SciFi / Fantasy / Horror
by Ethan Herberman
Plot: The plot of this novel is fast-paced and engaging. What makes the narrative so successful is the humor scattered throughout the book. This helps to engage readers and pull them into the story.
Prose: The author’s use of language is lovely in places. The prose flows well and is well crafted. The dialogue is true to life and helps develop the characters.
Originality: The plot of this book is quirky, humorous, and original. The world building is detailed and skillful.
Character Development: The characters are one of this book's greatest strengths. The voice of Marshall is strong and pulls the reader into the story. Supporting characters are also well crafted and vivid.
by K.M. Harrell
Plot: This complex fantasy novel richly integrates historical elements, while thrilling circumstances and high emotion propel the storytelling.
Prose: Harrell writes convincingly of a child's worldview, balancing the protagonist's vulnerability with fortitude. Prose flows eloquently, with hard-hitting observations about cruelty and inhumanity.
Originality: The author's blending of magic into a story of survival and oppression under colonialism, results in a rare and powerful work of speculative fiction.
Character Development: Harrell's characters are individually vivid, layered, and capable. Relationships between individuals, however, can come across as cold and lacking in dimension.
by David Reiss
Plot: Reiss’s fast-paced novel presents readers with enlightening snippets of Doctor Fid’s villainous past and his current dilemma: saving a world he once aimed to terrorize. The transitions between the phases of his life are concise and events progress quickly once readers learn Doctore Fid’s backstory and he becomes immersed in solving the dangerous mysteries at hand.
Prose: Reiss’s action-packed yet eloquent language will appeal to comic book and superhero fans as well as fiction readers. The author's witty, dark humor and knack for creating detailed, intersecting relationships and timelines will keep readers enthralled.
Originality: Reiss’s novel has it all: relatable and creatively-composed supervillains, cutting-edge technology, and plenty of dastardly adventures and mysteries. Reiss brings classic superhero and supervillain tropes into an edgy, contemporary setting, where the lines between good and evil are more than often blurred.
Character Development: Reiss describes each hero and villain in intense detail. Like many classic superhero protagonists, Doctor Fid is unsure of the distinction between his personal and “professional” life, and battles with himself over his true identity, goals, allegiances, and sense of purpose.
Blurb: Brainy, snarky Doctor Fid is as likable as a supervillain gets. This book offers an energetic, ridiculously fun storyline that will feel like the “adult” version of Despicable Me.
by Killarney Traynor
Plot: In Tale Half Told, Traynor has concocted a horror-fantasy plot that is fast-paced and rife with scares, psychological suspense, and dread. The haunted house story evolves into a contemporary storyline of jealousy, greed, and evil as the novel progresses.
Prose: Traynor’s prose is clean and effective. Eloquent and suspenseful, the story unfolds quickly and clearly.
Originality: Although the novel alludes to influences, the plotline is fresh and entertaining, using traditional horror tropes to provide readers with a fresh tale just as scary as the classics.
Character Development: The author draws on common horror tropes to create unique and well-rendered characters.
Blurb: Tale Half Told is a supernatural spectacle that transcends the holiday season, and a riveting page-turner for fans of horror, fantasy, ghouls, and old haunted homes.
by Jeremy Bates
Plot: Plot twists, gripping suspense, and a highly visual cinematic storytelling style makes for an entertaining, if not nightmare-inducing, read.
Prose: Bates’s prose is simple and clean, propelling the plot along at a breakneck pace. The author creates an evocative sense of place through detailed description and a pervading tone of unease.
Originality: Bates’s novel calls to mind works of classic horror, as a cast of seemingly ordinary characters fall victim to a horrifying murder spree. Bates adds contemporary twists to the horror trope by including references to Japanese culture and blending the impact of substance use with the horror of being trapped in a forest, haunted by ghosts, deranged murderers, or perhaps both.
Character Development: While Bates's characters are not always richly developed, they serve the machinations of the story effectively as a harmless adventure turns horrendously wrong.
by Lori L MacLaughlin
Plot: MacLaughlin's plot is exciting, fast-paced, and full of surprises. As the novel progresses, it begins to resemble a more standard fantasy plot but nonetheless remains exhilarating and interesting to readers.
Prose: MacLaughlin's prose is clean, grounded, and connects readers emotionally with the text. The writing helps readers become invested in the universe MacLaughlin has created, and the forces of good and evil battling to control it.
Originality: From detailed maps of the fantasy world to the overall magical mystery, MacLaughlin's work possesses the charm of the work of Holly Black and Neil Gaiman, and the supernatural and whimsical elements evident in such worlds as C.S. Lewis's Narnia.
Character Development: While this fantasy novel reads like many others, it is nonetheless refreshing, emotionally relevant, and memorable.
Blurb: The Road Once Taken is titillating and terrifying, an enchanting novel that straddles the line between the fantasy and mystery genres.
by Marty Essen
Plot: With unexpected twists and turns, the storyline keeps readers entertained with its fast pace and humor.
Prose: The book is well written with lots of humor, although it tends to get a bit campy at times. The various characters have similar ways of speaking, so it's difficult to tell who is talking when there are no identifying dialogue tags.
Originality: Though the book makes use of familiar themes, it is nonetheless a fun and unique read.
Character Development: The characters are well developed, with flaws and weaknesses that make them relatable and likable.
by Jeanne GFellers
Plot: While not the book’s strength, the plot is solid and suspenseful. The basic storyline follows conventional beats, but the remarkable execution of themes and characterization makes for a very robust resolution to the plot.
Prose: The novel is well written; in particular, the dialogue shines. Accents are rendered sparingly and hit the right notes for believability. The exposition moves quickly and isn't slowed by interior narration.
Originality: The book is original and imaginative. Pulling from elements of Appalachian folklore, the story uniquely blends a distinct and uncommon brand of fantasy with a superbly executed story of queer identity.
Character Development: The characterization is handled skillfully: Cent is a likable and relatable character. Queer protagonists are uncommon, which can tempt some authors to overcompensate, but she is crafted masterfully and naturally. Other characters, including supernatural spirits, are complex and interesting and have their own motivations, rather than merely supporting the plot or Cent’s emotional growth.
Blurb: A stand-out book. An imaginative tale of identity steeped in Appalachian folklore.
by Steve Hobbs
Plot: This well-plotted, well-paced novel follows two engaging storylines. The two plots ultimately join and the narrative balance and pacing are strong as the two come together.
Prose: The narrative is snappy and well-written. Expository sections are heavy on description without being laborious. Dialogue flows nicely, and the characters sound distinct when they speak. The balance of the plotlines is struck nicely, with the narration moving between the two smoothly.
Originality: The basic premise of the book is clever and original. The author doesn’t spend any more time than is required explaining the inventive aspects of the story, and this keeps the reader involved in the plot.
Character Development: The characters are well rendered. Meg is especially vivid and well rounded. Sam and Oscar do a great job of depicting different ethical and moral opinions, while other retreads add to the depth of the underlying thematic material.
Blurb: A riveting and unique sci-fi adventure.
by J.H. Carnathan
Plot: This novel is soundly structured and well plotted. And while the time element can be a little difficult for readers to keep track of at first, the story is nonetheless compelling.
Prose: The writing is visually descriptive and well crafted. The book balances mystery and suspense nicely, making for an enjoyable, well-paced read.
Originality: While the book is reminiscent of other works, it's ultimately original and inventive. The scenario is clever, and the world vividly represented.
Character Development: The protagonist begins mostly as a blank slate who uncovers his past. He is not always likable, but well rendered and believable. Supporting characters are sufficiently distinct in personality and depiction.
by Curtis M. Lawson
Plot: A fast-paced plot and the introduction of new players attempting to claim the life-stealing Fangs of Wallachia keep the reader entertained in this dark fantasy.
Prose: Lawson's prose is succinct and conversational with an excellent balance between dark comedy and horror elements.
Originality: It’s unusual to find a cast of characters comprised almost entirely of villains, even in dark fantasy and horror.
Character Development: The dangerous, often criminally insane characters living in these pages are highly entertaining with believable motivations. Although none of them display a wide range of personality or emotion, each character is distinct and unique.
Blurb: A rip-roaring urban fantasy that delves into the real horrors of human depravity.
by L. D. Colter
Plot: Familiar tropes throughout the book are either used with distinction or overturned. The webs of multiple alliances and enemies are complex enough to be interesting without becoming confusing to readers.
Prose: Colter crafts a nearly-flawless blend of action, description, dialogue, and internal monologue, suffusing each with vivid color and not relying too heavily on any one form of composition. This writing style infuses reality and believability into the fantastic elements.
Originality: There are clever twists throughout the novel. It’s also a welcome change that whatever element makes Ty, the lone mortal, special, it’s not immediately obvious to readers and he exhibits multiple flaws and failings, rather than him bringing a power or mortal technology into Erebus.
Character Development: Every character in the novel possessed a realistic trajectory and backstory. Ty and Naia, in particular, both have moments of weakness, courage, fear, and determination against terrible odds, adding depth to the novel and making a solid climax more believable.
by Kaz Lefave
Plot: The narrative is split across three perspectives, each styled differently. The perspectives relate to the plot in different ways, justifying the use of the multiple perspectives and adding to the tension and occasional dramatic irony. The primary plotline is entertaining, suspenseful, and cerebral. The conclusion is satisfying, while also leaving unresolved elements for a subsequent installment.
Prose: The writing is strong, though occasionally verbose, particularly in Nepharisse’s sections. Dialogue flows naturally, and the different sections of narrative are consistent in their respective styles. Elize’s first-person stream of consciousness can occasionally feel a bit hectic or stumbling in its execution, though this does aid in her characterization.
Originality: The premise is robust and fleshed out satisfactorily. As the best science fiction ought to, the narrative speculates on the consequences of real-world issues, primarily environmental damage wrought by human society. The characters and scenarios are original, distinct, and relatable.
Character Development: The three protagonists are distinct and interesting, and their characterizations are complimented and enhanced by the stylistic choices of their narration. This skillful combining of structure with expositional characterization results in complex and dynamic characterizations that many authors would envy.
Blurb: The right sci-fi blend: speculative, profound, relevant, and fun.
by Chris Yee
Plot: Yee crafts a sophisticated post-apocalyptic story that explores the complexity of robot-human relationships.
Prose: Fluid, polished prose richly develops a sense of place, effectively balancing story action with character perceptions, worldbuilding, and thoughtful exposition.
Originality: A familiar premise is invigorated through unlikely friendships and unique perils faced within a post-war country.
Character Development: Yee is particularly sensitive to developing the individuality of robot characters, emphasizing their sentience beyond simulated human emotions, and exploring an intriguing dichotomy between AI and humanity.
by Adam Bender
Plot: Bender has given the basic revenge plot enough action and surprises to keep readers interested.
Prose: Bender's prose and ability to weave poignancy and humor throughout the story elevates his novel above others in the genre.
Originality: Although the plot and characters are somewhat predictable, Bender's futuristic world is frighteningly imaginable.
Character Development: Many of the characters here are genre types and caricatures. However, Rosa Veras is much more original and believable.
by Matthew D. White
Plot: A great premise coupled with tight plotting and good pacing makes for an entertaining read.
Prose: White's prose is clear and simple. It also works to highlight the world in which the characters live. White evokes the elation and dangers of space travel.
Originality: White's novel is fairly original. Though it does bring to mind Ender's Game, this novel skirts the usual sinister alien and galactic wars that dominate the genre.
Character Development: The characters in White's novel are introspective. Adam is a bright, forthright young man. Secondary characters are equally well-rendered.