, find his mentor, and protect the people he cares about.

To do that, he’ll have to pull one more high-stakes heist— And steal the proof he needs from the very people who want to catch him. 
Tensions are already high in the walled realm of Lenmar, and when the nobility start dying with no trace of magic that isn’t from the victims, Ren immediately becomes the prime, and only suspect. Hunted by magic-eating Inquisitors and the Captain of the Royal Guard, his life becomes one of flight and fear through a realm on the brink of civil war.
All Ren wants to do is stop a serial killer, clear his name, find his mentor, and protect the people he cares about. To do that, he’ll have to pull one more high-stakes heist— And steal the proof he needs from the very people who want to catch him. 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The battle between the Underworld, full of darkness, and the Overworld, full of light, has been evenly balanced for millennia. Caught between them is the mortal world, where humans have become so afraid of a magic they cannot understand or control that they allow the Occult to rule them. After the Occult joins forces with the Underworld, the balance shifts and the Overworld is decimated.
But still, in the mortal world, the magic won’t die. It appears when a supernatural being and a human have a child, like Prue.
This is the first volume in an epic new fantasy series that spans the three richly detailed worlds as Prue, her non-magical half-brother Everett, and all Magic Users, fight to survive. They are being hunted by the Occult, who turn the Magic Users they capture into tools to eliminate their own kind and, eventually, to destroy all traces of magic.
 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A fallen empire, a failed republic, and a frontier of alchemy, magic and machines...
An age of alchemy, magic and machines has arrived in the wake of a fallen empire that left the world lost and vulnerable. In the war-torn cities, where gas lamps glow, an ancient threat stalks the energy of souls.
Ellaria Moonstone, a hero of the Great War, has spent the last forty years trying to rebuild. But when she is suspiciously requested to attend a meeting at the Ascendancy Tower in Adalon, she discovers the Coalition of Nations has fallen under the control of a new Sagean Dark Lord. A luminary with the power to control energy, has finally emerged to reclaim the vacated throne. With no one left to trust, Ellaria sends for help from old allies scattered across the chaotic frontier.
Now three aging veterans and a band of young rogues, are all that can protect the failing republic from the return of an evil empire. Together, their only hope lies buried with the mysteries of the past and an ancient relic called the Tempest Stone.
 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB:  In a small village in the south of England, two sisters try to resurrect an ancient evil, but when one sister betrays the other to save the life of an innocent child, everything goes horribly wrong.
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, grieving the loss of her recently deceased mother and desperate to escape her ex-fiancé, Raewyn Winters relocates to Cranston Myre for some much-needed tranquility, only to discover that having an entire forest on your doorstep is less than idyllic, especially one shrouded in fear and suspicion. Then she meets John, the mysterious and handsome gardener from the Gothic mansion on the hill, who just happens to have the same unusual birthmark as Rae, and suddenly Rae’s quiet life spirals out of control as she is dragged into a dark and sinister world beyond anything she could ever have imagined.
 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: War Hero. Thiefmaster's apprentice. Traitors. Every title comes with a price.

Arkaen is a gods-damned saint. He sacrificed his childhood innocence fighting for the beleaguered rebellion in a civil war and relinquished a comfortable life with the man he loves to reclaim his place as high lord from corrupt nobles. Now, a hidden enemy is manipulating his lower lords into talk of rebellion, including the powerful Rogue Baron who is slowly swaying the city into questioning every move Arkaen makes.

With the help of his near-omniscient lover's gift of foresight, Arkaen finds a potential ally in Niamsha, a reluctant thief trying to pay for her brother’s education. But Niamsha owes an insurmountable debt to the mysterious leader of her thieves guild and failing to pay means death—for her entire family. When her guild leader demands she join forces with the Rogue Baron himself, she finds herself caught in a political battle beyond her skills. Torn between protecting her family and following her conscience, Niamsha doesn't know who to trust.

If Arkaen can win Niamsha's loyalty, he might just prevent a second civil war and the destruction of everything he fought to protect. Or he might get them all killed. 
 


A Company of Adventurers (Tales of Kjeldale Book 1) by Rune S. Nielsen 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: What happens to legendary adventurers when they retire?

Talen is a poor farmhand…but he used to be a famously quick swordsman. Now he has one last job, which could secure his family’s future: he must retrieve a cursed suit of golden armor from a mountain claimed by genocidal orcs. When Talen fails to return from his adventure, a motley crew of rugged ne’er-do-wells must deal with the mysterious person who hired Talen, as well as a family of berserkers. And retrieving the armor will take a grievous toll...

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Chosen for advanced training by the god of war himself, Vardak is considered a paragon amongst his people, the Scorpion Men. Yet his position and training come with a cost: He must serve the whims of the god, with no questions asked. Only days after his training is complete, he is sent far away from his desert homeland in order to act as the protector of the Fire Maiden’s mortal daughter, Janna.

Janna has been tasked with the recovery of a magical relic known as The Moon’s Eye, but she has little worldly experience to guide her. The Immortals deem the relic’s recovery imperative, for it alone can combat the rise of the Soulless—those sworn to the fallen, nameless god of death. The Soulless are ruthless and powerful, and eager to wage war upon the land in order to appease the god they serve.

Though Vardak is skilled in battle, he must lead Janna through several perilous areas in order to reach the relic she seeks, pushing his abilities to the limit. Unbeknownst to the pair, the Soulless raise an army and begin their conquest, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Will they secure The Moon’s Eye before all is lost, or will the relic itself prove to be their undoing? 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The dead shall not be mourned or remembered, for death is the enemy and will only drive the Seraph away.
How far would you go to resurrect someone you love? 
Would you change who you are to show you belong?
The world of Avarin is tearing itself apart. The Domain worships life, its leaders lead eternal lives and death is a shame that must not be mourned. But, for the clans to the south, death is all that keeps the Earth alive.
Adrian is a prince of one of the Domain nations. Church teaching says his grief is forbidden, but he will stop at nothing to return his loved ones to worthiness. Even if it means sacrificing his own.
Lynn is a rogue elite warrior hiding from her past. But now, an old enemy is rising, and running is no longer an option.
Nasha is a gifted hunter hiding a terrible secret. A lifelong outcast, she desperately fights for belonging in the Ronar, a proud southern clan. Yet a changing world threatens more than just her status in the community.
But now a terrifying foe creeps nearer, and the people of Avarin must fight to save it. Before death comes for them all.
 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: An age of myth. A bitter feud. A storm of legend.

It is the closing days of the Enkindled King’s wars for Earthblood, when a cycle of violence and hatred sparks a bitter feud in his shadow.

Náith, the Warrior. Luw, the Hunter. Cast aside and burned by their lover’s betrayal, the two find themselves trapped in a bloody struggle for the affections of Síle, the Maid of Mael Tulla.

Cherished as a healer and bringer of verdant life to barren lands, Síle stands as a mystery unto all – even those who would claim her heart. For one so gentle and kind, secrets and bloodshed swarm about her like flies upon a corpse.

Consumed by hatred and heartache, both Náith and Luw will take the darkest of trials and challenge death itself, unaware of the true game being played.

A storm beyond imagining waits for the Warrior and the Hunter. One that will decide the fate of Luah Fáil. 


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Perhaps you know the myths. Furious, benevolent Gods. A tree that binds nine realms. A hammer stronger than any weapon. And someday, the end of everything. But few have heard of me.
Looking back, it’s easy to know what choices I might have made differently. At least it feels that way. I might have given up on my title. Told my father he was useless, king of Gods or no, and left Asgard. Made a life somewhere else.
Maybe I would never have let Loki cross my path. Never have fallen in love. But there’s no going back.

We were happy once. And the price for that happiness was the end of everything.


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: High Mistress Talia is a hell-raising socialite with a murky past. But she has a bright future. Beautiful, rich, and a virtuoso harpist, she’s betrothed to the Count of Brecht. In short, she has it all. Or so it would seem.
Marla Holst is the new lady’s maid, but never has the ‘help’ been so unhelpful. Marla, real name Mist, has only one mission: to stop the high mistress’s marriage. By any means necessary.
But complications abound. Talia’s disturbed daughter, a girl who can see into the future, is cursed with the stigma of a devil-worshipping father. The count’s father, the Duke of Rizak, is a recluse, too afraid of assassins to show his face. And all the nobility want to do is duel.
Meanwhile, the highlight of the season—a recital of the famous ‘Cursed Symphony,’ draws ever closer.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Sheriff Errol Thorpe’s life is chaotic, brutal, and above all, solitary. After an unimaginable loss years ago, all he feels is the compulsion to seek vengeance. But when a vulnerable family arrives in town, facing an ugly future, he is pulled headfirst into a web of violence, secrets, and things he never imagined.
In search of truth and answers, Thorpe finds himself battling deadly flesh-eating Dust, acidic golden blood, and the political designs of powerful people – all the while learning how to be a person again. When Dust rises in San Dios, people hide indoors. When Sheriff Thorpe arrives, people run.

 
OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Be ruthless. Be rich. Live like gods. Joella’s band of thieves lives deep in the jungle. Riding on giant scorpion dragons, they search the beautiful landscape for villages and caravans to rob.
But dangerous mists thread through the jungle’s undergrowth. One touch transforms victims into mindless, murderous shells of their former selves.
When the mists interrupt a routine raid, Joella becomes separated from her people. She’s alone except for a stolen book of legends and Marc, a pacifist dedicated to preserving the ways of the old goddess.
Searching for their tribes, Joella and Marc brave mist-infected beasts, deceitful clans, and the sweltering days and freezing nights of their beloved jungle.
An uneasy alliance grows between them as they read from the book and uncover in its pages the truth of why the jungle has been fraught with evil. They must trust each other to right the wrongs of the past and save themselves, or risk the very landscape they hold so dear.


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: An empire in ruin after a great betrayal, an order of warrior souls infused in teddy bears, and demons, monsters, and traitors around every corner…
The world is filled with demons, monsters, and traitors, all things Erth, a legendary guardian and slayer of monsters, has sworn to battle. After a devastating fight, he discovers a mysterious gem and a plot that threatens him and all he holds dear.
He must go on a journey to capture a smith forging mysterious artifacts before he loses everything.
But the Caste’s fate doesn’t solely rest in Erth’s hands; a student struggles to find purpose in a deadly, secret tournament. A scout must make the impossible decision between duty and family. And a spymaster embarks on a quest to expose a conspiracy destined to annihilate the collapsing empire.
A handful of individuals hold the fate of an empire in their hands; will they succeed or will Caste crumble to dust?


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