After whittling our initial 30-book allotment down to three, my SPSFC team has received six more semifinalists from other judging teams. Our scores of these six new books, along with our original three semifinalists, will combine with with 81 other scores (nine each from nine teams) to determine the SPSFC finalists.
Each of the six books we’re reviewing this round comes with a recommendation from another blogger judging this competition, and almost all of them come with multiple strong recommendations from members of their first-round judging team. So keep in mind when you read our reviews that they are only our own thoughts, and they do not exist in a vacuum.
Finally, before I move to the scores themselves, I want to offer some candid comments about this competition so far. My teammates have been wonderful to work with, but it sometimes seems as though there’s an unwritten rule that we cannot be permitted to agree on anything. Of the sixteen books we’ve read to completion across the quarterfinals and semifinals, fourteen of them have received a low score or a DNF from at least one team member–even though almost all of those fourteen have earned hearty recommendations from another teammate. As a result, our mean scores have fallen significantly short of our median scores. Now it would be unfair to books we’ve previously judged to change our scoring system in the middle of the competition (though there will be plenty to reevaluate for next year), so the official scores stand. But I want to highlight that one or two readers not meshing with a particular writing style or subgenre can really harm a score, and that does not mean the book is not worth reading. So while the score matters for the competition, it’s the reviews that should be your guide as you determine whether or not a particular book may be worth a look. Because one reader’s hard stop may be another reader’s favorite element.
Today, we look at a cinematic thriller with dragons and plenty of romance, Kyoko M.’s Of Cinder and Bone, which came through the first round with heavy recommendations from Red Star Reviews and their teammates.
Jay’s Review and Rating
Of Cinder and Bone may turn off hard sci-fi readers or those who dislike plots heavy on either action or romance—and as one of those three three, I won’t be scoring it as high as its first round team did—but for a reader who wants to relax and have fun with their sci-fi, and who enjoy quips and gunfights and romance and turning everything to eleven, this one could hit big.
Jay has rated Of Cinder and Bone 6/10. For more detail, see his full review.
Esme’s Review and Rating
Romance and I have a love-hate relationship. When a romance lands well with me, it can end up on my favorites list… but if it doesn’t, I almost always DNF. This felt more like a romance with a sci-fi/fantasy backstory. Which is fine, I was excited about this since it had dragons and it was labeled sci-fi. I was down for it. For the portion of the book that I read, the page time was predominantly centered on a relationship that I wasn’t engaged in, and so it started to become a struggle. I found myself able to predict a lot of the dialogue, plot points, and relationship developments which made it difficult to keep my interest. Once we got to the part that I really wanted to see, which was the cloning, the dragons, and what have you — unfortunately, there were a lot of info-dumps, which isn’t my style of world-building. I prefer a more nuanced and subtle build-up over a history lesson. I had originally set this down with the intent to go back if there was a lot of interest from the team, but I left it at a DNF.
Esme has rated Of Cinder and Bone as a DNF (48%).
Lilyn’s Review and Rating
The interactions between the characters is one of the areas where Of Cinder and Bone truly shines. All of the characters care for each other, but there’s no real sense of rivalry even when it becomes clear feelings are involved. The author also does a fantastic job dealing with the representation of difficult familial relationships, including abuse. Overall, Of Cinder and Bone is an entertaining read with fantastic characters that is well worth checking out.
Lilyn has rated Of Cinder and Bone 8/10. For more detail, see their full review.
Bill’s Review and Rating
Of Cinder and Bone has an interesting premise involving essentially modern-day people resurrecting real historical dragons a la Jurassic Park. But some books just do not hook a reader and that was the case here. I found some of the historical/scientific context under-explained or difficult to follow, and not enough engagement with the characters. This was a DNF for me so take those criticisms with a grain of salt.
Bill has rated Of Cinder and Bone as a DNF.
Tracy’s Review and Rating
The characters are what made this book. I did have some issues, and those are reflected well by my teammates here, but overall, the romance and my investment in the characters won me over. I agree about the info dumps and that’s probably what kept me from scoring this higher. Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable read that would be a great vacation book.
Tracy has rated Of Cinder and Bone 6/10.