Damn Wilds by K.A. Honeywell
Sadly, this was a DNF for me as I wasn’t able to engage with the characters, prose or story. The novel follows Clover who accidentally ends up with magic trapped inside her, caused by Joss as a trap that uses magic as bait explodes and catches Clover in the blast. Promising to help her get the magic removed and buy her an onward train ticket to escape her old life, Joss and Clover are pursued by the agency Joss stole from, giant animals called Wilds who are attracted to the bait magic, and mysterious forces from Clover’s past. Damn Wilds is an Urban Fantasy with a Western twist that has some heavy overtones of religious fanaticism and a world rife with discrimination against magic users.
For me the prose had a tendency to drag without adding much to the atmosphere, story or characters. I didn’t click with Clover or Joss and so I wasn’t invested in their story. These are the two major reasons the book became a bit of an arduous slog to try and get through; the chapters seemed to drag on and with multiple POVs swapping back and forth inside each chapter it wasn’t always clear where you were. I gave it as long as I could but after reaching 50% without much change in tempo or style I had to put it to one side. I feel there’s an interesting world in there that could be explored but Damn Wilds was not the offering for me.
Crossings by Ashley Capes
Crossings is a thriller, set in small-town Australia, with some supernatural/spiritual elements behind the mysterious, and violent, events that coincide with our main character’s abusive ex returning to town.
Given that brief description, and the fact I read this as part of SPFBO Phase One, you may be wondering “is this a fantasy novel?”. You’d be right to wonder; the answer, simply, is no. The blurb mentions a giant white kangaroo, which is one of the supernatural elements, sort of, but not much else in the speculative realm. The mysterious giant roo doesn’t make an appearance until halfway through the book and while there are some other weird goings on, this is still a thriller that happens to have some supernatural elements.
Blazing Coffins by Jowsey Jones
Blazing Coffins is a tongue-in-cheek, comedy, urban fantasy with a host of magical creatures as characters that focussed on twins Wolfie and Theda and their quest to rescue their parents from an inept villain and his lair. With clear Addams Family and Munsters vibes, it has a quiet charm to it and offers something different to a lot of fantasy out there.
9 Levels of Hell, Vol 1 by E.C. Static
This is a LitRPG style offering that follows our MC, Clint, as he battles through the first level of Death’s new gamified Hell. Clint finds himself in an FPS (First Person Shooter) reimagining of Hell with features reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno. It is a fast-paced adventure that has been cleverly realised.
The Goddess of Nothing at All by Cat Rector
This retelling follows a minor goddess from Norse mythology and one of the wives of Loki; Sigyn. Looking at Asgard and all its gods and politics through her eyes offers an alternative to the traditional narrative. There is a heavy Romantasy element as Loki and Sigyn’s relationship is the core feature of the story. With some dark moments of tragedy and suffering, The Goddess of Nothing At All is an emotional rollercoaster.
SEMI-FINALIST: A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla
Finally, as my semi-finalist, I have chosen A Touch of Light! Congratulations to Thiago Abdalla! This book was an excellently woven, multi-POV, fantasy tale with grim intrigue and brilliantly written scenes that stuck with me. It is one of my top reads of the year so far and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next instalment. Good luck for the rest of the competition!
One final note from me:
Thank you to all the authors for entering and to Mark Lawrence for hosting the competition. Thank you to the BookNest crew for having me on the team for Phase One, it has been a lot of fun!