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SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist


SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist


It is my first year as an SPFBO judge, and I am so excited and honored to participate on Team Qwillery. I was tasked to read six books at least 30% or at least 50 pages. From there, I am to choose which book should continue on to the semi-finals. Choosing was a difficult task because the books are so different in style, age range, and subject content. I have including some brief content review and some information on the various books.


The following 5 books have been eliminated:

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
Quest
by A.J. Ponder
Genre: Coming of Age Fantasy, YA, Fairy Tale Fantasy
Series/Standalone: Series - The Sylvalla Chronicles

This was a fun and quirky story. Set in the style of Terry Pratchett, the humor was great. It turns fantasy cliches on their head. Princess Sylvanna dreams of the life of high adventure and quests. It is pretty dull being a princess. We meet a cast of oddball characters and shenanigans. The writing is well done, although I got lost a few times in the multiple POV. It is a solid read, and I enjoyed it.



SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
The Dark Yule
by R.M. Callahan
Genre: Paranormal Suspense, UF
Series/Standalone: Series - Pumpkin Spice Tales

The Dark Yule is about a cat, specifically a Main Coon cat named Pumpkin Spice. Cats are not what they seem. They can see monsters, ghouls, and all the horrible creatures of the night that humans can not see. I loved this premise. I like to think that cats are actually like this and they battle the nefarious and evil. They basically just put up with us humans. It kind of fits if you have ever owned a cat. The characterization was fantastic. Pumpkin Spice is so cool, so proud and full of sass. Her adventure is dark and reminded me a bit of a Neil Gaiman book with Lovecraftian overtones.



SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings
by Lydia Sherrer
Genre: Humorous Fantasy, New Adult, YA, Supernatural Mystery
Series/Standalone: Series - The Lily Singer Adventures

This story is the adventures of Lily Singer, intrepid wizard not a witch.

Character-wise, Lily is stuffy and unsure of herself outside of magic. The first book is an adventure between Lily and Sebastian involving an old house, and ghosts. Sebastion is a witch, not a wizard, and in that, there is a bit of classicism as to what kind of magic is proper magic. This story was fluffy and fun, although the book as a whole was confusing. I was unsure how the various parts fit together as a single entity. It was more like short stories with a common set of characters and theme.



SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
Tooth Goblins
by Ash Teroid
Genre: Children's Sword & Sorcery
Series/Standalone: Standalone

Tooth Goblins is an original middle-grade fantasy story. It takes the legend of tooth Faires and turns it on its ear involving fairies, goblins, teenage boys, and a quest. The story was a lot of fun but lost me in some of the writing, and it dragged a bit.



SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
Alban's Choice
by Monica Zwikstra
Genre: Action & Adventure
Series/Standalone: Standalone

This story started strong, Zwikstra employed well-done worldbuilding and characterization. Alban and Rahan are strong characters put into a life-changing predicament. But as the story progressed, I became lost in the minor plot points. There was just too much to follow.








My Semi-Finalist Selection

Oblivion by Andy Blinston!

Oblivion
Rakkan Conquest 1
Falbury Publishing, November 1, 2018
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 410 pages
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Greek & Roman Myth & Legend

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-Finalist
Darius wakes surrounded by blood. Most of his mind has been stolen, and the dark figure that took it wants the rest.

Caught in a raging war between the human empire and fiery rakkan invaders, he soon learns his fearsome powers have made him an enemy to both.

Unable to tell friend from foe, he must fight to escape a fate worse than death. His only helper is a mysterious female warrior who promises to restore him to former glory. But can she be trusted?

Is he ready to discover the horrifying truth of who he was, and why he's wanted?

If you like fantasy full of mystery and action, you’ll love this book.



Elizabeth's Review

Oblivion had me at the get-go. The opening scene is harrowing, and it sets the stage for the main protagonist's motivations throughout the story. Darius, the main character, is complicated. His memory has mostly disappeared. He does not know who he is or what he is capable of. The only thing he has is a traumatic memory of him as a child. Even though the "mind-wipe" can be tropey in most books, I found Blinston's use of the "mind-wipe" plot device interesting. Especially within the context of his created world. What would a great warrior do if he could not remember himself? This is especially true when set against other morally grey characters. Blinston kept the suspense and confusion as to what is right and correct for much of the novel.

One of the best parts of Oblivion is the supporting character of Lex. Often in dark fantasy, female characters can be written flatly. They can be the seductress or the crone. Or, they could be haughty and overly-harsh. I find this especially true in the Wheel of Time stories. Jordan had a difficult time writing female characters that didn't always pull their braids or fluff their skirts when angry. It gets old. Blinston did a good job with Lex. She is tough, as one would need to be tough existing in the Oblivion world, but she has broken parts of her that make her a more realistic character. It allows the audience the opportunity to understand her actions and her emotional plight. It gives her three dimensions when often women are written in two. I am looking forward to reading the next books in the series to see how her character develops. Her story was left on quite the cliffhanger, and if it plays out, can drastically change the path that she takes.

Darius, as the main protagonist, was solid. He isn't perfect. He makes some stupid decisions and behaves in childish ways occasionally through the story. I think the childish reactions to some situations were a good conscious choice on the author's part. Again, a character that is too much of one thing can ring flat. Darius has parts of him that are emotionally broken, much like Lex. This allows the reader to understand and empathize with his plight. Empathy makes this story work.

The villain of the story, Archimedes, is scary. Not, horror movie scary. But so dark and morally gray that his intentions, which are entirely logical and fine to him, shock and appall other characters in the story and by extension the reader. It is often that the scariest characters in books are ones that are entirely sure of their actions, even if those actions are horrendous. They don't think of themselves as the villain. They think themselves as the hero and act accordingly. Archimedes is like that. Although the reader does not understand the entirety of his actions until later in the book, the effects and consequences of disobedience to him are stark; he is too powerful not to obey.

The only slight detractor to this story was pacing. The story lulled in a few spots where Blinston was building backstory. This slowed down the pace significantly for me. The story picks up immediately, usually in the form of an action sequence, and moves the plot forward. But those lulls slowed the pacing down.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this story immensely. It is a great dark fantasy read up there with other notable works in the genre. Blinston left the story wide open for the next book, which is exciting. I want to know what is going to happen with the characters and look forward to reading the next one.

Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013


Please welcome Skyla Dawn Cameron to The Qwillery as part of the Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour!




Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013





The Lesbian Graphic Designer Who Lives in the Suburbs with Her Pacifist Girlfriend 
(On Peri Takata)

By Skyla Dawn Cameron

     Her gaze was dark and dangerous. “I can help,” Peri whispered.
     “Your magic suddenly isn’t blocked?”
     Her lips set in a straight line. Well, there was my answer, but she still argued. “I don’t need demon magic. I was a fucking mercenary.”
     “And now you’re a lesbian* graphic designer who lives in the suburbs with your pacifist girlfriend.”
- Exhumed

The above exchange is from my novel Exhumed, the fourth book in the Demons of Oblivion series. It’s narrated once again by Zara Lain—whose first book was Bloodlines—but the major players in the novel are from the previous two books.

Peri Takata came in to play during the third book, narrating Lineage. She was a hardened mercenary and quarter-demon, whose family—a husband and their twins—had died in Japan several years earlier in an attack meant for her. She was violent, homicidal, and suicidal. As one reader put it, only guilt was standing in the way between her and true sociopathy.

Spoiler alert: Peri doesn’t die at the end of Lineage as she planned to. Instead, she did the very last thing she ever expected to do: she fell in love. With another woman.

Nicolette was introduced in book two, Hunter. She’s a pacifist-ish vampire; despite having the strength and speed of any other vamp, she doesn’t fight. (No, my vamps aren’t like Buffy’s where they awake with inherent kung fu mastery. They have no more innate skills than the average person.) I’d been thinking ahead by this point, always intending to have her as a potential love interest for Peri in the third book.

Then along came the third book. And...I had no idea what would happen.

Chapter after chapter went by. Peri didn’t soften. I wasn’t sure if she even liked girls. Or people at all. 99% of her thoughts were about killing and/or maiming either those around her or herself. Now, I write urban fantasy, not romance. The book didn’t need a love story to work. But I’d woven Nicolette in thinking things would head in this direction and I started to panic. What if this didn’t work? What if Peri, like, killed everyone? What if I’d spent this time building up Nic only to have her...not get to do anything useful?

Still, I kept typing, flinging myself into the darkness and trusting the story to catch me.

It did.

     I nodded. “I just...think I can’t. Ever.” I was opening up to her more than I’d opened up to anyone, talking like I would a counselor though I’d seen a dozen of them over the years and I hadn’t remarked on anything outside of the facts in my file. Why she solicited such a reaction in me, I didn’t know, but it was like my scalp flopped open and she could already see the thoughts inside. “That part in me is...broken or something.” Dead. Blown up in the building with my kids and Ken. Grief was a raw, open wound again, bleeding all around me. I didn’t deserve to be here. Didn’t deserve the breath filling my lungs, the moments that passed. I didn’t even deserve Nicolette’s help, or her quiet, undemanding sympathy.
     “I think,” she began with care, vague French accent lilting and sunny, “that sometimes you only realize you’ve been in the light when it goes dark once more. If you seek out that light again, perhaps you’re not entirely broken.”
- Lineage

It surprised me, despite hoping things would go this way, that little by little Peri thawed. She saw in Nic what I’d hoped the reader would as well: a bright spot of light in a dark room. Though on the surface they seem a case of opposites attracting, deep down they were more similar than even I’d realized: both had lost someone, been changed and damaged. Both were made up of scar tissue. The difference was in how they reacted to grief: one shut down completely, hating the life she had while her loved ones were gone; the other struggled but coped, putting one foot in front of the other and living for what was lost, not in spite of it.

In the end, Peri was still Peri. There were no declarations of love. No particularly intimate scenes. No plans for wedded domestic bliss. But there was potential. There was a light at the end of the tunnel for both of them.

And I’m glad they found each other. It would’ve halted the series pretty quickly if Peri had killed everyone after all.


* Peri is not a lesbian; she’s bisexual. Zara knows this but she doesn’t give much thought to things outside of her own sphere. People with a bisexual orientation often find themselves erased from dialogue or treated as if they don’t exist, and I did want to acknowledge here the reason for Zara’s misnomer.






Bloodlines
ISBN: 978-0-9921281-4-2
Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013
If you're in her way, it sucks to be you.

After three hundred years of unlife, narcissistic vampire Zara Lain has seemingly done it all, and she's now making a living as a successful thief-turned-assassin. Her newest assignment seems simple enough: kill the aging leader of the O'Connor coven and his only heir, and she'll have another ten million in the bank. But in the dangerous world of the supernatural, few things are ever “simple.”

When a massive assault decimates the continent's population of powerful witches and warlocks, and its orchestrator has vampires being hunted down and captured, Zara realizes the tables have turned and now she'll be playing the hero. Forced to join with a smart-mouthed fellow vampire, a demonologist who's also a fan of hers, a recently widowed—and frequently brooding—warlock, and her best friend's mom, Zara's grudgingly willing to do what she can to save the day.

If only people would stop ruining all her outfits...

Warning: contains heavy doses of snark, a sexually confident heroine who likes killing people and has no secret heart of gold, lots of explosions, and very naughty language.

Also, some terrible stuff happens to expensive formal wear. I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.
Exclusive to Kindle until January 2014: Amazon Kindle
Free from October 28 – November 1

Includes bonus short story “Thrall”, narrated by warlock Nate O’Connor.



Hunter
ISBN: 978-0-9921281-5-9
Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013
Predators beware.

Sometimes natural predators need to be kept in check, and for that, there's Ryann David. Orphaned as an infant and raised by an exiled branch of the church to become a warrior for God, she and her fellow members of Venatores Daemonum have trained all their lives with only one purpose: destroy all demons in the mortal realm.

But when Ryann and her team are sent to hunt down a vampire who has killed one of their own, a new world of danger, betrayal, and conspiracy greets her. Allied with an irreverent psychic detective and the very monsters she was raised to kill, Ryann will risk everything—her life, her faith, and her heart—in pursuit of the truth as the black and white existence she knew turns a murky shade of gray.

Warning: This book contains a demon-hunting nun. No, really. And she doesn't swear. At all. This might be quite traumatizing to you after reading Bloodlines. Reader discretion is advised.

Includes bonus short story “Malice”, narrated by Zara Lain.




Lineage
ISBN: 978-0-9921281-6-6
Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013
Family reunions suck.

What’s a woman to do when her dad’s the antichrist, her grandma’s the devil, the end of the world is at her doorstep, and she’s out to avenge the murders of her husband and kids?

Kill everything in her way.

Quarter-demon Peri Takata exists with but one goal in mind: annihilate everyone responsible for the death of her family. Then—her need for vengeance quelled—she plans to take her own life.

Her mission brings her to vampire Zara Lain, the only known survivor of the event that destroyed Peri’s family five years ago. Hunting down a secret society of those who don’t want to be found has its challenges, however, especially when forces are working to keep the antichrist’s daughter very much alive. The apocalypse is closing in and Peri may be playing a role in it whether she wants to or not.

And when a heart long-thought dead begins to beat again with love for another, she’s not so sure about anything anymore.

Warning: You’re still here? After the narcissistic assassin in Bloodlines and the demon-hunting nun in Hunter? Well, now you get a sociopathic, quarter-demon mercenary. There’s lots more violence and naughty language in this one. You're welcome.

Includes bonus short story “Sunrise”, narrated by warlock Nate O’Connor.



Exhumed
ISBN: 978-0-9921281-7-3
Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013
Some people just won't stay buried...

Zara Lain, narcissistic vampire and assassin, cleaned up after a crazy warlock tried to build a vampire army, made some cash when the North American covens were left in shambles, got away when framed for the murder of a Demon Hunter, and dealt with some idiots who tried to jumpstart Armageddon. None of that could prepare her, however, for the moment when her lover of the undead persuasion awakens...

And promptly tries to kill her.

She’s raised a handful of orphaned baby vampires during the past six years and she knows the score: if they don’t get sane again, they have to be staked. And even if she can fix her would-be boyfriend, he’s not the only formerly deceased one in town who wants to kill her. Old enemies are back to put a cramp in her love life, ruin a good pair of heels, and just maybe end the world.

An apocalypse is nigh...and it gets a lot worse than having nothing to wear to the occasion.

Warning: This book may cause you emotional turmoil and feelings of great pain. I'd apologize but it would be a lie; I feed on your tears. Keep 'em coming.



More about Demons of Oblivion

Main Series:

1 – Bloodlines
2 – Hunter
3 – Lineage
4 – Exhumed
5 – Oblivion (Coming Soon)

Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013


Side Stories and Novellas:

- A Vampire Walked Into a Bar (Tales from Alchemy Red)
- Whiskey Sour
- Home: A Zara Lain Story (Free at My World...in words & pages)
- Damaged: A Zara Lain Novella
- 9 Crimes: A Nate O’Connor Novella
- Hungry Like the Wendigo (Tales from Alchemy Red)
- Kami of Christmas Past: A Peri Takata Novella (Coming Soon)
- Howl: A Juliette Aubrey Novella (Coming Soon)

BLOODLINES is free from October 28th - November 1st; and Hunter, Lineage and Exhumed are half-priced from October 28th - November 1st!





About Skyla Dawn Cameron

Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013
Award-winning author Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever.

Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed her first book contract at age twenty-one for River, a unique werewolf tale, which was released to critical and reader praise alike and won her the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy. She now has multiple series on the go to keep her busy, which is great for her attention deficit disorder.

Skyla is a fifth generation crazy cat lady who lives in southern Ontario, where she dabbles in art, is an avid gamer, and watches Buffy reruns. If she ever becomes a grownup, she wants to run her own pub, as well as become world dictator.

You can visit her on the web at www.skyladawncameron.com. When she’s not writing or being glared at by cats, she’s probably on Twitter. You should ping @skyladawn and tell her to get back to work.

Website  ~  Blog  ~  Twitter @skyladawn  ~  Facebook  ~  Goodreads  ~  Pinterest


SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Our 4th Semi-FinalistGuest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013

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