Cardboard Castles by K. L. Young is part YA drama/coming of age and part portal fantasy with successes and failures in execution.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have been a guest judge for Booknest in this year's SPFBO competition. The brainchild of Arch-saint of indie authors, the Almighty Mark Lawrence, the SPFBO has become one of the most significant things to happen to self-publishing since, well, maybe ever, and Booknest has waved the torch high for indie books for quite some time. I have to thank Petros T. for asking me to do this. It's been a hell of an honor to be involved.
My task was to read five of the thirty books in Booknest's group, and forward my choice for semi-finalist. Time for a rolling of drums...
It took us a while, but we are finally over with the first round of this year's SPFBO. Four of our members (Petrik, Mary, TS, Charles), an ex-member (David) and a guest (Rita) split the thirty books allocated to BookNest between them, and each one of them selected a semi-finalist among their batch. Then I read all six semis and chose our finalist, which will proceed to the second round of the contest. But before announcing our finalist, let me tell you a story.
Five of our judges finished their books early, so I was able to read their semis. The best one among them was A Star Reckoner's Lot by Darell Drake. Rita read four out of her five books, but due to some personal issues she had to take a break. The best book among those four was The White Tower by Michael Wiseheart for which Rita had some great things to say, so I took a risk and read it as her semi. It was marginally better than A Star Reckoner's Lot, and so it was decided that The White Tower would be our finalist. At this point though, another judge (Ventureadlaxre) chose her finalist, and in the process she eliminated Faithless by Graham Austin-King, which I happen to read four months ago and thought it was truly amazing. So, I contacted Mark Lawrence and asked if I could use the Senlin Safety Net, and choose Faithless as our finalist, since it was (in my opinion) far better than The White Tower. Unfortunately, I couldn't. Mark even wrote an article about it, which you can read here. So, once again, The White Tower was to be our finalist, always considering that my risk would pay out. Alas:
Rita read the final book among her batch (Pilgrimage to Skara by Jonathan S. Pembroke) and selected it as her semi instead. And here is where things got complicated. For starters, I would obviously have to read Pilgrimage to Skara myself. Now, if I agreed with Rita's opinion and found it better than The White Tower (and therefore the rest of the semis) then I would choose it as our finalist, and everything would be alright. But if I disagreed with Rita, what would I do? Would I still select it as our finalist, ignoring The White Tower which would be better, or would I pick The White Tower, ignoring Rita and her semi?
Fortunately, the first out of the two possible outcomes occurred. I found Pilgrimage to Skara to be (again, marginally) better than The White Tower & A Star Reckoner's Lot, and therefore I chose to send it to the second round of the SPFBO as BookNest's finalist, with a 7/10 score. So, congratulations to Jonathan, and best of luck to all ten finalists!