* Disclaimer *

Writing and reading are subjective arts. 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 with fresh roadkill upon their tongue. To each their own, I suppose.

Anyway in this competition, we at Fantasy-Faction are reading all 30 books in no particular order and ‘rejecting’ them in similar fashion. And, to be clear, we are reading like agents, we read the first three chapters or ten thousand words (give or take) using the Amazon Sample whenever possible. Our judges record their comments and we base our decisions to keep or, sadly, reject based on that alone.

If a book you love goes out in this group of “Five to Fall”, it does not mean the next twenty or so are better, only that they were read afterwards.

If you have no idea what we’re talking about you can catch up here.

At the End of the Rainbow by Sherry Perkins

At the End of the Rainbow (cover)Morgan Patterson came to Northern Ireland for her senior college year abroad to focus on her studies far away from family drama. But she’s quickly distracted by a hunk of a police sergeant named Tiernan Doherty. Though he’s old enough to be her da, as her new friends are quick to point out, she fancies him. And he certainly seems to be obsessed with her.

Eagerly going against all good advice, Morgan becomes more and more bound to Tiernan—by ties of lust and love and protection, and maybe even duty. But there is more to their attraction than Morgan can explain with her science textbooks, and more is going on in this sleepy village than she could ever have imagined.

She was once so sure that faerie stories were fiction. But there’s no denying the strange visions and dreams she’s been experiencing again since coming to this place. So many of the people she’s met—both those looking out for her welfare and those seeking to destroy her—seem to feel she is a special one, with powers that are only now coming fully into her possession. Will she finally begin to understand that herself before it’s too late?

All the judges had a very similar reaction to the first chapter of this book. It is hard to pigeon-hole the tone of the book, however I am going to go for paranormal-faerie-romance-thriller, though Amazon has it in the horror and occult sections. Set in Ireland and told from multiple perspectives even in the first chapter, we are focused upon a policeman and the object of his lust.

It would be hard to write a review without mentioning the word ‘arse’ which appears quite often in the sample. There is a character to this book, to the setting, but it did not possess a hook that made any of our judges want to read further. However, the ‘male gaze’, as written here, is uncomfortable and I fully expected the character to be some sort of abuser or sexual predator. As such it would be hard to recommend, but you could always check out the Amazon sample and make that determination for yourself.

The Sword of Goliath by Anthony Jones

The Sword of Goliath (cover)The Sword of Goliath—a delightful classic good versus evil fantasy adventure with suspense from beginning to end. This first novel introduces enduring characters who capture your heart as well as realistic villains you learn to hate. Just the right amount of comedy and sadness to ensure you laugh and cry as the story takes you to places beyond paradise. The descriptions of the people and places come alive and ring true throughout the book. Captures your heart and fills you with hope for the characters.

The Sword of Goliath is the first in a series and begins with a lot of description delivered in an adventurous style and with a structure that, sadly, did not work for any of our judges. The chapters are short and descriptive, though the plot does develop over time and one of our judges thought it interesting.

The subject matter is firmly in the Christian fantasy genre, as the title suggests, though it isn’t too preachy. There is sex, not described, though the characters seemed a little too good for one of our judges. Most of our judges commented on the dialogue, mentioning that it was a little stiff in places.

However, on Amazon it has 4.4 rating after 21 reviews so clearly other readers are enjoying it.

Rogue Hunters by John Magna

Rogue Hunters (cover)What do you do when your wife sacrifices herself to protect you? If you are Vardr, you hunt down the rogue gods responsible and make them bleed.

Hunting down an amped-up werewolf and an elite warrior that escaped from Valhalla through the streets of New Phoenix wasn’t in Vardr’s original plans. Neither was tracking down missing fae.

Caught in an ancient war among deities, Vardr and his oddball team must succeed to prevent two rogue gods from being born and unleashed upon the Earth.

You read the blurb (above) and think this concept of setting out to kill a god is quite a cool one. The second paragraph seems to argue against the first though, and so it is with the story of this novel. One of our judges commented on how they liked the dystopian city and there is a fight scene early on. Others talked of the variety of gods, spirits and monsters that inhabit the book.

It may be the reason our judges ultimately decided to pass on this one was that complexity of worldbuilding introduced a little too early when there was little feeling for the characters. For two judges it was the info-dump on the first page.

Obviously, anyone who can create a new paranormal world alongside our own and include such a variety of monsters and spirits has an active imagination. Sometimes though, less is more.

Mirrored Myrrh by Caldon Mull

Mirrored Myrrh (cover)Mirrored Myrrh is the latest in the annals from the Agents of the Numinous Constraint Agency. The Novel describes the missions called ‘Secular Solipsism’, ‘Attitude Adjustment’ and ‘Irreducible Complexity’, in which the Staff of the Agency rescue a dying dimension, save Dublin from a sinister plot against the Bay and Queen Victoria in 1861 and help install a Sixth Spiritual Sun, the Nahui Xochitl.

This is book three in a series, which was always going to be a difficult sell. However, it does try to create voice, tone and a compelling plot. Like the previous book in this article, maybe it tries just a little too hard. There are inconsistencies in the writing and the main character seems so unsure of herself that it is hard to invest emotionally in her struggles.

All of judges found the prose confusing and were unsure, like the character (which could be what the author intended), what was happening. Sadly, the prose didn’t catch our attention and the nagging feeling that we were missing something (maybe book one and two) meant we were not inclined to read on.

Boy of Dreams by Nathan Van Hoff

Boy of Dreams (cover)An impatient wizard and her new apprentice must keep their country from being torn apart while they search for the rightful king.

After the treacherous murder of the last High King, the Isle of Esten was left divided and vulnerable. Local rulers contend for power and outside influences bring the island ever closer to destruction.

When one of the few remaining wizards in Esten discovers a neglected farm boy whose dreams seem to foretell the future, she thinks he may hold the key to finding the rightful king and restoring unity to their fractured homeland. Together they must attempt to hold dark forces at bay long enough for the king to appear.

This is one that split the judges a little. It begins to tell the tale that is traditional in structure. A stranger arrives in a village and sees promise in a boy. The boy is “bought” and freed from a life of drudgery with the promise of learning magic. There is a charm to this sort of tale, it harkens back to our earliest readings. And there is a map and a pronunciation guide at the beginning.

However, almost all the judges commented that the charm of this trip down memory lane isn’t quite matched by the prose and unfolding story. Close to the start there is also a bit of a history-geography info-dump that has to be fought through to get the story moving again.

Over on Amazon it has some good reviews, despite the lack of a real cover, so perhaps the charm overcame the pitfalls we felt that it tripped and fell into in.

– – –

So there it is. Fantasy-Faction’s second “Five to Fall” post of the 2018 SPFBO. 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 Five to Fall article.

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 me (G R Matthews) via DM (Facebook/Twitter) or via the Fantasy-Faction website.

Title image by Rosana.


By Geoff Matthews

G. R. Matthews began reading in the cot. His mother, at her wits end with the constant noise and unceasing activity, would plop him down on the soft mattress with an encyclopaedia full of pictures then quietly slip from the room. Growing up, he spent Sunday afternoons on the sofa watching westerns and Bond movies after suffering the dual horror of the sounds of ABBA and the hoover (Vacuum cleaner) drifting up the stairs to wake him in the morning. When not watching the six-gun heroes or spies being out-acted by their own eyebrows he devoured books like a hungry wolf in the dead of winter. Beginning with Patrick Moore and Arthur C Clarke he soon moved on to Isaac Asimov. However, one wet afternoon in a book shop in his hometown, not far from the standing stones of Avebury, he picked up the Pawn of Prophecy and started to read - and now he writes fantasy! Seven Deaths of an Empire coming from Solaris Books, June 2021. Agent: Jamie Cowen, Ampersand Agency. You can follow him on twitter @G_R_Matthews or visit his website at www.grmatthews.com.

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