Everyone is different and likes and dislikes different things. Reading is no exception. One person’s all-time favorite might seem too bland or too high stakes for another. That being said, the opinions of our judges in this contest are just that, opinions. Just because we let a book go, doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It could be your next favorite, who knows?
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can learn more about the contest here.
Today we are reviewing The Umbral Storm, which was Fantasy Book Critic‘s pick for this year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. You can read their review here. And you can see the finalist spreadsheet here.
A thousand years ago the Heart of the World was shattered, its fragments scattered across the lands.
In the chaos that followed, martial orders arose to gather the shards, for it was found that great powers were granted when these pieces were bonded to the flesh of the chosen. These are the Sharded Few, warriors imbued with the divine energies that once coursed through the Heart, driven to absorb enough fragments to claim godhood.
Deryn has known nothing in his life except suffering. Orphaned at the edge of the realms, indentured to a cruel slaver, he has little hope of escaping his circumstances.
But elsewhere, ancient powers are stirring, new alliances threaten the peace of the old order, and against all odds, Deryn will find himself a player in a game unlike anything he could have imagined.
With The Umbral Storm, we have our second impressive worldbuilding book of the year. I’m going to quote some of the judges directly here as they explained it perfectly:
“I find it hard to visualise images in my head when I read, but on occasion a writer’s prose breaks through that block and in The Umbral Storm, Hutson has done that. I could envision the giant crabs in trees, the hunters clinging in a forest of humidity, the wild grasslands accessible only by invisible snakes of wind, a mountain of dark shadow. Then there were the stories of distant lands, lands that were sand, mountains of ice, or covered in volcanic flames.” – Kerry
“Now this author knows how to worldbuild and give it to you bit by bit. A world of gods and magic in decline, but with nowhere to go. Tremendous trees reaching into the clouds. Killer tyrants, government oppression, and death never far away.” – Max
We also loved the magic system. How the Shards not only gave people power, but also created social and political structures in a way that made perfect sense for the world. The only weak point for our judges was the characters. And again, as with The Thirteenth Hour, the characters weren’t bad, they just didn’t quite measure up to the rest of the story. Some felt a bit flat or stereotypical, but not nearly enough to stop us reading.
And if this story sounds like your type of epic, then we hope you will give it a read. Our judges are all looking forward to book two!
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And again, you can see the list of all the finalists and their scores here. Our judges are Julia Kitvaria Sarene, Kerry Smith, Max Freeman, and Jennie Ivins (me). If you’d like to learn more about us, including our likes and dislikes, you can read about them here.