My Top Ten SPFBO Finalists To Date

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There is a written version below the video with links to Goodreads!!

So, when I made my last review I got curious just how many 9’s I’ve given. I actually can’t just go down the SPFBO tables since I’ve never been a solo judge, so I pulled all my reviews from across the years for SPFBO finalists and it turns out I have just five books that I’ve given 9/10s. There’s also a handful that have gotten 8.5-9s. I believe this is my complete list, but because my scores aren’t the ones on the board it does make it a little tricky to get them all together in one place. I hope I didn’t miss any titles.

But anyway, the fact that this year there were three books I gave 9/10s as well as an 8.5, that means that 4/10 books on this list are from this year alone, even though I’ve been doing this for five years. That’s why I’ve been so pumped about this year.

So, here they are, my top ten favorite **finalists** from SPFBO. There are absolutely books I’ve given 8.5+ that didn’t make it to the finals and I may make a whole other list for those books.

10. The Thirteenth Hour by Trudie Skies

I found this to be so much fun. This author has a great ‘voice’ and writing style that made it stand out from the start. This is a secondary world, high fantasy, a world where the gods are real and dominate each citizen’s life. Magic packed, steampunky, with great characters.


9. Black Stone Heart by Michael Fletcher

Okay. So sometimes Michael Fletcher works for me and sometimes he doesn’t, it completely depends on if the book goes over my threshold for “grimdark” elements. Sometimes his shit is just too much and I tap out, lol. This one though was just the perfect blend for me of classic epic fantasy and gritty dark fuckedupness. Great magic system, great story, great writing.


8. A Tale of Stars and Shadow by Lisa Cassidy

So, this book went up against Sword of Kaigen during that year of madness where three books were vying for top spot, and I believe this one came in fourth that year. I think for that reason this title doesn’t get as much attention as maybe it could have had it been a different year with a different set of finalists. I really enjoyed this, probably because I enjoy broken leaders finding themselves again (cough Vimes). I thought the world, characters, and story were all equally compelling.


7. Aching God by Mike Shel

This is one of the very few series I’ve actually finished. I almost never continue to book 2, for whatever reason book 1 is usually enough to satisfy me and I move on to a different series. I stopped and took the time to read through the full trilogy and it’s completely worth it. Good characters struggling against a fucked up world, magic, mayhem, monsters.


6. Sword of Kaigen by ML Wang

Okay, so this book has so much hype and I would have given it a 9 if it weren’t for the pacing. It comes in at 8.7 because the first 30-40% of the book was just so slow, but once I get hooked I was addicted. I stayed up all night and I could not stop until I was done. I honestly don’t get all that emotional during books, I don’t know what it is but I just enjoy a story for what it is, this book nearly got me teary eyed. I think I can count on my fingers the number of times a book has made me get close to a tear. This was just such a fucking journey.


5. Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire

This book just had such a great tone to it. It’s a murder mystery set in a secondary world, with just this bantery, witty, but not quite “comedic” tone to it. I love the “down on their luck mage” character types. I loved the world which is rich and deep and has bee gods and flowers everywhere. It’s just so fresh yet familiar which is a great combination for me.


4. The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson

Holy shit did the end of this book kick everything up a notch. I was really enjoying myself through the first 90 percent of the book and I thought it was a solid 4 to 4.5 depending on how the ending went. But when I got to the end it absolutely blew me away. It got me super excited to continue with this series and kicked it up to a 5 star book. I love it when I don’t see shit coming. The characters were great, the world building was great, the writing was great, and the end was just stellar.


3. Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson

This will be for Jane Austen lovers and romance people — but not just for them! I’m not typically one that would be included in that wheelhouse but this one is just so charming and witty that I couldn’t help but be taken in with it. An unmarried “spinster” has found herself in the care of a dragon egg due to an inheritance from an estranged uncle.


2. A Song for the Void by Andrew C. Piazza

I had heard nothing about this book at all until it got tapped as a semifinalist. I took a peak and saw that it was described as a cosmic horror fantasy set during the Opium Wars in the South China Sea and I was like, wtf, I need to read that. I’m so glad I did. I adored this book, but it won’t be for everyone. Every content warning applies here, so be aware. However, if you want a riveting, horrific, psychological freakshow that’s kind of like the movie Eventhorizon, but set on a wooden ship and not a spaceship, then this is for you.


1. Small Miracles by Olivia Atwater

Oh my goodness gracious this is the polar opposite of the last book I just described. This book was such a charming, witty, fun-to-read, warming experience. A fallen angel of small and petty temptations is tasked with making a woman who’s so self-sacrificing that even the angels are like, this woman needs to live a little, enjoy herself and her life. It’s an incredibly difficult task. Full of the humor and wit of Neil Gaimen and Pratchett when they wrote Good Omens, you can see how this title was inspired by their work but managed to step away and be it’s own thing. While Good Omens focused on a world ending event, Small Miracles came down to individuals lives and small choices, a slice of life story with the same humor and similar world building.