SPFBO 9 (2023) Interesting Titles Spotlight Part I


the past, few years, with the start of every SPFBO edition. We have been
raising a spotlight on a few of participating titles that caught our
eyes. The books we highlight within today’s and tomorrow’s posts have caught
our interest due to their blurbs, their covers, as well as potential plots.
Some we have read, and reviewed, and hence are on this list.
We would
like to state that this list is IN NO WAY an indicator of our choices (or the
other judges) going forward in the contest. However, simply lists titles that
we (at FBC) are INTRIGUED by and WOULD like to read (time & fate
without further ado, here is part 1 of the noteworthy titles (in random

Official Book Blurb: Prince Barodane could not hold back the
darkness. Not even in himself. He laid an innocent city in its grave and then
died a hero.

In his absence, war whispers across the land.

Power-hungry highborn dispatch spies and assassins to the
shadows as they maneuver for the throne, while an even greater threat rises in
the South. Monsters and cultists flock to the banners of a mad prophet
determined to control reality…and then shatter it.

Destiny stalks three to the brink of oblivion.

A dead prince that isn’t actually dead. Barodane buried his
shameful past in a stupor of drugs, drink, and crime, and now, he’d rather
watch the world fall apart than wear a crown again.
An orphan with hero’s blood who is forced to make a harrowing
choice: betray her country or sacrifice her first love.

And a powerful seer who has no choice at all–her grandson must

If any of them fails to pay the price…

The cost will be the world’s complete annihilation.

Official Book Blurb: Pale moths haunt an icy frontier. Beneath
the shadow of a drowned death god, a frozen body is unearthed from the snow.

Investigators arrive to a superstitious island to solve a brutal crime. Among
them is a lowly slave desperate to prove her worth and a soldier with dark
dreams. Neither are prepared for what they find.

Death City is a strange and violent frontier, and no one who survives comes
back clean. 
First though, Thora and Diem must survive.

Welcome to the Red Kingdom.


Official Book Blurb: The island nation of Ferranda is the
jewel of the Acrarian Kingdom, and its Founder, Aritz a Mata, is revered as a
god amongst men. But twenty-five years ago, Aritz was merely a man, a
colonizer, an Invader seeking glory and fame in the name of his King and Queen,
and Ferranda was a nameless union of indigenous Tribes, reverent of the
heightened powers and aptitudes granted to them by their Animal Deities, but
sundered by the foreigners claiming their lands to the south.

In the unconquered north, the Stone Tribe has for fifteen years offered a safe
haven for the southern Tribes displaced by Aritz’s Invaders, whose occupying
march north has been ostensibly halted by a dense forest barrier dividing north
and south. Among the Stone people lives Sen, an outcast for the circumstances
of her birth, preserved in society only by her status as daughter of her
Tribe’s Chief. Forever relegated to the fringes of society, she is forced to
watch as countless of her kin, including her sister and brother, complete their
rites of passage into adulthood and accordingly earn their aptitudes by the
Deity to whom they share an affinity – the Bear, the Wolf, or the Owl.

Despite this, Sen finds comfort in her life of forced solitude with her close
inner circle, but hers is a comfort in days of waning tenuous peace. When
Aritz’s technologically-advanced forces push north, Sen is thrust into a
singular quest to rescue one of her precious few captured in the ensuing
struggle. While her goal is earnest – save someone dear to her and prove her
worth to her Tribe – her people’s goal is far more dire: survival in the face
of uncertainty.

Official Book Blurb: Varcade fled to the deserts of Harrah to
escape his past as an Educator, a member of an order of zealot warrior-monks
that aims to shape the world according to their sacred Teachings by force.
Varcade makes his living as a reckless sword-for-hire, caring only about
himself, until his self-centered lifestyle is turned on its head when he is contracted
to recruit a misfit team of unruly assassins and take out the mighty Bone Lord
of Akrab.

But the Bone Lord is aware of the plot and sends her band of Dusters to stop
them; individuals who have gained bizarre and lethal magical powers by snorting
the pulverised bones of dead gods. Hunted by Educators and Dusters in a
city-state where an escalating conflict between the human and demon population
threatens to boil over in a civil war, will Varcade and his ragtag crew save
Akrab from the cruel Bone Lord, or will they make things even worse?


Official Book Blurb: Nathaniel Kade, a mistrustful thief, has
never seen the sun. Centuries ago, it is said that the prophets cursed Ealidor
with an eternal midnight. While the realm dreams of the sunlight’s return,
Nathaniel uses his unique connection to the darkness to survive.

But when he saves a knight of the Faith of Auyn from a
spectral ambush, an unlikely mentorship blooms. He is thrust into a gruelling
and foreign landscape, where prophets are massacred for their dark magic, and
murderous wraiths bleed through the Veil into the land of the living. To save
all he has come to love, Nathaniel must join the ranks of those who still
believe they can bring back the sunlight.

A thief burdened by prophecy.

A dishonoured knight.

A sheltered squire with a secret past.

A runaway prince, afraid of the dark.

They hold the fate of Ealidor in their hands—and as the
darkness threatens to consume them all, they’re the realm’s only hope of
returning the dawn.

Official Book Blurb: Kit “Fadulous” Hamley, magazine editor,
activist and former punk rocker, is a well-known troublemaker. She works
tirelessly to hold local authorities to account. Some say she’s making up for
her criminal youth. Others accuse her of witchcraft. Only a handful of people
know how dark her secrets really are.

When an old friend warns Kit that a former rival has resurfaced, those secrets
start to resurface. People have gone missing, someone is stalking Kit, and the
gang she abandoned are scared stiff. Kit herself is a target, and if she can’t
unravel exactly how this new feud connects with her past mistakes, it could
kill her.

Decades older, a little wiser, and contrary as ever, Kit’s going to remind them
all what a punk witch can do.


Heart for a Thief by James Lloyd Dulin

Official Book Blurb: We are the stories we tell
ourselves…even the lies.

The Thief, a great spirit, and her descendants have abused
their ability to steal magic for centuries. When Kaylo starts to hear the song
of other people’s magic, he must learn to hide from his people as well as the
invaders. A gift or a curse, Kaylo may be able to save his people from the
Gousht Empire that claimed their land with this stolen magic.

Eighteen years later, Kaylo still prays to the spirits, but not out of loyalty
or love. He knows better than to rely on those selfish bastards for anything. While
hiding in the forest from his foolish acts of rebellion, he encounters a girl,
Tayen, being pursued by two soldiers of the empire. Against his better
judgment, he risks facing the consequences of his past to intervene.

When Tayen attempts to run off seeking vengeance for her family, he offers to
train her to wield her magic and a blade. If he can’t convince her to
relinquish her need for vengeance and stave off the demons of his past, he’s
going to get them both killed.

Official Book Blurb: Some secrets are best left to the
shadows. But shadows have a mind of their own.

The ancient land of Quinaria teeters on the brink of war, as its most precious
resource is unearthed and exploited. Three nations have maintained tenuous
peace for centuries, but as the life-giving nevethium dwindles, rumors of an
ancient evil long thought dead spread like wildfire.

Elaysia never wanted to lead. As the high chieftain’s only surviving heir,
she’s thrust into a role that jeopardizes the already fragile peace. A deadly
attack on the day of her induction strengthens her resolve—and her suspicion
that her parents’ murders and these disturbing rumors are connected.

With newfound companions, she embarks on a journey to uncover the truth. But as
they unravel layers of secrets, they find themselves in the clutches of a
dictator whose unethical nevethium experimentation threatens to bring about a
new world of terror and violence.

Elaysia and her allies could be all that stands between war and a dying
world—if their conflicting ambitions don’t destroy them first.


Official Book Blurb:Dragons once led our people across the
wastelands, away from storms, and toward hunting grounds

That’s what the elders say, but eleven-year-old Akrist has squinted at empty
skies his whole life. The dragons have abandoned them, and it’s Akrist’s fault.
He’s cursed. Like every other firstborn son, he has inherited the sins of his
ancestors. In his camp, he’s the only eldest boy left. Something happened to
the others.

Something terrible.

When Akrist befriends Tanar, an eldest boy from another tribe, he discovers the
awful truth: they’re being raised as sacrifices to appease the Goddess and win
back her dragons. The ritual happens when the dual moons eclipse. Escape is the
only option, but Akrist was never taught to hunt or survive the wastelands
alone. Time is running out, and he has to do something before the moons touch.


Official Book Blurb: Nimsah is an abandoned child living on
the streets of Bengarath, surviving on her wits as part of a criminal gang in
the City of Tents, home to the dispossessed. Dojan is the Crown Prince of the
Emirate of Fujareen, enjoying a life of luxury in Bengarath Palace. Their lives
are brought together as the threat of war looms in the neighbouring city state
of Kandarah. However, Dojan and Nimsah share a secret, one that will set in
motion a chain of events leading to vengeance.

Official Book Blurb: In the space of a single afternoon,
Nathaniel falls hard for Winter York, the beguiling, tattooed woman he meets at
the local bookstore. She entrances him with her enigmatic sophistication, and
the fact that she is avoiding another man only increases his interest. What
starts as the perfect day ends in a violent home invasion when the man Winter
is avoiding tracks her home.

Nathaniel fights him off, sure the worst is over. Winter,
however, insists that the man is capable of a strange and twisted magic: once
he touches someone, he can write them into dreams, dreams where that person can
die. How does Winter know? She is the inspiration for the man’s fantasy book
series, and she has seen her friends perish at the stroke of his pen.

Many Savage Moons is an unconventional love story full of
intriguing book references and haunting tattoos, set in a world where a writer
wields fantastical powers over those who inspire his work. Straddling the
literary and fantasy realms, Many Savage Moons is a compelling work of fiction.


Official Book Blurb: GIMLORE is a single mother and war
veteran turned crime boss set on protecting her family and her town.

ORBERESIS is a petty thief pretending to be God to protect a
terrible secret.

REDNOW is the world’s most feared mercenary, but his best days
are behind him and there’s one job left to do.

In a world of dangerous monsters and devastating smoke magic,
the seeds of war are being planted. Allies must be treasured and enemies


Official Book Blurb: Fates intertwine – Pantheon calls –
Darkness Grows

Far too many blame their own bad luck on Hanen and Rallia
Clouw. When opportunity knocks, they leap to put their past behind them. In the
turmoil of a holy order fraught with lies, frustration, and heresy, the paladin
Jined Brazstein is called to deeper faith. When Katiam takes up a seemingly
ageless seed pod from a botanist’s desk, she cannot imagine the change it will

Life stirs within that seed, the path to deeper faith beckons,
profits are made upon the road, darkness moves-a winged, deathless wrath
invisible to the gods.

For those who seek the heroes path, Fate takes more than
bargained for. Hubris breeds a deathless wrath, 
That always hungers after more.


(The Ruined Gods Book 1) by Alex Robins

Official Book Blurb: For twenty years, strategos Dexios has
led the phalanx of Thena against its enemies, pulled from one battleground to
another in a relentless cycle of war and bloodshed. Now, finally, he has found
the courage to leave that life behind. To relinquish his officer’s sword and
return to the verdant slopes of his vineyard with his wife and son.

Peace, however, is fragile and capricious. When Thena’s
northern allies bring word of an enormous tauran horde gathering on their
borders, Dexios has no choice but to answer the call to arms one last time.

As humans and tauros collide, another evil wakes. Whispered
rumours of a clawed creature that stalks the shadowy streets. Of violent
murders committed in the name of deities long thought vanquished. To speak
their names is heresy.

They are the Exiled. The Banished. The Ruined Gods.

Official Book Blurb: At thirty-six-years-old, history
professor Aurelie is resigned to a childless existence. It’s not her age – it’s
the absence of male Unseen. Her species has been so desperate to hide among
humans that it is quietly dying out. Now her family is broken; eager to leave
behind a painful past, Aurelie accepts a teaching position in Nara, Japan. But
she’s unprepared for the future she finds…

Twenty-two-year-old Kazuki is the favored son of the Hayashi family – a clan of
Unseen that has not only survived in Japan, but thrived. Though he knows
hundreds of Unseen, he’s unprepared for Aurelie and the overwhelming attraction
he feels for her, a biological imperative to mate.

Or perhaps a magical one… For, as Kazuki and Aurelie grow closer, the reasons
for hiding become clear.

And they are hungry.

Official Book Blurb: Twenty-five years ago, there was life.
Twenty-five years ago, there was peace when the descendants of the dryads and
naiads kept all life in balance. Until one fateful night when the Oderbergs
invaded, executed the royal house of Domonov and took Domovnia for their own,
ruling with an iron fist and an edict of fear.

Roslyn Pleveli, like most of the orphans of that night, wants revenge and an end
to the persecution of her kind. Yet, even if the Domovnian’s use of magic was
permitted, she wouldn’t be much help, able to command only a few lowly weeds.
But everything changes when she saves the life of an injured young man in the
forest not knowing it was the prince of the Oderbergs himself. Ordered to see
to the rest of his treatment, Roslyn is snatched from her home and all that she
loves by his soldiers.

Now, in the Oderberg stronghold, she has the chance to change things. With the
royal family within her grasp all she has to do to free her people is kill
them… but can she do it, or will something more powerful than revenge heal the
wounds of the past?


Official Book Blurb: The Palace of the Dawn will soon be
stormed. The most ruthless man of all time is one step away from assailing on
Iovbridge and dethroning Sophie Delamere. The Queen of Knightdorn is now alone,
with neither allies nor an army capable of rebuffing the enemy which is
approaching her city. Everything appears to be over, until a mysterious young
man, Elliot, makes his appearance.

Entangled in a web of lies and politics, Elliot will try to draw Walter away
from Iovbridge and face him in the stronghold of Wirskworth. He will attempt to
rekindle relations and revive the old alliance between the Queen of Knightdorn
and Syrella Endor, the Governor of Wirskworth. Elliot’s mission will take every
fibre of his will and if he fails, so shall the kingdom.

Official Book Blurb: Some things are deadly when broken…

Sold for the price of a pig, trained into the most expensive male escort in the
peninsula, Hasheem, the Silver Sparrow of Azalea, finds himself running from
his hard-earned life of privilege when a woman decides to die in his

Forced to escape through hostile territories belonging to desert warriors,
Hasheem runs into Djari, the immovable daughter of a tribal chieftain who
offers him protection in exchange for a lifetime of servitude. Prophesied by
her oracle brother as the one born to end the centuries-long war between her people
and an empire, Djari’s precarious destiny plunges them both into the blood
sport of power, politics, and warfare that exacts heartbreaking sacrifices in
exchange for peace.

On the other side of the war, the stability of the empire hangs on the decisions
of a captive wife from the desert, the ruthless conqueror who ripped apart her
homeland, and their half blood son who must choose which side of the war he


Official Book Blurb: You never want to ruin a really good
dramatic exit. When you flee home on a cyborg horse the exact second you
turn eighteen, you don’t really expect to go back to the place you fled from,
you know? But sometimes your old life hits you from behind.

Sometimes you spend years away from home, killing dangerous people who had the
bad luck to get infected by a lungful of ghostfog, only to find out that your
dad, the king, is dead, and now your siblings are ordering you back home for a
high stakes family reunion.

But when the heirs are quadruplets, the line of succession tends to get a wee
bit murky. So in order to regain your independence, you’ve got to navigate a
deadly web of intrigue, where every sibling wants your allegiance, and any
decision might tear your country—and your family—apart.


Official Book Blurb: Once rain was a symbol of hope and
harvest. Now it brings only death.
Humanity survives in sheltered cities and canvas-covered
towns. Travel between these patches of safety is rare and dangerous. It’s what
Galahad lives for.

But while seeking a lost cache of salt—a fortune he plans to
use to build a shelter over his hometown—Galahad is betrayed by the friends he
holds dearest. They leave him for dead. Unfortunately for them, he lives.

Torn between seeking justice or revenge, Galahad knows one
thing for certain: that treasure is his, and he’ll do anything to reclaim it.

Fear of Moncroix by Bryan Asher

Official Book Blurb: All the Waywards have Fallen…

After a mission against the Royal Vampiric Court goes horribly wrong, all of
the Waywards are slaughtered. 
All except one.

Davion, the last surviving member, must consume potions to mask himself and
hide amongst the very people who killed his brethren. After a decade of living
this double-life, Davion has resigned himself to his new purgatory. But all
will not remain calm for him or the Court.

An unknown swordsman arrives, and after killing several Royal Vampires, rumor
spreads that he’s searching for anyone still belonging to The Wayward order.

Davion decides he must track down this mysterious swordsman. But will finding
him bring freedom or his own demise.


Official Book Blurb:  All
ex-hero Ettarian Valost wants is to die. When a seraph saves his life, curses
him with the gift of undying, and offers him a second chance at saving mankind,
Ettarian reluctantly agrees to right the wrongs of his past. He sets out across
the ruins of the world he’d tried so hard to protect over twenty years ago,
guided by the gods and intent on uniting the remnants of civilization.

It soon becomes clear, however, that the gods may not be
exactly what they claim to be, and that Ettarian may very well just be another
pawn in a game played between divinities.

Kalia is too young to have known the world before it was
invaded by the Flayed Gods. Determined to escape her abusive father, she flees
alone across the desolation, seeking shelter in the ruins of an old city. Here
she comes across a solitary monster, a priest of the gods who have enslaved her
own race, who assures her that she is destined to guide humanity into a golden

Guided by her monstrous mentor and by visions granted to her
by her new gods, Kalia understands that the only thing that stands in the way
of her ascension is an old man and his own plans. She intends on striking him
down and then fulfilling her destiny.

But Ettarian is no ordinary old man. He is the White Dove, and he will have
redemption, no matter the cost…

Official Book Blurb: On the fringes of Errigal, Morana longs
to exchange a life of hiding for a peaceful one with her husband, Percy. While
Percy’s bloodgift lets him grow plants and heal broken bodies, Morana’s a
boneweaver, despised and feared because she can hear bones and raise the dead.
Morana doesn’t want to be seen as a villain from the old stories and instead
spends her time gardening, writing the stories of the dead, and fending off a
spiteful chicken.

Morana and Percy’s lives are shattered when a group of Failinis tasked with
capturing boneweavers and rogue bloodgifted find them. On the run and battling
the elements, ancient creatures, and the loss of all they called home, Morana
and Percy search for any sanctuary left in Errigal. Morana must choose between
the call in her blood or the family she holds so close to her heart if she and
Percy are to survive.


Official Book Blurb: Everything went to hell in the first

After four years on the road, Sharla was looking forward to
settling down and trying her hand at a steadier occupation. When Claws raid her
town and take her lover, Renn, she knows it’s time for action. She’s tired of
running. Now, she’ll take a stand.

To do this, she’ll have to follow the Claws across the
tablelands. This is a land of bandits, mages, and monsters. If she wants to
travel this country and rescue Renn, she’ll need help. An army of Watchmen
would be nice. Maybe even a drug cartel.

However, she also knows it’s best to keep things small. The
more allies she has, the more she risks a future knife between the ribs.

After all, this is Low Country.


Official Book Blurb: Eleven
paladins walk into a monastery. Only one knows it’s a trap.
When Victoriana Greenmantle is summoned to represent her
paladin order in an unusual quest, the timing couldn’t be worse. Having just
witnessed the horrific death of her mentor, she is barely a paladin at all.
Worse, she has a trapped demon on her hands and if anyone discovers she hasn’t
quite managed to cast it out, she will be made to suffer consequences worse
than death.

The summoning requires Victoriana to journey to the newly
revealed Aching Monastery and there to search for and recover the fabled Cup of
Tears on behalf of her order. But her order is not the only one seeking this
relic. And her rivals are stronger, smarter, more experienced and just as
motivated as she is. Will this cynical paladin have the faith to find the

When Adalbrand Von Menticure is summoned to the Aching
Monastery he is unamused. Far from his holy work healing the sick and injured,
this quest seems a waste of his time. But when the murders start and he’s
thrown together unwittingly with a young female paladin who keeps breaking all
the rules and drawing everyone’s ire, he is forced to confront ghosts of his past.
Can he push past his guilt to accept this tempting ally?

Together, these two holy paladins may be the only ones who can
discover what or who is killing their compatriots and whether the Cup of Tears
is really worth the bloodshed and danger within the monastery walls before time
runs out and they are trapped forever.

Will this pair find strength in their strict discipline and
holy orders in time to escape, or will they fall before the twin dangers of a
rogue killer and an attraction more deadly than the simple risk of death?


Official Book Blurb: Bob, a chain-smoking, foul-mouthed,
shotgun-wielding ex-garbage man, chases his family’s killer—the gray-skinned
Galvidon—through the realms of the mysterious Astraverse. The trail leads him
to Hub, a world in turmoil populated by wizards, blue elves, faeries, giants,
dragons, and unfortunately, plain old humans. Chained by his addictions and
haunted by his past, Bob must find a way through this dark, magical realm and
uncover its secrets, or lose all hope of ending Galvidon once and for all.



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