SciFi / Fantasy / Horror
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.
by Jeremy Bates
Prose: Bates writes in detailed and haunting prose; dark humor shines through this story about bumpkin Satanic serial killers.
Plot: The narrative jumps forward at a break-neck speed, following the victims and their pursuers from the detailed climactic chase to their grisly ends. Chapters are foreshadowed by quote openers taken from classic horror movies which can lead to some predictable--but no less fun--scenes.
Originality: While Bates centers on some lesser-known rural horrors, and characters are memorable, episodes within the storyline are strongly reminiscent of familiar horror narratives.
Character Development: Bates’ doomed characters are reminiscent of their classic horror counterparts, creating a familiar--oddly comforting--narrative. Nevertheless, with the attention to backstory of victims, villains, and heroes, readers are continually lulled into a false sense of security and repeatedly met with suspense, jump scares, and one more gory surprise after the next.
Blurb: True to the spine-tingling nature of the rest of his World’s Scariest Places series, Jeremy Bates offers a truly chilling tale that reminds readers that humans can be the worst type of monster to fear, after all.
by Tony Taylor
Plot: The author of Black Sky Voyage skillfully brings together several plotlines in a satisfying manner. The fast-paced story will engage readers as it pans between many characters and several situations.
Prose: Taylor’s writing is vivid and descriptive. The characters are described energetically with clean, vibrant prose. However, the dialogue is often choppy and stilted.
Originality: This novel is both relevant and promising. More than that, Taylor’s futuristic imagery is plausible, intriguing, and a bit frightening.
Character Development: Taylor’s characters are painted realistically, even those who are extraterrestrial. The presidential protagonist and his aggressive behavior prove frustrating throughout the novel.
by Dawn Greenfield Ireland
Plot Ireland's novel is a fast-paced fantasy adventure, full of tropes readers will find familiar from fairy tales mixed with fresh settings and a unique take on the passage of time.
Prose Ireland’s prose is clean and careful for the majority of the book, but the text would benefit from an additional round of copy editing. The dialogue lends credibility and a sense of authenticity to the diverse cast of characters.
Originality Ireland’s novel borrows from such revered childhood tales as L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories, but adds in dark and contemporary twists.
Character Development Ireland’s colorful cast of realistic and fantastical characters includes whimsical allies and villains that are memorable and relatable. The reliable narrator offers readers comfort and a whiff of nostalgia; the Jacksons’ furry friend, Buffy, holds a role that is just as important as any of the humans or creatures in the book; and D’Laine is described as a multi-faceted being—her identities as a vulnerable human teenager and a warrior queen are intertwined.
by Darren D. Beyer
Plot: Beyer’s fast-paced, action-packed, stellar storyline contains expertly-woven uses of foreshadowing. The manuscript is chunked into chapters based on the location of events, and futuristic or innovative terms are introduced to readers in a natural manner.
Prose: Beyer’s prose, dialogue especially, is poetic and flows organically throughout the novel. Futuristic vocabulary terms are introduced naturally and are understandable in reference to the storyline, but the comm dialogue can grow weary at points.
Originality: Beyer’s space opera is reminiscent of Ender’s Game and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nevertheless, Beyer manages to provide fresh and exciting material for readers to indulge in.
Character Development: Pathogen Protocol lets readers explore an intriguing web of interconnected individuals' stories in a single galactic adventure. Beyer’s characters are emotionally complex, mysterious, and possess intricate backstories.
Blurb: A riveting intergalactic adventure filled with space battles, mystery, and even a hint of romance.
by Daniel Poppie
Plot: Poppie’s riveting novel is soundly constructed, action-packed, and features a fast-paced plot. The storyline is driven along steadily by the life-altering events and memories of James, Mackenzie, and, later, David.
Prose: Poppie’s plot is supported by a unique narrative voice: witty, fast-moving banter is coupled with a specific and pleasant brand of dry humor and sarcasm. The dialogue flows well and the descriptions are vivid and realistic.
Originality: Poppie's novel melds together elements of times past with possibilities of an apocalyptic American future. The author's usage of fictional epigraphs to begin each chapter is both clever and intriguing.
Character Development: The characters' emotions, desires, and fears are clearly rendered. Mackenzie serves as both an endlessly entertaining character and an impactful literary device.
by ML Banner
Plot: This tense and vivid novel excels at creating an atmosphere of claustrophobic dread. The scientifically-based logic behind the story's rabid animal attacks is convincingly conveyed within the fictional context.
Prose: The author writes in clipped prose that is driven by a sense of urgency, while discussion of biological agents responsible for the animal attacks, is cogently integrated.
Originality: Banner's inclusion of rational scientific explanation, playful allusions to apocalyptic fiction, and the horror of being confined on a cruise ship under attack, provides fresh dimension to a familiar concept of animals rendered nightmarishly threatening.
Character Development: The novel's protagonist is both well developed, naturally flawed, and effectively utilized within the broader storyline. Secondary characters are similarly given agency, even those facing certain death.
by Dax Xenos
Plot: This sophisticated, edgy story offers an absorbing premise, enigmatic circumstances, and an immersive setting.
Prose: Lively, succinct descriptions produce a clear and smoothly flowing narrative. Dialogue is crisp and distinctive, with variation between characters' voices. Colorful, grim, and occasionally humorous details of prison life and the facility itself, offer idiosyncratic charm.
Originality: Xenos infuses moral complexity into this inventive and wholly unique prison-based story. What might have been a tedious “tour” of facilities mid-book is enlivened by fascinating details and equally engaging secondary characters.
Character Development: Whether prisoners, enforcers of law and order, or masterminds behind the Prison Pyramid, characters are multilayered, elusive, and original. The peculiar protagonist’s own reliability remains in question throughout the novel.
by Scott Baron
Plot: There are a few pacing problems, but the plot is well structured and engaging. There are enough mysteries to keep readers turning pages.
Prose: The prose is somewhat sparse in terms of sensory details, but will likely to engage readers nonetheless. Dialogue is a definite strong point—the use of humor and banter is particularly well done.
Originality: This story feels like a descendant of several speculative works. And though it doesn’t feel entirely new, it’s an enjoyable read steeped in just enough mystery to keep readers wondering how the journey will progress, and who'll live through it!
Character Development: Though some of the characterizations are a bit flat, Daisy and Sarah’s interplay is enough to keep things interesting. Secondary characters are solidly sketched, and this ensemble crew is definitely worth a read.
by Veronica Dale
Plot: Dale is particularly gifted at creating a web of stories, interlacing multiple plot lines to bring a rich, three-dimensional world to life. Dale is able to switch between storylines in a fluid, balanced manner that makes each transition a refreshing turn.
Prose: Dale's prose is at times breathtaking. There is also an inherent profundity to much of the writing.
Originality: While some truly fantastic creatures emerge from the pages of Time Candle, many aspects of the book will remind readers of famous fantasy series like Lord of the Rings. Nevertheless, Dale's imagination knows no bounds as evidenced by her clever creations that elicit both curiosity and horror.
Character Development: Each character is wholly unique and distinctive, with Dale unfolding the many forms human beings come in.
by Cristelle Comby
Plot: Although the supernatural elements aren't as chilling as they are in similar titles already on shelves, this paranormal mystery delivers a tight storyline ripe with tension and conflict.
Prose: Tough-guy private investigator Bellamy Vale makes for a straightforward narrator in this supernatural mystery. His wise-guy tone and attention to detail will be familiar for fans of noir detective fiction.
Originality: This supernatural mystery mixes all the usual tropes of noir detective fiction and contemporary fantasy. Despite this adherence to genre convention, the characters and plot are unique enough to hold reader attention.
Character Development: Private Investigator Bellamy Vale is an engaging, wise-cracking narrator, and his employer is suitably mysterious. Peripheral characters are developed enough to entertain and intrigue readers.