Esmes Indie Author Highlights/SPFBO: The Half Killed by Quenby Olson

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I realized a short while ago that without intentionally seeking out SPFBO contestants I had already read over 15 of the books submitted for this year. So, I kind of figured why not try and get to as many as possible? My goal actually is to hit 90 by the time the winner is announced.

This book was so different in style from anything I’ve read in the recent past and the setting and plot line were also a big step sideways from what I’ve been reading lately.


  • Dorothea Hawes – the main character, connected to the spirit world and survivor of horrors.
  • Chissick – an ex priest, someone who’s come seeking the help of Dorothea after his sister was murdered
  • Franny – a faux medium to spirits, mostly frills and tricks no real power of her own
  • Marta – a kind of friend of Dorotheas
  • Sissy – a rather gross person from the start, she’s surrounded by filth and the first time you meet her she’s spitting foul liquid from her mouth. A long time acquaintance/friend of Dorotheas.

Final Score: 8.5/10



There are a couple plot lines going on, but they sort of all merge together. There’s been a murder of a young girl, Chissicks sister, who was a probably a prostitute and found herself with her throat slit. However, it’s not a normal murder, there’s no blood, the wound around her neck has been cauterized and it’s the exact same kind of wound she had seen years before when she lived through the deaths of her family members.

Final Score: 8.5/10 



Creepy, this wasn’t a typical horror with monsters and blood and gore, it was an overall tone of mystery, weirdness, and a darkness just around the corner. The voices of the dead never really leave the main character, and having the voices follow and having the darkness of the world follow the character around gave this a great haunting tone.

The pacing is slower than some of the books I’ve read recently, if you’re a person who needs action, battles, monsters, blood, fast paced kind of thing, this may not be the book for you. However, if you love curling up with a nice glass of something, and get yourself lost in a richly detailed world that slowly reveals itself to you, this will be perfect.

As stated before, this is a very immersive very atmospheric type of writing style, where if you let it you can fall into a world that feels tangible. The prologue is written in second person which immediately made me feel bad for the little girl who was living through the scene, after the prologue it switches to first person and it has a very story telling feel to it. Although the writing wasn’t as purple as some, I wouldnt describe it as utilitarian either, it’s a nice medium which was enjoyable to read.

Pacing Final Score: 8/10

Writing Final Score: 9/10


There wasn’t expansive world building like there is in some epic fantasy tale, this is a much more intimate tale and the setting and world building matched it. Instead of vast armies marching across the realm with a ton of cities and rulers and that kind of world building, this kind of world building was atmospheric. You can find yourself lost in the words as they bring to life a very pungent, hot, and warped version of London. Recently there’s been an increase in temperature some of the godly folk are calling the end of the world, that the world has turned against God and so he’s bringing hell to Earth. People are dropping dead from the heat, and the heat is an ever present source of misery in this world. This kind of heat made me think of the desert, except it was in London, and true to Victorian prudent society, the women and men continued to dress in lace and their Sunday-best despite the sweltering heat.

Final Score: 8.5/10



I’ve never read a story told quite this way, and I don’t usually enjoy Victorian stuff but this was so different I couldn’t not like it.

Final Score: 9/10


  • People who like creepy stories
  • People who like spirits and mediums
  • People who like single POV
  • People who like character driven stories
  • People who like atmospheric writing
  • People who like Victorian/London settings
  • People who like 1st person story telling


Final Score: 51.5/60 or 8.58/10 or 5 stars on goodreads.


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