SPFBO 9 Finalists, Our Approach, Stats

 

As avid fantasy readers, we love discovering new voices and hidden gems. SPFBO contest gives us such a possibility, and we’re thrilled to participate in it for the ninth time. The first stage of the contest has just ended, and ten blogs have picked their champions. We’re excited to read all of them and would love to encourage you to do the same. 
Here’s GR LIST with all finalists. We encourage you to add them all to your Want to Read shelf.

OUR APPROACH
Each of us (Adam, Chels, Esmay, Łukasz, Mihir) will read all books from cover to cover. Then each of us will score every book, and the average score will appear in Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO results table.
Reviews
We’ll post one review in November, December, and April and two reviews in January, February, and March. We’ll also post interviews with finalists who will agree to answer our questions.
If you decide to read along with us, consider dropping your reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Reddit. Reviews are hugely beneficial for indie authors trying to draw attention to their recently published book. Help us to spread the word about the books you love.
Some stats

As of October 31, 2023, the books had the following results on GR and Amazon. We plan to see how it changes throughout phase 2. As you can see, some of the finalists are heavy hitters doing well on Amazon (and Goodreads), but we also have three relatively unknown titles in this year’s finals. Exciting!

  • Four books are female-authored
  • Genre mash-ups dominated the SPFBO 9 finals
  • Three books have the audiobook version
  • Six finalists are Amazon-exclusive
FINALISTS
And now, let’s take a look at SPFBO 8 finalists listed in alphabetical order.

A RIVAL MOST VIAL by R.K. Ashwick
340 pages, Published January 25, 2023; Goodreads/Amazon
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
Lynn Books’s Finalist
Two potion shops, one heated rivalry…until hate bubbles over into something else.

Any adventurer worth their sword knows about Ambrose Beake. The proud, quiet half-elf sells the best, and only, potions in the city—until a handsome new shopkeeper named Eli opens another potion shop across the street, throwing Ambrose’s peace and ledgers far off balance.

Within weeks, they’re locked in a war of price tags and products—Ambrose’s expertise against Eli’s effortless charm. Toil leads to trouble, the safety gloves come off, and right as their rivalry reaches a boiling point…

The mayor commissions them to brew a potion together.

The task is as complex as it is lucrative, pushing both men to the limits of their abilities and patience. Yet as the fires burn and cauldrons bubble…they find a different sort of chemistry brewing.

COLD WEST by Clayton Snyder
164 pages, Published June 9, 2023; Goodreads/Amazon
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Before We Go Blog’s Finalist
Bastard. Killer. Husband. Father. His wife cold in the ground, and two young boys to feed, Wil Cutter turns to what he Violence. But a bounty is never just a bounty, and blood is never spilled in drops. Forced to ever more violent acts, he’ll have to ask Is Hell too far to ride?

DAUGHTER OF THE BEAST by E.C. Greaves
374 pages, Published March 4, 2022; Goodreads/Amazon
Genre: Coming-of-age
Bookborn’s Finalist
When her sleepy village is raided by the Vulkari, the fearsome warrior women of the Ancient Wilds, only Zyntael Fairwinter is taken.

Claimed as a daughter by their infamous matriarch, Zyntael is trained to hunt, to fight, and to kill—all for a purpose, which remains ever out of her grasp.

In the company of their unruly young, she might find sisterhood. In their unique customs and beliefs, she might find beauty. And in the violence of their raids, she might even find glory.

But it is the reason for her capture that Zyntael truly seeks. It is a truth that must be earned from the very Spirits of the dead; a future paid for in the blood of those Zyntael once called her own. It is a purpose that promises the liberation of not just she, but of all the Ancient Wilds, from an evil far greater than any marauding warrior women.

Warrior or no, however, the Vulkari are not like other women. The Vulkari are monsters.

And sometimes, only the truly monstrous have what it takes to save the world.
HILLS OF HEATHER & BONE by K.E. Andrews
412 pages, Published May 20, 2023; Goodreads/Amazon
Genre: Coming-of-age
Fantasy-Faction’s Finalist
The bones of the dead hold stories.

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.

MURDER AT SPINDLE MANOR by Morgan Stang
251 pages, Published October 20, 2022; Goodreads/Amazon
Genre: Murder Mystery, Gaslamp
Philip Chase’s Finalist
Mysteries abound in Spindle Manor.

For Huntress Isabeau Agarwal, the countryside inn is the last stop in a deadly hunt. Armed with gaslamp and guns, she tracks an insidious beast that wears the skin of its victims, mimicking them perfectly. Ten guests reside within Spindle Manor tonight, and the creature could be any one of them. Confined by a torrential thunderstorm and running out of time, Isabeau has until morning to discover the liar, or none of them—including her—will make it out alive.

But her inhuman quarry isn’t the only threat residing in Spindle Manor.

Gunshots.

A slammed door.

A dead body.

Someone has been killed, and a hunt turns into a murder investigation. Now with two mysteries at her feet and more piling up, Isabeau must navigate a night filled with lies and deception. In a world of seances and specters, mesmers and monsters, the unexpected is hiding around every corner, and every move may be her last.

MASTER OF THE VOID by Wend Raven

585 pages, Published March 14, 2023; GR/Amazon
Genre: Coming-of-age
Cassidy’s Finalist

In the Seven Lands, magic is everything. So what happens when you’re the only person who has none?
Nothing matters more to Derrius Mendi than forging a better life for his family by pursuing a formal magical education at the University, something his parents have sacrificed what little they had to make possible. When disaster strikes on the eve of his thirteenth birth moment—the day he was to receive his magical gift from the Stars—will he choose perseverance or bitterness as he struggles against a society that would rather forget he exists than help him succeed?
As the third son of an archmage, Orimund Laetus has spent his life living up to the expectations of others. When his testing goes horribly wrong, he must decide who he truly is when his carefully crafted upbringing is rendered useless. Setting off on an epic adventure of self-discovery, Orimund must find his place in the world before a looming evil destroys everything he holds dear.
From swashbuckling sea voyages and magical heists to unlikely friendships and budding romances, Master of the Void is a sweeping coming-of-age journey that follows a cast of misfit friends through times of heartbreak, fear, joy, laughter, failure, and triumph.

THE FALL IS ALL THERE IS (Four of Mercies #1) by C.M. Caplan
413 pages, Published November 7, 2022; GR/Amazon
Genre: Post-apocalyptic science-fantasy
Becky M’s Finalist
All Petre Mercy wanted was a good old-fashioned dramatic exit from his life as a prince. But it’s been five years since he fled home on a cyborg horse. Now the King – his Dad – is dead – and Petre has to decide which heir to pledge his thyroid-powered sword to.

As the youngest in a set of quadruplets, he’s all too aware that the line of succession is murky. His siblings are on the precipice of power grabs, and each of them want him to pick their side.

If Petre has any hope of preventing civil war, he’ll have to avoid one sibling who wants to take him hostage, win back another’s trust after years of rivalry and resentment, and get an audience with a sister he’s been avoiding for five years.

Before he knows it, he’s plunged himself into a web of intrigue and a world of strange, unnatural inventions just to get to her doorstep.

Family reunions can be a special form of torture.

THE LAST FANG OF GOD (Ranger of The Titan Wilds #1) by J.D.L. Rosell
252 pages, Published April 26, 2023; GR/Amazon
Genre: Sword & Sorcery, Coming-of-Age
Timy’s Finalist
When gods refuse to die, it’s humans that suffer.

Safely hidden deep within the endless fields of his late wife’s people, Kalen’s only dream is to live the rest of his days in peace. He paid for his dream in blood, but neither his sword nor service are demanded any longer.

Chaos erupts when his daughter, Sascha, is called by Kalen’s old master. Father and daughter have no choice but to leave the home they’ve created for the land of Kalen’s birth.

But the sins of the past cast long shadows. After years of a tenuous peace, gods and humans alike resume their quest for dominance. Kalen and Sascha find themselves in the midst of a struggle that will reshape the boundaries of their world.

The warrior who wants nothing but peace will be forced to draw his sword once again.

Will it be enough to protect his daughter from the whims of the gods?

THE LAST RANGER (Ranger of The Titan Wilds #1) by J.D.L. Rosell
462 pages, Published December 27, 2022; GR/Amazon
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Our Finalist
Betrayed. Hunted. Left for dead. But not even death itself can keep the last ranger from vengeance.

Leiyn “Firebrand” is no stranger to a fight. A brash ranger of the Titan Wilds, she takes up her bow to ward against the colossal spirit creatures known as titans, ever a threat to the colonies she has sworn to protect.

But no amount of skill can guard against treachery.

When tragedy strikes the rangers’ lodge, Leiyn vows to avenge the fallen. But if she is to succeed, she must embrace a power within her she has long denied.

Power to move mountains and rivers.

Power over life and death.

She did not choose this path, but Leiyn knows her duty. For if she fails, the legacy of the rangers dies with her—and all the Titan Wilds will fall into shadow.
THE WICKWIRE WATCH (The Riverfall Chronicles #1) by Jacquelyn Hagen
440 pages, Published September 9, 2022; GR/Amazon
Genre: Gaslamp
Weatherwax Report’s Finalist
TRUST NO ONE.

It’s the first and greatest rule Inkwell Featherfield ever learned. It’s also the only way he knows how to survive—besides picking pockets, dodging the law, and using every ounce of his plucky charm. But none of this will be enough to save him now.
If only he’d never snooped around a dead man’s house. If only he’d never found that pocket watch full of strange magic. If only he’d known the old man had snuffed it at the hands of the ghostly Spektors, or that such dark spirits even existed, because now they’re after him.
When Ink is approached by an enigmatic group offering to keep him safe, he accepts—only to discover his rescuers are a band of infamous fugitives. Who knew they had a flair for winemaking? Or a penchant for sing-a-longs?
Thrust into a world of arcane horrors, powerful politicians, and dangers on every side, the boy has no choice but to finally break his rule and decide who to trust. But with all the secrets, magic, and mystery thickening around him—and the stakes so much higher than he ever imagined—it might just be downright impossible.

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