“I was almost fourteen and had just started my menses when my parents sold me to the Illuminati.”
Well, it is obvious from the start that you are in for an exciting ride.
For my final SPFBO5 review, I’m tackling The Charismatics, a steampunk romance following a young woman and her spirit animal through the political and socioeconomic intrigue of a fantasy land.
"We thundered out of the stables as if hell itself were on our tail. We made an unlikely band, us three disparate souls; the monster, Smidgen, the demon, Bent, and me, the thief, Flendin the Blade. My life hadn't been the same since leaving Never."
SINCE NEVER opens with the protagonist waking up in bed with a woman that he's murdered. It is a strong opening that stretches through the grimdark novel from beginning to end. The blackly humorous opening has Flendin the Blade summon his best friend Smidgen to eat the body and cover it up. If that strikes you as a very impressive opening then this is probably the book for you. It is a darkly humorous and has a lot of fun scenes.
A stellar example of how first impressions can be misleading.
Assaph Mehr’s entry into this year’s contest has a bit of Latin flair, and more than a bit of actual Latin. In Numina is set in Egretia, a nation akin to a magical Ancient Rome. This oversimplification doesn’t do the setting justice; In Numina’s attention to detail and clearly well-researched worldbuilding are impressive, and make for an unexpectedly fun fantasy.
THE EMPEROR'S HARVEST is a story that deals with many classic themes of a home village coming under attack, destiny, chosen ones, an evil tyrant, and an elderly wizard trying to educate our hero. It does it with a great deal of panache, though, as well as a seriousness that makes the story all the stronger.
The Six and the Crystals of Ialana is one of those titles that tells you a lot about the book you are about to read. It leads a potential reader to suspect that the adventure within will feature six friends, that there will be magic crystals involved, and that the names they encounter may be difficult to pronounce. And that’s exactly what it delivers; the Six is a pleasant, straightforward fantasy adventure.
I’ve read a few tales of ghost ships, but I have to admit, Ghosts of the Sea Moon is the first I’ve encountered told from the perspective of the ghosts. Or the gods. A. F. Stewart's novel is unique in a lot of ways, and while not all of them are successful, it’s ultimately a fun voyage into a unique setting.