A Sea of Broken Glass (starbox)


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 and fresh roadkill on their tongue. To each their own, I suppose.

These are the finalists of the 5th annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Respected blogs, reviewers and readers out there chose these books as the best of their bunch. On that basis alone they deserve a hearty well done! With that in mind, we will review each book honestly and give our opinion (and score).

And this is how these reviews will work. The star number at the top of the page is the average of all the judges’ scores, and the score we are submitting for the contest. Judges will give their individual score below and say a little bit about why they scored the story the way they did.

Now, onwards with our first review of the finalists of SPFBO #5!


Secrets have a price.

After enduring weeks of torture and being convicted of witchery, Ris escapes, only to discover the Darkness and the Lady are hunting her. They need the magic that sings within her.

Creator of all, the imprisoned Lady needs Ris, her last vessel, to find the Heart of Creation. The Darkness seeks to corrupt the vessel and retain his hold on the Lady, and with it, the world.

Ris finds help from a pair of Paladins of Light who aid her in cleansing the evil taint from the lands. As her power grows, so do her questions. How can she restore balance to the world and free the Lady? Should the Lady be trusted or is she as much at fault for the evil in the world as the Darkness? With powerful demons War, Ruin, and Plague at her heels, Ris struggles to stay alive as she tries to unravel the secrets hidden within her before it’s too late.

Secrets that may cost Ris her soul even if she does succeed.

G R Matthews 6/10

The first chapter is told in first person; a young woman, accused of a crime, in a cell, having been tortured. I’m no fan of torture, but you have to admit this kind of peril, this emotional situation, this fear could make a fantastic start to a book. You could be drawn into this poor woman’s life, worry for her, hope she will escape, and I am sure many people will be. Personally, I didn’t connect with Ris in the way I felt I should have to become invested in her story. However, that’s only the first chapter.

The subsequent chapters developed the story and I began to be a little more interested in the world, but I still felt distant from the characters. I want my first person books to be deep in the psyche of the characters—I want to know their thoughts and emotions, however too much in A Sea of Broken Glass is left to telling me how they are, how they feel, what they are doing.

At 65% the story picked up. There are definite double dealings and some betrayal on the way. The fight scenes and battles are a little short and lack the drama I crave, but they do the job of moving the story along. The ending is fine and leads into the next book.

I really wanted to like this book, and I did (I read it all the way through, which is always a good sign), however I always felt a little distant from the characters and in the end that determines the score. There are definitely folks out there that will enjoy this one.

Lynn Kempner 6/10

This story has a good hook in the prologue. How this event came about is left for us to discover on our own. The reader wants to know more about the character and those who’ve sworn to protect her. It feels as if there’s a lot of setup missing. I’m sure there is a much larger threat, we just aren’t privy to it. We do not know but the briefest background on the main characters. Although their predicament is quite dire, the vague references to how they became embroiled in this situation are a bit thin. I’d like the characters more if they were fleshed out rather than glossed over. There should be enough background of each to invest the reader deeper into the action. I unfortunately found their repetitive escapes from demons on the hunt to be predictable.

Although the author has chosen to headline the chapters in the book, as excerpts from a tale or biography called “The Lady and the Darkness”, it’s cryptic and it sheds little light on the actual struggle itself and how this group ended up together. Both the protagonist and her champions seem bewildered by the turn of events that set them on a quest most likely to end in their deaths. There are definitely forces on a god level at work between the Lady of Light and the Darkness, but the characters, while believing strongly in the Darkness and it’s taint, have differing views on the legend of the Lady and her curse. 

The magic system was intriguing, with a mixture of power and music. The prose and dialogue are well written and fairly well edited. Although the pacing is rapid, at 75% I was still asking more questions than finding answers. Many other readers may find they quite enjoy its easy readability, it’s unique magic, and the mystery of a battle between gods, fought hundreds of years before.

A. M. Justice 4.5/10

I’m afraid I DNF’d (did not finish) this book at 20%. I liked the musical descriptions of magic, and I thought the action sequences were well written, but other aspects didn’t work for me at all. I had trouble developing connections to the characters because backstory was so often substituted for character development. I think the narrative would have been more engaging had the novel begun with Ris’s arrest rather than her escape from prison. This would have given us time to get to know her and to understand better why her protectors weren’t around to help her earlier. I also would have liked to see more cohesion between the musical, elemental, and color aspects of the magic, which seemed random and disconnected to me. Perhaps the connections become more clear later in the novel, but there wasn’t enough here to hold my interest so I could find out.

– – –

And that’s our first review done and there will be more to come. I really have to congratulate the author for reaching the finals—that is an achievement which can never be taken away!


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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