I have read four of the ten SPFBO finalists and I wanted to take a moment to talk about them! If you have no idea what SPFBO is, check out this post. In short, it is an annual literary contest intended to bring greater visibility to self-published English-language fantasy authors.
I am reading all of the finalists along with 9 other members of the bookish community! You can check out this website if you want to see who else is participating and our ratings so far. We are following a rubric in order to calculate our ratings and one this I have learned is how much weight I give personal enjoyment when giving a book a star rating, which is interesting!
A little bit of sin is good for the soul.
Gadriel, the fallen angel of petty temptations, has a bit of a gambling debt. Fortunately, her angelic bookie is happy to let her pay off her debts by doing what she does best: All Gadriel has to do is tempt miserably sinless mortal Holly Harker to do a few nice things for herself.
What should be a cakewalk of a job soon runs into several roadblocks, however, as Miss Harker politely refuses every attempt at temptation from Gadriel the woman, Gadriel the man, and Gadriel the adorable fluffy kitten. When even chocolate fails to move Gadriel’s target, the ex-guardian angel begins to suspect she’s been conned. But Gadriel still remembers her previous job… and where petty temptations fail, small miracles might yet prevail.
Olivia Atwater explores love, grief, and the very last bit of chocolate in this sweet modern fantasy, full of wit and heart. Pick up Small Miracles, and enjoy a heavenly faerie tale from the author of Half a Soul.
Olivia Atwater received a lot of love for Half a Soul in 2023, which is a book I own and will hopefully get to soon! It was interesting to start with one of her lesser-known works and I can totally see the love for her writing and her characters. I would call Small Miracles cozy fantasy and there is also a love story that I became invested in and thought was sweet. This makes me want to read more books that follow angels because I thought that was intriguing. I will say that the footnotes got a little tedious for me but they didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment.
Overall Score– 7.8
I think it is interesting to note that my enjoyment score was higher than any of the others, which lead me down this path where I am trying to determine what makes me love a book. Still working that out!
The dead shall not be mourned or remembered, for death is the enemy and will only drive the Seraph away.
How far would you go to resurrect someone you love?
Would you change who you are to show you belong?
The world of Avarin is tearing itself apart. The Domain worships life, its leaders lead eternal lives and death is a shame that must not be mourned. But, for the clans to the south, death is all that keeps the Earth alive.
Adrian is a prince of one of the Domain nations. Church teaching says his grief is forbidden, but he will stop at nothing to return his loved ones to worthiness. Even if it means sacrificing his own.
Lynn is a rogue elite warrior hiding from her past. But now, an old enemy is rising, and running is no longer an option.
Nasha is a gifted hunter hiding a terrible secret. A lifelong outcast, she desperately fights for belonging in the Ronar, a proud southern clan. Yet a changing world threatens more than just her status in the community.
But now a terrifying foe creeps nearer, and the people of Avarin must fight to save it.
Before death comes for them all.
A Touch of Light is so outside of my comfort zone but I still predicted it would be one of my favourites! A lot of that was because my friend Cassidy loved this book so much and I trust her opinion. She was so right about this book! I could not put it down and the ending left me speechless. I know that a lot of this went over my head and it is a book I will probably have to reread in the future, but I loved the experience of reading this one.
Overall Score– 8.1
Sensible, practical Elinor Tregarth really did plan to be the model poor relation when she moved into Hathergill Hall. She certainly never meant to kidnap her awful cousin Penelope’s pet dragon. She never expected to fall in love with the shameless – but surprisingly sweet – fortune hunter who came to court Penelope. And she never dreamed that she would have to enter into an outrageous magical charade to save her younger sisters’ futures.
However, even the most brilliant scholars of 1817 England still haven’t ferreted out all the lurking secrets of rediscovered dragonkind…and even the most sensible of heroines can still make a reckless wish or two when she’s pushed. Now Elinor will have to find out just how rash and resourceful she can be when she sets aside all common sense. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll even be impractical enough to win her own true love and a happily ever after…with the unpredictable and dangerous “help” of the magical creature who has adopted her.
A frothy Regency rom-com full of pet dragons and magical misadventures, Scales and Sensibility is a full-length novel and the first in a new series of standalone romantic comedies.
Scales and Sensibility was so much fun! This is the book that I read the quickest and I thought that the author captured the Jane Austen vibes perfectly! It truly felt like Austen with dragons. What more could you want?! You will definitely have to enjoy regency romances to appreciate this book and be okay with a little bit of insta-love, but it worked for me. I cannot wait for the sequel!
Overall Score– 7.4
When the saints fail, the sinners step up.
Cruel gods rule the steam-powered city of Chime, demanding worship and tribute from their mortal subjects. Kayl lost her faith in them long ago, and now seeks to protect vulnerable and downtrodden mortals from their gods’ whims. But when Kayl discovers powers that she didn’t know she had—and destroys a mortal’s soul by accident—she becomes Chime’s most wanted.
Quen’s job was to pursue sinners, until the visions started. Haunted by foreboding images of his beloved city’s destruction, Quen hunts soul-sucking creatures made of aether who prey on its citizens—and Kayl is his number one target.
To ensure Chime’s future, Kayl and Quen must discover the truth of Kayl’s divine abilities before the gods take matters into their own hands.
For a city that bows to cruel gods, it’ll take godless heathens to save it.
The Thirteenth Hour is my least favourite of the four books I have read so far, but that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it! I think that this is a book that will work for many readers but something about it didn’t click for me. I think the main thing is that the characters didn’t feel distinct enough and that the world had so much potential and I felt like we barely touched the surface of it.
Overall Score– 6.2
If you have read any of the SPBFO finalists, I would love to hear your thoughts!