The war is over, but something is rotten in the state of Eidyn.

With a ragged peace in place, demons burn farmlands, violent Reivers roam the wilds and plague has spread beyond the Black Meadows. The country is on its knees.

In a society that fears and shuns him, Aranok is the first magically skilled draoidh to be named King’s Envoy.

Now, charged with restoring an exiled foreign queen to her throne, he leads a group of strangers across the ravaged country. But at every step, a new mystery complicates their mission. As bodies drop around them, new threats emerge and lies are revealed, can Aranok bring his companions together and uncover the conspiracy that threatens the kingdom?

As The Lost War begins, we learn protagonist Aranok is on the winning side of a recently ended conflict, but victory has come at a staggering cost as a looming plague, failed crops, refugees, nomadic raiding parties, and a demon incursion all disrupt a very fragile peace. As the king’s best friend and official envoy, Aranok is tasked with starting to set things straight, but the complexities of his mission are compounded by the general distrust and fear his people have for magic users. This much-maligned group was awarded full citizenship rights only shortly before the war and continue to be scapegoated for a lot of misfortunes. Magical abilities are considered shameful, and many families—including Aranok’s own—shun family members who “come out” as powered people. Aranok’s friendship with the king does not completely shield him from the consequences of this magic-phobia, which of course makes his mission that much harder.

Our Thoughts

There aren’t many novels that begin at the end of a conflict, but The Lost War explores this relatively undiscovered territory with aplomb. Anderson does a masterful job weaving a fast-paced adventure—including harrowing action scenes involving lots of monsters and zombies—into a fascinating backdrop involving economic ruin, misinformation, nativism, and stigma. None of these worldbuilding elements are wasted either—they all feed into the mystery Aranok discovers and investigates alongside his main mission, making the climactic reveal that much more profound. All of our judges were wowed by the conclusion of this book, which contains one of the most well-executed twists we’ve ever seen.

Selected comments from judges include:

A. M.

Despite an interesting setup, I had some trouble becoming immersed in the first half of this story because the points of view switch in a round-robin style without consideration for which character is affected most by the events. The approach—and writing—were cinematic, but this stylistic choice made it hard to become invested in any of the protagonists. However, after the team splits apart at the halfway point, the POVs sharpened, and the story seized my attention. My enthusiasm shot up and never came down, and I absolutely loved the ending! The fabulous twist turned a good book into a great one.


The Lost War doesn’t have a breakneck pace, but its story—even leaving aside the ending—is captivating.


This had me from the first expletive on the first page. Every character had a great personality that jumped off the page; they were all flawed and scarred in some way, which always appeals to me. Anderson has played a beautiful game with this book; inverted, subverted, and twisted the genre—this book is both serious and fun. Throughout you think you know what is happening and where Anderson is going with the plot, but at the last moment he does something magical and unexpected. I certainly look forward to the sequels of this book.


This story gave me a book hangover in the best way and is my favorite in the finalists. The characters were front and center, and it doesn’t lack for action once the stage is set. Initially, one may not care for the main character, or his attitude, but that changed for me as the story progressed. All the cast was splendid and memorable. They possess depth and well-rounded back stories. The worldbuilding was intricate but never imposing over the plot itself. The fantastical elements and monsters are used in creative and original ways to prevent the main characters from carrying out their mission, and they play a vital part in the mysteries which arise. The writing is smooth and easy to devour. The plot is filled with unexpected twists, and the end was a jaw dropper.

Fantasy-Faction’s Pick for SPFBO #6 Winner

The Lost War (cover)This year, we decided as a team to read the ten SPFBO finalists in a set order, which we announced publicly in December. Since then, we have published our reviews according to that schedule. No one could have predicted that our last book to read and review would also be our pick for overall SPFBO champion. Yet that’s what happened, as neat a twist of fate as the conclusion of The Lost War itself.

As a team we also want to give props to Michael Fletcher’s Black Stone Heart, which was our front-runner for most of phase two. We loved Fletcher’s grimdark exploration of the meaning of self and whether one’s actions are driven by external or internal forces. Black Stone Heart is thought-provoking and profound, and had The Lost War not been a finalist, it might have been our pick for the SPFBO crown.

Nevertheless, The Lost War netted a higher score. While not as overtly philosophical as Black Stone Heart, The Lost War explores serious subjects, mirroring many of society’s ills, while delivering an edge of your seat adventure we couldn’t put down. For these reasons, Fantasy-Faction selects The Lost War as our highest scoring book and our overall competition winner.

Our judges were A. M. Justice, Julia Kitvaria Sarene, Kartik Narayanan, Kerry Smith, Lynn Kempner, and Mariëlle Ooms-Voges. If you’d like to learn more about us, including our likes and dislikes, you can read about them here.

Any queries should be directed to A. M. Justice via DM (Facebook/Twitter).


By A. M. Justice

A. M. Justice is an award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy, a freelance science writer, and an amateur astronomer, scuba diver, and once and future tango dancer. She currently lives in Brooklyn with a husband, a daughter, and two cats. You can follow her on Twitter @AMJusticeWrites.

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