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Review & Cut by John Mauro



“Never trust a man who feels the need to convince the world that he’s brave.”


Gangs of orphaned children provide flickers of light amidst the dark world of Candle Children, M.J. Baker’s bleak paranormal fantasy. The largest of these gangs, the Candle Children, is led by Beth Lansdown, a blind girl with a special connection to the spiritual world.

Candle Children has a distinct Dickensian air with its cast of destitute orphans and plenty of ghosts and spirits. What’s the difference?

“A ghost is the soul of someone from this world originally. A spirit comes from another world. Apart from that, the difference is a little blurred.”

The children know ancient songs that can help placate the spirits, keeping them at bay. However, the Emperor seeks to leverage the children’s influence over the paranormal to weaponize the spirits toward his own ends.

But the Emperor is also bigoted against the children, as most of them are Orcbloods. Although only about five percent of children are born tainted as Orcbloods, they are much more likely to be abandoned by their parents. Hence, the orphaned children in the street gangs have a disproportionally large number of Orcbloods in their ranks.

Oh, and there is also an encroaching Ice that kills people in their sleep and steals their souls. The Emperor believes that the Orcbloods are somehow responsible for the Ice, but the Candle Children actually help keep the Ice at bay through their use of holy candles. On top of this, the spirits may actually be manipulating the children and the Emperor toward their own goals.

Candle Children has a lot of intriguing ideas, but it is pulling in too many directions at once and never quite gels as coherently as I would like. Although this is a cut from SPFBO9, fans of dark fantasy may appreciate the originality of the worldbuilding in Candle Children and the eerie atmosphere conveyed by M.J. Baker.

If this sounds like your cup of tea in spite of John’s reservations, check out the author’s Goodreads, or hop over to Amazon


M.J.Baker was born at a young age and remained a child until he grew out of it. He became a professional recluse after he discovered going outside was not for him. In his spare time he likes to do stuff and things, but he hates that thing you also hate. He enjoys hiding behind humor and writing confusing author bibliographies.

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