* 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.

The Anointed is the second of the finalists we are reviewing (actually the third, as we’ve already reviewed the book we sent to the finals, but it really isn’t worth splitting hairs). 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.


He’s a jerk. She knows it. Can they save the world anyway?

Xinlas’s life goal is modest: he wants to be a living legend, revered in song and story. And he’s off to a good start. He faced death once, and won. His legend grew (at least in his own mind).

Fame comes calling on Xinlas again, or so he thinks, when he’s flying a dragon one afternoon and stumbles on a hidden village. The village has a resource that no one’s ever seen before, something that can enable invasions of foreign lands. It is a force so powerful that a ruthless king will kill for it.

Along the way, Xinlas meets a mysterious orange-haired girl on a river. Greengrass is like no one he’s ever met. He tries to woo her, and can’t understand why she doesn’t fall for his charms like every other girl.

But Greengrass is not every other girl. She is, in fact, the key to stopping the ruler who would enslave millions and crush the world under his throne.

Xinlas can’t let that happen, but he’ll need help. Help from Greengrass. The problem is that she can’t stand him.

Will Xinlas become the hero he believes he can be, or will he break under the weight of his destiny—and his own arrogance? The fate of civilization rests on his choices.


I like the cover of the book. The girl and boy, the dragon, the hint that they are fleeing something, all adds a level of mystery and excitement that will, at the very least, get you to open the book and delve into the pages beneath. It is worth noting that this is book three, though the author does, in the blurb, say that it can be read as a standalone.

However, and much as this really does pain me, you’ve seen the score. You know that our judges did not enjoy the inside as much as the outside. That isn’t to say the book, story and characters do not have interest, just that it wasn’t for us.

The story involves a young man, Xinlas, who is, as the blurb indicates, a jerk. I’m more inclined to describe him as a self-important, entitled, arrogant, teenager who is desperately in need of some maturity, responsibility, and character readjustment. I, and the other judges, really didn’t see eye to eye with him. I know this was part of the authors intent; create a character you dislike and, in the end, have them turn around. However, to do so, you have to make the reader care for the character in some manner. There has to be some feature, some idiosyncrasy, some hook, some sympathy or empathy created to help you identify with the character. Do that, foreshadow the change, and you’ll have us all reading along.

The world, at the start of the book, is contained and restricted with hints of a wider scope. There are dragons, each species a different colour, a different size, and suited for a particular task or ability. Xinlas’s family raise dragons and are reasonably wealthy. As is common practice, his parents hide the secret of his birth from him until the day of his maturity—which he reacts to in a manner the paragraph above suggests.

There are some interesting, if disturbing ideas. Each child is born and their future is read by a priest—their span of life is determined at that point. Be that ten days or a hundred years, their parents know how long the child will live and reveal that on the day of their maturity. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable knowing my allotted years—would I act rashly, safe in the knowledge that I will live to ninety or fear every year as it counted down, inexorably towards my own demise. What about accidents? Can they not happen? Are you, until these years have been spent, invulnerable? All good questions to consider.

Now, within this span of allotted years some action can be taken to extend it. And here, though I acknowledge the idea, the concept, the cleverness, I am also appalled that the society created relies upon it. How no one has risen up to depose the ruling classes, slaughtered the priests who enable it, and strung the wealthy from their own walls is beyond me. I digress (rant) and must move on to explanation.

In order to extend your years on the planet you must find a willing, or unwilling person, child, baby, and transfer their remaining years into your own body. So, just to be clear, the best, most efficient way to do this is to find a baby, or have someone find it for you, rip it from its parents grasp, and suck all that life out of its small, delicate, innocent, trusting form into your own so you’ll live a little longer. Longer as some form of guilt-ridden, child-killing monster, I’m guessing. I know that social guilt is based upon a society’s morals, but that society is based upon, utilizes, and acknowledges this process is warped beyond belief. A society of vampires, which aren’t vampires. I’d take a stake to every single one of them—and I know that is hypocrisy, but I’m hoping I wouldn’t be the only one.

Moving on, the prose is simplistic and should be functional. I’m a fan of simple prose used to inject pace and tension into a story, used to shock, to break a scene or produce a rhythm of reading which drives a point home. However (and I hate being so negative), the author often finds themselves tripping over tenses at times and some sentences are almost nonsensical. These drag you from the narrative and we found ourselves losing the thread of the story.

To make matters more difficult there is tendency to plunge headfirst into the trap of info-dumping. I found myself glossing over these pages, looking for some dialogue with which to engage with again. None of our judges, this one especially, is particularly fond of blatant info-dumping. When dialogue does break free and assert its presence, it comes across as stilted and unnatural, which only serves to disconnect the reader from the book.

I don’t want to write much more, I feel all I am doing is telling you how much we didn’t enjoy this book, and that’s not what the competition is about. I am sure this book has a market, a niche into which it will fit, and where it will find readers who enjoy it. All of our judges agree this book has some very imaginative ideas behind.

I, we all, wish the author every success, every chance to hone their craft, and so desperately desire that this review does not put them off of writing, but this book wasn’t for us.

– – –

And with that we say goodbye to The Anointed by Keith Ward. We have seven 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 = 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
  • 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, 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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