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Saturday, June 17, 2023

SPFBO 9 (2023) Interesting Titles Spotlight 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. However, 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: Prince Barodane could not hold back the darkness. Not even in himself. He laid an innocent city in its grave and then died a hero.

In his absence, war whispers across the land.

Power-hungry highborn dispatch spies and assassins to the shadows as they maneuver for the throne, while an even greater threat rises in the South. Monsters and cultists flock to the banners of a mad prophet determined to control reality…and then shatter it.

Destiny stalks three to the brink of oblivion.

A dead prince that isn’t actually dead. Barodane buried his shameful past in a stupor of drugs, drink, and crime, and now, he’d rather watch the world fall apart than wear a crown again.
An orphan with hero’s blood who is forced to make a harrowing choice: betray her country or sacrifice her first love.

And a powerful seer who has no choice at all–her grandson must die.

If any of them fails to pay the price…

The cost will be the world’s complete annihilation.

Official Book Blurb: Pale moths haunt an icy frontier. Beneath the shadow of a drowned death god, a frozen body is unearthed from the snow.

Investigators arrive to a superstitious island to solve a brutal crime. Among them is a lowly slave desperate to prove her worth and a soldier with dark dreams. Neither are prepared for what they find.

Death City is a strange and violent frontier, and no one who survives comes back clean. First though, Thora and Diem must survive.

Welcome to the Red Kingdom.


Official Book Blurb: The island nation of Ferranda is the jewel of the Acrarian Kingdom, and its Founder, Aritz a Mata, is revered as a god amongst men. But twenty-five years ago, Aritz was merely a man, a colonizer, an Invader seeking glory and fame in the name of his King and Queen, and Ferranda was a nameless union of indigenous Tribes, reverent of the heightened powers and aptitudes granted to them by their Animal Deities, but sundered by the foreigners claiming their lands to the south.

In the unconquered north, the Stone Tribe has for fifteen years offered a safe haven for the southern Tribes displaced by Aritz's Invaders, whose occupying march north has been ostensibly halted by a dense forest barrier dividing north and south. Among the Stone people lives Sen, an outcast for the circumstances of her birth, preserved in society only by her status as daughter of her Tribe's Chief. Forever relegated to the fringes of society, she is forced to watch as countless of her kin, including her sister and brother, complete their rites of passage into adulthood and accordingly earn their aptitudes by the Deity to whom they share an affinity - the Bear, the Wolf, or the Owl.

Despite this, Sen finds comfort in her life of forced solitude with her close inner circle, but hers is a comfort in days of waning tenuous peace. When Aritz's technologically-advanced forces push north, Sen is thrust into a singular quest to rescue one of her precious few captured in the ensuing struggle. While her goal is earnest - save someone dear to her and prove her worth to her Tribe - her people's goal is far more dire: survival in the face of uncertainty.

Official Book Blurb: Varcade fled to the deserts of Harrah to escape his past as an Educator, a member of an order of zealot warrior-monks that aims to shape the world according to their sacred Teachings by force. Varcade makes his living as a reckless sword-for-hire, caring only about himself, until his self-centered lifestyle is turned on its head when he is contracted to recruit a misfit team of unruly assassins and take out the mighty Bone Lord of Akrab.

But the Bone Lord is aware of the plot and sends her band of Dusters to stop them; individuals who have gained bizarre and lethal magical powers by snorting the pulverised bones of dead gods. Hunted by Educators and Dusters in a city-state where an escalating conflict between the human and demon population threatens to boil over in a civil war, will Varcade and his ragtag crew save Akrab from the cruel Bone Lord, or will they make things even worse?


Official Book Blurb: Nathaniel Kade, a mistrustful thief, has never seen the sun. Centuries ago, it is said that the prophets cursed Ealidor with an eternal midnight. While the realm dreams of the sunlight’s return, Nathaniel uses his unique connection to the darkness to survive.

But when he saves a knight of the Faith of Auyn from a spectral ambush, an unlikely mentorship blooms. He is thrust into a gruelling and foreign landscape, where prophets are massacred for their dark magic, and murderous wraiths bleed through the Veil into the land of the living. To save all he has come to love, Nathaniel must join the ranks of those who still believe they can bring back the sunlight.

A thief burdened by prophecy.
A dishonoured knight.
A sheltered squire with a secret past.
A runaway prince, afraid of the dark.

They hold the fate of Ealidor in their hands—and as the darkness threatens to consume them all, they’re the realm's only hope of returning the dawn.

Official Book Blurb: Kit “Fadulous” Hamley, magazine editor, activist and former punk rocker, is a well-known troublemaker. She works tirelessly to hold local authorities to account. Some say she’s making up for her criminal youth. Others accuse her of witchcraft. Only a handful of people know how dark her secrets really are.

When an old friend warns Kit that a former rival has resurfaced, those secrets start to resurface. People have gone missing, someone is stalking Kit, and the gang she abandoned are scared stiff. Kit herself is a target, and if she can’t unravel exactly how this new feud connects with her past mistakes, it could kill her.

Decades older, a little wiser, and contrary as ever, Kit’s going to remind them all what a punk witch can do.


No Heart for a Thief by James Lloyd Dulin

Official Book Blurb: We are the stories we tell ourselves...even the lies.

The Thief, a great spirit, and her descendants have abused their ability to steal magic for centuries. When Kaylo starts to hear the song of other people’s magic, he must learn to hide from his people as well as the invaders. A gift or a curse, Kaylo may be able to save his people from the Gousht Empire that claimed their land with this stolen magic.

Eighteen years later, Kaylo still prays to the spirits, but not out of loyalty or love. He knows better than to rely on those selfish bastards for anything. While hiding in the forest from his foolish acts of rebellion, he encounters a girl, Tayen, being pursued by two soldiers of the empire. Against his better judgment, he risks facing the consequences of his past to intervene.

When Tayen attempts to run off seeking vengeance for her family, he offers to train her to wield her magic and a blade. If he can’t convince her to relinquish her need for vengeance and stave off the demons of his past, he’s going to get them both killed.

Official Book Blurb: Some secrets are best left to the shadows. But shadows have a mind of their own.

The ancient land of Quinaria teeters on the brink of war, as its most precious resource is unearthed and exploited. Three nations have maintained tenuous peace for centuries, but as the life-giving nevethium dwindles, rumors of an ancient evil long thought dead spread like wildfire.
Elaysia never wanted to lead. As the high chieftain’s only surviving heir, she’s thrust into a role that jeopardizes the already fragile peace. A deadly attack on the day of her induction strengthens her resolve—and her suspicion that her parents’ murders and these disturbing rumors are connected.

With newfound companions, she embarks on a journey to uncover the truth. But as they unravel layers of secrets, they find themselves in the clutches of a dictator whose unethical nevethium experimentation threatens to bring about a new world of terror and violence.
Elaysia and her allies could be all that stands between war and a dying world—if their conflicting ambitions don’t destroy them first.


Official Book Blurb: 'Dragons once led our people across the wastelands, away from storms, and toward hunting grounds.'

That’s what the elders say, but eleven-year-old Akrist has squinted at empty skies his whole life. The dragons have abandoned them, and it’s Akrist’s fault. He’s cursed. Like every other firstborn son, he has inherited the sins of his ancestors. In his camp, he’s the only eldest boy left. Something happened to the others.

Something terrible.

When Akrist befriends Tanar, an eldest boy from another tribe, he discovers the awful truth: they’re being raised as sacrifices to appease the Goddess and win back her dragons. The ritual happens when the dual moons eclipse. Escape is the only option, but Akrist was never taught to hunt or survive the wastelands alone. Time is running out, and he has to do something before the moons touch.


Official Book Blurb: Nimsah is an abandoned child living on the streets of Bengarath, surviving on her wits as part of a criminal gang in the City of Tents, home to the dispossessed. Dojan is the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Fujareen, enjoying a life of luxury in Bengarath Palace. Their lives are brought together as the threat of war looms in the neighbouring city state of Kandarah. However, Dojan and Nimsah share a secret, one that will set in motion a chain of events leading to vengeance.

Official Book Blurb: In the space of a single afternoon, Nathaniel falls hard for Winter York, the beguiling, tattooed woman he meets at the local bookstore. She entrances him with her enigmatic sophistication, and the fact that she is avoiding another man only increases his interest. What starts as the perfect day ends in a violent home invasion when the man Winter is avoiding tracks her home.

Nathaniel fights him off, sure the worst is over. Winter, however, insists that the man is capable of a strange and twisted magic: once he touches someone, he can write them into dreams, dreams where that person can die. How does Winter know? She is the inspiration for the man's fantasy book series, and she has seen her friends perish at the stroke of his pen.

Many Savage Moons is an unconventional love story full of intriguing book references and haunting tattoos, set in a world where a writer wields fantastical powers over those who inspire his work. Straddling the literary and fantasy realms, Many Savage Moons is a compelling work of fiction.


Official Book Blurb: GIMLORE is a single mother and war veteran turned crime boss set on protecting her family and her town.

ORBERESIS is a petty thief pretending to be God to protect a terrible secret.

REDNOW is the world's most feared mercenary, but his best days are behind him and there's one job left to do.

In a world of dangerous monsters and devastating smoke magic, the seeds of war are being planted. Allies must be treasured and enemies defeated.


Official Book Blurb: Fates intertwine - Pantheon calls - Darkness Grows

Far too many blame their own bad luck on Hanen and Rallia Clouw. When opportunity knocks, they leap to put their past behind them. In the turmoil of a holy order fraught with lies, frustration, and heresy, the paladin Jined Brazstein is called to deeper faith. When Katiam takes up a seemingly ageless seed pod from a botanist's desk, she cannot imagine the change it will bring.

Life stirs within that seed, the path to deeper faith beckons, profits are made upon the road, darkness moves-a winged, deathless wrath invisible to the gods.

For those who seek the heroes path, Fate takes more than bargained for. Hubris breeds a deathless wrath, That always hungers after more.


Official Book Blurb: For twenty years, strategos Dexios has led the phalanx of Thena against its enemies, pulled from one battleground to another in a relentless cycle of war and bloodshed. Now, finally, he has found the courage to leave that life behind. To relinquish his officer’s sword and return to the verdant slopes of his vineyard with his wife and son.

Peace, however, is fragile and capricious. When Thena’s northern allies bring word of an enormous tauran horde gathering on their borders, Dexios has no choice but to answer the call to arms one last time.

As humans and tauros collide, another evil wakes. Whispered rumours of a clawed creature that stalks the shadowy streets. Of violent murders committed in the name of deities long thought vanquished. To speak their names is heresy.

They are the Exiled. The Banished. The Ruined Gods.

Official Book Blurb: At thirty-six-years-old, history professor Aurelie is resigned to a childless existence. It's not her age - it's the absence of male Unseen. Her species has been so desperate to hide among humans that it is quietly dying out. Now her family is broken; eager to leave behind a painful past, Aurelie accepts a teaching position in Nara, Japan. But she's unprepared for the future she finds...

Twenty-two-year-old Kazuki is the favored son of the Hayashi family - a clan of Unseen that has not only survived in Japan, but thrived. Though he knows hundreds of Unseen, he’s unprepared for Aurelie and the overwhelming attraction he feels for her, a biological imperative to mate.

Or perhaps a magical one... For, as Kazuki and Aurelie grow closer, the reasons for hiding become clear.

And they are hungry.

Official Book Blurb: Twenty-five years ago, there was life. Twenty-five years ago, there was peace when the descendants of the dryads and naiads kept all life in balance. Until one fateful night when the Oderbergs invaded, executed the royal house of Domonov and took Domovnia for their own, ruling with an iron fist and an edict of fear.

Roslyn Pleveli, like most of the orphans of that night, wants revenge and an end to the persecution of her kind. Yet, even if the Domovnian’s use of magic was permitted, she wouldn’t be much help, able to command only a few lowly weeds. But everything changes when she saves the life of an injured young man in the forest not knowing it was the prince of the Oderbergs himself. Ordered to see to the rest of his treatment, Roslyn is snatched from her home and all that she loves by his soldiers.

Now, in the Oderberg stronghold, she has the chance to change things. With the royal family within her grasp all she has to do to free her people is kill them… but can she do it, or will something more powerful than revenge heal the wounds of the past?


Official Book Blurb: The Palace of the Dawn will soon be stormed. The most ruthless man of all time is one step away from assailing on Iovbridge and dethroning Sophie Delamere. The Queen of Knightdorn is now alone, with neither allies nor an army capable of rebuffing the enemy which is approaching her city. Everything appears to be over, until a mysterious young man, Elliot, makes his appearance.

Entangled in a web of lies and politics, Elliot will try to draw Walter away from Iovbridge and face him in the stronghold of Wirskworth. He will attempt to rekindle relations and revive the old alliance between the Queen of Knightdorn and Syrella Endor, the Governor of Wirskworth. Elliot’s mission will take every fibre of his will and if he fails, so shall the kingdom.

Official Book Blurb: Some things are deadly when broken...

Sold for the price of a pig, trained into the most expensive male escort in the peninsula, Hasheem, the Silver Sparrow of Azalea, finds himself running from his hard-earned life of privilege when a woman decides to die in his room. 

Forced to escape through hostile territories belonging to desert warriors, Hasheem runs into Djari, the immovable daughter of a tribal chieftain who offers him protection in exchange for a lifetime of servitude. Prophesied by her oracle brother as the one born to end the centuries-long war between her people and an empire, Djari's precarious destiny plunges them both into the blood sport of power, politics, and warfare that exacts heartbreaking sacrifices in exchange for peace.

On the other side of the war, the stability of the empire hangs on the decisions of a captive wife from the desert, the ruthless conqueror who ripped apart her homeland, and their half blood son who must choose which side of the war he belongs.


Official Book Blurb: You never want to ruin a really good dramatic exit. When you flee home on a cyborg horse the exact second you turn eighteen, you don't really expect to go back to the place you fled from, you know? But sometimes your old life hits you from behind.

Sometimes you spend years away from home, killing dangerous people who had the bad luck to get infected by a lungful of ghostfog, only to find out that your dad, the king, is dead, and now your siblings are ordering you back home for a high stakes family reunion.

But when the heirs are quadruplets, the line of succession tends to get a wee bit murky. So in order to regain your independence, you've got to navigate a deadly web of intrigue, where every sibling wants your allegiance, and any decision might tear your country—and your family—apart.


Official Book Blurb: Once rain was a symbol of hope and harvest. Now it brings only death.
Humanity survives in sheltered cities and canvas-covered towns. Travel between these patches of safety is rare and dangerous. It’s what Galahad lives for.

But while seeking a lost cache of salt—a fortune he plans to use to build a shelter over his hometown—Galahad is betrayed by the friends he holds dearest. They leave him for dead. Unfortunately for them, he lives.

Torn between seeking justice or revenge, Galahad knows one thing for certain: that treasure is his, and he’ll do anything to reclaim it.

The Fear of Moncroix by Bryan Asher

Official Book Blurb: All the Waywards have Fallen…

After a mission against the Royal Vampiric Court goes horribly wrong, all of the Waywards are slaughtered. All except one.

Davion, the last surviving member, must consume potions to mask himself and hide amongst the very people who killed his brethren. After a decade of living this double-life, Davion has resigned himself to his new purgatory. But all will not remain calm for him or the Court.

An unknown swordsman arrives, and after killing several Royal Vampires, rumor spreads that he’s searching for anyone still belonging to The Wayward order.

Davion decides he must track down this mysterious swordsman. But will finding him bring freedom or his own demise.


Official Book Blurb:  All ex-hero Ettarian Valost wants is to die. When a seraph saves his life, curses him with the gift of undying, and offers him a second chance at saving mankind, Ettarian reluctantly agrees to right the wrongs of his past. He sets out across the ruins of the world he’d tried so hard to protect over twenty years ago, guided by the gods and intent on uniting the remnants of civilization.

It soon becomes clear, however, that the gods may not be exactly what they claim to be, and that Ettarian may very well just be another pawn in a game played between divinities.

Kalia is too young to have known the world before it was invaded by the Flayed Gods. Determined to escape her abusive father, she flees alone across the desolation, seeking shelter in the ruins of an old city. Here she comes across a solitary monster, a priest of the gods who have enslaved her own race, who assures her that she is destined to guide humanity into a golden age.

Guided by her monstrous mentor and by visions granted to her by her new gods, Kalia understands that the only thing that stands in the way of her ascension is an old man and his own plans. She intends on striking him down and then fulfilling her destiny.

But Ettarian is no ordinary old man. He is the White Dove, and he will have redemption, no matter the cost...

Official Book Blurb: On the fringes of Errigal, Morana longs to exchange a life of hiding for a peaceful one with her husband, Percy. While Percy's bloodgift lets him grow plants and heal broken bodies, Morana's a boneweaver, despised and feared because she can hear bones and raise the dead. Morana doesn't want to be seen as a villain from the old stories and instead spends her time gardening, writing the stories of the dead, and fending off a spiteful chicken.

Morana and Percy's lives are shattered when a group of Failinis tasked with capturing boneweavers and rogue bloodgifted find them. On the run and battling the elements, ancient creatures, and the loss of all they called home, Morana and Percy search for any sanctuary left in Errigal. Morana must choose between the call in her blood or the family she holds so close to her heart if she and Percy are to survive.


Official Book Blurb: Everything went to hell in the first week.

After four years on the road, Sharla was looking forward to settling down and trying her hand at a steadier occupation. When Claws raid her town and take her lover, Renn, she knows it's time for action. She's tired of running. Now, she'll take a stand.

To do this, she'll have to follow the Claws across the tablelands. This is a land of bandits, mages, and monsters. If she wants to travel this country and rescue Renn, she'll need help. An army of Watchmen would be nice. Maybe even a drug cartel.

However, she also knows it's best to keep things small. The more allies she has, the more she risks a future knife between the ribs.

After all, this is Low Country.


Official Book Blurb: Eleven paladins walk into a monastery. Only one knows it’s a trap.
When Victoriana Greenmantle is summoned to represent her paladin order in an unusual quest, the timing couldn’t be worse. Having just witnessed the horrific death of her mentor, she is barely a paladin at all. Worse, she has a trapped demon on her hands and if anyone discovers she hasn’t quite managed to cast it out, she will be made to suffer consequences worse than death.

The summoning requires Victoriana to journey to the newly revealed Aching Monastery and there to search for and recover the fabled Cup of Tears on behalf of her order. But her order is not the only one seeking this relic. And her rivals are stronger, smarter, more experienced and just as motivated as she is. Will this cynical paladin have the faith to find the truth?

When Adalbrand Von Menticure is summoned to the Aching Monastery he is unamused. Far from his holy work healing the sick and injured, this quest seems a waste of his time. But when the murders start and he’s thrown together unwittingly with a young female paladin who keeps breaking all the rules and drawing everyone’s ire, he is forced to confront ghosts of his past. Can he push past his guilt to accept this tempting ally?

Together, these two holy paladins may be the only ones who can discover what or who is killing their compatriots and whether the Cup of Tears is really worth the bloodshed and danger within the monastery walls before time runs out and they are trapped forever.

Will this pair find strength in their strict discipline and holy orders in time to escape, or will they fall before the twin dangers of a rogue killer and an attraction more deadly than the simple risk of death?


Official Book Blurb: Bob, a chain-smoking, foul-mouthed, shotgun-wielding ex-garbage man, chases his family’s killer—the gray-skinned Galvidon—through the realms of the mysterious Astraverse. The trail leads him to Hub, a world in turmoil populated by wizards, blue elves, faeries, giants, dragons, and unfortunately, plain old humans. Chained by his addictions and haunted by his past, Bob must find a way through this dark, magical realm and uncover its secrets, or lose all hope of ending Galvidon once and for all.




Click Here To Order “In The Shadow of Their Dying” by Anna Smith Spark & Michael R. FLetcher
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Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
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Click Here To Order “Miss  Percy's” by Quenby Olson!!!
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Click Here To Order “The True Bastards” by Jonathan French!!!
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Click Here To Order “Rumble In Woodhollow” by Jonathan Pembroke!!!
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Click Here To Order “The Starless Crown” by James Rollins!!!
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