My SPFBO Reviews


Pilgrim Of The Storm is a story of otherness, lost identity and a journey to find answers. It starts slow, but gets interesting as the world unfolds and character relationships develop. Pilgrim Of The Storm is a rather short book compared to the massive fantasy tomes I have been reading lately, it is just 200 pages but a nice read.

Sidge is the lone bugman, an insectoid humans look down on, adopted and raised by his human master at the Stormblade Temple. The whole story has a melancholy undertone stemming from this theme. Poor Sidge is treated terribly by most people, his race is considered inferior and bestial, he knows nothing of his heritage and bloodline, and he goes on the arduous pilgrimage journey with his semi absent-minded master Izhar. A good part of the book takes place on the road, where Sidge and his master join the pilgrimage caravan headed to the Stronghold. Sidge discovers mysteries and finds more questions as he finds some answers along the way.

The story is overall decent, but has a few rough edges, especially in the beginning chapters. The pilgrimage journey is slow-paced for the most part, nothing much happens except for a few scary moments, the encounter with a troll and Sidge’s spiritual vision. The most interesting character of the whole story is introduced in the earlier part of the journey: Mistress Kaaliya, a street-wise woman who has a big mouth and a colorful personality.

Full review: http://booknest.eu/component/k2/spfbo/780-pilgrimofthestorm

Kindling features interesting main characters and great action scenes, especially in the last quarter of the book. It opens with a great prison sequence which reminded me of the Elder Scrolls games. The main protagonist Zahir left a great first impression on me, as did the realistically depicted inmates. However, after the first chapter it started to fall flat due to the dire need of editing. I can overlook a flaw or two, but they piled up rather quick.

Before I talk about those, I would like to talk about the positive aspects. Zahir and Marietta are definitely interesting and complex enough, also easy to root for. Absalom and Althea, are pretty cool, even though I did not connect with them as well as Zahir and Marietta. The buildings, castles, citadels and dungeons are realistic and interesting with vivid detail. Gore and splatter is well-executed. I am no fan of gore, but it was depicted pretty good without being too repetitive. The cannibalism and savagery of the zombified pit-dwellers is one of the highlights of the book, with the drama and tension aspects neatly woven into the brutal imagery. I found the the action in the last parts of the book quite impressive with the perfect pacing and suspense elements.

Unfortunately there are also quite a few issues. First of all, there is a major Wheel of Time derivative aspect. The order of sorceresses called the Flames sound like the Aes Sedai taken over by the Black Ajah. The symbol of sorcery (flame) is pretty much the same as the Aes Sedai symbol. Men’s magic is tainted and they turn into monsters when their power reaches the pinnacle. The Flames ladies hunt down and kill the men with magic, and they use the ones with rare powers as tools until those men go berserk. This was a tad too much for me to overlook as a reader who values originality above all else.

Full review: http://booknest.eu/component/k2/spfbo/849-kindling


This is a sword and sorcery tale, with a good amount of sword and little sorcery. It has a nice action-packed opening, with our hero the farmboy Benjamin helping his village folk battle a demon attacking their village. Shortly after, a strange group shows up, featuring a stern mage lady, a blademaster, an affable rogue and a noble girl with her maid. One can see the Wheel of Time influence, but it didn’t feel derivative at all. The characters and the general atmosphere were different enough.

Benjamin sets out with this group to help take his adopted sister to the City, where she will go to the mage school.The fighting scenes, action, adventures, political intrigue, journeys, city and market scenes are top notch quality and the book is a solid page turner. One great thing about this story is, the main protagonist is just a simple brewer from some backwater village. He has no special powers, no prophecies, no magic. He is not a chosen one or savior. He listens to his mentors and learns skills with hard work and daily practices. This was quite inspirational stuff, no special powers coming out of thin air, but with disciplined work and dedication. I really liked this about the story.

Ben is likeable enough, but my favorite characters overall were Rhys, the mercenary rogue, and Renfro, the little thief friend of Ben. However, as fun as it was to read, Benjamin Ashwood has quite a few issues.

Full review: http://booknest.eu/component/k2/spfbo/898-benjaminashwood

The White Tower is a big book at a whopping 624 pages, but it is a page turner in enough parts.It is a sprawling epic fantasy tale with a huge character cast and diverse settings. It starts as a typical run of the mill epic fantasy, which I didn’t mind at all cause everything I love about epic fantasy was there. The White Tower features a lot of Point of View characters, but the plots are centered around four of them. These are Ty, the fae-bred youth who seems to be some kind of chosen one, Ayrion the Guardian Protector, the heroic warrior figure, the magic wielding smith Ferrin, and the villain Valtor who is a dark magician hell bent on summoning the long-banished dark lord figure. Ty’s point of view scenes have a whimsical quality; I particularly loved the magic displays and the interesting secondary characters there.

Ferrin’s and Ty’s parts were among my favorites as well as Ayrion’s excursions and rather interesting battle scenes with a bit of a magic twist. The action scenes are impressive and the character perspectives get interesting as you progress through the story. Poor quarter and thieves’ guild parts were excellent. Another positive aspect is the presence of amazing female characters. These being said, the White Tower has several serious issues.

Full review: http://booknest.eu/component/k2/spfbo/942-whitetower

As severely underrated as it is, Pilgrimage to Skara is a highly engaging and entertaining flintlock fantasy tale.

This is the last book in my SPFBO batch, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting much since I had two strong books which got high praise from the other folks. After checking its Goodreads profile, my expectations dipped further since it has only one rating, one review, and a cover that is far from attractive.

However, this book grabbed me from page one and I ended up turning the pages at the airport with 4 hours of sleep, during the flights and in whatever free time I could find during my extremely busy work travel schedule. I haven’t been so surprised by an indie book before.

Full review: http://booknest.eu/component/k2/spfbo/959-pilgrimageskara

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Book Review: Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

Arm of the Sphinx
Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk/Magical Realism
Series: Books of Babel
Author info: http://www.thebooksofbabel.com

This is the second book of Books of babel, here is my review for the first book, Senlin Ascends.

Thomas Senlin’s desperate search for his wife Marya continues and the exciting adventure picks right up where it left off in Senlin Ascends. Now we get to discover the dark side of the tower and get inklings on what kind of purpose it may be serving, more facts of the complex political intrigue and the wars between the ringdoms.

Bancroft takes us to more ringdoms in this book, and they get more bizarre and alien as we climb. Worldbuilding shines here as it does in Senlin Ascends. Each ringdom has its own strange rules, machinations and political schemes, each one a new world if its own.

Arm of the Sphinx features non-Senlin POV’s and we get to see quite a lot from the eyes of the other characters. Getting a whole different perspective of Iren after seeing her as the invincible brute from Senlin’s eyes was great. Voleta’s POV chapters were quite entertaining to read and her relationship with her little pet is adorable.

Many of the mysteries from Senlin Ascends get solved and new mysteries emerge, and we get to meet some enigmatic new characters along the way.

One of my favorite things about this book was the little snippets in the beginning of each chapter, just like Senlin Ascends, and they make some of the best quotes from the book.

All in all, this book is a Steampunk wonder of high literary quality, featuring incredible adventures, top notch character development, beautiful scenes, entrancing imagination and, I must mention, supplemented with marvelous artwork on the author’s site and Instagram account. I highly recommend clicking the author web site and checking out the artwork. I am very much looking forward to the release of the third book, The Hod King. I can’t recommend this series enough, it’s one of the best indie gems that came out of Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) contest and I must thank the bloggers and Mark Lawrence for bringing this awesome series to the spotlight.

Book Review: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Senlin Ascends
Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk/Magical Realism
Series: Books of Babel
Author info: http://www.thebooksofbabel.com

I picked this book up on recommendation from Mark Lawrence and the SPFBO buzz when it made to the semifinals. It didn’t sound like my cup of tea at first (since I prefer pre-modern fantasy settings with lots of magic and epic battles) but I picked it up anyway -interrupting my Wheel of Time marathon- and loved it to death.

Senlin Ascends is a fresh new breath in the genre fiction. If I quote The Wert Zone, “In another universe, Senlin Ascends, which was originally published in 2013, would have already won the Campbell, Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke Award.” and I agree with this statement. Senlin Ascends has a steampunk setting, with early modern pistols, airships, goggles and what have you. Steampunk lovers will become fans of it and the sequel, The Arm of the Sphinx.

I think Breaking Bad lovers will also greatly enjoy this book, since the main character is a school headmaster who is trying to survive in a hostile environment full of villains and criminals. He doesn’t become an epic bad guy like Walter White, but there are certain parallels.

The story starts with Senlin and his wife going to the Tower of Babel on their honeymoon trip, only to discover chaos reigns there and Senlin ends up losing his wife Marya in the crowd. He proceeds into the Tower to find her, but discovers the Tower is nothing like what he read in the tourist guides. Each level is a new ringdom, which is a realm with its own rules and unique environment. Some of them are run down, some are pretty and pleasant on the surface but with a dark side. Out of the numerous ringdoms of the Tower, we get to see four in Senlin Ascends and there will be more uncovered in The Arm of the Sphinx. I must say the worldbuilding is amazing and the alien qualities of the ringdoms shows great creativity.

The characters are brilliantly rendered and the prose is exceptional even for the mainstream published books, let alone an indie. The setting was so vivid and the prose so beautiful, I didn’t care the least bit about the lack of magic and fantasy elements. I have given harsh critique to other fantasy books for lacking fantasy stuff, but the steampunk here is so awesome I didn’t miss the high fantasy and magic at all. There are plenty of dark and creepy scenes in this book, which I greatly enjoyed as a grimdark fan. It’s not exactly grimdark, but has a dark atmosphere, with a bit of humor and uplifting moments spicing it up.

Senlin Ascends leans more towards magical realism than genre fiction, with high literary quality, but it’s a compelling page turner with plenty of adventures and intrigue. Josiah Bancroft is a genius for writing a book of incredible literary merit without making it boring for the genre fiction readers. I love Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books, but most of my bookworm friends found it boring, including a couple of literary snobs. But no one can say Senlin Ascends is the least bit boring or dragging. If they do, they are smoking crack.

I can’t recommend this book enough, all the hype is 100% accurate and the most reputable reviewers of the fantasy scene loved it for good reason.

Josiah Bancroft does fantastic chalk art of his characters, you can check them out on his web site: http://www.thebooksofbabel.com/new-gallery/

Mirror’s Truth by Michael R. Fletcher – Cover Reveal!

Grimdarkians, good news for you: The sequel to the wonderful grimdark masterpiece Beyond Redemption (read my review here) is on its way!

I must say this cover is awesome. There’s a half-naked berserker dude wielding an axe, what’s there not to love? Mirror’s Truth is going to be self published and it’s delightfully grimdark. If you haven’t read Beyond Redemption, check my review and if you love gritty books with witty and dark humor, remarkable characters and fast paced action, you will definitely love it and want more.

Mirror’s Truth should be out before Christmas, oh and I almost forgot to mention Mike Fletcher posted an excerpt from Chapter 1 on his blog along with the cover image. Head to his blog for more info: http://michaelrfletcher.com/2016/10/01/the-mirrors-truth-cover-reveal-and-excerpt/

Mirror's Truth

New Book Promo Group For Speculative Fiction Authors

I noticed a lot of fantasy/scifi and other book discussion groups have a strict ban on advertising your own indie/small press books and the existing book promo groups are flooded with erotica and self help stuff. Indie and small press authors are having a hard time promoting their books around. How are they supposed to get the word out when every fantasy/scifi forum out there is shunning book promo?

There’s no place for speculative fiction authors to promote their books, so I created a Facebook group for promoting speculative fiction books. I established some rules to keep the group from turning into a link spam dumpster. You need to do an elevator pitch and let the people know why they should buy it and what’s special about it.

The group is public and open to everyone, feel free to join and invite your friends. Readers and bloggers who want to discover new books are welcome. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/145536759169502/

Book Review: Fae: The Sins of The Wyrde by Graham Austin-King

Fae: The Realm of Twilight
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Series: The Riven Wyrde Saga
Author info: http://www.grahamaustin-king.com/

I received a complimentary copy from the author in return for an honest review. This is the third book of The Riven Wyrde Saga. See my reviews for book 1 and book 2.
This is a spoiler free review and should give a good picture of this book and the whole series, but I highly recommend reading the previous two reviews to get a complete picture.

This book is full of action and thrilling scenes. We get to see the Fae culture and their politics closer, and the Fae character Aerwern takes a bigger part, however the Fae don’t become more human-like and remain as alien as they were in the beginning. This is one of the most impressive things about this book. Fae aren’t just non-human on a cosmetic level, they are strange, dangerous and alien even when you get really close. Even the ‘good’ ones are dangerous and they never let you forget that. Hats off to Austin-King for maintaining the inhuman and enigmatic qualities of the Fae folk.

Selena continues to kick butt and save the day with her incredible wits. She reminded me of Mara from the Empire Trilogy a bit, and quickly became one of my favorite female characters in the fantasy genre. The political intrigue got even more intense and I must say I found those chapters a delight to read as a huge fan of palace intrigue and politics in fantasy. Battle scenes are vivid and well done with amazing details, twists and turns. Both the suspense and action kept me turning the pages into the late hours before sleep.

Erinn is my other favorite character, and I’m a fan of strong female characters whose strength is their intelligence. Erinn is one of those. She makes a huge difference in the battle even though she’s not much of a fighter. I love it when non-warrior characters turn the tide of major wars with their strategy skills and it’s a rather rare thing I read in fantasy books, though there are plenty of examples of it in real history. Yet another reason I love this series. It’s full of fantasy elements and magic, but also very realistic when it comes to the characters and their actions.

The author has done a great job depicting the language barriers, there is no common tongue, people from different cultures rely on translators and have difficulties if they don’t speak the language of the other party ell enough or if the translator is not available. It’s not an easy thing to show it without boring the reader, I must say this book has very realistic scenes of language barrier issues.

Another nice touch is that the whole series starts with Miriam and she takes a big role in the ending, too. The ending is bittersweet, I must say it was well done with such a large cast of characters and so many threads. All in all the whole series was a great read with memorable, realistic characters, dazzling magic and a delightful dark setting.

If you like epic battles, original magic, non-human races who sound very alien, badass female characters, political intrigue, nice worldbuilding with different cultures and languages, seafaring people and maritime scenes, then you will love this series. I think there’s a bit of everything for every fantasy lover. It’s epic fantasy but with a dark and creepy setting, it has gore and violence but it’s not depressing like the typical grimdark literature, there are even some funny moments.

Utilizing Google Plus To Promote Your Books and Blogs

Today I am going to share one of my book promo tricks: The Google Plus communities allowing blatant self promotion. I have compiled the following list a few months ago. Those allow promoting your own books and blog links. For authors, it works best if you have a discount deal going on. I have seen significant rank boosts on self pub titles after promoting in those groups. This will not only benefit the indies but tradpub authors, bloggers and reviewers too.

My advice is don’t just copy paste the link and blurb, but write up a short summary info to draw the interest of potential readers, make it sincere and add the link in the end. They will read the official blurb in the preview and when they click the link.

Some of the groups have specific sections for the type of posts (book links, blogs, author infos etc) on the left menu list, make sure to read & respect their rules and post in the appropriate section.

I hope this will help some struggling authors and bloggers out there.

Writers, Authors, Bloggers 35,089 members

Google Plus Book Club 37,003 members

Kindle & eBook Writers And Reviewers 6,895 members

Authors – Blatant Promo 4 Writers, Blogs! 6,829 members

Support-a-Writer 6,085 members

Readers Meet Authors And Bloggers 6,740 members

Promote Your Book! 9,999 members

Love 2 Read 1,542 members

Kindle Ebook Promoter 2,568 members

Indie Authors & Readers 7,233 members

Indie Readers & Writers 10,335 members

Self promotion for Authors 4,457 members

Book Bloggers, Book Worms and Book Reviewers 3,623 members

Books, Blogs & Give-Aways 4,495 members

Writers’ Corner 32,226 members

Books – The Passion for Reading 6,010 members

Book Reviews 10,500 members

Book Club 19,951 members

Book Publicity 3,329 members

Writers of Google+ 7,348 members

Book Reviewers 13,274 members

NOTE: Removed one of the groups since I am informed it no longer allows book promotions and intended for discussions only.