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Some Lesser-Known Features of GoodReads, a Great Book ...

I AM HERE TO HELP BREAK YOUR CAREFULLY-CONSTRUCTED TBRS! 
Whether you read your science-fiction and fantasy books for the compelling and relatable themes, the sense of community and fandom, the exhilarating action or romance, the immersive worldbuilding and escapism, the technology, the magic systems, or something else, science-fiction and fantasy books continue to allure countless readers.
 
And when it comes to the 21st century, specifically independently-published science-fiction and fantasy books have never been more sought-after, for all of the reasons above, and a myriad of others.
 
Let’s be clear, for most fantasy readers, including me, ALL science-fiction and fantasy is awesome, irrespective of how it is published. 
 
Still, Indie science-fiction and fantasy authors appear to continue to push conventional boundaries where traditionally published science-fiction and fantasy sometimes dares not tread. This might be the primary reason that the otherworldly creations of Indie science-fiction and fantasy (SFF) authors are escalating exponentially in popularity.  
 
So, here I am, declaring my undying love for Indie SFF! This has inspired me to create a list of the 50 Indie SFF books I love, can’t stop thinking about, and that I feel everyone should give a chance, and read them.
 
Of course, what I subjectively feel is amazing SFF, may not be what you think is amazing SFF. Still, I feel if you at least consider adding these 50 books to your TBR, if you get to them one day, you won’t regret it.
 
I’ve read, by my count, well over 300 Indie fantasy books, and most of them I have found to be wonderful. It was hard to carve out the top quarter of those. And even after that, I refuse to rank them. They are all too good, and frankly I hate ranking books, though I feel compelled to sometimes. This is not one of those times. I’d like you to know all of these 50 are glorious, without focusing on which I believe is the best. They are ALL fabulous. 
 
Some of these books have hundreds, or close to a thousand reviews. Some have less than ten. Some are novellas, some are thousand-plus page chonkers. Some are really fast-paced, some are languorous. Irrespective of any of this, I found them all to be marvellous. They are simply great books, while of course they are all very different. 
 
My criteria in making this list:
 
1. Only 1 book per author. If it was an author who I had read multiple books, I picked either the book I felt they were most known for, or the one that resonated with me the most. Of course, in some instances, that is one in the same thing, but in others it was not.
 
2. Only Indies made the list. To the best of my knowledge, these are not published traditionally, either by small press or bigger ones.
 
3. Only science-fiction or fantasy. That is based on my personal definition, based on what I can glean, in terms of how the author themselves categorizes their own work.
 
4. Only books that were either five-star reads for me or so good (and so close to five-star) that the rating was irrelevant in the final analysis. 
 
5. The only way the books are ranked is alphabetically!
 
With each entry, I will provide a blurb about why they are incredible and / or why I think you should read them!
 
A Troll Walks into A Bar by Douglas Lumsden
Hard-boiled, cynical, couch-surfing private eye Alex Southerland is just chilling, when a troll enters the drinking hole Southerland is cozied up in. Rather than approaching Southerland with a case he’d like handled, the 500-pound monster warns Southerland NOT to take on specific cases, should they arise. Witty, irreverent, action-packed noir crime urban fantasy. Murder and mayhem are going down in Yerba City, and you will want to be there for it all. Filled with dark humour, magic, and audacity, this fast-paced, stabby, sweary, who-done-it type fare is fabulous!
A Quiet Vengeance by Tim Hardie
Be whisked off to the Middle-Eastern and African inspired portion of Hardie’s universe, established in his bestselling & award-winning “Brotherhood of the Eagle” series. The author had me completely spellbound by the way he intertwines a coming-of-age tale, with a tense military and political fantasy, and a compelling human drama that would appeal to any reader. This is the definition of a book I absolutely cannot stop thinking about, and I think once you read it, you will see what I’m raving about. This SPFBO-finalist author is a wonderful writer.
Bonds of Chaos by Zack Argyle
Multiple award-winning fantasy author (i.e. SPFBO/BBYNA Finalist, and winner at Indies Today Best Fantasy) Zack Argyle has become a well-recognized name in Indie fantasy circles.; maybe one of the best known. This book is the conclusion to his heralded “Threadlight” trilogy, which I believe will go down as one of the most popular, accessible, and well-respected Indie SFF series of all-time. I found this book to be the best of the three in the series.  Those who like the themes of parenting, marriage, family, and found family, are going to lap this one up.
Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero
Bring on the airships, dragons, and wonderfully flawed and morally ambiguous characters that I adore! This well-known book truly delivers a fabulous reading experience. Finalist in SPFBO7, “Burn Red Skies” by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero, is a brilliant debut novel that will surely garner its author a lot of attention as a fantasy writer to watch, as her career emerges. Plenty of action, intrigue, extremely lush and even astonishing world-building, great characters, dazzling magic – and of course dragons, abound. Stop reading here, and just go get it.
Children by Bjørn Larssen 
If you love exceptionally-researched fantasy based on Norse Mythology, witty black humour, and a book that will absolutely rip your heart out, feed it to you, and make you love the taste, read this book. For, first and foremost, this book is about trauma, callousness, abandonment, and loss. Those parts of the book will cause the reader to grimace, weep, but ultimately be entirely satisfied with the read. Sublime, and Larssen is an astounding author, one to watch as he ascends to glory in the ranks of those who pen fantasy. Highly recommended. But not for the faint-of-heart. 
Dark Oak by Jacob Sannox
Love the concept here. What happens when the “big baddie” dark lord who haunts so many fantasy books has been vanquished, and then the alliance of humans who have done the vanquishing falls apart? Jockeying for power, intrigue, back-stabbing, hubris, naked ambition, tragedy, utter selfishness, and descent into madness plague mortal realms torn apart by internal conflict, in the aftermath of the dark lord’s defeat. Sannox has back-to-back SPFBO semi-final berths in his trophy case for a reason, and Dark Oak is a grimdark masterpiece.
Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer
There are likely very few of you out there who have not heard of “Dragon Mage”, if you like to read Indie fantasy. Fair to say it’s one of the most hyped Indie fantasy books to come along in recent memory. Seldom have I picked up a book that is so weighty in expectations, to match its considerable page-count. It lived up to billing. It’s a tome, but it reads like a 200-page novella. It was completely engrossing, beautifully written, and hit me in all the feels. The best compliment I can give? “Dragon Mage” is why I read, and love, epic fantasy. 
Elder Epoch by Zamil Akhtar
A eldritch cloud of blood, monstrous cosmic horrors, the eerie trans-temporal movement of 70,000 troops, whisked forward seven centuries into the future, and a plague involving red tulips would provide enough insane action in any novel for most fantasy writers. Author Zamil Akhtar seems to smirk and say, “Not enough”. Instead, Akhtar ups the ante, adding unmitigated ambition and political intrigue, thrilling, absolutely brutal battles, religious zealotry, jins, devs, in the third installment of the “Gunmetal Gods” series entitled “Elder Epoch”. Incredible book and series. 
Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord
I could not leave it alone. I had an addiction to this book, which has happened to me with only a few books in my lifetime. If I didn’t completely love the book, I would be criticizing the length. I have been honest in the past in that I prefer a 400-500 page book for fantasy. But if I can love 1000 plus pages from George R.R. Martin, I can love two-thirds of that from a writer as immensely talented as Angela Boord. Read it for the steamy slow-burn romance, read it for the impeccable worldbuilding, read it for the impressive characterization, but please, just go read it. 
Godless Lands by Sean Crow
Unique, terrifying, a destabilized medieval-inspired world which has fallen victim to the “Blight”. The ruling monarch and family have perished. Food is extremely scarce. Most cities have become walled fortresses, hoarding the remnants of edible food for its denizens. Zombie-like rabid former humans caused by the Blight, known as Withers, ravage the lawless open countryside – the Godless Lands – consuming human flesh. A fabulously dark novel about what happens when a society degenerates into near depravity, and who will emerge as heroes.
Goldsong by Beth Hudson
Hudson has woven an inventive and distinct universe full of unique kingdoms, diverse peoples, deep and ancient magic, gods, demons, prophecy, magical instruments and weapons, and all the elements a reader would ever want in any fantasy novel. Atmospheric, lush, with compelling characters of all levels of importance to the plot, there is tension and suspense throughout the novel, and a palpable sense of impending doom that will keep the reader page-turning to the end. Likely you have never heard of or read Goldsong before – more’s the pity. Now you have!
Goodbye to The Sun by Jonathan Nevair
Nevair’s novel takes us to the Sagittarius Arm, a galactic system where trouble lurks, with the avarice and cruelty of the dominant powers, who have monopolized resources, and essentially subjugated other factions. But the fever of rebellion is stirring. Inspired by the play “Antigone” (written by famous Greek tragedian Sophocles) this book is engaging, exciting, intellectual, superlatively written. An inventive space opera that will linger in the reader’s mind long after the last page is turned. This is an Indie sci-fi book that needs to be read.
Heliotrope by Palmer Pickering 
Extremely in-depth and comprehensive characterization is this novel’s calling-card. A book with a true classic, “old-school” sword and sorcery tale feel, where we really get into the cuisine during the typical stop at the inn, learn what really makes the characters happy, and find talking animal friends who will never leave our side, no matter how tough the world gets. The funny parts will truly make you laugh, the sad parts make you tear up. It’s the book that just gives me that cozy feeling of an old friend coming to call. Loved it. 
Illborn by Daniel T. Jackson
One of the most hyped self-published fantasy books published recently, set in a medieval-style world, with the bulk of the action taking place in the lands lying east of the holy land of a Christ-Like figure. Four youthful protagonists have never met one another. Nevertheless, they are bound by a common, haunting dream that will set them off on a path towards an uncertain, yet seemingly inescapable destiny. A marvellous tale of desire, loss, forbidden powers, beatific visions, rife with political and religious intrigue, and thrilling action.  
In the Shadow of Ruin by Tony Debajo
An SPFBO semi-finalist, one of those incredible books you still might never have heard of. A simply outstanding novel, filled with political intrigue, tribal warfare with harrowing battle scenes, mysticism and lore in the form of African mythology, impressive, atmospheric settings in ancient Nigeria, love, betrayal, and vengeance. If you like your battle scenes explosive, your outcomes unpredictable, well-drawn characters, delightful prose, African lore sprinkled with a hint of the black arts as the magic system, then look no further! 
Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar
It has elements of police procedural, mystery, grimdark, gaslamp, military, steampunk, romance, social commentary, and so much more. Matar hits hard with themes of torture, child mutilation, abuse, addiction, and repression. There is an ultimate sense of hope, and optimism, but there will be pain to get there. Part of it brought out feelings of anguish I was unprepared for. Still, the journey was definitely worth it. One of the top Indie fantasy books written anywhere, to-date, and should be mentioned up there with the likes of “Sword of Kaigen” for that “it” factor.
Obsidian: Awakening by Sienna Frost
A covetous empire seeks to subjugate wandering desert clans, and a group of morally ambiguous characters will have a role to play in the bloody outcome. I loved the amoral, scheming politics, reminiscent of my favourite fantasy series such as “A Song of Ice and Fire”. The rival tribes, the fight for supremacy (if not existence), the many nobles always seeking a way to best each other, the spying, subterfuge, and betrayals. Vivid, Middle-Eastern inspired worldbuilding, full of sand-blasted deserts, elegant cities, plus incredible prose, this novel is a feast for the senses. 
Oraiáphon by Marian L. Thorpe
Gateway novella into this highly decorated historical fantasy author’s work. Thought-provoking themes, detailed world-building, crisp and fluid dialogue, and stimulating political drama, woven seamlessly, into a slow-burn book. I have yet to read more from her, but what I have read thus far will definitely have me investing in the entire main series one day, and likely doing a binge read. This author has some real writing chops, and is someone who I believe will go down one day in the annals of one the most accomplished Indie writers of her generation.
Pulse#1 by B.A. Bellec
B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree, Wishing Shelf Adult Fiction Finalist, Literary Titan Seal, Reader Views Seal, Readers’ Favorite Seal. “Pulse” has key elements that mark every great horror book that I have ever read: 1)characters who could die any moment, regardless of their seeming importance to the plot 2)the element of utter and complete surprise when something horrible happens 3)immensely terrifying menaces. A novel about unchecked corporate greed, dirty politics, mayhem, and murder. One of the best Indie sci-fi  / horror books out there.
Quicksilver and Brimstone by Elizabeth Eckstein
I will always be grateful to the author of this book for giving me something back that has been lost for some five decades: my childhood. As a child, I was enthralled with the likes of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” “Peter Pan,” and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” That was a time when I was captivated by true literary classics for children; a simple time, when books were for pure enjoyment, and I still believed that perhaps animals could talk, and children could fly. This marvellous novel brought me back to that time, and it was delightful!
Rebirth: Divinity’s Twilight by Christopher Russell
“Cosmere” fans will delight in this debut novel where innovation collides with tradition, in author Christopher Russell’s fabulous classic fantasy / steampunk / sci-fi mash up. The worldbuilding is stupendous. There is an exceptional beauty, grace and eloquence to the  prose. Russell does not write like a debut novelist, rather like a polished veteran of many books. He writes with the accessibility of a Sanderson, yet also with the more elevated prose I yearn for from Sanderson, but am left wanting. This is a young writer who is surely on the rise.
Reign & Ruin by J.D. Evans
J.D. Evans is a very popular author. Her primary “Mages of the Wheel” series is what she’s best known for. Book One, “Reign and Ruin” won an SPFBO Championship in the face of some incredibly stiff competition, and now having read it, I can see why many bloggers found it to be a deserving victor. It was an excellent book, and I am all in for continuing with the future installments in “Mages of the Wheel” to see what happens next with the kingdoms of Tamar and Sakrum. One of the best mature fantasy romances I’ve read.
Return to Edan by Philip Chase
I officially dub 2023 “The Year of Edan”, as Chase introduced the world to his epic “Edan Trilogy”, publishing all three books in the series in one year. Chase has brought the trilogy to its end in staggering, extremely poignant, and absolutely gripping fashion with “Return to Edan”. The “Edan Trilogy” is now officially ranked near the very top of all my favourite Indie SFF series of all time, largely thanks to how exceptionally Chase has concluded his trilogy. Get the tissue box ready for this one, though. It will break your heart. 
River of Thieves by Clayton W. Snyder
Snyder is one of the most decorated grimdark authors out there. He’s a three-time SPFBO Semifinalist, two-time SPFBO Finalist, a WSFA (World’s Small Press) & 2-time Stabby Nominee, a Booknest Longlist & Grimmy Award Winner. Still, even knowing what an illustrious writer Synder was, and having previously read some of his work, I was caught wholly unprepared for what I read in “River of Thieves”. It was mind-boggling. Crude, rude, funny as hell, gory, bizarre, ultimately brilliant. If you have not read Snyder yet you are missing out.
Sairō’s Claw by Virginia McLain
Author of eight novels, and several short stories, Virginia McClain is a seasoned novelist, with a great track record. Her novel “Blade’s Edge”, “Gensokai” Book One, was a SPFBO Finalist in 2019. “Sairō’s Claw” is very well-written, inventive, briskly-paced, full of mysticism, absolutely beautifully crafted fight scenes, intrigue, love, loyalty, Japanese-inspired worldbuilding, and conflicting motivations.This is an incredible book by a seasoned author who really knows what she’s doing when it comes to writing. 
Seraphina’s Lament by Sarah Chorn
The book has a relentless plot, with lots of twists, and that feeling of dread hanging over the pages that pushes you to read just one more chapter, because you NEED to see what is coming next, while you are SCARED to see what is coming next. Yet somehow, it’s also a slow-burn read, that you want to soak up every beautiful word, the lovely, evocative writing. “Seraphina’s Lament” is a grimdark tour de force. This is an extraordinary, incredibly well-written, extremely brutal and haunting book, inspired by true historical events, and one you NEED to read. 
Servant of the Lesser Good by Shaun Paul Stevens
The book is set in an 18th century / Enlightenment Period-inspired type world, where all of the absolute worst traits of wealth and influential aristocracy are on display. The nobility in the book are depicted as spoiled, vain, callous, selfish and completely self-absorbed, cruel, willful, and completely oblivious to the plight and concerns of those of lower social status. Stevens vividly paints a gritty, violent, uncharitable world, where money and social status mean everything, and the so-called well-bred are the worst behaved. An exceptional read.
Shadows of Ivory by T.L. Greylock
In the backdrop of a Renaissance-Italy inspired world, the women of two opposing noble houses employ archaeology to find powerful, dangerous artifacts. One woman is a formidable magic user. The other relies on political connections and influence to achieve her ends. High stakes adventure ensues, ancient secrets are revealed, and both women discover their quest may be much more than they initially bargained for. “Shadows of Ivory” is no doubt deserving of the accolades and hype that came with reaching the finals of SPFBO7!
Spindrifts by A-M Mahwiney
An uplifting and beautiful sci-fi novel, exploring how the jarring lessons of catastrophes such as worldwide pandemics and the prospect of utter devastation brought on by such human-made calamities, can potentially forge a more optimistic tomorrow. This is a book where the conflict and antagonist is ourselves as humanity, and the havoc we can wreak on our planet, though we possess the enormous potential for greatness and saving ourselves in the same breath. A book we need right now, more than ever, in the face of what we are grappling with as a human race. 
Tangle of Choices by Eve Koguce
This is Book 2 in the dystopian fantasy-romance series by phenomenal author, Eve Koguce. “Neglected Merge”, Book 1, is one of my all- time favourite reads Indie reads ever.  It has also picked up impressive hardware: Silver Medal, 2021 Global Book Awards; Finalist 2021 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest; Honorable Mention 2021 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards. In Book 2, Koguce continues creating highly believable and fascinating characters, and crafting compelling stories full of emotion and heart, in an elegant, unique style I adore.
The Battle That Was Lost by Micheal S. Jackson
It’s a real testament to the writing skills of the author that I was completely enthralled by all fifty-seven pages of this novella, prequel to his “Ringlander” series. Of course, with a novella such as this, it’s all about the quick tension built up just prior to the actual fighting, the battle sequences themselves, and what the author does with those quiet moments of pause between the action. The fight scenes were quick, brutal, and bloody, the way it should be, with poignant moments illustrating the horror of battle, balanced alongside the glory of victory, and the agony of defeat.
The Bindings of Woe by Connor A. Jackson
Sometimes a young, debut author comes along and wows you with their initial novel. Such is the case with Connor Jackson, and his first installment in “The Chain of Worlds” series, entitled “The Bindings of Woe”! This one REALLY impressed me! In the vein of “full of tropes”, but it’s tropes done really well, with some really inventive turns that take it away from the tried and true frequently-used plot devices that can be found in so many fantasy novels. I’d classify “The Bindings of Woe” as true classic fantasy, with a huge splash of darkness. 
The Blood of the Spear by Mark Timmony
A book that favourably reminds me of entries from Robert Jordan’s esteemed “Wheel of Time” series. With an intriguing assembly of characters, fantastic action, a fast-moving plot, and immersive worldbuilding, this first installment of a series had loads of upside to become a VERY popular saga in years to come.  While it is clear Timmony has drawn inspiration from Jordan, his work is no imitation. Yet, the fact I mention the two authors together tells you how highly I think of Timmony’s potential as a writer.
The Blood Stones by Tori Tecken
The first book I read by Tecken, “Phased” showed me she could write a book that wasn’t supposed to be “my thing”, but was a delightful surprise that I ended up truly enjoying it! Now, with “The Blood Stones”, she has written a book that I fully expected would be right up my alley, and once more she exceeded my expectations and then some. Few Indie writers I have read tackle issues surrounding mental health struggles, particularly those surrounding identity, as well as Tecken. This book is going to get a lot of buzz in the coming years, because it’s fabulous.
The Fall by Ryan Cahill
Bestselling, Stabby-award winning, highly lauded writer Ryan Cahill sold more than 40,000 books in slightly more than a year, after becoming an author. After reading “The Fall”, I can clearly see why Cahill’s popularity has ascended so swiftly. A feverishly paced novel, full of devastating battle, magic, betrayal, rousing courage, and death. It introduces the reader to some of the backstory, politics, factions, magic, and world that one can hope to read in Cahill’s main series. You’ll blow through this read, with your appetite aroused to read the rest of Cahill’s work. 
The Iron Crown by L.L. MacRae
“The Iron Crown”, published in 2021, is the second book (proper) in “Dragon Spirits”. It has really taken off in the fantasy world, and was a Finalist in SPFBO#7. One can bet that any book making the SPFBO finals is a special book. This holds true for “The Iron Crown”. MacRae definitely triumphs. There are the tropes of found family, an apocalyptic threat that needs to be faced, reluctant heroes, and of course, DRAGONS! What’s not to love?  “The Iron Crown” was a delightful book, and no doubt meritorious of its finalist berth in SPFBO. 
The Long Nights by Tom Mock
A visceral, heartfelt vampire tale, centred around a talented yet flawed and conflicted protagonist, who is surrounded by malevolence, death, and personal struggles. While coping with a dependence on pills and hard booze, the mental toll of his gifts, and the recent breakup with his girlfriend, our hero must find a way to retain his sanity, and stay alive, as he tracks a killer into not only the dark heart of Cartage City, but of his own mind. Criminally under-reviewed on Goodreads, for a 2021 Indies Today Awards: Runner-up in Horror and SPFBO8 semi-finalist! 
The Mirror’s Truth by Michael R. Fletcher
The Mirror’s Truth is the sequel to “Beyond Redemption”, and it is even better than its predecessor.  Yes, there is nihilism, and yes, this book is bloody dark beyond belief! But the book does not wholly abnegate all sense of humanity. There is a tenderness and warmth to some of the interactions between the characters in some of the quiet moments (in the midst of utter chaos) that will really strike a chord, and indicates that perhaps the author indeed believes there is some hope of redemption for characters deemed otherwise not worth saving.  
The Moon’s Eye by A.J. Calvin
I found this book to be wonderful, a real hidden gem that deserves a lot more attention, in my estimation. Fantasy fans who like the (enjoyable) trope of capricious gods callously manipulating hapless mortals for the gods’ own (often nefarious or at the least selfish) purposes, you are going to love this book. Wonder in the Scorpion Men, half-scorpion, half-humanoid creatures, holed up in the vicinity of the Wasted Land, behind the fastness of The Stronghold, their formidable domains. If you’re looking for an under-the-radar book, don’t sleep on this one!
The Sequence by Lucien Telford
HUGO Astounding Award Nominee Best New Writer 2022; CIBA Global Thriller Award FIRST in Category 2022; IPPY Silver Medalist Suspense/Thrillers 2023; CYGNUS Award Longlist 2022. With all the accolades, and how much I personally loved this book, I fully anticipate Lucien Telford to soon begin gracing the lists of best up-and-coming sci-fi writers, after having the pleasure of reading his novel. A gripping, flawlessly-paced, diverting, beautifully written action sci-fi thriller. I predict Telford is in for his share of writing awards in the future.  
The Severing Son by Vaughn Roycroft
Move over Visigoths, Vandals, Franks, Angles, Saxons, and Lombards. Make way for the Amalus, Wulthus, Skolani, Carpans, and Spali. If you were looking to assuage your John Gwynne fix, waiting patiently for the next installment in the “Bloodsworn Saga”, you may want to peruse the back cover blurb of “The Severing Son”, by Vaughn Roycroft. Roycroft shows a ton of promise. Epic and historical fantasy fans will delight in this book – it ticks all the boxes. A dynamic, fast-paced, thrilling entry into the Indie fantasy scene, reminiscent of Gwynne’s mastery.
The Skin by J.E. Hannaford
Threats to biodiversity, fading magic, greedy humans hunting fabled creatures for their own gain, part fantasy, part sci-fi, “The Skin” is one of the most fascinating, unique, and marvellous Indie SFF books I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far. I also need to mention the cover of “The Skin” (and for that matter, the second book in “Black Hind’s Wake”, entitled “The Pact”). In my opinion, the cover of “The Skin” is simply the best fantasy cover I’ve ever seen.  This book is the complete package, and I absolutely loved it! 
The Thirteenth Hour by Trudie Skies
The setting is the city of Chime, one of the most unique settings you are ever going to find in fantasy. In this epicentre, differing cultures converge, 12 human races inhabit the city, and each of those 12 races revere their own individual god. Chime is considered a free-city, and – ironically – safe zone from the 12 gods themselves, who are essentially barred from Chime. But the reader will soon discover the so-called free citizens of Chime are not free at all. A book to savour, especially with the exceptional characters, and that sumptuous, scrumptious worldbuilding. 
The Way of Unity by Sarah K. Balstrup
In a clash of church and state, the ruling elites of the Seven Lands – known as Skalen – tire of the pervasive influence of the Intercessors.  This dark, traumatic, intriguing, hypnotic, and poignant book, set in a harsh world, is truly a unique and bold work, that does not feel derivative of anything else I’ve read recently. The best single word I can use to describe this book is “different” and I mean that as high praise. This book really needs to get far more attention than it currently has, and hopefully the recent semi-final berth in SPFBO9 will assist with that.
The Hidden King by E.G. Radcliff
There is a thread of distinct darkness that runs through a pattern of hope and overall optimism in the novel. There is violence, pain, and torture, and be warned, some scenes are difficult to read, and the tragedies that occur may bring you to outright weeping. But only such a lovely, poignant, and extremely written novel can evoke such strong emotions from the reader, and Radcliff possesses the sort of skill to have you reaching for the tissue box. There is also a strong presence of elemental magic, with the Fae, and lurking, shadowy presences that one will be unsure of. 
The Written by Ben Galley
Ben Galley needs no introduction. Arguably, only a handful of other self-published fantasy authors have the combination of name-recognition among readers, influence in the Indie fantasy scene, and acclaim that Galley enjoys. Galley’s books have racked up awards such us Booknest Fantasy Awards, Library Journal Book of the Year, and numerous Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) semi-final and finals placements. “The Written” is an invigorating, very well-written, character-driven fantasy, and checks all the boxes in terms of being epic in scope, filled with magic, creatures, heroes, sword fights, betrayals, murder, and intrigue. 
Trials of Fire and Rebirth by Edith Pawlicki
One of the most poignant books I have read, “Trials of Fire and Re-Birth” is a beautiful, enrapturing Asian-inspired fantasy novel about love, loss, gods, faith, reincarnation, body dysphoria, gender, and ultimately, hope. I was truly moved by this book, and so happy I read it! The wonderful love story, great worldbuilding, engrossing themes, and tales within tales was just my jam. A relatively short book that packs a huge wallop, easily five stars for “Trials of Fire and Re-Birth”.
We Break Immortals by Thomas Howard Riley
A book with a lot of buzz in the writing circles I travel in. A masterpiece of worldbuilding, and a true tome, at nominally double the size of most epic fantasy books, which already lean towards the voluminous. I had also heard that it read fast, despite its girth (it does). I just had to see for myself what the hype was about, so onto the TBR it went. I was not disappointed at all by this first installment into the “Advent Lumina Cycle.” Which boasts the most detailed, thorough, and most complete hard magic system I have EVER read in Indie fantasy. 
We Men of Ash and Shadow by H.L. Tinsley
There is a brooding, melancholy, and creepy vibe to the whole book, infused with poignant hope and optimism, redemption, and catharsis. Tinsley doesn’t pull any punches on how menacing and dreadful life is in D’Orsee, and trust me, you won’t want her to.  To call this novel a page-turner would not be giving it it’s due. Tinsley is assuredly destined for Grimdark royalty, and her protagonist Vanguard, I believe, will ultimately go down as one of Grimdark fiction’s great protagonists, right up there with Jorg Ancarth and Sand an Glokta. 
Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes
Lechery, scheming, tense battles, a giant centipede pet, and mayhem on the waters! A wonderful romp through a world of piracy and intrigue! This book is a monster in the self-published world, and won the entire SPFBO’s 3rd ever contest (2017), capturing the coveted Selfie Stick Award, and helping to propel Hayes to Indie fantasy notoriety. Hayes is a fantastic writer and truly a master of grimdark fantasy, and his reputation for excellence is cemented in this book. I am very happy to have finally read some of his work!
 

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