The time has finally come for us to make a decision. Firstly though, I thought I’d mention how we decided what to pick:
1) We selected the two novels that we felt best represented the spirit of the contest.
2) Each member of the EBR Team read both books, then told the others which one they had picked and why.
3) The book with the most votes became our finalist.
Seems simple, right? It wasn’t. See, this task wasn’t just about grabbing two books off a bookshelf and saying which was better. The largest reason for this was that neither of these books have had professional edits, and so we ended up having to tackle the problem by saying, “Well, if it HAD been given those edits, the novel would probably have turned out like THIS.”
We talked about writing ability, originality, pacing, foreshadowing, characters… it was all very long-winded (totally my fault), but I think we covered all of the good stuff. Anywho, we’ll have a post later on that gets into the nuts and bolts of our opinions on self-pubbed stuff now that this section of the contest is over.
All right. There were a handful of stories that were entertaining and approaching well-done, but there were two novels that rose to the top in our corner of the ring:
SAND AND BLOOD by D. Moonfire (EBR review)
The setting of this book is very different for a fantasy novel, which was the main draw for all of us. It’s a YA novel, so we expected a little teenage angst, but it was a bit much for a couple of us. Instances of double punctuation, the main character not actually influencing much of anything in the story arc for the first third of the novel, stereotypical YA side-characters, over-use of certain reactions (for example, it’s a short novel, and people “blush” something like 24 times)–are some of the issues that bothered us. The thing is, a lot of this could be fixed pretty easily with subsequent drafts. To be completely transparent, a couple of us couldn’t get past the issues above and didn’t finish the novel…but the others did finish, and they all liked it quite a bit. The main issue here is SAND AND BLOOD feels like a first draft. And the cover is weak.
THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE’S BRAIDS by Michael McClung (EBR review)
The writing was fluid, and the book as a whole was entertaining and enjoyable, but the setting doesn’t feel very unique at all. In many ways it seemed like it was trying to be THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA but without the city being made into a character of its own. Issues? The prologue isn’t needed at all (not surprising), there was a complete lack of foreshadowing, an odd tone switch towards the 2/3rds mark of the book, and most of the non-POV characters came across as very flat. Of all those, the lack of foreshadowing was our biggest concern, because they made nearly every transition rough and new concepts feel jarring when they were introduced. It also made certain elements seem very convenient. We all finished this novel though. And the cover is fine; just not jaw-dropping.
As we discussed these two novels, I personally commented that I had to stop myself from going into “Content Editor” mode. There was so much potential in both of these stories, but they could absolutely use another few drafts and some editorial advice. To me, THIEF would be much easier to get into shape than SAND. The fact that we all finished THIEF and said, “That was a quick and entertaining read, despite the weaknesses” was what pushed our decision in its favor.
So, without further ado, I can now present the Elitist Book Reviews’ finalist for this round of the Self-Published Blog-Off to be…
Drum roll please…
Cue the cymbal…
THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE’S BRAIDS, by Michael McClung
Congrats, man! For the sake of trying to relay a little greater specificity outside of the segmented rating system we use here, we’d give THIEF 3.5/5 stars. Based on what we saw though, it could easily be turned into a 4.5/5.
Now, this is in no way a knock on D. Moonfire’s SAND AND BLOOD. Yes, second place is more than just the first loser, here at EBR. The reality of self-publishing is that these books aren’t going to have the polish of those that have been edited professionally (in general). Moonfire definitely has talent, and SAND could easily build on what it already has going for it. It would take some work, granted, but from reading the author’s bios and acknowledgements, we think they’re more than up to the task.
To all the authors that sent their work to us:
Thank you for your patience. For your work. For your tenacity in keeping with this effort despite what anyone else has to say about it.
For those who submitted stories we didn’t pick: we hope you will take our words as motivation, whether to prove us wrong, or to simply become the best author you can be. Don’t ever let any of this stuff discourage you. Believe me when I say that everyone here at EBR hopes you become amazing, and that your stories cross our desks again some day down the road for us to enjoy. Because there’s nothing that we like better here at EBR than having our next “favorite” book dropped into our greedy little hands.
In the end, may we wish the best of luck to all of the entrants. And for those of you who haven’t seemed to find any yet? Go out and make some of your own. We’ll be waiting.