SPFBO9: The Last Attenuation & Semifinalist Update (by Mihir Wanchoo)


FBC’s First SPFBO9 Update

As you, folks have
already seen with the past four FBC updates’, each of us have read through our
lot of six books. With this being my ninth year, I was very excited to see what
titles would fall into my lap.

These were the six titles,
which I got, and I was very excited to see the diverse genre mix: 
 – Night’s Reign by
Daan Katz
 –  The Cataclysm by Aaron Jackson
 – The Daughter Of The Ice by Luis Filcao de Magalhaes
 – The Girl And Her Demon by M.X. Walker
 – The Legend Of Black Jack by A.R. Witham
 – The Sparrow and The Oak Tree by Jamie Jackson

I read the blurbs and
picked out the order that I wanted to read them. Before I jump into each of
them, a bit of a housekeeping. I read nearly 25% of all titles before deciding
which titles to continue ahead with. While I do have my personal preferences,
when it comes to SPFBO titles, I always focus on plot, characters, pace, world
building and overall enjoyment.

 Here are my thoughts on
each of the titles:


The Legend of Black Jack by
A.R. Witham was my first book that I
picked based on how awesome the blurb sounded and I dove in. The story begins in
our world with a young boy and his loving father: “A boy is best seen through his father’s eyes.”

 Jack Swift is a
brilliant seven year old whose father Dr. Alex Swift is a good man. Jack is
shown to be a brilliant savant and has what is now called an eidetic memory. Things
happen as they do in fantasy books and soon the story turns into a portal
fantasy. The story then takes some wild turns and turns into an adventure with
hijinks of the best kind. The story is absolutely incredible and possibly has
is the most unique by having an appendix removal surgery being described for
the first time ever in a fantasy story.

 TLOBL is a story that
has to be read to be believed, filled with magic, action, a talking rhinoceros
and more adventures than the slim volume suggests. I loved how much fun this
story was and I raced through it with gutso. Plus all the interior artwork was
an additional treat and only served to make the story that much more beguiling. The story blurb and the actual plot don’t quite match up as many readers might go in expecting an epic fantasy story whereas the actual story is a different one.

The Girl And Her Demon by
M.X. Walker was a book that set of
my intrigue with its simple cover and the blurb that promised a tense story
focusing on a girl and her demon trying to make her way into the Ademmon
Academy. Emiria is a child who after the death of her mother doesn’t find any
happiness in her home. Her father has found a new wife and her children, Emiria
really dislikes her step mother who treats her harshly. Determined to change
her fate, she makes a pact with a demon named Epherekeen, and forces her way
into a magical academy where she has to deal with a lot more issues.

This story then
focusses on the academy with its mix of secrets, magic and royal personage.
Emiria as a main character is a tough one but a bit immature and the story
exploits that aspect solidly. She’s smarting from the loss of her mother but
finds kindred friends and discovers her demon might have a different agenda
after all. This story was quite fast paced and ends in a manner that will make
you excited to read the sequel. It didn’t pack any big surprises but still has
a lot of familiar tropes that new readers will enjoy it thoroughly. Overall
this was an fun and mysterious book that kept me on my toes.


The Sparrow And The Oak
by Jamie Jackson
was an interesting fantasy standalone based on a
mythological story of Tristan and Isolde. In the book, Isolde is the lone
sorceress who’s been tasked by her king to suss out the mystery of the terrfied
child who has returned from the forest and has been sequestered in the town of
Perdition. She is accompanied by a gruff warrior who refuses to reveal his name
but answers to the name of Bear. The child is terrified but has reasons of his
own to not reveal what he saw inside the forest. This central mystery then
plays smoothly as we the readers are given solid clues as to what might truly
be happening.

 This romantic fantasy was
one that surprised me because it told a complete story with solid
characterization and with a central mystery that unfold smoothly. The one major
drawback was the pacing, which is a bit lackluster in the middle. However the
characters were intriguing enough for me to continue on and the mix of first
person and third person narratives made it exciting. Lastly the climax mixed
action alongside the eventual mystery revelation and gave a very sweet ending. Overall
I really enjoyed this retelling.


The Cataclysm by Aaron
was an interesting fantasy story that was set in a world that is trying
to get back on its feet after a global apocalypse. Each chapter begins with a
vignette about what happened and slowly the readers can start piecing together
what really happened. The story focusses upon Asher and his partner in crime Deishiro
who are given a new mission and are facing multiple obstacles in their way. I
thought this was a good story and especially the vignettes in each chapter were
very cool and added a mysterious element. However the story seemed to be a bit stereotypical
for its genre and beyond the halfway point and I was losing interest and had to DNF it.


Night’s Reign by Daan Katz was an interesting story, it began in a
way that made my interest click however as soon as the characters were
introduced. We are introduced to Niels Bosch a priest with severe guilt and
Beldenka Nadinov Cantor, who prefers to go by Bel. Bel is in a wheelchair but does
not let the frailties of her situation define who she is. The author focuses on
both of them strongly and we get an in-depth look as to who they are and possibly,
what their past might contain.

 We don’t get much of a
why things are happening as they are but there are hints strewn within. The
world is a curious mix of technology and magic and it was refreshing to see a
world that’s a curios mix as such.
story is one where the entire focus is on the characters and both Niels and Bel
are enigmatic ones but with completely different life outlooks. The author has
to be praised for showcasing a physically disabled protagonist and never
sugarcoating her situation. Bel is a strong-willed and remarkable character
however she’s not invulnerable and the story does its best to remind us of

The story however didn’t’ quite work for me as
the plot showcases both Bel and Niels’ pasts and this robs the book of its
momentum a bit.
 I stopped around the 40%
mark as I wasn’t the right fit for this dark story, therefore I feel quite bad
in having to cut it. I must say folks who have read and enjoyed Sarah Chorn’s
books will most certainly enjoy Daan Katz’work. So give it a try if you want to
read a dark, character focused fantasy story.


The Daughter Of Ice by Luis Filcao de Magalhaes is
a quick paced sword and sorcery story that has a multi-POV structure and
focuses on several fantasy stereotypical characters. However the author does
his best to make them three dimensional and one of the best things he does is
also give a POV to the big bad. With a quick paced plot, we are introduced to
Eregar the elderly, straightlaced knight, Jonah the thief, Annah the manipulative
assassin, Ando the adventure hungry warrior and Eileen.

 The author also has
several correspondences listed as epigraphs that furthers the plot in
interesting ways. I really enjoyed how the author introduced the main evil
early on and then set all the characters to discover what is truly occurring. I
thought this was an interesting move and the pace of the story kept me chugging
along. This book is filled with enough action and escapades which will
certainly keep readers entertained and the ending is an action packed
cliffhanger that makes the next volume a must have.


After reading these six
books, three titles immediately came to the forefront in my mind. Those three
were :

The Legend Of Black
The Sparrow And The Oak
The Daughter Of Ice

All three titles kept
me entertained, had a good focus on characters, a solid engaging plot that compelled
me to read all the way. It was very hard to choose my semifinalist amongst them
as each of them had their pluses and a few drawbacks.

Black Jack had an
infectious energy and a sense of wonder but the story’s seven year protagonist’s
superhuman feats would have Gary Stu saying “c’mon man” and thus strained my
credulity even in this fantastically fun story.

The Sparrow And The Oak
was a heartwarming story and the main characters were endearing. However
the worldbuilding left a lot to be desired and the author used a couple of plot
contrivances to get the climax to where it needed to be.

The Daughter Of Ice was
a fast-paced epic story that plays on fantasy tropes and delivers an action packed story
but it has a staid cover that might detract readers from picking it up and the
story doesn’t set itself apart from most of its contemporaries within the genre.


I forced myself to
focus on the writing aspect in order to figure out which book gave the most joy
while telling as complete a story as possible.


In this regards one
title came out just a hair ahead of its contemporaries. So without further ado,
my choice for the last FBC semifinalist is …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………




The Sparrow and the Oak
Jamie Jackson.

My commiserations to A.
R. Witham
and Luis Filcao de Magalhaes, their books were a lot of fun. However
TSATOT managed to win me over with its charm and heartwarming ending. Now I
look forward to what my fellow team members think of it as I will be reading
the other semifinalists.

We will be announcing
our Finalist hopefully by the end of the month.

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