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SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist


SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist


First, thank you to all of the authors in our slush pile this year. We read some wonderful books. A big shout out to our 4 Semi-Finalists who have now been cut:

Oblivion by Andy Blinston;

Knight and Shadow by Flint Maxwell;

The Blackbird and the Ghost by Hûw Steer;

and

Lykaia by Sharon Van Orman.

Read their novels!

SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist
SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist
Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.



Second, after not too much debate The Qwillery has chosen its Finalist for SPFBO 5.

Congratulations to Virginia McClain with Blade's Edge!

We were impressed with the worldbuilding, setting, and the very strong characters. We are re-posting the Semi-Finalist review because Phil said it best. We give the novel a collective 9.


Blade's Edge
Chronicles of Gensokai 1
Artemis Dingo Productions, January 23, 2015
eBook, 314 pages
 Also available in Hardcover and Trade Paperback

SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's Finalist
Mishi and Taka live each day of their lives with the shadow of death lurking behind them. The struggle to hide the elemental powers that mark the two girls as Kisōshi separates them from the other orphans, yet forges a deep bond between them.

When Mishi is dragged from the orphanage at the age of eight, the girls are unsure if or when they will find each other again. While their powers grow with each season-cycle, the girls must come to terms with their true selves--Mishi as a warrior, Taka as a healer--as they forge separate paths which lead to the same horrifying discovery...

The Rōjū council’s dark secret is one that it has spent centuries killing to keep, and Mishi and Taka know too much. The two young women have overcome desperate odds in a society where their very existence is a crime, but now that they know the Rōjū’s secret they find themselves fighting for much more than their own survival.


Phil Parker's Review:

The success of this story comes from its originality and vivid portrayal of life for two orphan girls in medieval Japan – at least a fantastical version of that country. I quickly became fascinated with not just the plight of Taka and Mishi, but by the culture in which they lived. The world created by Virginia McClain is so utterly realistic. Beautiful. Violent. Unfair.

The author lived in Japan for some years and her love for the country and understanding of its distinctive culture is apparent in every aspect of the story. It’s so easy to assume that the challenges the girls face are no different to those of a few hundred years ago. The only difference is that in this story, magic exists. It’s what makes it such an original story. Magic operates in harmony with the natural world, derived from fire, water, air, and the earth.

And this is where the inherent tension is derived. Females are not allowed to possess magic. Discovery of their ‘kiso’ at birth leads to their death. Taka and Mishi survive only by the help of people desperate to eliminate this barbaric practice. The story follows the girls’ journey (both physical and allegorical) as they develop their distinctive kiso while growing up into women capable of fighting in this underground movement.

We quickly sympathise with the girls’ plights, we cheer those who support them and despise those who use violence to maintain the repressive and immoral Roju regime. World building is highly detailed. It takes time to familiarise yourself with so many terms for roles, clothes, weapons, rituals and the like but this is one of the features that makes the story so unique. Ms McClain sets her story on the imaginary island of Gensokai. This medieval land is vividly drawn, using language which is rich and vibrant, immersing you in its landscape, ecology, cultures and society.

And yes, there is even a dragon.

I really enjoyed this book. Read it within a few days. It’s not filled with battles and swordplay, there are no wizards and even the dragon is restricted in its involvement. It is a story of great subtlety. The two protagonists are not the inevitable ‘kick-ass’ type that pervade fantasy stories either. Their disciplined development is painful, harsh and mirrors the process of acquiring finesse in any martial art. It’s just that the finesse includes magical expertise too. These are real women, with flaws and doubts, but with the determination to fight inequality. In this respect this is a story which resonates with our own world and that makes this book an even stronger, more commercially viable, product as a result.

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Blade's Edge by Virginia McClain


The Qwillery is pleased to announce our second Semi-Finalist: Blade's Edge by Virginia McClain.


This also means that the following books have been eliminated:

Stone Bound (Chaos and Retribution 1) by Eric T. Knight;

The Borrowed Souls by Paul B. Kohler;

Broken Crossroads (Knights of the Shadows 1) by Patrick LeClerc;

Skies of Olympus (The Immortality Trials 1) by Eliza Raine;

and

Heavy Dirty Soul by A. A. Warne.



Blade's Edge
Chronicles of Gensokai 1
Artemis Dingo Productions, January 23, 2015
eBook, 314 pages
 Also available in Hardcover and Trade Paperback

SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Blade's Edge by Virginia McClain
Mishi and Taka live each day of their lives with the shadow of death lurking behind them. The struggle to hide the elemental powers that mark the two girls as Kisōshi separates them from the other orphans, yet forges a deep bond between them.

When Mishi is dragged from the orphanage at the age of eight, the girls are unsure if or when they will find each other again. While their powers grow with each season-cycle, the girls must come to terms with their true selves--Mishi as a warrior, Taka as a healer--as they forge separate paths which lead to the same horrifying discovery...

The Rōjū council’s dark secret is one that it has spent centuries killing to keep, and Mishi and Taka know too much. The two young women have overcome desperate odds in a society where their very existence is a crime, but now that they know the Rōjū’s secret they find themselves fighting for much more than their own survival.


Phil Parker's Review:

The success of this story comes from its originality and vivid portrayal of life for two orphan girls in medieval Japan – at least a fantastical version of that country. I quickly became fascinated with not just the plight of Taka and Mishi, but by the culture in which they lived. The world created by Virginia McClain is so utterly realistic. Beautiful. Violent. Unfair.

The author lived in Japan for some years and her love for the country and understanding of its distinctive culture is apparent in every aspect of the story. It’s so easy to assume that the challenges the girls face are no different to those of a few hundred years ago. The only difference is that in this story, magic exists. It’s what makes it such an original story. Magic operates in harmony with the natural world, derived from fire, water, air, and the earth.

And this is where the inherent tension is derived. Females are not allowed to possess magic. Discovery of their ‘kiso’ at birth leads to their death. Taka and Mishi survive only by the help of people desperate to eliminate this barbaric practice. The story follows the girls’ journey (both physical and allegorical) as they develop their distinctive kiso while growing up into women capable of fighting in this underground movement.

We quickly sympathise with the girls’ plights, we cheer those who support them and despise those who use violence to maintain the repressive and immoral Roju regime. World building is highly detailed. It takes time to familiarise yourself with so many terms for roles, clothes, weapons, rituals and the like but this is one of the features that makes the story so unique. Ms McClain sets her story on the imaginary island of Gensokai. This medieval land is vividly drawn, using language which is rich and vibrant, immersing you in its landscape, ecology, cultures and society.

And yes, there is even a dragon.

I really enjoyed this book. Read it within a few days. It’s not filled with battles and swordplay, there are no wizards and even the dragon is restricted in its involvement. It is a story of great subtlety. The two protagonists are not the inevitable ‘kick-ass’ type that pervade fantasy stories either. Their disciplined development is painful, harsh and mirrors the process of acquiring finesse in any martial art. It’s just that the finesse includes magical expertise too. These are real women, with flaws and doubts, but with the determination to fight inequality. In this respect this is a story which resonates with our own world and that makes this book an even stronger, more commercially viable, product as a result.

SPFBO 5 Interview: Virginia McClain, author of Blade's Edge


Please welcome Virginia McClain to The Qwillery as part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 5 Interviews. Virginia has submitted Blade's Edge to SPFBO 5.

Follow the fate of all the entrants at http://mark---lawrence.blogspot.com/2019/06/spfbo-5-phase-1.html



SPFBO 5 Interview: Virginia McClain, author of Blade's Edge




TQ Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Virginia:  Well, I still have a collection of very short stories that I wrote in crayon about some hedgehog knights and their dragon adversaries. The spelling is very creative. I was about five or six. The stories are all illustrated. I'm sorry to say that my drawing skills have not improved over the years, but I like to think that both my writing and spelling are substantially better off.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Virginia:  These days I am a firm hybrid. I was a pure pantser for quite a while, but I've gotten a bit more methodical over the years. My first novel started with nothing more than a vague idea of a character and a single scene and then I was off and running. These days I do detailed character sheets, and vague outlines before I start any book. It tends to leave me with less work when it comes to revisions.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Virginia:  I have a 2.5 year old so these days the hardest thing about writing is finding time to write without distractions. My daughter is wonderful, but if she's in the room it's generally difficult for me to get anything done besides advertising and graphic design work.



TQDescribe Blade's Edge using only 5 words.

Virginia:  Estranged friends united against corruption.



TQWhat inspired you to write Blade's Edge?

Virginia:  I was living in Japan, spending a fair bit of my time visiting the local shinto shrines and buddhist temples, and began to wonder what things would be like if the shinto spirits came out to interact with people regularly and if something like zen meditation were the key to magical practices. That was the first spark of the idea that turned into the world of Gensokai and the characters within.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Blade's Edge.

Virginia:  The artist is the fabulous Juan Carlos Barquet (I ran a Kickstarter just so I could hire him to do the cover) and the artwork is sort of a combination of a few different elements from scenes in the book, not an exact rendering of a particular scene.



TQIn Blade's Edge who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Well, [spoiler redacted] was the easiest because [spoiler redacted] but [spoiler redacted] was the hardest, because [spoiler redacted]. So, [spoiler redacted] [spoiler redacted] [spoiler redacted]. Yeah.



TQDoes Blade's Edge touch on any social issues?

Many. The most prominent are governmental corruption and systemic misogyny.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Blade's Edge.

Virginia:

       "Sachi narrowed her eyes at Mishi and tilted her head to one side. She thought for a moment before she replied.
       “Kuma-sensei once told me that the family we choose is even stronger than the family we’re given.”"



TQWhat's next?

Virginia:  Well, Blade's Edge's sequel was released in 2017, and since then I've been working on a humorous urban fantasy series called Victoria Marmot. I'm currently working on the fifth and final book in the series and plan to release both books four and five in the fall of this year. After that, I plan to start work on a third Chronicles of Gensokai book (the same series that Blade's Edge starts).



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Virginia:  Thank you!





Blade's Edge
Chronicles of Gensokai 1
Artemis Dingo Productions, January 23, 2015
     eBook, 314 pages
Also available in Trade Paperback

SPFBO 5 Interview: Virginia McClain, author of Blade's Edge
The Kisōshi, elite warriors with elemental powers, have served as the rulers and protectors of the people of Gensokai for more than a thousand years. Though it is believed throughout Gensokai that there is no such thing as a female Kisōshi, the Rōjū ruling council goes to great lengths to ensure that no one dares ask why.

Even as young girls, Mishi and Taka know that they risk severe punishment - or worse - if anyone were to discover their powers. This shared secret forms a deep bond between them until, taken from their orphanage home and separated, the two girls must learn to survive in a world where their very existence is a crime. Yet when the girls learn the dark secret of the Rōjū council, they discover that much more than their own survival is at stake.





About Virginia

SPFBO 5 Interview: Virginia McClain, author of Blade's Edge
Virginia thinks dangling from the tops of hundred foot cliffs is a good time. She also enjoys hauling a fifty pound backpack all over the Grand Canyon and sleeping under the stars. Sometimes she likes running for miles through the desert, mountains, or wooded flatlands, and she always loves getting lost in new places where she may or may not speak the language.

From surviving earthquakes in Japan, to putting out a small forest fire in Montana, Virginia has been collecting stories from a very young age. She works hard to make her fiction as adventurous as her life and her life as adventurous as her fiction. Both take a lot of imagination.

She recently moved to Winnipeg with her husband (a Manitoba native) and their dog.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter
SPFBO 5 - The Qwillery's FinalistSPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist Review - Blade's Edge by Virginia McClainSPFBO 5 Interview: Virginia McClain, author of Blade's Edge

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