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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

SPFBO X Introduction Post - meet the Fantasy Book Critic Team

We're excited to announce we'll be participating in SPFBO for the tenth time. This year, we will have five judges on board and we're happy to welcome one new: Shazzie. Here is a brief introduction to all of us involved in the contest:

Chels: Chelsea has been an avid reader since childhood. With a chaotic ability to read multiple books at the same time, her TBR is never ending. A lifelong lover of fantasy, she’s always looking for her next adventure.

Favourite authors include D W Ross, Ryan Cahill, Fonda Lee and S A Chakraborty to name a few.

Esmay: Esmay is a 22-year-old book devourer from The Netherlands. She spends her days reading books, reviewing books for Before We Go Blog and Grimdark Magazine, talking about books, and watching videos of other people talking about books. She admits that she might have a (slight) obsession with anything related to books, but she does not think that is a problem. She is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and loves everything about the indie (SFF) community.

Fantasy will forever be her one true love, be it cozy, romantic, grimdark, epic, or any other altogether more exciting genre blend. Though as a bookish omnivore, she will probably read anything if the premise sounds even slightly intriguing. Or if the cover is really gorgeous… Also, bonus points for emotional destruction, because she is apparently weird that way. 

Some of her favourite authors include Krystle Matar, Jacquelyn Hagen, Sarah Chorn, Louise Holland, Jay Kristoff, Abby Jimenez, M.A. Carrick, Maggie Stiefvater, T. Kingfisher, Ryan Cahill, and Rob J. Hayes.

She can be found on nearly every single social media platform under the name esmayrosalyne.

Lukasz: An avid fiction reader from Poland, Lukasz's biggest passions are reading and movement in various forms. He reads widely, although fantasy is his favorite genre, and his favorite authors include Terry Pratchett, Mark Lawrence, Philip K. Dick, Brian Evenson, and Robert McCammon. He is also active on r/fantasy as barb4ry1Goodreads profile.

Mihir: Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Mihir is an avid book collector and longtime reader of fantasy, thrillers, and Indian mythology. He is also interested in historical fiction and urban fantasy and enjoys cricket and football. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest and is always eager to discover new authors and old books.

Shazzie: Shazzie is a reader of many genres, and particularly enjoys reading stories with mythical inspirations. Most widely read in SFF, mysteries and thrillers, she is a lifelong reader of Indic literature. Her favorite epic is the Mahabharata and favorite fantasy series The Green Bone Saga. She blogs as Reader at Work ( and is a member of the Fantasy Book Critic team.


We would like to thank Mark Lawrence for his dedication to running this contest and for being a patron of self-published authors. 

All ten blogs have been assigned their respective lots, and the following are the titles (along with the FBC team members assigned to read them) from which the FBC finalist is most likely to emerge:


We divided our batch into five smaller ones. Here's the list of our books and judges who'll read them. If something catches your attention, add it to your Goodreads TBR.


  1. Black and Deep Desires by Claire Trella Hill
  2. Metamancer by William I. Zard
  3. Tomb of Heart and Shadow by Clara N. Delaney
  4. Mushroom Blues by Adrian M. Gibson
  5. Searlight:Primal Prism by R.R. Echevara
  6. To Dance With Dragons by Jaq D. Hawkins


  1. A Vermillion Curse by D.C. Guevara
  2. Susan, You're The Chosen One by Lauretta Hignett
  3. Of Wind and Lightning by Ella Walker Henderson
  4. Wish Givers by Shannon Knight
  5. The House of Starling by Ciara Hartford
  6. The Song of Thyssia by S.J. Stiles


  1. Destiny Awaiting by Jan Foster
  2. Mercy by Ian Haramaki
  3. Soultaming The Serpent by Tar Atore
  4. Wings and Wounds by S.K. Burkman
  5. The Unspoken Truths of Casemiro by Christopher Clouser
  6. The Lost Noble by R. Litfin


  1. The Ballad of Sprikit The Bard And Company by Sean O'Boyle
  2. Miss Bennet's Dragon by M. Everant
  3. Landbringer by Karen H. Lucia
  4. Sigils & Sushi by Nia Quinn
  5. The Serpent's Quest by Nerine Dorman & Toby Bennett
  6. Umbra by Freddie A. Clark


  1. Dimensional Traveler by John Champaign
  2. Light My Fire by Kat Kinney
  3. Good Bad Witch by Isa Medina
  4. The Cursed Soul by K.C. Smith
  5. The Tenfold Tenants by E.V. Belknap
  6. Woe to the Stargazers by Alex Shipper

The Process

Our judging process is straightforward. Each of the five judges is assigned (randomly) six books and can select one of them as a semi-finalist if they believe it's a material for a potential finalist. Each judge determines their own approach to reading their set of six books. We then evaluate each other's semi-finalists and assign ratings. The book that receives the highest score is chosen as the finalist. 

By having five team members involved in reading each semi-finalist, we hope to counter any potential bias.

While we'll try to post our thoughts on each book, it may not always be possible. Ideally, we'll announce a semi-finalist after going through a batch of six books, but there may be instances when we don't select any book from a particular batch. We'll provide proper reviews for our semi-finalists.

We want to ensure that our reviews reflect our honest opinions about the books we read. If your book isn't selected, it doesn't mean that it's a poor-quality book, but simply that it didn't match our tastes. The books we love might not always be the ones that you like and vice versa. We'll do our best to select the book that we feel is the best of our lot, irrespective of the sub-genre it belongs to within fantasy.

Some thoughts

We're excited to discover new books and titles! That being said, we would like to share a few thoughts. Firstly, covers matter. They sell your books, so try to make them as visually appealing as possible. While cover art can be expensive, it's worth looking for artists building their portfolios or using professional book templates when the budget is an issue. We want readers to notice your books, and having unappealing cover art may deter potential readers from even opening your book.

Having your book's metadata in the proper places is also important. SPFBO's biggest strength is in providing a free spotlight to books, so don't deprive yourself of this opportunity by not listing your book on Goodreads or listing it with an outdated cover or no metadata. This can confuse potential readers and make them lose interest.

Our Favorite covers Are

This year, we won't have an official cover contest. But nothing will stop us from mentioning our three favorite covers. Here they are:

1. Mushroom Blues by Adrian M. Gibson; Cover art by Felix Ortiz

2. Soultaming the Serpent by Tar Atore; Cover design by Inorai at Inkfort Press & Cover art by on DepositPhotos


3. The Unspoken Truths of Casemiro by Christoper Clousen; Background image courtesy of PX Fuel Wallpapers



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 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
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