Self Published Fantasy Blog Off

This year we’re participating in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) in which 300 self-published fantasy authors contributed their books to be reviewed by 10 fantasy review blogs which will work together to choose the best of the 300 books. (You can read all about it at Mark Lawrence’s blog.)

We’ve been assigned to read 30 books. We eliminated three immediately because they didn’t fit the spirit of the contest very well. We have 27 left.

Over the next three months, we’ll be posting five Thoughtful Thursday columns that each feature five or six of the books on our list. This is the first post. In the next couple of weeks we’ll be reading (or at least starting — can’t promise we’ll finish) each of the books you see below. We’ll choose our favorite which will then go up against the books in our next SPFBO column (probably June 30). We’ll continue like this until we have an overall winner. Our winner will go on to compete against the other nine bloggers’ winners in Round Two.

For fun, and because we always like to do a giveaway on Thursdays, in each post we’ll ask YOU to choose the featured book that you think we’ll pick to move on to our next round. All you’ll have to go on, unless you click the link and buy these books (and the authors would love it if you do), is the cover art and blurb.

So, here is our first set of books! Which one do you think will win this round?

A Ransom of Flames by Anela Deen — A mysterious blight devastates the world of Aeden. The Vehlek — dark, immortal guardians of Aeden — have used their power to combat it through a blood sacrifice, one given every season from each of the four peoples. For generations this has diminished the Blight’s destructive force. Now their power wanes and the sickness worsens. Their scripture speaks of Providence, of mortals whose blood, combined with their power, can end it. But as yet, there has been no sign of them.

On the secluded islands of Malua, the Blight rots the land and destroys the harvests. The change of the tide marks the new season, and with it, the need for a blood sacrifice. For Maleia, daughter of a murdered king, wife to a usurper’s son, her hopes to reclaim her father’s throne are dashed when her child is stillborn. To her horror, the usurper king intends to use her daughter’s remains as the blood offering, condemning her small spirit to wander lost and alone. As the Vehlek emerge from their fiery underground caverns to claim the sacrifice, she commits a desperate act to take her daughter’s place, an act that unintentionally binds her to one of these strange, immortal men, and later reveals her to be an integral part of Providence as foretold by their scriptures.

While seeking out others like her, the Vehlek will guide her on her journey to the mainland to fulfill her destiny. The road is perilous, not least because her father’s murderer travels with her, and the Blight haunts their steps at every turn. With the lives of all hanging in the balance, and time running out, they will either cure their failing world through blood and flame, or see it fall to ruin.

Bone Dry by Cady Vance — Holly Bennett is a comic book nerd, a con artist, and a shaman. Ever since her mom’s mind got stuck halfway between the spirit world and ours, Holly’s had to take up the role of breadwinner in the family. She uses her burgeoning shaman powers and her con artist ways to set up fake hauntings and “banish” the so-called ghosts from her wealthy classmates’ bedrooms. For a fee, of course. But when actual spirits start attacking residents of Seaport, Holly discovers that other shamans have come to town, summoning life-sucking spirits for their own ends. And as her mom’s mind slips further away, Holly has to fight to save her, and the rest of the town, before they get sucked into Lower World permanently….

Sisters of Light by Stan Sudan — Sisters of Light is the first book of the beginning trilogy of the epic fantasy series DANCERS OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS. The story, which spans millennia, is set in the contemporary Southwest, and follows the journey of a young Sister of Light, Iya-Ko-Naya, and her promise-bound Brother of Light — an Outsider named Shatwa Hei — whom all except Iya’s closest friends and allies innately distrust but are forced to acknowledge as one of their own.

With support from her Warrior friends and Medicine-skilled relations, Iya obligingly submits to her Legacy-given task as Keeper of the Ways. It is now her challenge to discover a way to overcome the difficulties that have plagued her maternal lineage for hundreds of generations.

In assuming her Grandmother’s role as Daughter of the Mountain, Iya acquires the responsibility of reawakening the children of their people to the long-forgotten memories of their ancestors, the Ancient Ones, who once lived among the stars. It is only through the re-Awakening of those ancient memories — which include skills of warfare and healing and stepping into Shadow — that Iya’s Sisters and Brothers will be able to defeat the Darkness that has returned to plague them. This gets really long. Read the rest here.

The Adventures of Jojo Smith by Tony Leslie Duxbury — This is a light-hearted and amusing fantasy about a young man who is accidentally transported to an alien world. It is a medieval world and the magician who pulled him from his own was only practicing! Jojo is frightened out of his wits and finds himself in the middle of a needle match between the magician and the King’s henchman. As the magician ignores his pleas to reverse the spell and send him back Jojo looks for a way to force the issue. This is out of character for the normally happy-go- lucky Jojo, who usually just drifts through life. He comes up with the idea of making a revolution and dethroning the King. He finds allies to help him and the plan swings into motion. Of course, everything goes wrong from the start.

The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis — GAME OF THRONES meets GRACELING in a new fantasy adventure by bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis. When Jinji’s home is destroyed, she is left with nowhere to run and no one to run to — until she meets Rhen, a prince chasing rumors that foreign enemies have landed on his shores. Masquerading as a boy, Jinji joins Rhen with vengeance in her heart. But traveling together doesn’t mean trusting one another, and both are keeping a deep secret — magic. Jinji can weave the elements to create master illusions and Rhen can pull burning flames into his flesh. But while they struggle to hide the truth, a shadow lurks in the night. An ancient evil has reawakened, and unbeknownst to them, these two unlikely companions hold the key to its defeat. Because their meeting was not coincidence — it was fate. And their story has played out before, in a long forgotten time, an age of myth that is about to be reborn…

The Ballerina Bear’s Bride by E.A. Turley — Destined Dates Agency for the Supernatural. Finds and matches the Supernatural with their true love mates.

Jane is totally disillusioned with men, but when she’s given a card for a Supernatural Dating Agency that matches supernatural beings of all kinds with their true love mates, she registers herself on it, hoping for the best. After all, what does she have to lose?

Victor is a grumpy polar bear shifter who regularly gets up on the wrong side of the bed, and when he’s matched with Jane as his mate, all he wants to do is run…. away from her! Basically, he has a big problem: his polar bear has fallen in love with Jane and has promptly disowned Victor – it’s gone on strike! It won’t shift. It won’t talk to him. It won’t even let him ballet dance to relieve the stress! Nothing. Unless Victor bares all with Jane, the only thing his inner animal is prepared to bare is his teeth.

A bear shifter that doesn’t have his bear… a bear that doesn’t have his mate… it’s enough to send a shifter crazy!

So, readers, which one do you think will win this round? One of the readers who guesses correctly gets a Kindle copy of the book OR a Kindle copy of the overall SPFBO winner OR you can choose a book from our stacks.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.