Firstly, I wanted to thank everyone who had a hand in putting together the Indie Accords Readathon, especially Lana at Lore & Lullabies. It was so much fun to bring a little competition into it (Team Narwal ftw!) This post will wrap-up each of the books I read, but I’ve also already written Goodreads blurbs and will be posting up Amazon reviews too. Amazon especially is such an important platform for Indie/Self-Pub authors so if you’re not posting reviews on Amazon, I highly recommend doing so at least for the Indie reads. Also these are in order that I read them, not in order I preferred them. All of these books were incredible and I continue to be blown away by each self-pub book I read.
Book 1: Starbinder by Mark Timmony ★★★★
Starbinder did a phenomenal job of setting up for a greater series while also still not being info-dumpy and world-building heavy. The characters were incredibly compelling in the short time that we got to know them. I often find novella’s struggle with substance and important plot points but that was not the case with Starbinder. I can absolutely see how the events in this prequel novella impact and play into larger events. I’m eager to read on and highly recommend this as jumping off point before The Blood of the Spear (which is still on my TBR, whoops).
Book 2: The Fall by Ryan Cahill ★★★★★
Ryan Cahill is an author I was deliberately saving, for what? I don’t know. I knew I’d love his books and truly from the beginning, The Fall did not disappoint. Starting off a series with dragons will never not be the correct choice. The Fall set up really well for a broader narrative which I feel is the perfect task for this novella. There is some debate as to where to read The Fall, and after starting with it first I can confidently state that the order is The Fall → Of Blood and Fire → The Fall (again) → Of Darkness and Light → The Exile. You’d get so much reading it again after Of Blood and Fire (which I did).
Book 3: Of Blood and Fire by Ryan Cahill ★★★★★
Of Blood and Fire is an incredible first installment of what I’m sure will be an epic fantasy story for the ages. The POV characters are diverse and provide unique perspectives. I love that I can already start to see some divergences and reconnection potential happening. I also like that there’s a variety of relationship dynamics, there’s childhood friends, siblings, mentors that you just kind of have to trust from the jump. All of that stews together to create some really great starting points for what I’m sure are going to be incredible journeys for each character.
I’m also a sucker for the classic coming of age story arc and Calen looks to be the main character undergoing that. Through a series of unfortunate circumstances he ends up leaving his home and starting off into the unknown. He encounters new races, new places and just overall new experiences. He also becomes aware of his father’s mysterious history which just added another layer to his narrative.
And there are at least ten dragons present in this world so that’s always good fun.
Book 4: Of Darkness and Light by Ryan Cahill ★★★★★
I read over 800 pages in a day and a half, that should tell you all you need to know. I could not stop reading this book, I was disappointed every time my headphones needed to be charged. The narrator is incredible and really brings each character their own unique personality. I love the diversity of POV characters and I love that we’re not locked into one character per chapter, I think the switching makes it so much more dynamic. And I love that the character you’re seeing things through is one that makes sense for what’s happening, we’re not limited to certain POVs. I find so often when an author is rigid in who gets POV time there are often other characters present. I wish I could see events from their eyes and Cahill delivers on that.
I love the magic systems (yes, multiple systems) that are going on. There are the Knights and their shiny green armour and soulblades, and also the elemental weaving type system with the Spark which is also somehow attached to dragons.
Aside on The Bound and the Broken:
This series quickly rocketed to one of my favorite ongoing series. I binged The Fall, Of Blood and Fire and Of Darkness and Light in a matter of days. I have ordered hardcover editions from The Broken Binding and am eagerly awaiting their arrival for a reread in a few months. I am now counting down the days until Of War and Ruin releases. I even got my mom to buy the books too, as she’s a huge fantasy reader (this is how I get her into self-published books, I can already see it).
Book 5: Daughter of No Worlds by Carissa Broadbent ★★★★★
If you’re looking for a fantasy romance, look no further. The hook is: a slave is taken from a ruined country and she has ambitions of one day buying her freedom. She asks for her price and diligently saves for eight years to buy back her freedom, but when the day comes for her to buy her freedom, her master is less than pleased and beats her thoroughly for having the audacity to attempt to buy her freedom. She then flees his house, across countries to somewhere she thought she’d be accepted and safe, only to discover that all is not as it seems there either. She needs to learn how to harness her magic, how to speak the language and how to navigate the politics of a new place. Enter the retired and sarcastic soldier, the mentor who never wanted to teach, and the man she may just end up unwittingly caring for.
Daughter of No Worlds was so readable and I think a big part of it was the characters, especially Tisaanah. I read through this book in a matter of days and I immediately bought book two. Book three comes out on audiobook shortly too, so I went ahead and pre-ordered that too.
Book 6: A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla ★★★★
A Touch of Light is one that I’d firmly recommend immersive reading for. I felt that by just reading via audio, that things slipped past me and I’m an avid audio listener. I absolutely plan to reread this one and have no doubt that I’ll get more out of it.
We have three main POV characters: Nasha, Adrian and Lynn. I felt more engaged with Nasha’s story and it took me a while to get invested in Adrian and Lynn. Nasha felt like she had more depth and had overcome a lot in her life. Adrian was presented as the young noble, a second son just trying to prove himself but he becomes more over time. Lynn is a griffin riding immortal magic warrior, she is compelling but I’m still waiting to see that depth from her. Each of these characters had their highlights and most of them were left in precarious positions at one point or another which did help build up that suspense.
I did read Prelude to Ashes prior to jumping into A Touch of Light and I highly recommend doing so. It’ll give you a bit of grounding in the world before being thrust in.
Book 7: Rise of Gods by Dyrk Ashton ★★★★★
There is a lot of advice for new authors out there, “don’t write in first person” or “don’t info dump” and Dyrk Ashton went against all of that advice with Paternus. The narrative itself is pretty much omniscient, and isn’t afraid to hop around POV’s as needed. And the result is an absolutely incredible story. If you love mythology, maybe grew up reading Rick Riordan books, this is your gateway into self-published works.
Paternus is an urban fantasy and really the crux of the story is “what if all the world’s mythologies were actually just one pantheon of gods?”. These gods have been around of millenia and throughout time have worn different faces in different cultures. Rise of Gods really starts to set the stage for a major conflict (which I can only assume is what occurs in War of Gods, just a guess). I loved the chapters from Fiona and Zeke’s perspective the most and that is where the story centers but even the sort of info-dumpy chapters from other gods POVs were interesting. I thought it was super interesting how the author managed to make these connections between cultures and then weave them throughout the story. The story was fast-paced and the bonus is you can score all three books in the trilogy with one audible credit.
Book 8: Heartless Hette by ML Farb ★★★★
Quick disclaimer: This review does not reflect the overall opinions of Before We Go Blog’s SPFBO 8 team, these thoughts are my own opinion only.
Heartless Hette classic fairytale fantasy and I really enjoyed it. I think there were all the classic elements of a fairytale without it just being a damsel in distress story. The characters were amazing and Hette had such a growth arc even through a relatively short page count (320 pages). It was compulsively readable and I binged through 50% in a single day, no problem. I even forgot that we started in a Princess Bride fashion and this is a story within a story (within a story at times) and coming out of it at the end just doubled the feeling of finishing a really good story. If you’re in the mood for that classic fantasy feel, I highly recommend this one.