SciFi / Fantasy / Horror
by Sam Polakoff
Plot: The plot flows chronologically and moves at a consistent pace. The conflict is established clearly and provides a satisfying immediacy and tension to the narrative. The ending presents resolution to the story while leaving room for further stories set in this world without overtly teasing such or leaving the reader on a cliffhanger.
Prose: The writing is clean and the dialogue snappy. The characters are effectively rendered, and their individual motivations propel the narrative.
Originality: The future the narrative presents is thoroughly depicted and will intrigue readers. The book effectively interpolates contemporary issues we face (global health, overpopulation, authoritarianism and technocracies, climate change) thoughtfully forward to a sci-fi future.
Character/Execution: The characters’ individual motivations and personalities are crafted with care and effectively dimensional and dynamic. The complexity of character development helps propel the plot beyond your standard save-the-dystopian-world pattern.
by T.C.C. Edwards
Plot: This exciting and well-developed sci-fi adventure sees a space vessel and crew stranded in an unknown galaxy.
Prose/Style: While this narrative occasionally becomes overly technical, which tends to somewhat slow the plot, the author ultimately crafts a believable world in an easy flowing manner.
Originality: With appealing alien characters and a vividly realized world, this futuristic story has some surprises in store for readers.
Character Development/Execution: The characters display change and growth through the novel and readers will be invested in their outcomes.
by Kaz Lefave
Plot: Though readers would be well-advised to acquaint themselves with the Nemecene universe prior, once familiarized they'll find an energetic and compelling storyline. Lefave’s meticulously detailed dystopian future and labyrinthine plot will challenge readers’ perceptions.
Prose/Style: Weaving between otherworldly third person, first person epistolary, and true first person, the varied narration style captures the spirit of the protagonists and gravity of the dangers they face. A commitment to vivid, visual prose reminds the reader to savor the fast-paced novel.
Originality: While the twins' familial storyline isn't necessarily unique, Lefave's Nemecene universe is rare and remarkable. The innumerable chimeric creatures she’s created are worthy of praise in their own right.
Character Development/Execution: Readers will get to know Elize and Keeto intimately as Lefave captures their adolescent musings and personal idiosyncrasies. Jumps back in time, though sometimes abrupt, serve to deepen the reader's understanding of the twins and their family history.
Blurb: Set in an eerily probable post-apocalyptic future, Nemecene: Ripples in the Triverse is vividly detailed and imaginatively written. Lefave does justice to her twin protagonists, Elize and Keeto, by voicing them with unique narrative styles and liberally dotting the timeline with illuminating moments from their past.
by N.D. Jones
Plot: Featuring a sizable cast of characters, this story of exiled dragons living as humans in New York is told from multiple perspectives. The central conflict draws from the characters’ emotional connections and growth less than a driving action plot.
Prose/Style: The writing is strong, with rich descriptive writing and characterization. The action is vivid and exciting.
Originality: The scenario and in-world history are imaginative and thoughtfully rendered. The strong characterization leads to an engrossing narrative which is unique and original.
Character Development/Execution: The book has numerous characters each given space. The primary relationship is very well-rendered, leading to dimensional and sensitive characters. The characters are much more complicated and dynamic than those in a typical fantasy novel.
by Steven M Nedeau
Plot: The techno-futurist novel is paced and plotted well and features a fine balance of thrills and thematics, with a clever ending that opens itself to interpretation.
Prose: While there is little in the syntax and prose that will truly wow readers, its consistency in voice and clarity allows for the characters and story to shine through.
Originality: The cyberpunk conceit--clones being raised for memory transfers to effectively allow the powerful to live indefinitely, technocratic rule with corporations so powerful even the CEOs are indentured--will be familiar and welcome to readers, while the specifics of the story remain new and fresh.
Character/Execution: The characters are a strength of the book, and the reader will find it hard not to root for them. Time is taken to develop characters and establish their motivations, while engaging complications are effectively folded into the plot and conflict .
by Melissa Bobe
Plot: With an initially brisk pace that settles into a steady simmer, author Melissa Bobe takes a cauldron of familiarity and nonetheless brews it into something undeniably engaging and entertaining that is sure to keep readers turning the page.
Prose/Style: The accessible, organic prose of Nascent Witch acts as a foundational soil, channeling an ability to bring the magic of its scenarios and scenes to life with dazzling bursts of colorful descriptors that feel natural amidst the more earthen language.
Originality: Though offering up several intriguing explorations and deviations, Nascent Witch may ultimately feel familiar to readers who are well-versed in the genre circles it hones its magic in.
Character Development/Execution: While the characters of Nascent Witch aren't necessarily fresh windows through which to view the genre, they are nonetheless crafted with care, with kinetic interactions and well-thought-out dialogue that both fit the niche as well as imbue them with an inescapable, organic sense of charm and personality.
by Jason Penn Browne
Plot: The storyline here is complex but intriguing, taking place in a unique environment quite different from the modern world.
Prose/Style: While the writing here is very good, the narrative frequently reads less like a novel and more like a term paper. The author spends considerable time setting the stage laying out a series of facts rather than interweaving these relevant details into the story itself.
Originality: The author has created a complex and distinctive environment and cast of characters.
Character Development/Execution: The characters take a backseat to the steady stream of details the author puts forth. If the author would interweave the details within the storyline rather than include them as separate, large chunks of text, the flow would improve dramatically, and the characters would feel less of an afterthought.
by Bryan Cassiday
Plot: The author is a capable storyteller, offering a solid balance of dialogue, action, and description throughout the narrative. The plot engages from the beginning and holds the reader's interest until the last page.
Prose/Style: The author is a skilled writer but sometimes reverts to awkward colloquialisms. His command of dialogue is particularly strong, serving not only as a plot device but also as insightful clues as to a character's personality and moral compass.
Originality: While the characters and their experiences are unique, the basic premise this world is built upon may strike readers as overly familiar.
Character Development/Execution: The author effectively develops his characters through detail, nuance, and striking dialogue.
by Hieronymus Hawkes
Plot: Effacement is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that flawlessly infuses complicated character relationships into a futuristic world grappling with rapidly growing technologies that threaten to drag society down the path of a cyberpunk-like surveillance state.
Prose: Hawkes’s prose is engaging, with character’s voices perfectly encapsulating them. The third-person viewpoint deftly switches between characters at pivotal moments, allowing insight into motives readers wouldn’t otherwise have been privy to.
Originality: The author is skilled at worldbuilding. Readers will be easily drawn into this sci-fi thriller chock-full of devious plots, unknown assassins, and increasingly dangerous and invasive technology.
Character/Execution: Characters in Hieronymus Hawkes’s Effacement are memorable and intriguing. Workaholic protagonist Cole Westbay is both likeable and complex, as he grapples with personal issues that quickly belie a much more sinister, wide-reaching plot. Meanwhile, antagonist Phillip Chestnut proves to be a classic villain.
by Alicia Wanstall-Burke
Plot: Blood of Heirs is composed of two parallel plotlines that are balanced in pace and intrigue. Cliffhangers prior to each shift entice the reader to continue on.
Prose: Wanstall-Burke's prose is easy to comprehend and flows seamlessly. Readers can jump into the story without need for extensive glossary perusal. However, the use of certain modern expletives could be interchanged for words that better kept with the novel's established lexicon.
Originality: Though not the first to cover similar ground, Wanstall-Burke distinguishes her story through her rich characterizations and keen eye for detail. Her flair for corporal descriptions, in particular, could be described as Joycean.
Character/Execution: By switching from Ranoth's and Lidan’s perspectives, Wanstall-Burke illustrates how the medieval gender barrier shapes their present and future lives. Lidan's resentful accountability to her embittered queen mother and Ran's reluctant duty to serve in his father's army show that both face unique and pointed tribulations.
by Andy C Wareing
Plot: This tale of dark forces and the unlikely assemblage that stands against it is powered by an earnestly compelling mystery wrapped around an inventive, twisting reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe's life that will be sure to captivate genre-lovers and admirers of Poe's work alike.
Prose/Style: Wareing's words flow from the page with a poetic grandeur and a grace that should enthrall most readers and immediately ensconce them in the time period. However, the occasional awkward dialogue arises to trip up the otherwise smooth procession of prose.
Originality: Wareing's novel gleans its ingenuity not so much from its macabre collection of denizens and do-gooders, but rather from its unique retelling of the life of one of the world's most famous—and famously harrowed—writers.
Character Development/Execution: Brought to life by Wareing's vivid prose, the cast of A Surcease of Sorrow enjoy a magnetism that endears them to the reader even before backstories are rolled out.
by Lou Iovino
Plot: Iovino keeps the mystery at full-throttle with this inventive and infectious science fiction adventure. This is a truly unique story that holds the reader in its grip and refuses to let go until the very end.
Prose/Style: Iovino's accessible yet deft vernacular goes a long way towards making Skybound an innately engaging read that is sure to have readers turning page after page in order to decipher the mysteries lying at the story's center.
Originality: By playing its cards close to its chest and eschewing the sci-fi genre's penchant for grandiose explanation, Iovino's Skybound wields its mystery with all the expertise of a master swordsman, creating and actualizing a truly unique and well thought out story.
Character Development/Execution: Iovino's cast is perfectly assembled and well-realized for the narrative in which they are thrust, even if some of them are pulled from shallower waters than others.
Blurb: An inventive and infectious science-fiction offering, Iovino's Skybound offers up some of the best the genre can offer with its unique concept and potent dedication to its themes and mission statement. Mystery is the name of the game here, and Iovino wields it expertly to keep the pages turning.
by Nathan Wilson
Plot: A temple scribe's faith and heart are tested after his wife is killed during an attack by ruthless samurai; battling the darkness of both the Yomi and his soul, he must find a way to try and live again. Setting out on a journey for revenge, he bonds with the untouchables, a group of outcasts trying to reclaim the throne from usurpers--along the way, he encounters demons both inside and out, and grapples with the meaning of life, death, and love.
Prose/Style: Wilson's prose is descriptive and engaging as he inserts the reader deftly into the world of 1180 Japan. Reality, fantasy, legend, and myth blend seamlessly to create a narrative that is creative and fun to read.
Originality: Wilson's tale of a temple scribe on a journey to avenge his wife may not seem very original on the surface--however, the setting, details, characters, and humor set it apart. Ultimately, the underlying themes are both relatable and original.
Character Development/Execution: The characters are well-developed and interesting, and their relationships add depth to the story. Shindara and Mikoto's relationship is especially powerful, as they seem to have a bond that transcends time.
by Paul and Phillip Garver
Plot: In this short, action-packed tale, the reader is transported to the year 2247. The solar system is patrolled by space cops, who keep a lookout for foul play in the cosmos. One in particular, Detectant Maxo Magnaveer, is a determined and multifaceted protagonist.
Prose: The Garvers' prose is quippy and fits with the purported time period. Readers will appreciate the level of detail the authors have put into the futuristic setting.
Originality: Showdown at Jupiter's Edge melds sci-fi adventure with political satire. This novel exists in its own dimension, yet is reminiscent of retro sci-fi movies with its quick-witted jokes and many references.
Character/Execution: Maxo Magnaveer, his human comrades, and the Digis are interesting heroes and heroines in this story; they are well-fleshed out with defining characteristics and idiosyncrasies. Colonel D'Rump is clearly based on the previous US president, and though entertaining, he seems to be a copy of 45, rather than his own character.
by N.D. Jones
Plot: The second book in a series, the story blends themes of family with politics and oppression amidst an exciting supernatural setting with elements of romance.
Prose/Style: The writing is pleasing to read; descriptions are clear, action sequences are exciting, and the dialogue – a strength of this book – effectively supports characterization.
Originality: The book and series feature a rich lore. The geopolitics of the world are creative and interesting. The characters and plot appear to be unique and original.
Character Development/Execution: The book’s characterization is strong and intentional. The relationships between the characters are well-developed and impactful, and the unique aspects of the setting add to the complexity of individual characters.
by Mary K. Kaiser
Plot: Though Kaiser's plot sometimes drops a few beats, it nevertheless delivers an entertaining, witty, and downright fun story that will have genre fans turning the pages with voracity.
Prose/Style: Deigning for a simple, yet elegant approach, Kaiser's prose lives in its dialogue and descriptions, the latter of which, while perhaps on the surface feeling thin, builds up the characters and settings in such subtle, infectious ways as to endear the reader to them effortlessly.
Originality: While the mixture of history and fiction is not wholly new, and while Kaiser falls back on some expected movements, she nonetheless succeeds in delivering a story worthy of the myths of old, in such a way that will endear even perhaps the more jaded of genre enthusiasts.
Character Development/Execution: Kaiser does a tremendous job bringing the Muses of Greek myth to life, even in some of the more peripheral characters; Polyhymnia and Urania in particular shine with a lovable sisterly bond. The Wrights, by contrast, receive less of this divine stroke, though they are carried into relatable moments by the pure efficacy of Kaiser's deft pen hand.