SPFBO Finalist Review: The Anointed by Keith Ward

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Blurb from the book


Being a hero is a choice.

Xinlas’s life goal is modest: he wants to be a living legend, revered in song and story. And he’s off to a good start. He faced death once, and won. His legend grew — at least in his own mind.

Fame comes calling on Xinlas again, or so he thinks, when he stumbles on a hidden village. The village has a resource that no one’s ever seen before. A resource that can be used to conquer other lands. A resource that a power-mad ruler will kill for.

Can Xinlas — with the help of a mysterious orange-haired girl he meets on a river — stop the man who would enslave millions? It will take a kind of courage found in legendary heroes.

Will Xinlas become that hero, or break under the weight of his destiny? The fate of civilization rests on his choices.


Esme’s Thoughts:

There were some aspects of this book I liked, and others that didn’t do it for me. I think my biggest problem with the book was the main character, Xinlas – he was just so far outside of my preferred protagonist that it made it difficult to enjoy his chapters. His personality hits you hard from the very first chapter and so I got off on the wrong foot with the book. Thankfully, there were several other POV’s that gave me a break from him, Greengrass, in particular, was a highlight for me. Xinlas was a pretty young character at about 15 years old, although, I would have pegged him for 12-13 given some of his juvenile behavior and temper tantrums. He does get a redemption arc of sorts, by the end of the book he’s a changed person – but my issue was how this change happened. It wasn’t gradual over the course of the book, using inner thoughts and self-reflection that slowly changed him over time – it’s a long book, there would have been time for that. But, it happened all at once with a tragic life event in the very last chapter of the book, so it felt jarring rather than believable. The world building was interesting, I liked the idea of lifespans being increased by taking Spans from another person, it definitely highlights the differences between the nobility and the working class since it’s just the nobility that can afford to do such a thing. I liked the dragons, I liked the idea of a secluded nation of people living off the land and hiding from the rest of the world. That part of the world building did however produce a small quibble. Greengrass is from the secluded and hidden society… and yet when she meets Xinlas they speak to each other in the same language with no issues. Their cultures have been separated for over 1,000 years and yet the language is the same? The pacing could use some work, although it was an easy read there was a lot of stuff that could have been cut or edited to make it more interesting – there were long stretches where not a lot was happening and then BOOM at the end of the book tons of stuff happened. I think this world had a lot of interesting ideas and a lot to offer people, especially if they love dragons. 6.8/10


Kristen’s Thoughts:

DNF – 54%

Honestly, I was going to try and finish this one but by 50% or so I just didn’t care anymore about the protagonists and their plight. So it goes.

Xinlas was (probably intentionally) very annoying. Whiny, vain, spoiled, argumentative, and worst of all he is special for some reason and he knows it. If there was a Holden Caulfield of dragon-riding chosen-one fantasy characters, it’d be this kid. Perhaps I would have related had I been a teenager, much like I would have for actual Holden Caulfield, lol.

Interesting ideas were presented but the worldbuilding was a bit on the thin side, and for a book this long, I struggled to stay interested when nothing much was happening. I did like Greengrass as a character, but she wasn’t enough to solidly keep my interest for the long haul.

So, an interesting idea that would have benefited greatly from a solid round of line edits to make a more cohesive and strongly paced story. It felt far too long and padded with unimportant information that made the pace slow to a crawl too often for me. 5/10


Coffee’s Thoughts:


DNF – 40%

I really wanted to like this one more. The writing flows quickly and the storytelling is strong. Unfortunately, the insufferable main character, unusual worldbuilding choices, and lack of line editing prevented me from finishing.

I think the main strengths of the story were easily readable prose and intriguing ideas. The magic system involves stealing lives from the less fortunate to extend the lives of the rich, which has enormous potential. Entire civilizations isolated from the rest of the world by a magical force field? Pretty damn cool. However, we’re told pretty early on that nothing in this world can float on water. For a large portion of the book, that’s all we know. There’s not a lot to make it obvious how this has affected society and no exploration of the ecological impact this would have. Instead of coins, the currency is pure-metal bars connected together in various arrangements. It’s a cool idea, but doesn’t seem to make any economic sense compared to coins.

Then there’s the line editing. Numbers aren’t written out in words—which to be fair, makes a certain amount of sense in the story—and the information is frequently presented out of order. For instance, a character might immediately notice a key detail that would reframe an entire scene, and we’re only informed of this at the end of the scene for dramatic effect. Little things like this made me constantly flip back a page or two to check that I hadn’t missed something.

Overall, I think there’s a lot to enjoy in The Anointed, but I had enough issues with the book that I was unable to finish it. 5/10


  • Esme: 6.8
  • Kristen: 5.0
  • Coffee: 5.0

Final Score: 5.6/10 or 5.5/10 for SPFBO 


Wol has made some commitments to some authors for reviews as well as doing some copy editing and doesn’t have much spare time. Because of this she’s bowed out of the rest of the competition, but I’d like to thank her for all the work in Phase 1 and Phase 2 – the reading, reviews, and drinks are all appreciated!

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