#SPFBO5 Round 1 Update - Next-to-Last Batch of DNFs

Well I've pretty much touched every book that was assigned to our team for SPFBO5.  I'm officially left with two books that I haven't read at least 25% of.  I wanted to give an update on what looks like is going to be my next-to-last group of DNFs.  There's possibly a few more books that are leaning toward the DNF column as of right now, but I don't believe I'll need more than one more update as I can group them in that final post.  I believe once all is said and done there will be between 8-10 books that I will finish reading and then post full reviews for.  They will all get a score from me and I will send the book(s) with the top one or two scores to the rest of the team as my semi-final choice(s).  Ultimately the top average score among the four of us will win out as Team RockStarlit Book Asylum's pick.  Having said all that, here are my most-recent DNFs along with brief explanations as to why:

FEAST OF THE RAVEN by Catherine Spader - This was an okay book and I usually enjoy period-fantasies.  This one is set in 8th century Germany and depicts a battle between Christian Franks and pagan Saxons.  The story was interesting enough but I felt it fell short in a couple of different areas.  The first were the characters, who I felt weren't really fleshed out enough.  They were just sort of there in the story without any significant back story or indication of any history that brought them to their current situation.  I also felt like the entire story was somewhat rushed without explaining the folklore involved in the magic side of the narrative.  
(My score: 4.5/10)

THE PROCUREMENT OF SOULS by Benjamin Hope - This book is not for the faint of heart.  Lots of depictions of experimental surgery performed on victims to gain control of their souls.  The premise is a very interesting one, the idea of somehow finding a way to be able to control someone's body as a vessel to perform your every command simply through thought is definitely one of the more unique story ideas that I've come across.  Definitely has that Gothic fantasy feel crossed with some Arthur Conan Doyle.  Where the book lost me is in the sheer suffering and pain that the characters are put through and the often horrifying depictions of torture.  It was just too "real" of a book for me if that makes any sense.  At times I felt like I was reading a True Crime novel about a serial killer and the methods that he used to lure his victims to his lair in order to get what he wanted from them.  In the end, it was just too draining a read that left me feeling sad and depressed with every chapter.
(My score: 4.5/10)

KING OF ASH AND BONE by Melissa Wright - I think I would have enjoyed this book more had it not been so heavy on the romance.  This is a charming portal fantasy with a fairly cool story about winged monsters tearing a veil into our world and taking the main character's brother back into their own realm.  The story was very cookie-cutter in my opinion with not a lot of depth to the characters.  The only reason why I kept reading was that portal fantasy is my favorite sub genre, but I decided to quit this one about 35% in due to the lack of any real hook to make me engaged in what was happening.  This would probably appeal to someone who enjoys YA fantasy or a light fantasy without any edge, but this was not for me sadly.
(My score: 4/10)

BLOOD AND SHADOW by Robin Lythgoe - This one was a little tropey for my taste and also moved at kind of a slow pace.  Both of which made me abandon it a little past the quarter mark.  The specific trope in this story that turned me off was the unwilling "fourth in line" prince who wants nothing more than to follow his own pursuits but then gets thrust into being the savior of whatever conflict arises.  It's just something that I've read numerous times and I tried to hang in there with this book but didn't see anything new that would make me connect with it in any meaningful way.  The writing was very good and the world-building was solid, but this one just reminded me of too many books that I'd read previously.
(My score: 4/10)

DRAGON'S FURY by Brian D. Meeks - So this one was just way too campy for me.  It had all of the elements of a fantasy novel without the feeling and characterization that distinguish the great ones from just the average.  This was another example of the "show, don't tell" method that I am a big proponent of.  Unfortunately I thought a lot of what occurred was sort of just fed to the reader without any real work having to be done on our part.  I'm just not a fan of that type of storytelling and I lost interest in this one pretty quickly.  I give it some points for decent dialogue and a somewhat interesting world.  
(My score: 3/10)

A SEPARATION OF WORLDS by Rainbow Maccabre - An okay story about a cataclysmic war that ultimately separates magic users from non-magic users into two separate worlds (hence the title).  The main character discovers that she is in the wrong world and attempts to connect with her fellow magic-users to try to hone her abilities.  It's a fun story with lots of action but unfortunately I just kept having this feeling that I wanted something more meaty with regard to the characters and plot.  There was a lot going on but I felt disconnected to the characters and couldn't really follow what was being conveyed.  It also had kind of a younger reader feel to it which caused me to not enjoy it as much as I would have liked.
(My score: 3/10)

And there you have it, my most-recent DNFs for #SPFBO5.  Please keep in mind that these are only my personal DNFs/scores and these books have not been officially eliminated by the team as a whole.  Ultimately the decision to eliminate titles will be made when all of our scores are collectively averaged out.  Stay tuned for more updates to come and Happy Reading!



  1. More mini reviews! Holy cats, it's hard to believe you've read a bit of all but 3 of the whole batch.

    Out of curiosity, what do you look for in a good portal fantasy (and do you have any favourites to recc)?

  2. Hello Victoria,
    I look for solid world-building for the "other" world and also some of my favorites involve the two groups of characters from each world finding a common ground with each other even though they don't necessarily understand the other's civilization or culture. And I enjoy the process that leads up to finding that common ground where each has to give a little and learn acceptance.

    Some of my favorites are Mark Anthony's Last Rune series, Barbara Hambly's Darwath trilogy, Stephen Donaldson's Mordant's Need duology, and Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry.

    Thanks again for commenting!

  3. If you think Blood and Shadow is the typical boy-who-doesn't want to be king trope, I'd give it another go. The ending might surprise you. :D


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