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.

Sworn to the Night is the sixth of the finalists which 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.


Marie Reinhart is an NYPD detective on the trail of a serial killer. When she sleeps, though, she dreams of other lives; she dreams of being a knight, in strange wars and strange worlds. On the other side of the city, Nessa Roth is a college professor trapped in a loveless marriage, an unwilling prop in a political dynasty. She’s also a fledgling witch, weaving poppets and tiny spells behind closed doors.

When Marie’s case draws her into Nessa’s path, sparks fly. What comes next is more than a furtive whirlwind affair; it’s the first pebbles of an avalanche. Nessa and Marie are the victims of a curse that has pursued them across countless lifetimes; a doom designed to trap them in a twisted living fairy tale, with their romance fated to end in misery and death.

They aren’t going out without a fight. As they race to uncover the truth, forces are in motion across the country. In Las Vegas, a professional thief is sent on a deadly heist. In a Detroit back alley, witches gather under the guidance of a mysterious woman in red. Just outside New York, an abandoned zoo becomes the hunting-ground for servants of a savage and alien king. The occult underground is taking sides and forming lines of battle. Time is running out, and Nessa and Marie have one chance to save themselves, break the curse, and demand justice.

This time, they’re writing their own ending.


There is something just so great about urban fantasy. You have a setting we all recognise, so that grounds the story, and then you twist it with magic, monsters, the weird and the strange. It would be easy to mess that up, to get it totally wrong, to tear us out of the world, to twist it too far until it snaps. Luckily, the author of Sworn to the Night doesn’t do that.

This book is the first in trilogy, but that follows on from another trilogy. A lot of the setup, the worldbuilding, the characters have already been introduced, three books ago maybe. None of our judges had read the previous three and this may have put this one at something of a disadvantage. We can’t change that, it’s the nature of the competition. However, having said that, this book made it past 290 others to reach the final—that has to be a good sign!

The story in Sworn to the Night revolves around two characters who seem doomed to be born and reborn forever, lovers parted by time yet destined to run into one another again and again. It’s an idea that is had been done before, but which stands the test of time (no pun intended). Here, presented in this book, is one such life, one such meeting, one episode of the ongoing seasons.

One of our judges enjoyed the crime and mystery elements delivered in the story. The scene in the zoo was well set up—it also explained some of the characters skills and added a little flavour to their development. There is also some romance, which becomes erotic without spilling over into the pornographic.

There are however, some howevers in the review. Aren’t there always?

Firstly, the hook, the two forever lovers, is ripe for exploration, twists and turns as we follow them through time, however in Sworn to the Night we only presented with one incarnation and so for us it missed an opportunity. Having said that, we acknowledge this may be, as stated above, because this is the second trilogy in a world already ongoing. All we can do is the judge the book put in front of us, so that caveat keeps being repeated.

Also, the two main characters seemed to switch their personalities a little too quickly for one of our judges; from meek to sadistic, from good to evil. Lastly, the face off at the end didn’t convey the excitement and danger we’d expected, robbing the book of the expected emotional wrench.

It is a fine urban fantasy book, though I think, if we had read the first trilogy it would have more meaning for us, we’d have been more invested in the characters. The authors books seem to be doing well on Amazon and Goodreads, so if you’ve got the time and inclination, it might be worth your time (and pennies) to pick them up.

– – –

And with that we say goodbye to Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer. We have three 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 = 6
  • 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.


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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