I've read and reviewed quite a few SPFBO titles in my time, but this is my first year as a “judge, so colour me excited. I’ve six titles to read, only one of whom was written by an author I’m familiar with. I like to discover new authors, so I jumped in with A Company of Adventurers, more because it was the first in the folder of files than any prior interest in the story. So, enough with me, what’s up with the first book?
A Company of Adventurers is a standard epic fantasy, almost a LitRPG, with a group of disparate people off to save the world. We start with Talon, one of the finest of the titular adventurers, who has retired and fallen on hard times. Leaving his wife and young son at home, he heads off to seek a bounty that could solve all his financial problems. After a run-in with a rival gang, he meets a strange sorcerer who agrees to come on the quest. Fun story - I’m leaving the plot reveal here, as the story starts knocking out twists and turns that will keep you on your toes.
Okay, so let's get down to the important bit. I liked this a lot. Instead of a farm boy saving the world, this was a bunch of very disparate rivals going on a quest, each with their own motivations. Some are coerced, some are seeking family members and there’s even a somewhat clumsy love triangle just for fun. More importantly, early on you realise that no one is safe. The attrition rate for relatively fleshed-out characters is rather high, which keeps us on our toes. The plot tends to bounce around a bit, which may annoy some people, but I found it refreshing. It's almost like a bunch of unrelated stories are running side by side before falling into place near the end.
The wordbuilding, while not especially unique, is more of a twist on the norm. The adventurers, instead of being the heroes, are considered to be a blight and very much to blame for the woes of Kjeldale, including the much-promised orc invasion. Apart from orcs, the other creatures we come across are quite different to the norm, while the magic system brings a nice twist.
As I said, I liked this a lot, but it was a bit rough around the edges. It wasn’t in any way bad enough to make me through my Kindle into a fire (a Kindle Fire?) but in a competition like SPFBO one should have ironed these wrinkles out.
To sum up, if you’re looking for something fresh and exciting, A Company of Adventurers is probably not for you. If you’re looking for something fun with a plethora of interesting and snarky characters, then add this to your TBR pronto.