Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #2: Our Final Seven
After much deliberation, the Fantasy-Faction reviewing team has narrowed down the entries in our group to seven. Our task now is to read and discuss these books more closely, with a view to picking a winner.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the standard across all the books we’ve looked at was high. So what was it about these seven that made them stand out? They’re polished, yes. The writing is smooth. They are clearly written by authors who care about their craft and have done everything they can to ensure the reader doesn’t get thrown out by inconsistency, irritated by typos, or turned off by clunky exposition. But to be honest, that should go without saying. And there are other books in this group alone that achieved all those things and yet didn’t quite make the cut. So what was it that made these seven stand out?
In general, the answer seems to be that each of them has something different about it. Something that made the book memorable enough that it stuck in the reviewer’s mind, even after they had read other samples. Sometimes that was a unique voice. Sometimes it was an unusual structure. Sometimes it was the sheer quality of the prose. None of these things alone would win a contest, but when you add them to an already polished book, that’s the little bit of something extra that makes it memorable.
So here are our final seven (in alphabetical order by author surname), each with thoughts from one of the reviewing team.
Paternus by Dyrk Ashton
GR says: Paternus is told in the present tense with multiple character perspectives and that, alongside the worldbuilding, is interesting. We humans are not the first, nor the strongest, or brightest. We are children, babies learning to crawl, compared to the Firstborn and they seem about to go to war with each other. I’m intrigued!
Ravenmarked by Amy Rose Davis
AFE says: This entry stood out first of all by virtue of having a really strong and engaging prologue. We were happy to find that the quality of the writing was maintained into the body of the book, with convincing dialogue and descriptions bringing everything to life. And the plot held enough interest for us as reviewers that we were unanimously happy to read on.
Terminus by Ryan Howse
Laura says: This is certainly one of the most intriguing entries we’ve encountered. Mostly well written, and structured in a way that’s deliberately disjointed, the opening chapters of Terminus introduced us to the disorienting semi-conscious predicament of a mysterious not-quite-human protagonist. We think we like it. And we’re hooked enough that we want to read on and find out for sure.
Yseult by Ruth Nestvold
Laura says: This historical fantasy was a nice change of pace that most of us found rather captivating. A retelling of the classic ‘Tristan and Isolde’, Yseult successfully draws its readers into the time and place in which it is rooted. In addition to one or two really pretty and evocative turns of phrase, we all agreed that there is a certain charm and quality to Nestvold’s writing that had most of us engaged enough to want to read more.
Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope
AFE says: This entry impressed all of us with the quality of the writing, the excellent worldbuilding, and the intriguing magic system. Add some really well-drawn characters that shine off the page, and a plot that touches skilfully on themes of racism and prejudice, and you have yourself a page-turner. Although the romantic element to the plot doesn’t fully appeal to all our reviewers, there’s no doubt that Song of Blood & Stone is a strong entry to the contest.
Off Leash by Daniel Potter
Laura says: This … is a strange one. It’s well written. It’s light-hearted. It’s quite unlike any of the other entries so far. And admittedly we weren’t sure what to make of it. But it made us laugh. It stuck with us after reading the sample. Written in the first person, the narrative voice is engaging and entertaining. It’s … different. And we’re not sure how it will hold up against the other six when read in its entirety. But it certainly promises to be a fun experience.
The Raven by Aderyn Wood
AFE says: While we weren’t fully convinced by the prologue (a common theme!), we all agreed that this entry offered something in the way of setting and magic system that’s a little different from many fantasies we’ve read. The characters held our interest and we all found ourselves invested enough in the tension of the initial conflict that we wanted to keep reading.
Congrats to all the authors that made the cut and good luck in the final rounds!