reviews

Welcome to BookNest.eu! Can you tell us a few things about yourself?

Greetings! I'm an English writer, living in Madrid, keeping the wolf from the door by teaching 6th grade goblins. In my spare time I write, read, travel, game and listen to loud music. I've loved fantasy since I learnt to read. Fighting Fantasy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Hobbit were my gateway drugs.

Editor’s Note: We always knew someone had to teach all those goblins before us D&D players dispose of them by the throngs.

What book did you enter SPFBO with, and is it your debut?

The Ashen Levels. Yes, it's my debut novel (not counting the shoeboxes of scrawled A4 pads), although I've previously published a couple of novellas.

Tell us a few things about it. What should the Judge you'll be allocated to, expect from it?

It's a character driven story about overcoming adversity to discover an impossible truth. The world building is sublime--not info-dumped--and builds from a tiny fire lit hub to encompass continents, growing with the protagonist's exploration. It takes some unpredictable twists and turns, has a dark sense of humour and some pretty prose.

Editor’s Note: Count us in! We’re all for pretty prose and dark humour.

You'll compete against 299 other books. Do you believe your book will stand out against the competition, and if yes, why?

I hope so. I'm rarely confident about these things. I believe that given the chance, people will enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed writing it.

WHERE DID YOU HIDE THE MONEY!??!?!

Under their noses.

Editor’s Note: Ew! They’re covered in snot, aren’t they?!

Why did you decide to enter SPFBO in the first place?

I've been following SPFBO17 and SPFBO18 closely and have read several of the finalists' books. I've always thought it would be a great experience and this year I have a book ready. The stars have aligned.

Are you working on a book right now? What should we expect from you next?

As soon as school breaks up I'll be chaining myself to my writing desk. I've got a rough outline and setting planned out, so just have to jump into it now and hammer my daily word counts. The biggest difference is it's in an entirely new world and will contain multiple POVs.

Anything else you would like to add? A message to the other contestants, the Judges, or Mark Lawrence himself?

Good luck everyone. As in past years I will attempt to read at least some of the finalists. Judges... are cool. And very good looking. Mark, thanks for going beyond the call of duty and championing the indie cause.

Editor’s Note: Nice try, Welburn! We know a sweet-talker when we see one!

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

African or European?

 

Editor’s Note: Third person to ask this question in a row, you’ve officially unlocked our No-Prize! On a serious note, good luck in the competition, Craig and we all hope you have a great time over the next few months! 

 

Elric of Melniboné and Other Stories by Michael Moorcock –Book Review
29, Jul

 

Genre: Fantasy
Subgenre: Sword & sorcery, dark fantasy, classic fantasy
Format: Paperback
Length: 384 pages

 

This is a review of the first of the Gollancz editions that came out earlier this decade. Gollancz apparently wanted to publish the definitive Michael Moorcock collection.  Now, the argument can be made that Gollancz did not entirely succeed because, now that I’m done with Elric of Melnibone, I’m not entirely sure which Elric collection to pick up next. Oh, well, nothing a Google search won’t resolve. Elric of Melniboné collects several essays penned by Moorcock, an Introduction by Alan Moore, a prequel short story, telling of an earlier incarnation of the Eternal Champion, the script of the comic book that tells of the origins of Elric’s sorcerous power and his first back-and-forth with his duplicitous, power-hungry cousin, Yyrkoon.

Interview with SPFBO Author Sonya Black
27, Jul

Welcome to BookNest.eu! Can you tell us a few things about yourself?

I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, son, and two kitties, one of whom masquerades as a playful demon. I enjoy reading books in a wide range of genres and takes my inspiration from fairy tales, folklore, myths and legends. When I'm not writing, I can be found exploring alternate worlds via video games, enjoying my garden, and spending time with my family.

What book did you enter SPFBO with, and is it your debut?

A Sea of Broken Glass and no, it's not my debut.

Tell us a few things about it. What should the Judge you'll be allocated to, expect from it?

A Sea of Broken Glass is a flintlock fantasy set in a dark world where a fallen goddess unleashed a curse. It's fast-paced and has a unique magic system that incorporates music and the elements. Shapeshifting paladins, a fallen goddess, and a healer who is handy with a pistol, what's not to love?

You'll compete against 299 other books. Do you believe your book will stand out against the competition, and if yes, why?

I hope so. But as to why? I'll let you and the judges decide :-D

WHERE DID YOU HIDE THE MONEY!??!?!

Money? There's money hidden somewhere!?

Editor's Note: Always is.

Why did you decide to enter SPFBO in the first place?

I entered in SPFBO 3 and loved it. It was a wonderful experience and I met some amazing authors. I didn't have a book ready last year or I would have entered then as well.

Are you working on a book right now? What should we expect from you next?

I have a couple of books I'm working on. The sequel to A Sea of Broken Glass and a Japanese-inspired flintlock fantasy. I'm hoping to release both of the next year.

Anything else you would like to add? A message to the other contestants, the Judges, or Mark Lawrence himself?

This is an amazing opportunity and I'm grateful to Mark and all of the judges for the time and effort they put into this competition.

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

African or European?

Editor's Note: Thanks for joining us, Sonya, and we wish you the very best of luck over the coming months! 

Welcome to BookNest.eu! Can you tell us a few things about yourself?

Rob J. Hayes, first of his name, writer of words, winner of SPFBOs, father of beagles, and I will have my vengeance in this life or the next.

What book did you enter SPFBO with, and is it your debut?

Never Die. It is not my debut. I've been around the block.

Editor’s Note: Over at booknest.eu, we are very fond of Rob. We can supply all of you with character references, if you don’t believe him!

Tell us a few things about it. What should the Judge you'll be allocated to, expect from it?

Slash, stab, death, back from the dead, a quest from the gods, impossible odds, redemption.

Editor’s Note: A succinct and very correct retelling of this contender’s novel. Weeeeeell…

You'll compete against 299 other books. Do you believe your book will stand out against the competition, and if yes, why?

I'm the ex-heavyweight champion of the world.

WHERE DID YOU HIDE THE MONEY!??!?!

You'll have to prise it from my cold, dead hands.

Editor’s Note: It didn’t have to come to this, Hayes!

Why did you decide to enter SPFBO in the first place?

This time around? Mihir kept bugging me.

Are you working on a book right now? What should we expect from you next?

Angels!

Anything else you would like to add? A message to the other contestants, the Judges, or Mark Lawrence himself?

Hi guys! *waves*

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

African or European?

Editor’s Note: We get that a lot. Seriously. Our AI hasn’t worked out all the kinks and intimate knowledge of birds…that’s a big one!

Thank you for doing this, Rob, and we wish you the very best of luck over what is certain to be a tough competition!

Welcome to BookNest.eu! Can you tell us a few things about yourself?

Sure thing! My name's Travis, and I currently reside in Austin, TX. I've been writing since I was in elementary school (my first projects being a comic that was somehow a ripoff of both Samurai Jack and Osmosis Jones, and a novelization of Final Fantasy IX), and I collect what many would consider to be "way too many" blu-rays.

What book did you enter SPFBO with, and is it your debut?

"The Narrows," which is my third novel. In last year's SPFBO, my book "Balam, Spring" made it pretty far with Team Weatherwax!

Tell us a few things about it. What should the Judge you'll be allocated to, expect from it?

It's a contemporary fantasy/horror novel that tackles themes of grief, different friendship dynamics, nostalgia, and changing relationships. It's more of an atmospheric, creepy kind of horror, with a big focus on the character relationships and the main character's emotional journey grappling with the death of his friend and how their relationship ended. It's a highly personal novel which seems to have resonated with a lot of reviewers already, which is really gratifying.

You'll compete against 299 other books. Do you believe your book will stand out against the competition, and if yes, why?

I hope so! I think horror fantasy isn't too common, especially in the indie community. At least not with the sort of tone I was going for with this book. I hope it stands out in that regard, as well as with its strange, gross imagery and the character development. Several reviewers have stated that they were so invested in the characters, they would've read a whole horror-less book about them, so I hope the judges are similarly enamored with this cast!

WHERE DID YOU HIDE THE MONEY!??!?!

Under the snow, near the fence

Editorial Note: We’d never have thought to look there!

Why did you decide to enter SPFBO in the first place?

Last year's experience with it was great, and I'm hoping this year is similar. I met a great group of authors that I've become friends with over the past year, and it's felt nice becoming a larger part of this community that I'd mainly only been a lurker in previously. Plus, now I've been getting to beta read these authors' great new books, which is a nice perk...

Are you working on a book right now? What should we expect from you next?

I've been working on something for the past several months, and I'm nearing the end of the first draft. It's not a direct sequel, but it does take place in the same world as "Balam, Spring," albeit with a new cast, new story, and in a new country. It's a bit more of a lighthearted adventure than Balam and Narrows, though it still has that emotional undercurrent running through it like all my books. It involves two characters: a merchant named Kali from a race of flower-people who gain sustenance from the sun who's trying to scrounge up enough money to travel the world to share her wares; and Puk, an amphibious, drug-addicted singer who simply wants to get out of the desert and go back home. The book is about the two of them coming together for a singular task to accomplish their goals.

Anything else you would like to add? A message to the other contestants, the Judges, or Mark Lawrence himself?

I guess I'd want to say thank you to Mark and the judges for giving these self-published books a chance every year. The scene is only putting out higher quality and more unique stories every year, and this contest has truly added some legitimacy to what us authors are doing so that casual readers actually feel compelled to give us a chance. I think there probably still is a slight stigma around being "self-published" for some people, but that stigma is going away more and more and no doubt SPFBO is a big reason why.

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

11 meters per second, or so I hear.

Editorial Note: Ah, a man of culture! Thank you for taking part in this, Travis, and the very best of luck to you and your spooky fantasy novel in this year’s competition!

Ch05en: Ivy by William Dickstein – Book Review
20, Jul

Self-Published
Genre: Sci-fi, Superhero
Pages: 
300+ (Goodreads states these as 166 pages but I’m pretty sure it’s more than that)
Format: 
ARC (Advanced Reader Copy)
Review/Purchased Copy
:  Offered by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: July 25th

Thorn of the Night Blossoms (Scions of the Black Lotus #1) by J. C. Kang – Book Review
16, Jul

J. C. Kang is a name I’ve seen circulating around. Fellow reviewers have mentioned The Dragon Songs Saga, praising the worldbuilding and characters, among other elements of that quadrilogy. It’s fair to say, I’ve been looking for the right time to pick up one of his works. When he contacted booknest.eu with the specific request that I review his latest in a series of novellas, the time seemed only right to carve out an hour and a half and get through what turned out to be a delightfully kinetic 93-page dive into a world reminiscent of medieval China…but with an exotic half-elf courtesan/spy taking the lead!

11/22/63 by Stephen King - Book Review
15, Jul

 

“I'm one of those people who doesn't really know what he thinks until he writes it down.” 

I can relate to that, can't you?

Stephen King is the rare kind of author who does not allow himself to be bound by the staples of any one genre. He’s been writing a book or two a year for so long that the tools he once borrowed for his early works have now become so seamlessly his that in combining conventions of different genres he weaves stories quite unlike anything else out there.

Take for example the victim of this review, 11/22/63. I could label it as sci-fi, of course, because the central plot point of this novel is time travel. I could label it a thriller twice over, because during two—three, even—parts of the novel, it certainly borrows from murder mysteries, spy-craft novels and the like. I could easily call it a great romance because…I  think you can figure that one out. Hell, it’s an excellent introduction to the history behind Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of Kennedy, with a number of artistic freedoms. It’s all this and beyond; an 850-page novel that’s more than the sum of its parts. This is one of those books that you owe to yourself to experience.

It’s a simple enough premise – Al, the dying owner of a diner, enlists his friend Jake Epping, an English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, to go back in time and prevent Kennedy’s assassination. Something in the pantry in Al’s diner allows anyone going down the steps to step into a different world – that of 1958’s America. It’s insane – and yet it’s real, as Jake quickly realises after Al practically shoves him through the ripple in time. The world of 1958 is as real, as tangible as Jake’s 2011. But how does it all work? Jake decides to test Al’s explanation, and in so doing hits the brick wall that is time itself. You see, time does not like to be pushed around by the occasional time traveller. Time is obdurate.  

To make it up to him, I do feel like causality or fate or what-have-you does offer the occasional aid when Jake’s back is against the wall. Thus we get an It-inspired cameo early on, several callbacks to the greater King universe and numerous pages of psychological trauma to rummage through with my psychiatrist.  

What does 11/22/63 do right? Character development, plot progression, dialogue (oh, that King dialogue gave me all the Dark Tower goosebumps), romance, time travel and all the consequences that come with it. Not only does he do all these elements right, King excels at each and every one of them. I could go on and on and on about the characters – and some of them are familiar to a reader of King’s work but with their unique twists and turns – but to do so would be to rob you, dear reader, of getting acquainted with them the same way I did, without a single clue.

What does it do wrong?

That’s the thing. Just about nothing.

Stephen King’s 11/22/63 receives my personal stamp of recommendation along with

You should read this if:

  • You like any of the elements I described in the opening paragraph to this review;
  • You like Stephen King;
  • You like good books, excellent writing, the whole shebang;
  • And more! Prob’ly.
For the Emperor (Ciaphas Cain #1) by Sandy Mitchell – Book Review
09, Jul

I have so much fun with books in the Warhammer 40k setting. There are hundreds upon hundreds of them and they range from the utterly ridiculous to the downright tragic; from grimmer than grimdark to…uh, kids’ books narrated by David Tennant and Billie Piper *squints*. All sorts of brilliant writers have contributed to the colossal body of works that is the lore of this universe – my absolute favourite so far has been Dan Abnett – and through its sheer amount, there is something for everyone. Granted, this is licensed tie-in fiction and I don’t think I’ll be doing anyone a disservice when I say that a lot of it isn’t particularly good. I’m not pointing any fingers!

The Warded Man (Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett – Book Review
04, Jul

 

I’ve had the first of Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle books recommended to me on reddit’s r/fantasy more than once. For years fellow redditors would namedrop the Demon Cycle; I must’ve had the first three books on my to-read list for well over three-four years. When I saw it on one of Audible’s 2-for-1 deals, I thought to myself, “At last, I will reveal myself to Peter V. Brett. At last, I will have my revenge.” Then I listened through seventeen hours of godly narration by Colin Mace and I have to say, I am well pleased with The Warded Man indeed.