I've been thinking about starting this site for quite a while.
Whenever I hear of a book by a debut author that zooms to the top of the bestseller charts, I take notice. After all, as a writer, it is my job to try to determine what made that book so successful. Here is a short list of book that I might not have otherwise read, had they not been wildly successful debuts:
Of these, I enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) Harry Potter the best. J. K. Rowling is a master storyteller and I learned a lot from her.
Oftentimes, when I go to the bookstore, I go specifically to find a debut book. Green Rider by Kristen Britain is one such book. Rhapsody by Elizabeth Haydon is another.
Since I read so many debut novels, I decided to start Fantasy Debut. Fantasy Debut is where I will post my reviews of debut books by fantasy authors. I will read books that meet the following qualifications:
1) It must be published by a major publisher. No small press, no POD, no E-books. There are plenty of other blogs that review such books. Since debut books fly off the presses every month, I don't have time for anything more. I don't even have time to review every debut book that is released every month. I've whittled this down to a nice niche that should keep me busy without overwhelming me.
2) It must be a fantasy novel. By "fantasy", I mean that if I were to go to a bookstore, I would most likely find it in the fantasy/science fiction section, or in the fantasy Young Adult section.
I have several reasons for this requirement. The key reason is that the first book you read in a genre tends to be the most memorable. The first modern fantasy series I ever read (back in the 80s) was Dragonlance (actually a series), which I think tends to get a bad rap these days. I have never forgotten Dragonlance, and for a few years it was the standard by which I judged other books in the genre. I have never read, say, a paranormal romance. Therefore, I would not be a good reviewer of such books. I am willing to stretch this to include light SF, but no hard SF. (I do enjoy hard SF, but I have not read enough of it to be a good reviewer.)
3) It must be an author's first book by a major publisher. By this I mean that this is the book that could get the author into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. It's ok if the author has published other small press or POD books.
These will not be typical reviews. I will take full advantage of blogging technology. In other words, I will blog on your book as I read it. I will make every effort not to give too much of the plot away. I do not read quickly, so expect it to take me about a week to read your book. I will make every attempt to finish it. If I am unable to finish your book and I set it aside, I will attempt to articulate why. I am not a paid reviewer and I will not continue to read books that are a chore for me to read. However, I very rarely set books aside so I don't expect this to happen much.
I will not mock your book. In having your first book published, you have made a significant achievement and I admire you for it. But, I will be truthful in what worked for me, what didn't work for me, and what I wish you had thought of.
Books I tend to like:
- Historical fantasy. I am a big Stephen Lawhead fan.
- Futuristic fantasy. I like blends of SF and fantasy.
- Mythological fantasy, especially with historical mythology.
- Different fantasy. I like new ideas.
- High fantasy. However, I tend to judge these a bit more harshly than others, since there is so much of this out there. Thinly disguised elves will earn frowns from me. If you have an elf or fairy in your story, I prefer if you just come out and say so.
- Christian fantasy. Miracles are good.
- Dark fantasy, with several caveats (see below).
- Vampire stories. I'm not interested in protagonists that have to devour humans or human blood. "Psionic" vampires might interest me, however.
- Stories about ultra-powerful characters. I like reading about humans.
- Deal-with-the-devil stories. However, I wouldn't mind reading such a book when the main protagonist is trying to save someone who made a deal with the devil.
- Blood and gore horror. Horror should have a supernatural element and should scare the hell out of me, not gross me out.
- Christian bashing, either overt or subtle. I'm no fundamentalist, but I don't like to see my beliefs trashed, either.