Thank you Mark Lawrence for hosting this excellent competition once again!
The Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off is a fantastic competition designed to shine a spotlight on indie gems that might otherwise go unnoticed in the speculative fiction community. The resulting success of books like The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids, The Grey Bastards, and Where Loyalties Lie (to name just a few) has been well-deserved and helped to remove some of the stigma self-publishing faces.
Plus, SPFBO is a hell of a lot of fun.
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I suppose now would be a good time to tell you a bit about myself and how I will be approaching SPFBO this year.
I love all things speculative fiction and started this blog to share this passion with others. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with the idea of self-publishing and indie authors, and I do what I can to bring a little extra attention to the books that stand out to me.
Genres I Love:
- Epic Fantasy
- Sword and Sorcery
- Science Fantasy
- Military Fantasy
Genres I Like (and sometimes love):
- Comedic Fantasy
- Literary Fantasy
- Science Fiction
- Slice of Life
- Urban Fantasy
- Weird West
- Historical Fantasy
- Young Adult
- Not a genre, but people view it as one and there’s an attached stigma for many so I like to mention that I enjoy it.
Genres I Don’t Often Read
- Paranormal Romance
- Erotic Fantasy
Note: There is no genre that I avoid completely. My favorite genres have books that fall flat for me, and I’m sometimes surprised by how much I enjoy genres I read less frequently.
Stuff I Love:
- Complex characterization and writing that gets inside the heads of characters and makes me care about what happens.
- Real consequences for character decisions.
- Intricate worldbuilding with internal consistency. Well-designed magic systems are a nice bonus, but not necessary. I don’t care if the magic is “hard” or “soft” as long as I understand the basics and nothing gets pulled out of a hat at the last minute.
- Non-western settings, a diverse cast of characters, sensitive handling of LGBTQ+ issues, and women with agency that avoid the “strong woman” caricature are all huge boosts to my enjoyment of a story.
Stuff I Don’t Love:
- If it’s added for shock value, chances are I won’t enjoy it. Grimdark doesn’t have to mean eating baby intestines while raping a village.
- On that note…rape and other sexual violence, against men or women. If done well, I won’t take points off for it, but I prefer books that avoid this.
- Insta-love, love triangles, and any other form of romance that feels forced or unrealistic. I love a good romance, but the emotion needs to go beyond just lust.
- Farm boys rising to power and becoming King, Savior of the World, or Prophesied Hero is all well and good, but it gets old after a while unless something sets it apart.
- Purple prose and detached points of view that don’t dive into a character’s thoughts.
- Male gaze, wish-fulfillment, and harems are all strong turn offs for any book.
- Character names with more apostrophes than letters.
- Books that explore a cool setting or idea at the expense of characters and plot.
- Robin Hobb
- N.K. Jemisin
- Claire North
- Brandon Sanderson
- Josiah Bancroft
- Joe Abercombie
- Django Wexler
- Maggie Stiefvater
- Terry Pratchett
I’ll be handling SPFBO review a little differently than my other reviews. For one, I won’t be pairing coffee beverages for all of the books, just the Team Weatherwax semifinalists. In addition, I’ll be rating books on a scale of 0-10.
More on my scoring policy here (to be updated soon!).