TOAST TO THE FALLEN <— Click here so Wol can get you drunk!
Round 3 cuts were reserved for the books that just missed being hopefuls, we rated these books well, enjoyed ourselves, and can solidly recommend them as good reads. Every book on this list got at least a 7/10 from us. In a competition like this it’s inevitable that quality books get cut, and just because a book doesn’t make it into the finals/semifinals doesn’t mean it’s not worth picking up. I really hope this post gets people to pick some of these up and give them a try if it sounds like their kind of thing.
No Sympathies: A Tale of Those Who Trespass Against Us by William Cope
This is a pretty cute story about an imp who dreams big, he’s just a lowly tormentor but what he really wants to be is a tempter. He loves trying to strike up conversations with the souls left in his care, but since it’s his job to stab them with a pitchfork they don’t find him all that funny. He thinks his gift for gab is wasted on his current profession, so he sets off on a journey through the rings of hell to reach the top where there’s a portal to the Earthly realm. This is a comedy and the main character is pretty loveable, I would say it felt YA but that’s such an ambiguous term now all I can say is that it would be safe for a kid to read. I gave this one a strong 74/100.
Darkblade Assassin by Andy Peloquin
This one very, very nearly made the cut, it tied for “fourth place” with an overall score of 75/100, but in order to keep the workload for the other judges practical and manageable, I could only pick 3 hopefuls. I absolutely recommend this to people who like characters that struggle with their inner demons, assassins POV’s, darker stories and a lot of action/violence. The main character is an assassin with a sentient dagger that begs him to kill, the dagger doesn’t care who he kills just that it’s “fed” when it needs to be fed. Over the course of the book as the character begins to show his layers, it paints a picture of a deeply tormented, lonely, yet anti-social person who feels no real rest or peace. This book is rated pretty highly and there are a bunch of positive reviews.
The Shepherd Girl’s Necklace by Watson Davis
This will be for people who like mother/daughter or older sister/younger sister relationships. A young girl gets cast out of her Order after being caught in a cheating scheme for their exams, she ends up back home with her parents only to have her life upended again when someone from her old Order puts an obedience spell on her and orders her to take a baby with her and run as far away as possible, and guard the child with her life. This is a bleak tale, people are not typically kind and there’s a lot of violence and creepy shit going on. This was the other book that tied for fourth with a 75/100 and very, very nearly made it into my hopefuls category.
One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker
The story begins with Zader being bullied by some kids from school, who throw a water balloon at him. Which doesn’t sound so bad, except that Zader is violently allergic to water. His skin burns and turns grey, and the pain is excruciating. From there, the story reminds me of Percy Jackson, but with roots in Hawaiian mythology rather than Greek. Instead of gods, there are the Niuhi sharks. Niuhi sharks can be any size or species, but they are always unusually intelligent. Though it’s more implied than outright explained, these Niuhi sharks are also (likely) an ancient race of people who have the ability to transform into sharks. Which is kind of awesome. Overall, this was an excellent read. I was hooked from the start by the writing style and stayed for the intriguing world. I blew through this one in a couple of days and had trouble putting it down. One of my favorite parts of this book was how prominently Hawaiian Pidgin featured.
What an interesting novel this was – I had no idea what to expect, and what I found was an intriguing historical fiction written from the perspective of Ferox, the companion/war dog of a Roman soldier named Marcus. It’s a slice of life story set during the Roman invasion of Germany, which follows Ferox and Marcus on the campaign and details their struggles with war, conflict within the ranks, and the guerrilla tactics of the German tribes. Outside of the fact that it’s written from the perspective of a dog there are no fantasy elements at all, and yet I found the tale compelling enough that at no point was I unhappy or bored.
The Lost Temple of Ssis’sythyss by Jeffery Russell
In terms of being something a little different, The Dungeoneers has a fair bit going for it. In this third entry (like Discworld, Russell has designed his series to be read individually and in any order), we have a female scholar in her 60s as our protagonist, helped through her first adventure in the wilds by a huge band of Dwarf specialists (and a Gnome, but don’t tell him that). Ruby has suffered some trauma – on learning of the possible death of her dear friend and scribe/explorer Quill, she is hunted through her campus by strange, cat like creatures who will stop at nothing to steal the diary that Quill left to her. Driven by hope, she must venture into the jungle, uncovering the secrets of the journal to discover the fate of her friend.. Overall, The Lost Temple of Ssis’sythyss was a sunny escapade that I’d recommend to anyone who wants something to lift their mood. If you’re suffering from grimdark fatigue or you just fancy a fun adventure that won’t require too much of you, this may be worth a look. Despite it not quite clicking for me, I think it’s solidly written and many readers will find it charming.