#SPFBO books seven and eight

This week I am reading and reviewing the free downloadable excerpts of Feyland – The Dark Realm (Book one) by Anthea Sharp and The Empire of the Dead – Book one of The Godsblood Trilogy by Phil Tucker.

Feyland    Score 8/10

I really, really liked this excerpt. I was sucked right into the story from the get go. I actually downloaded the whole book as it is free on Amazon currently, but even if it wasn’t I would have bought the book based on the opening chapters alone. For the purpose of this review, and to be consistent and fair across the board, I stopped reading at the 10% mark. I will, however, be reading on at a later date and will let you know if my scoring changes.

Back to the review. This opening excerpt reveals a lot of info without info dumping, which is a great start. We meet Jennet, the protagonist, in the opening battle scene. Jennet is mid battle with the Dark Queen of Feyland, wielding great power and shooting bolts of lightening from her staff. Everything you’d expect from a fantasy battle. Trouble is, despite her bravery, she loses the battle against the Dark Queen and is robbed of a piece of her soul as payment before promptly being kicked out of Feyland for eternity.

But…. this isn’t your typical fantasy story. We don’t read on to follow Jennet’s story in this fantastical world, well not in quite the way you might think. Oh no, this is a bit of a mash up of genres that is both inventive and exciting. Let me explain.

Feyland is actually an immersive ‘sim’ (simulation) game and Jennet a gamer in this virtual reality. A gamer, living in a not too distant future (think incredible tech, hover boards and ‘grav’ cars). This is where the sci-fi fan in me starts to get excited too. My two favourite genres bundled up together! Yippee!

Trouble is, the virtual world isn’t so virtual after all. After losing her battle with the Dark Queen, Jennet finds that in real life she is sick and she knows it has to do with what the Dark Queen has stolen from her. Her only solution is to find a champion gamer, both in the real and the virtual world, to help her get it back. Cue the merging of virtual vs reality. At this point I think ‘yes’ what a clever little twist we have here!

So, where’s she going to get her champion from? She can’t tell her dad (who happens to be the programme manager at the very same company that designed the prototype gaming system she used to get into Feyland, and which she was banned from using – oops). Instead her only choice is to find her champion at her new school, Crestview High. Problem is, kids like her, the privaleged kids, whose parents work for the big tech corp, are despised by the other students. Not only that, they are of the minority and the few, fellow, privileged kids she meets aren’t gamers. Somehow, Jennet will need to make friends with the unfriendly and then convince one of them to save her soul…

This is where the excerpt finished and I’m left wanting more. Gaming has always intrigued me. The fact that there are plenty of people out there who prefer their simulated, virtual world more than reality has always been a source of fascination. Are their lives so horrific, or is their past so full of unhappy memories that they prefer to spend the majority of their time somewhere as far removed from their daily lives as possible? Or are these games so brilliant that anyone would get sucked in regardless of their day-to-day life?

I’m hoping this element is explored more as the story continues. For now, I gave Feyland opening a deserved 8/10. 

The Empire of the Dead  Score 9/10

There’s no need to dither with this one. It’s a brilliant 9/10. I read and thought, oh no, this has got to be a contender for the top spot in our group. Yep, I guess this could be a tad early to make such a ‘prediction’, but I just got a feeling with this one.

Bottom line, Phil Tucker certainly knows how to write, and write well. I was immediately sucked into a world that has bands of walking dead (not as in ‘Zombie’ but of literal armies of the dead, all whitewashed bones and ‘desiccated skin’). I mean the opening paragraph is just gorgeous…. You know the phrase ‘he had me at hello’? Well, I can apply this to the opening paragraph! Read it, you’ll see what I mean.

The excerpt is only two chapters long, but within this time I was able to fall in love with this world and all its inhabitants (at least the ones I was introduced to). I was quickly introduced to the main protagonist Acharsis, who is returning to the village of Eruk after sixteen years to apologise to Annarra, the women he once loved, for his prolonged absence. On the same day Acharsis returns to the village a raid occurs and Annarra’s son is kidnapped and taken to the imperial city to be sacrificed. Turns out Elu is Acharsis’ son so when Annarra asks Acharsis for his help to get him back he agrees.

At this point, the excerpt finishes and I am left wanting, very much, to know what happens next.  The blurb promises “a gripping tale of revenge replete with demons, ancient magic and a high stakes heist.” I mean, really, what more could you want?

The thing with this excerpt that really struck me, was how beautifully written it is. I mean, Phil Tucker clearly has a gift with words. It is descriptive, but not in an overly flowery way. The dialogue is tight and to the point. I blooming loved it. End of. I don’t want to blither on, basically you need to read this for yourself.

So far, this book is my favourite, but I realise that there are twenty-two still to go! A superb 9/10 for this opening excerpt.

Damn, I wish I wrote it!

Next up are:

Darker Things – Book one of The Lockman Chronicles by Rob Cornell


The Tralls of Nindarry by Gayle Torrens

Until then folks!!

Oh, and if you like any of my reviews so far, please do share 🙂