SPSFC Quarterfinalist Review: Things They Buried by Amanda K. King and Michael R. Swanson

My judging team in the second annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC2) has sampled all 28 books in our first round allotment and narrowed them down to eight quarterfinalists for the entire team to read in full. Our next step is to score those eight quarterfinalists and select three semifinalists to send to two other judging teams for further reading and one more round of cuts before the finals begin in May.

As you read our quarterfinal reviews, keep in mind that all of us have our own idiosyncratic tastes, and a book hitting for one of us doesn’t mean it will hit for all of us. On the other hand, a book missing for one of us doesn’t mean it’s not well worth reading, and every entry that’s made it this far has earned at least one of our recommendations.

Today we’ll be discussing a Things They Buried by Amanda K. King and Michael R. Swanson, a genre-blending, secondary world tale of excavating the psychological and physical horrors left behind by the demise of the land’s greatest inventor.

Jay’s Review and Rating

It’s good work. It ran a bit long for my tastes, and I didn’t like the sequel hook, but the main story was engaging throughout, and the side characters were unexpectedly excellent. And for those who enjoy monster encounters more than I do, Things They Buried could be a real favorite.

Jay has rated Things They Buried 7/10. For more detail, check out his full review.

Josh’s Review and Rating

The book has elements of dark fantasy and horror, with a bunch of jump scares in the second act, and follows two major protagonists and two side protagonists…except I really didn’t like the two major protagonists thanks to them acting like assholes for large segments of the book (they do get a little better near the end). Things aren’t helped by the story’s attempt at dealing with protagonists struggling with trauma and abuse feeling more like trauma porn than an actual attempt at showing the struggles of trauma and recovery therefrom, or by a lot of really minor elements that bugged me, chief of which was a fantasy world obsessed with various species having specific mental traits with little flexibility – a rather bad trope. All in all, this one is not one I can recommend to others.

Josh has rated Things They Buried 4.5/10. For more detail, check out his full review.

Matt’s Review and Rating

Things They Buried is relentless—in its world building, its strangeness and its traumatic themes. An uncanny valley between the book’s non-human characters and very human ordeals may be the only spoonful of sugar to take this bitter medicine. And the grip this horrifying and fantastical world of Dockhaven holds on the reader is a testament to King’s and Swanson’s writing. You won’t find much rooting interest here, save for Schmalch, but you will keep turning the pages.

Matt has rated Things They Buried 6.5/10.

Sarah’s Review and Rating

While Things They Buried might not be my cup of tea, there were still aspects I enjoyed and could see this series working for fans of dungeon fantasy horror who don’t mind unlikeable MCs and darker themes.

Sarah has rated Things They Buried 6/10. For more detail, check out her full review.

Official Scores

Jay 7
Josh 4.5
Matt 6.5
Sarah 6
Team 6

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