Voice of War by Zack Argyle – SPFBO #6 Finals Review

Voice of War by Zack Argyle

SPFBO #6 Finals Review

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This Is How You Lose the Time War

Novella Review

The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence

The Girl and the Mountain

New Release Review


Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon – SPFBO #4 Finals Review

Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon – SPFBO #4 Finals Review
Book Name: Symphony of the Wind
Author: Steven McKinnon
Publisher(s): Self-Published
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Steampunk
Release Date: May 4, 2018


Writing and reading is a subjective art. What some folks will absolutely love, others will dislike. It is a bit like Marmite in the UK—normal people dislike it intensely, but some weird folks actually enjoy the taste of warm road surface and fresh roadkill upon their tongue. To each their own, I suppose.

Symphony of the Wind is the fifth of the finalists we are reviewing. We’ve nine books to read and review, chosen by blogs all over the fantasy-sphere and each with their own idiosyncratic taste in fiction. We’re reading them, noting our thoughts, and scoring them. We’ll take an average of individual judges scores as our final rating.


A bounty hunter with a death wish. A girl with fearsome powers. A kingdom on the brink of destruction.

Serena dreams of leaving her unforgiving desert home far behind in her very own airship. But when an assassin’s knife meant for Serena kills her friend instead, the rebellious orphan ventures into the corrupt heart of the kingdom to discover who put a price on her head. With each new turn, she edges closer to uncovering the awful truth, and the mystical powers brewing deep within her.

After his fiancée’s death, soldier-turned-bounty hunter Tyson Gallows is eager to sacrifice his life in the line of duty. When a foreign enemy assassinates a high-ranking official, he vows to bring them to justice. On the hunt for a killer, Gallows exposes a sinister plot that proves his fiancée’s death was no accident.

Driven by revenge, Serena and Gallows must join forces to take down the conspiracy before the kingdom falls to ruin.


You’d be wrong if you thought this was going to be a light-hearted jaunt on airships. We’re quickly introduced to our rag-tag crew aboard the Liberty Wind, with plucky protagonist Serena and the chip on her shoulder, discovering their unique personalities. It’s not long into the story before things start going wrong, the pace immediately picks up and gives us a taste of what’s yet to fully unfold.

It’s commendable that the author strikes while the iron is hot and gets down and dirty within the first chapter (there’s even a shock death, but given how soon it is into the beginning of the story, we pass on mourning for their loss). The almost immediate action made for a welcome break from some of the other competing lengthy narratives we’ve seen thus far during this year’s SPFBO.

The second chapter focuses on bounty hunter Gallows, but although the narrative remains third person throughout, we’re given a little bit of motion sickness here as the focus shifts between Gallows and his prey, criminal-on-the-run Buzz, providing a somewhat unnecessary insight to both of their minds. This occasionally happens throughout the novel, with secondary characters grabbing some of the limelight, but more often than not on other occasions this adds useful progression to the story and the reader’s understanding of events. We meet a sidekick and fellow bounty hunter with another tantalising morsel of something as yet unrevealed and almost completely under control. 

Although Serena is shown to have little association with others of her age, preferring to spend time with the raincatchers than those like her at the orphanage, we see her almost repel the friendship that’s extended to her by Marrin.

Home.’ What, the orphanage? Back to its stale air and confines? Back to the dorm, where Marrin would follow her and pester her like an obsessed puppy?

Contrary to the inner workings of her mind that we’re shown, there’s the defensive part of Serena that can’t bear to see her intimidated by others at the orphanage. The unfortunate death of Marrin raises questions—the blade was undoubtedly meant for Serena and sets the story truly in motion.

Symphony is much a tale of two halves; the title and first half alluding to a steampunk-style novel set aboard airships, with the second giving way to a Resident Evil-esque dark second half of genetic modifications and tampering with corpses (yep, we didn’t see it coming). One judge decided not to read any further after summarising the novel as ‘Resident Evil with monocles and parasols’ and withdrew his score. It’s true to say that around half of the finalists for SPFBO contain some form of undead, but for this judge in particular, it was one rotting corpse too many.

Although the work itself is interesting, with likable characters, great story-telling and well-defined worldbuilding, the two parts are just strikingly different, leaving remnant memories where you question whether you’ve got two stories jumbled up. So here we must regrettably sail away from Symphony.

– – –

And with that we say goodbye to Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon. We have four more books to go, and Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe is still our book to beat! You can see our scores below and visit Mark Lawrence’s website for the total scores from all participating sites.

  • Aching God by Mike Shel = 6
  • The Anointed by Keith Ward = 3
  • The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss
  • Orconomics: A Satire by J. Zachary Pike
  • Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc = 4
  • Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe = 8.5
  • Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas = 4
  • Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer
  • Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon = 6
  • We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

Again, it is important to note that these are just the judges’ opinions on the samples we read. Others may view the books differently, that’s what makes writing and reading so much fun (and so infuriating). Keep an eye out for the next review!

Our judges are: G R Matthews, Julia Sarene, David Zampa, Jessica Juby, Rachel McCoy, Rakib Khan, and J C Kang. You can read more about each of them here.

Any queries should be directed to G R Matthews, via DM (Facebook/Twitter) or via the Fantasy-Faction website.


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