Inspiration comes from weird places. I myself never cared for sports; basketball in particular, and have taken part in exactly one March Madness brackets extravaganza. Because supposing you can pick the winning teams out of so many permutations is stupid. Like statistically so.
As such, I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to do pretty much the same thing for this year’s SPFBO with its 300+ participants. Probably because I’m taking part in it and therefore obsessively went through all the entries in my heat to find the ones to beat. Then I went through my arguing partner and fellow fantasy author D. E. Olsen’s heat, and then it just sort of spiraled out of control.
Thus was born the SPFBO Brackets, which really aren’t so much brackets as betting on what you think are the three strongest books in each blog’s grouping. My selections will be below, as well as my reasoning for each. I recognize picking the 30 strongest out of 300 is a daunting task, and am therefore listing the logic I employed in making my selections. It goes a little something like this:
Don’t consider anything that will probably be disqualified. This includes clearly sci-fi/ horror books. I’m also removing children’s books and anything under 200 pages. You’d be surprised at how many of these there are.
Only consider books with 10+ reviews on Goodreads. Yes, that disqualifies my own book, and probably a lot of great new talent, but I’m playing a numbers game here. And if you haven’t noticed, I have links to lists of each of the blog’s books in Goodreads on the left of this page, as well as in their names on this page if that might be of use to you.
Discount anyone with a lower than 4-star score in Goodreads.
If the blog has a male involved in the judging, then I’m tossing out all the paranormal romances, as well as anything involving fairies. Yes, this may sound sexist, but it’s my rule of thumb (which is itself a sexist idiom). I’ll dig into this conclusion of mine at the very bottom of this post in case you want to know why.
Read the blurbs and pick my top 3.
Yeah, I know those are pretty arbitrary rules, but they’re the ones I’m using. Think you have a better system? Then feel free to make your own blog post as to why you chose what you did.
So, without further ado, let’s get to my picks!
Bookworm Blues: Anaerfell (4.64), Evermage (4.13), The Glass Gargoyle (4.1), Ascend Online (4.4), Sufficiently Advanced Magic (4.28), and Of Angels and Men (4.13) all made it through my first few cuts.
After blurbs, my #1 is Anaerfell, with Sufficeintly Advanced Magic and Of Angels and Men rounding it out.
Fantasy Faction: Akiri (4.34), Stolen Magic (4.0), Jaeth’s Eye (4.21), The Dragon Hunter and the Mage (4.13), Shattered Dreams (4.78), Wings of Justice (4.23), Ella Dethroned (4.15), and The Zero Blessing (4.27).
After blurbs, Shattered Dreams for #1, then The Zero Blessing and The Dragon Hunter and the Mage.
Fantasy Book Critics: The Waterfall Traveler (4.31), The Heartstone Thief (4.26), The Arbiter (4.11), Where the Waters Turn Black (4.24), Shadows for a Princess (4.28), The Crimson Queen (4.37), Thunder Hunter (4.37), The Lion Mistress (4.61), The Songweaver’s Vow (4.07), The Half Killed (4.17), The General’s Legacy (4.44), and The Night of Chalk (4.23) all make the first few cuts.
Jeeze, does this flock look like the murderers’ row of talent!
Where the Waters Turn Black ends up being my #1, with The Crimson Queen and Night of the Chalk rounding it out.
Lynn’s Books: War Witch (4.28), Faeborne (4.46), Cursefell (4.09), Today is Too Late (4.24), and The Empire of the Dead (4.03) are all the ones qualifying in this heat.
War Witch is my #1, with The Empire of the Dead and Cursefell taking up the other two spots.
The Qwillery: Nice Dragons Finish Last (4.13), Devotion (4.13), Curse of the Ice Dragon (4.31), Petrified City (4.03), The Dragon’s Egg (4.06), The Changelings (4.1), and Souls of Astraeus (4.0) make the cut.
Nice Dragons Finish Last looks out-there enough to by my top pick with Curse of the Ice Dragon and The Dragon’s Egg making this one a dragon-themed grouping.
Pornokitsch: The Blood of Whisperers (4.12), Irons in the Fire (4.17), Joss the Seven (4.37), Trail of the Necromancer (4.39), and The Crimson Claymore (4.55) make for some slim pickings here.
I guess The Crimson Claymore, with The Blood of Whisperers and Irons in the Fire by default since Necromancer is a prequel (which I never like) and Joss looks to be a kid’s book.
Ventureadlaxre: Kingston Raine and the Grim Reaper (4.2), Nahtaia (4.34), Catching Echoes (4.42), Destiny of the Wulf (4.24), Beyond the Forest (4.48), The Fury Clock (4.02), Liefdom (4.23), and Blaze Ignites (4.41) looks to be a fairly competitive heat.
I’m going with Blaze Ignites for #1 and Liefdom and Beyond the Forest for my other picks. I will also point out that this group has my absolute FAVORITE blurb/ cover in Stolen Ink. Alas, I can’t pick it because it breaks many of my criteria.
Fantasy Book Review: Mermaid Abroad (4.1), Shadow of the Gods (4.13), Cage of Deceit (4.25), A Threat of Shadows (4.43), and Ahe’ey (4.4) make for some more slim pickings.
And I’m going to break my own rules here by putting Where Loyalties Lie as my top pick despite the lack of reviews (it just came out). Consider this some inside-track knowledge, with Cage of Deceit and A Threat of Shadows filling it out.
Booknest.eu: Benjamin Ashwood (4.13), The White Tower (4.26), The Shattered Orb (4.48), and Blossom and the Beast (4.19) make for some more thin fair, especially when I’m going to kick Blossom out for being a paranormal romance.
With nothing really speaking to me here, I’m going purely by scores with The Shattered Orb taking #1, The White Tower and Benjamin Ashwood filling it out.
Kitty G’s Video Review has a lot more action with: The Heart of Stone (4.35), Gift of the Phoenix (4.31), Chameleon Assassin (4.15), Dagon’s Trail (4.48), Devil’s Night Dawning (4.47), and Dragon’s Treasure (4.68).
As I’ve seen The Heart of Stone everywhere, I’m going to be swayed by advertising and pick it for #1. Then I guess Dragon’s Trail and Gift of the Phoenix.
So those are my selections, which you’ll see at top of the main SPFBO page. Feel free to try and beat it.
Now, as to my reasoning for throwing out all paranormal romances if there’s a male judge involved: Believe it or not, I am a firm believer in paranormal romance’s rightful place in the fantasy genre. Although I do not care to read said subgenre, I can’t dismiss its relevance out of hand because of personal preferences. That said, when going through all the Goodreads pages I've listed in this post, I noticed a trend in that fantasy books written by women tended to have all women giving reviews, with the few men's reviews being the lowest scores. Compare that to fantasy books written by male authors, and you see a pretty even mix of male/ female reviews and scores.
And yes, I know not all women write paranormal romances, though I will point out that all the paranormal romances I saw in this sampling were written by women. Same with the books focusing on fairies, and these types of books drew low ratings from men when they were reviewed at all. My conclusion is that women are more open to all fantasy subgenres, while men tend to favor the more traditional, epic/ S&S/ high fantasy subgenres.
Now I am also aware that all our bloggers are professionals at reviewing fantasy books, and some PRs did get through to the top 10 last year. In fact, there was an even 5/5 split between male/ female finalist authors last year, which is pretty cool. However, I can’t discount the trend I noticed when making my selections, and I hope you won’t hold it against me.
Will I be proven right in my conclusion, or will it bite me in the ass? Only time will tell.