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SciFi / Fantasy / Horror

  • The Serpent Underneath

    by Julie A. Fragoules

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: The Serpent Underneath is set in the near future after a deadly strain of rabies ravages the nation, changing the face of the United States itself. Several plots are seamlessly interwoven, each character’s story melding with the others in sometimes unexpected ways.

    Prose: Dialogue serves to enhance the tale, with characters from different factions using different speech patterns. Worldbuilding sections paint a very clear picture of life in this future world, though the length of these sections tend to slow an otherwise quickly-paced tale.

    Originality: This interesting tale of a father searching for his son and young adults struggling to find their place within a dystopian society filled with murder, daring escapes, and standing up to the iron-fisted control of the Community feels wholly unique.

    Character/Execution: Protagonist Haven is inquisitive but understandably wary of rocking the boat, while Nathan is incredibly driven and filled with determination in the face of seeming impossibility. Adrien is a fascinating mix between antihero sensibilities and outright sociopathic tendencies, and all minor characters are imperative to the plot, serving the story in a variety of meaningful ways.

    Blurb: A fascinating near-future sci-fi tale filled with murder, daring escapes, and a search for a long-lost son that will keep readers entranced. 

  • Legend of the Maara

    by Patrick Castles

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: An interesting survival tale of space travelers abducted and dropped on a new planet by mysterious aliens. They build a community and colony while exploring the planet they find themselves on. The latter third of the book shifts forward half a millenia to the ancestors of the settlers, who further solve the mystery of the plot. The ending is satisfying, but feels perhaps a bit too neat. There is room for additional fiction in the world of this novel.

    Prose: The writing is descriptive and consistent in tone. The strange world the characters have been marooned on is brought to life effectively by the language. Dialogue fits well within the story.

    Originality: The novel presents a clever story, in both conceit and structure. The novel effectively utilizes elements of the genre to create a new and exciting story.

    Character/Execution: The novel takes care to develop the survivor characters which contributes to readers caring for their survival. Relationships feel organic to the story, and tragic moments resonate with emotional impact. After the time jump, the emphasis shifts away from characterization yet the reader remains engaged in learning the outcome for Jason and others.

  • Paper Forests

    by Tegan Anderson

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: Paper Forests is an inventive fantasy adventure that faces some challenging themes head-on and grapples with themes of self-identity and faith. The characters journey through a dreamlike realm, with the bulk of the book’s conflict rooted in the character arcs.

    Prose: The book features some strong sentence level descriptive writing. The tone and mood of the writing are consistent and portray a setting and atmosphere that is surrealistically dynamic as the characters traverse the mysterious forest.

    Originality: Aided by tinges of classic fantasies, the novel’s layered approach to characterization and plot makes for a creative, mysterious, and engaging narrative. The novel successfully connects its themes to its plots and setting.

    Character/Execution: Skillfully rendered character development, which lies at the heart of the conflict and setting, propels the narrative.


    by Justin Hale

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: Runners, a striking sci-fi thriller, hosts lavish worldbuilding, giving the action-centered plot plenty of teeth, and the author delivers an ending that perfectly sets the stage for a sequel.

    Prose: The prose is vivid, if sometimes extravagant, and works hard to keep pace with the story’s worldbuilding. Unfortunately, the author’s often-excessive descriptions are more distracting than riveting.

    Originality: Runners combines plenty of action with character-driven subplots and a freshly realized planet setting, while elements like the Shadows add a welcome shiver of suspense to the story.

    Character/Execution: The characters are solid, with several standout main players—particularly the rough-and-ready Alexander, always ready to face danger and unbeatable in his bravado. 

  • From a Broken Grail

    by Daryl K. Hill

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: The Brethren of the Sword are sworn to uphold the 'faith'--but after a seemingly successful campaign against heretics, they are haunted by their sins and followed by their guilt as they face a dangerous journey to aid their allies. Along the way, Godfrey, a young knight, finds himself haunted by his own past, and tortured by an uncertain future that tests his beliefs, his strength, and his very soul. Hill delivers a multilayered and finely constructed fantasy.

    Prose: Hill's prose is action-packed, and accentuates the fast-paced tale of adventure with skill. Overall, the storytelling is engaging, though at times the language does get bogged down in its own mythology.

    Originality: Knights on a quest; mythological creatures and stories; a past steeped in both religion and superstition; a cast of characters walking the thin line between barbarity and morality: From a Broken Grail has it all. And while elements of the story are not overwhelming in their originality, as a whole the plot's devices work well to produce an entertaining story.

    Character/Execution: At first, Godfrey appears to be the only one tortured by the knights' deeds at Alba--and his nightmares, memories, and internal conflict reflect his torment well. However, the other knights soon partake of their own torment, each in their different ways--as the past comes to catch up with them all. Overall, this makes for a cast of characters that are complex and multi-dimensional in their ambiguity.

  • The Watchers: Home World

    by Trenton Hamm

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: A space adventure set in a robust sci-fi universe that serves as the kicking-off point for a larger space opera. The plot moves linearly, following a group of travelers on a decades-long journey across the universe toward a new home following the demise of their home planet due to climate change.

    Prose: The book features some dense and technical language that plays well to the setting and tone of the story. Descriptive writing elaborates on a well-imagined cosmic scenario.

    Originality: The novel effectively brings common sci-fi elements and themes like interstellar travel and climate change to an original scenario and narrative. The cosmos established in the novel is enticing enough for readers to want to return in the two planned subsequent installments.

    Character/Execution: The book’s protagonist Uri also serves as a narrator from a different narrative present, and through the temporal difference a complicated character begins to emerge. Side characters are interesting and feel connected to the fictional world rather than merely serving as plot vehicles.

  • Spelldrifts

    by Anne-Marie Mawhiney

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: Spelldrifts is a young adult novel that confidently tackles themes of family and overcoming challenges. The plot is adventurous and features a plethora of well-written characters with magical powers and psychic abilities.

    Prose: Mawhiney's text is steeped in the realms of magic and technological progress and impresses with its concise use of intricate detail. Moreover, the exploration of friend and family dynamics is evocative, heartwarming, and beautifully composed.

    Originality: Mawhiney's hopeful vision of the future is wildly refreshing and offers young readers a fresh and inspiring fantasy tale, delicately balancing a myriad of characters into a convincing and cohesive whole.

    Character/Execution: Spelldrfits features endearing character interactions that are authentic and guaranteed to relate to young readers. The charming camaraderie that the characters form is touching, and the cute dragon Chiyo is a definite highlight.

  • Father of the Future

    by Darren Dash

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: Father of the Future is a fun and thought-provoking time travel caper that manages to traverse such notable periods as 2510BC Egypt, England shortly before the Second World War, and 29th century Earth as "Fixers" jump through time to alter history.

    Prose: Dash's effervescent text not only evokes time and place, it also manages to incorporate fascinating figures from history into a coherent narrative. The only downside comes with Cassique's occasional repetitive explanations of the mannerisms prevalent during different points in history.

    Originality: Father of the Future is consistently inventive and fun, offering a futuristic world free from crime and punishment, where sex spas are the norm and physical contact is forbidden.

    Character/Execution: Cassique dominates the story as the central figure. His amusing relationship with his briefly fostered son Zune lightens the tone, and his newly forged relationships with a reanimated Albert Einstein and Beta D add an oddly satisfying touch to the climax.

    Blurb:  A fun-filled and provocative time travel adventure.

  • Madonna

    by Gwyneth Lesley

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: Madonna is a retelling of the Medusa legend through a narrative of trauma, seeking to explore themes of nature versus nurture. The plot, which is mostly linear with some flashes back in time, revolves around sexual allegations within powerful families and metaphoric and literal curse for the victims.

    Prose: The writing is consistent and well paced, while there is some nice descriptive language. Dialogue promotes characterization but can feel a bit overworked 

    Originality: The novel is framed as a retelling of Greek myth. The connections are visible but are subtle in nature; the novel works on its own without the underlying subtext, yet is enhanced by it.

    Character/Execution: The characters are well defined, particularly complex is the protagonist Madonna. The primary antagonist, Terrence, is wonderfully villainous, with a menacing aura clearly depicted in his scenes. Supporting characters feel authentic to the world the book depicts.

  • The Reaper's Quota

    by Sarah McKnight

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot/Idea: McKnight weaves an interesting - and often thought-provoking tale, delivered with enough charm to keep it generally on track, despite the narrative's propensity to meander in the opening hours.

    Prose: A simple, economic prose style works results in a brisk and reader-friendly pace, while also offsetting occasional bouts of repetition and a predilection towards exposition, rather than exploration.

    Originality: In many ways, The Reaper's Quota lives and dies by the tropes of its genre, which could make it a hard sell for readers looking for something different. However, the general focus--on a grim reaper who begins to question his task of assigning random deaths--holds within it a flavor of uniqueness that is certain to entertain seasoned sci-fi/fantasy fans while ensnaring newbies, too.

    Character/Execution: While the cast might initially seem archetypal, there are many flashes of individuality, even in the smallest of background characters.


  • Plot/Idea: Book two of the Perseverance Andrews series continues where the first book, The Defense of the Commonwealth, concluded. The titular protagonist is in recovery following a medically-induced coma. The Commonwealth is still embroiled in conflict, however, and the formidable heroine has little time before she is thrust back into battle.

    Prose: Spearman has a crisp, cinematic style that efficiently lays out the setting and circumstances and maintains a steady beat throughout.

    Originality: Readers already familiar with Spearman's universe will be right at home in the second installment, while new readers may crave more recap of previous events. Spearman's worldbuilding is sound, if sometimes too tightly focused on technical details over broader, visceral descriptions that might serve to anchor readers in time and place. 

    Character/Execution: Spearman capably integrates romance, military action, and political conflicts into this polished sequel. Officer Andrews is a heroine with grit, determination, and the capacity for tenderness; readers will root for her success in defeating her foes and finding romantic fulfillment.

  • Plot/Idea: This third book in a GameLit series hooks the reader immediately after a brief but creative introduction. Fans of Japanese literature combined with Western culture will enjoy Marks's twist, as fated characters dropped into a new world must figure out their next moves as their creators disappear.

    Prose: Marks's prose is well crafted, with an engaging, gleeful tone throughout. Occasionally, the author provides exposition by way of dialogue, which can sometimes slow the action throughout the novel.

    Originality: The author offers a clever and inventive premise that will immediately appeal to GameLit fans. Marks establishes tension throughout and, despite this being the third installment in the series, new readers won't feel left behind; the worldbuilding is accessible and clearly established.

    Character/Execution: Cultures and worlds collide for heroes and villains alike. Through conversation, the reader learns plenty about the main players in the story and will have great fun as they navigate their story world environs.


  • Kaleidoscopic Shades

    by David A Neuman

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot/Idea: The stakes are high for protagonist Joshua in this supernatural tale of unrest, as he’s tasked with traveling to an alternate dimension to save Earth (and his loved ones) from destruction. The storyline jumps perspectives often, which becomes confusing at times, and the plot’s scope is extensive—but the author successfully spins a sense of dread and unease. 

    Prose: The prose is dense in keeping with the story’s expansive plot, and makes for challenging reading in places, but the author is skillful at rendering scenes that will disquiet readers and leave them with a feeling of foreboding.

    Originality: The plot borrows elements from science fiction and horror, melding them together into a distinctive storyline that will leave readers curious and apprehensive. 

    Character/Execution: Joshua is the central character, with strong interiority and sound development, despite seeming older than his years. Secondary characters lack Joshua’s arc, but the author uses them adequately to bolster the story. 

  • Cargo 3120: Ties that Bind

    by Aaron Walker Sr.

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot/Idea: Cargo 3120's plot is dynamic, frenetic, and fast-paced, brazenly dropping readers into a seedy world of organized crime. The Raven Squad's mission to steal Krillium ore, as well as Marcus's imprisonment at Runner's End and Work Camp Noctis, are standout focal points of a well-structured crime caper.

    Prose: This dramatic thriller is laced with intrigue and explosive set pieces. The exhilarating deadly missions carried out by the Raven Squad are executed in razor-sharp detail. 

    Originality: Walker's style is a welcome addition to the thriller genre. Though not startlingly original, Cargo 3120 is highly enjoyable and never lets up.

    Character/Execution: Walker successfully manages to sculpt a convincing ragtag heist crew, particularly Marcus, whose penchant for doling out pain is a notable trait.

    Blurb:  A high octane heist thriller that will leave readers desperate for more.

  • Onero's Hunt: A Dystopian Sea Adventure

    by J. R. Devoe

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot/Idea: Onero's Hunt is a thrilling sea adventure that barely gives the reader a chance to breathe. Its fulfilling action keeps the reader glued to the page and deeply invested in Toris' challenge.

    Prose: The author delivers a dystopian thriller strewn with brutal hangings and high-octane sea chases. Onero's Hunt is frenetic, fast-paced, and packed with dense, intricate, descriptive detail.

    Originality: Devoe's sea epic is neatly introduced with a map and a series of laws that throw the reader directly into its decimated world. The intense and involving battle scenes are both thrilling and unrelenting.

    Character/Execution: Onero's Hunt is a book full of strong characters and relationships, spearheaded by the unlikely friendship forged between Toris and Lex, which could have potentially been explored further.

    Blurb: An action-packed maritime page-turner.

  • Witch Fire (The Sundancer Mysteries Book 3)

    by Juliet Freyermuth

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot/Idea: Witch Fire returns to the world of the Sundancer Mystery series in which figures called 'Watchers' guard against a magical underworld of beasts, Gods, and other creatures of legend.

    Prose: Brian and Juliet Freyermuth write in an energetic, humor-filled prose style that succeeds in making the extraordinary supernatural circumstance feel commonplace.

    Originality: While Witch Fire borrows from paranormal conventions, the authors blend in a wealth of paranormal legends, evoking a menagerie of beings in the most unlikely of places to keep readers on their toes.

    Character/Execution: Nick St. James is a likably enigmatic character attempting to overcome his dark family legacy. The authors fill out the cast with Nick's girlfriend, her ticked-off brother, and other figures of human and other origin. While the series tosses in just about everything but the kitchen sink, the deadpan humor paired with brushes of horror, is a winning formula.