* 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.

We have now entered the finals in this year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO)! We’ve nine books to read and review, chosen by blogs all over the fantasy-sphere, each with their own idiosyncratic taste in fiction. We’re reading them, noting our thoughts, and scoring them. We’ll take the average of individual judges scores as our final rating.


Healer Sean Danet is immortal—a fact he has cloaked for centuries, behind enemy lines and now a paramedic’s uniform. Having forgotten most of his distant past, he has finally found peace—and love.

But there are some things you cannot escape, however much distance you put behind you.

When Sean heals the wrong man, he uncovers a lethal enemy who holds all the cards. And this time he can’t run. It’s time to stand and fight, for himself, for his friends, for the woman he loves. It’s time, finally, for Sean to face his past—and choose a future.

A story of love, of battle, and of facing your true self when there’s nowhere left to hide.


We like a good urban fantasy book. Done well they can twist your appreciation for the world in which we live our everyday existence. The thought, the hint, that just out of sight, glimpsed from the corner of your eye, that there is something more, something deeper to this world can be damn enticing. A world of dark villains, grim heroes, beasts with terrifying faces, and beings possessing unsurpassed beauty—the stuff of daydreams and fantasies (and, let’s face it, nightmares).

You have to praise LeClerc for getting a book into the SPFBO finals. That is no mean feat by anyone’s measure. According to the author’s blurb on Amazon, he actually works as a Paramedic and that certainly comes through in the main character’s knowledge and the way in which technical details are deployed throughout those scenes. It is Tom Clancy-esque in that regard.

The main character, as this is told in the first person and so it is his head we inhabit for the journey, is a paramedic and also an immortal. With the ability to heal, he seems a perfect fit for his current career and there’s a lot to admire in a person who could, given the thousands of years of life to plan and prepare, have been a multi-billionaire and yet choses to serve. In all that time, the protagonist has not given up on the human race despite all our idiocies, our cruelties, our mistakes. It must take a certain kind of person to maintain that level of hope through the ages.

However, and there has to be some howevers in a review, our judges didn’t get on with the main character very well. Too much of the dialogue and narrative edged into innuendo when it was clear it was intended to be light-hearted, to bring the characters to life, and not enough dipped deeper into the reasons. To be fair, the character himself acknowledges this.

There were also a surfeit of perfect women and, as the book description makes clear, this urban fantasy novel is also a romance novel. If you follow the reviewing team on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know that this was going to be a hard sell for us. We like romance done well, as part of the character’s arcs and handled with subtlety and realism. For our judges, the romance here was too simplistic for them to get behind and become invested.

To sum it up, this book has a lot of good aspects, a strong narrative voice for instance, but it wasn’t for us.

– – –

And with that we say goodbye to Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc. We have eight 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
  • The Anointed by Keith Ward
  • 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
  • Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer
  • Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon
  • 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 me, G R Matthews, via DM (Facebook/Twitter) or via the Fantasy-Faction website.


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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