spfbo

SPFBO Book Review: The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson

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This is my first review of a fellow Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off participant. I actually picked this book up before it was entered into the competition, but I just finally got around to reading it. I’m glad I did.

Here’s the description:

Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord.

The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man.

But after a thousand years it has begun to quicken again.

In a small fishing village a boy with strange powers comes of age…

A young queen rises in the west, fanning the long-smoldering embers of magic into a blaze once more…

Something of great importance is stolen – or freed – from the mysterious Empire of Swords and Flowers…

And the immortals who survived the ancient cataclysms bestir themselves, casting about for why the world is suddenly changing…

The first book in The Raveling, a new epic fantasy saga

Here’s my review:

This was a very good beginning to a series and author I’ll be watching closely. It’s classic fantasy done very well. Fans of The Wheel of Time will find a lot to like here. It isn’t a copy by any means, but it gives the same vibe.

The best thing about this book is the sense of mystery throughout. You get the feeling that there is always something more beneath the surface of every interaction, every place in the world, every revelation. That sense of mystery propelled me through the book.

The characters are mix of the likeable (Keilan, Nel and Xin), the conflicted (Senacus), and the mysterious (Jan and Alyanna). This mixture in the characters really worked for me because it provided a lot of variety and had me interested in every point of view.

I’m not sure what to expect from the magic of this world yet. A lot of it still remains a mystery, but that’s okay. There are definitely a lot of competing factions, both magical and non-magical, that make things interesting. You have immortal sorcerers, demons, magical assassins, paladins that hunt sorcerers. It has a lot of the great ingredients that make me love a fantasy book.

It also had some good action scenes. There weren’t a lot of them, but they were good when they did happen. I won’t quite put them up there with my favorite action scenes, though. I also thought at times that Hutson got a bit too descriptive, but that’s about my only major complaint with this one.

Rating: 9/10

Self-Publishing and Reading Habits

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When I first decided to get serious about writing, I got serious about reading. I looked for all the best that fantasy and science fiction had to offer. At first, this was entirely in the realm of trade publishing. I didn’t think there was anything worthwhile apart from that, or I thought it would be too difficult to find it. But since I’ve become more involved in the SFF community online, I’ve found quite a few self-published novels that I’ve enjoyed.

Now, as I’m embarking on my own self-publishing career, I’m wondering just how much I should read of self-published vs. trade-published books. I find a lot of books I enjoy in both arenas, and some I don’t.

I’m considering reading a lot of the novels by my fellow Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off entrants. I’m not sure how well I can commit to that, however. So far this year, I’ve read only 24 books, and some of them have been quite short.

I used to be a much more voracious reader, but now that I have my own writing career and Engineering school to keep me occupied, I’m not finding as much time to read. That brings me to the following question: Should I focus on all the trade-published fantasy series I want to read, or should I focus on giving my fellow Indies a chance?

I don’t know the answer. In the end, I think it comes down to reading the books that interest me most without paying any attention to how they were published.

Those are my thoughts. What do you think?

As a side note, my website may not be working correctly at the moment. I changed my domain name when I upgraded my WordPress account. They said it may take up to 72 hours before my site functions perfectly.

I submitted to the SPFBO today.

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For those who aren’t familiar with the acronym, that stands for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. It’s a contest run by fantasy author Mark Lawrence, and it’s in its third year. I’ve read a few of the books from the last year, and I’ve been generally impressed. Now I’m hoping I can have some success with my own work.

Speaking of which, I have my release scheduled for June 30th. That’s the day you can get your hands on Empire of Chains. I will have the Kindle version ready by then for sure, and hopefully my cover art will be in place. If it isn’t, you might have to wait a while yet on a paperback version.

I’m both excited and terrified. This is a path I never would have imagined myself taking a few years ago. But it feels like the right path for me now. It may not yield immediate success, but I’m okay with that. I will not stop writing.