John Scritchfield spends his days wrangling three future readers and his nights wearing costumes and pretending to hit people with blunt weaponry. There is very little money it. He holds an MFA in Acting, which he puts to use by teaching at a Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan and as the Creative Director for the Calvin Theatre Company. In his free time, he enjoys playing Dungeons & Dragons, reading, writing, and spending time with his wife, three children, and two cats (Jasnah and Vin). Oh, he's also the new Booknest Admin.
If you have not yet read The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter, stop reading this review right now and go read it. I am dead serious. I went into this book with only a few trusted recommendations and it was a truly incredible experience. In fact, I only read the inside jacket cover after covering enough of the story to know what it was about. Had I read it too soon and it would have spoiled plot elements better left unknown. So STOP, right now, close your laptop, shut off your phone, and do whatever else you need to because the Rage of Dragons is worth. I will now continue assuming you've either already read it or have followed my advice.
It has been a singular pleasure to participate in this year’s SPFBO and I’d like to thank Mark Lawrence and Petros for the opportunity. I didn’t realize how daunting the task of reading these five books would be, and I certainly don’t envy those reviewers tackling thirty. The reading was easy. It was choosing only one that was difficult.
The Gossamer Globe by Abbie Evans – A fantasy presidential election goes awry. Comedy ensues.
The Winter of Swords by Aaron Bunce – An orphan, a soldier, and a girl must become something more to survive the Winter of Swords.
Throne by Phil Tucker – Two women are chosen to represent two opposing factions of the Fae court.
The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen – Fantasy problems require fantasy solutions in this lighthearted tale of strangers searching for a mysterious Dragonslayer.
And finally, my choice for semi-finalist...
Weird Theology by Alex Raizman – An awkward loner becomes a god in this fun and zany tale of divinity, destruction, and dancing.
I would like to offer additional thanks to Aaron Bunce, Phil Tucker, Jason A. Holt, Aaron Raizman, and the writing duo known as Abbie Evans for the opportunity to read their work and for dragon ton of future success. I’d also like to congratulate Alex Raizman and wish him luck as I turn his story over to the boss.
The Winter of Swords kicks off with a family enjoying a casual hunt in the woods near an ominous set of ruins. It bares all the hallmarks of calamity waiting to happen. Luca, the youngest of the party, pretends to sword fight with his brother Hunter, while two older men hunt for food. Eisa, Hunter’s and Luca’s sister, has a few moments where she gets startled, leaving the reader with portentous feelings. These feelings prove true when a six-limbed monster (I honestly imagined the mindflayer from Stranger Things season 3) snatches Luca and uses him all angler-fish style to capture the others. The two older hunters are brutally murdered off page (though we see their mangled bodies), Hunter is beaten (to death?) and Eisa is abducted for nefarious (but not sleazy) purposes.