The 2nd SPFBO is over and has its winner. YAY! 300(!) selfpublished fantasy books were evaluated by ten bloggers. They each found their champion to push into the final round, and now the final scores are in, and Jonathan French's grimdark epic The Grey Bastards is the winner! Hurrah!
Now Grey Bastards has had some stellar reviews already (like this one), and I'm guessing now that Mark Lawrence and thus everyone else will be buying his book, more will be coming. XD
So I decided I'd spotlight the second and third placed books to balance it out a little, and it just so happens that I've read both already. Dyrk Ashton's Paternus, and Phil Tucker's Path of Flames.
I'll start with Ashton (uh, let's say because of alphabetical order? Nah, he's holding a gun to my head and if I don't type a review fast, he'll turn into a zombie again and come after my braaaiiiiinnns... Sorry Phil, but you're next!)
Paternus came third in the SPFBO, and that is a testimony to Ashton's amazing storytelling talent because Paternus isn't a fantasy book that you can easily summarize by its plot. It's not yet another iteration of the Hero's Journey, but it still grips you in a Gollum like throttle and doesn't ... let ... go, Precious.
There are a few things that make Paternus a bit odd unique, so bear with me as I try to put it in words. A few years back I read the scripts to the Matrix trilogy online for my Master's thesis on Visual Identity, and Paternus comes close to that feeling of reading a story that isn't actually meant to be read - it's meant to be experienced in a different form, and preferably on the big screen. (Also the present tense and the scene building is a dead giveaway that Mr Ashton has screenplay experience. Just saying.)
The story itself unravels over the course of a day, but it's scope is epic and spans millenia - the time since creation until now. And so at first the few human characters sort of pale in comparison to the beings called Firstborn, ancient creatures with everlasting life (not immortality because they can and have been killed), interesting parenthood, and superhuman abilities. (However, I'm not sure there even are any named human characters in this book. I guess Book 2 will clarify things even more. I'm looking at you, Zeke!)
At times, I was reminded of Neil Gaiman's American Gods - the episodic structure in which we are introduced to some Firstborn echoes those chapters of Gaiman's work that brought one of the Gods into focus for a few pages. But saying that Paternus is like American Gods isn't doing it justice. Beyond subject matter (mythology) and structure, Paternus really isn't anything like Gods.
Well, maybe the covers are a little similar ... Got lightning at least ...
It's more akin to Homer's effort to create a pan-hellenic roster of gods and goddesses that everyone in the ancient Greek sphere of culture would be able to recognize. The only author I've read who comes close to Homer is Tolkien with his Silmarillion.
But I think Ashton's ambition with Paternus might catapult him into a very close orbit to these two creative geniuses (genii? - just kidding). He's definitely done his research and has tried to give an explanation for all the commonground in the ancient mythologies and urban legends of our time in one fell swoop. And not only does it work; on top of that, it's extremly entertaining to read. Damn his eyes!
So do yourself a favor and get this book. (The cover is about to be upgraded to awesome, but here's the old one...)
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