Some Jewels of SPFBO 2018
Each year, SPFBO blog judges winnow down 300 entrants to just 10 finalists. It goes without saying that this process is subjective, even arbitrary at times; luck certainly plays a role. For this reason, the top ten SPFBO finalists of 2018 got together to acknowledge some of the other fine self-published fantasy novels submitted for consideration. I'll highlight my choices below. You can also check out our announcement letter and the indie gems identified by other finalists by clicking this link. But first, my nominees for overlooked jewels of SPFBO 2018.
Benedict Patrick's novels, set in his myth-haunted Yarnsworld, are known for their gorgeous covers, courtesy of Jenny Zemanek. This is one of those occasions when you can judge a book by its cover. His tales draw heavily from mythology & folklore, and he creates lush, dark fairy tales with a generous dose of horror. City of Swords is his third novel set in the Yarnsworld, chockful of roving gangs of garishly-masked swordsmen. If you would like a taste of some non-eurocentric folklore and aren't afraid to embrace weirdness, City of Swords is definitely a gem you should rush out and purchase.
People who play games may also want to check out Benedict's podcast, where you can follow the silliness and RPG antics of several indie fantasy luminaries: http://critfacedpodcast.com/
Davis Ashura is an endocrinologist by day. His first foray into self-publishing was a thrilling trilogy: Castes & Outcasts, set in an Asian Indian fantasy world. They are well worth checking out. His entry in this year's SPFBO, however, was a turn to YA fantasy, a new series he began with his two teenage sons in mind. I'll let Davis's description of William Wilde & the Necrosed speak for itself: A monster murdered his family. A tyrant enslaved him. A demon torments his waking thoughts. They'll all learn that a nerd from the 80s makes a terrible enemy. This is when a wise woman or man would click purchase. To date, the Chronicles of William Wilde include four novels. While written for teens, the books are also sure to appeal to those who get a kick from the nostalgia of Stranger Things and Ready Player One.
Jeffrey Hall's entry, The City of a Thousand Faces, is the first of the Welkin duology. It's set in the jungle world of Chilongua, is another opportunity for readers looking for something that moves away from traditional medieval fantasy. Its main protagonist, Irtha Vimbi, is a youth addicted to a dangerous drug. She must protect her magically-corrupted brother and escape those who hunt them to find a new home across the other side of the terrifying, monster-infested jungle, while also escaping their past. I'll wait here while you open a tab to Amazon and purchase this gem.
Jeffrey lives in the suburbs of Boston with his wife and two sons, who are apparently keeping the milk industry in business single-handedly. He works by day at a health-care start-up company, and by night writes of dark, menacing jungles, lurking with magic and mayhem.
Jeramy Goble's entry, Coven Queen, draws you in with a tantalizing hook: An homage to Melisandre from Game of Thrones, it's a dark fantasy featuring a sorcerer-queen who blurs the lines between light and dark magic in an effort to free her people from an ancient evil. Fans of grimdark with badass heroines won't be disappointed: purchase this gem.
An IT Manager by day, Jeramy spends his free time hanging with the love of his life, enjoying the mountains of North Carolina, composing, woodworking, & painting. A Renaissance man! He has also published a Space Opera trilogy, and has begun a series about immortal bounty hunters Briz & Bayla.
JC Kang's entry, first in the four-novel Dragon Songs Saga, is Songs of Insurrection. A semi-finalist, it's an east-meets-west fusion, and I can't improve on his lovely tag: Only the lost magic of Dragon Songs can save the world. Only a naive misfit with the perfect voice can rediscover it. The series is suitable for YA readers, but engaging for adults as well. While the entire series is available as a boxed set, Songs of Insurrection is also available for individual purchase.
An acupuncturist and Wing Chun Kung Fu teacher, John lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife, two teenage daughters, and lazy Rat Terrier. He's been into Fantasy/Sci-Fi since childhood and started writing because as a control freak, he couldn't get his D&D players to follow the quests he'd laid out.
Any aficionado of indie fantasy has heard of Phil Tucker. No stranger to SPFBO, the first novel of his excellent five-book Chronicles of the Black Gate series, The Path of Flames, was a 2016 top ten finalist. Never one to rest on his laurels, Phil recently dipped a toe (several, actually) into the LitRPG pool with the Euphoria Online trilogy. His entry for this year's SPFBO is the trilogy opener, Death March. It has drawn positive comparisons to enormously popular exemplars of the subgenre such as Ready Player One and Sufficiently Advanced Magic and is chockful of my personal favorite: Phil's masterful and riveting fight scenes. Stop wasting time: purchase this gem.
Miranda Honfleur's entry, Blade and Rose, is the first of a four-book series of the same name. Described as Throne of Glass meets Game of Thrones, It's a romantic epic fantasy following elementalist mage Rielle as she escorts a paladin across a war-torn kingdom. Full of adventure, drama, and intrigue sure to please fans of Sarah J. Maas and Mercedes Lackey. Now, purchase this gem.
Miranda is a born-and-raised Chicagoan living in Indianapolis. She grew up on fantasy and science fiction novels, spending nearly as much time in Valdemar, Pern, Tortall, Narnia, and Middle Earth as in reality. In another life, her J.D. and M.B.A. were meant to serve a career in law, but now she gets to live her dream job: writing speculative fiction starring fierce heroines and daring heroes who make difficult choices along their adventures and intrigues, all with a generous (over)dose of romance.
When she’s not snarking, writing, or reading her Kindle, she hangs out and watches Netflix with her English-teacher husband and plays board games with her friends.
Whew! I'm running out of steam. And frankly, I've only scratched the surface. In my opinion, we're truly in a golden age of fantasy, due in no small part to the tools available for indies to see their work released into the world. Self-publishing has removed barriers and weakened the stranglehold of the gatekeepers who once decided what all fantasy readers would consume. Now discerning readers can discover new talent and tale-tellers on their own before a marketing executive has determined what the next "big thing" is.
This is as good a time as any to remind you how that indie authors depend heavily on word-of-mouth. If you enjoy a novel by an indie fantasy author, make it known! Take to Twitter! Shout it from the rooftops of Reddit! Post a review or rating at Amazon, Audible, Goodreads, etc! Today, readers have an unprecedented ability to impact what fantasy makes it into print (or digital). Make your voice heard!