Top 25 Best Indie Fantasy -- New List

btkong

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#1
After a long, long time, I've finally completed the new Top 25 Indie Fantasy list on the main site.

This one has taken me a few years and a lot of painful reading to complete. But I've been wanting to give a proper list dedicated to the self publishing movement as it's now a very strong force and some of the best books have come out of it.

The list not fully complete and I'm updating it / fixing up stuff. There are a lot of other books I still need to look at for an update soon.

Also not, there are a few authors who contribute to this board that I need to look at (I have not yet read their books -- particularly The Sane King by Matt Knott and the Immortal Treachery books by Allan Batcher) as I'd like to see how they stack up. The books by our very own authors here seem to be getting a lot of support and shout outs from our forum members, so I'm looking forward to seeing how they are with a read though.

I'll be reading Matt's book this month and when I find the time over the next few months, I'll take a look at Batcher's first book.

So you might just see them make an appearance an updated version of the Top 25 list once I read them.

Do look the list over and let me know if you guys have any suggestions as well or particular standouts for good self published / indie fantasy.

There are a vast amount of books out there and a Top 25 is very limiting, and of course, it's particularly hard to sort out the better self published fantasy books (you have to read a lot of pretty bad books before you find something decent in my experience) because there are so many of them, and there's a lot of pretty bad ones you have to wade through to find the best. There's also not a lot in the way of resources out there that point you to the best of the bunch -- at least as of now. I am hoping this list becomes such a tool.

But that's where the public can help out and point out some of the hidden gems in the indie fantasy sphere.


Other Indie Works to Check Out (I will be reading these)

Here are some other books I'm considering, once I read them. Some are from my own research and others from recommendations given by people on this thread. So check these books out too.


 
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TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
#2
Really great list @btkong !! I've picked up a few of the free and 99p ones that I liked the look of, and have added a load of the others to my ereaderiq list!
 

rudyjuly2

Journeyed there and back again
#7
I must say I really enjoyed the Firehurler trilogy (did not make this list). The first book was the best as the last 2 books get a little convoluted at times but the characters were interesting and the twinborn spin on things made this series stand out from other fantasy. It's more old school fantasy with magic and runes but I liked it. It's generally cheap as well although I can't recommend the spin off steampunk trilogy that followed. I didn't care for that at all and gave up in the middle of book two.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17408269-firehurler?from_search=true&search_version=service

And I would definitely recommend the Axe and the Throne although only one book is out so you may want to wait until the series gets closer to finish.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28591613-the-axe-and-the-throne?ac=1&from_search=1&from_nav=true
 

Ryan W. Mueller

Ran bridges next to Kaladin
#8
I noticed that James Islington's The Shadow of What Was Lost did not make the list. That was one of my favorite books I read last year. Not just self-published books. All books. I think it's especially good for anyone who misses The Wheel of Time. It strikes a lot of the same notes but doesn't feel like a copycat.

I've also really enjoyed the first book in Will Wight's Traveler's Gate trilogy, as well as Jacob Cooper's Circle of Reign and Davis Ashura's A Warrior's Path.
 

btkong

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#9
Good stuff. I'm making a point to regularly add indie fantasy to my readings to keep this list updated.

I will need your help though to point me in the right directions. There is no way in hell I can keep track of all the good indie fantasy if I had to do it myself. If you guys post your best recommendations, I'll add them to a list here and make a point to, when I have spare time, to read them and see where they stand.

Axe and the Throne -- the author has been advertising on the main site for a long time. In fact over a year. I've told him I'm going to finally review his first book and see how it stands for the indie fantasy list. So I'll let you know in a few weeks.

James Islington's The Shadow of What Was Lost -- I was considering adding this one. A lot of people were talking about it. But I didn't have time to look at it myself yet. It's on the list of indie books to read, so it very well might replace one of the other entries. I actually have the audiobook in preparation, so it's being considered, once I start and finish it.

Then we also have a few indie authors who post on this site. I am reading Matt's The Sane King and I'll fit in Alan's book when I can. As for others, it may be a while due to limited reading time. But I'll try where possible.

Keep in mind, this list is still being fixed up (I am going through the whole thing editing a bunch of typos and grammar issues as well). Fully expect to see 5-15 entries shift around with new entries. I really want to help keep tabs on whats going on in the indie world and this list is my best attempt at it. There not a lot out there that helps point people to some of the better indie works in the genre, at least not yet and not from any site I actually trust.
 
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Annomander Matt

Drinks Elfbark tea with FitzChivalry
#10
This is an awesome list! I've only purchased one ebook (not read yet) of the series on the list.

I have a question though as to what constitutes an indie release (I've only been reading fantasy for the last 4 years so don't judge my ignorance lol). For some reason I assumed any author that can get their book published in Hard cover/paperback had been picked up by a publisher, and that those that only release via eBook are indie. I own The Shadow of What Was Lost for instance (also not read yet) in a paperback and never even thought it was indie. Blood Song is heard was originally released indie, then got picked up by a publisher I think.

Anyway, just curious how you guys define it. And I can't wait to try some on the list!
 

btkong

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#11
The nice thing about Indie is that you could probably buy most of the books on the list for the price of a couple newly-released non-indie fantasy books.

There are 3 types that I'm aware (others may chime in and add more to fill any gaps -- I'm sure some of the actual authors here will know more about this than I):

traditional published (you land a contract with an established and reputable publisher. Usually one of The Big Six)
self published: no contract with a publisher. You release the book on your own and own all the IP. If it's in print, you pay to have those copies published OR with something like the kindle publishers program, you publish digital only and split to profits with the publisher -- in this case, Amazon
hybrid: a publisher publishes your book (so it can be ordered in print and it may be in book stores) but the book is also published digitally at the same time. You may (or may not, depending) own the digital rights as in self-published.

A lot of the original big hit indie fantasy like Anthony Ryan are now traditionally published. I'm not sure, but maybe the authors managed to retain more control of their IP because they were already big hits before getting picked up.

Other authors like Sullivan are hybrid -- they self publish to the kindle platform but also have their books in print with traditional publishers.
 

ofer

Journeyed there and back again
#12
I second @Ryan W. Mueller suggestion of Islington. Traditional fantasy done right. Very reminicent of Wheel of Time.

It goes without saying that I strongly reccomend Batchelder as well - especially to fans of grimdark fantasy.
 

btkong

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#13
I second @Ryan W. Mueller suggestion of Islington. Traditional fantasy done right. Very reminiscent of Wheel of Time.
A Shadow of What Was Lost

I've been listening to an audiobook right now -- about 10 hours into it.

Fantastic.

Yes, it's the closet thing to Wheel of Time I've read, since, well, the Wheel of Time, and does a remarkable job of doing an excellent job telling a similar tale.

Very similar in feeling, magic, and some of the plot, yet while also telling a unique story. Lots of history built into the story, legends and myths coming to life after thousands of years, an interesting complex magical system, a cast of callow heroes setting off into the greater world, ancient evil stirring, political volatility going on in the civilized worlds, abandoned and cursed ruins to traverse, etc.

A fantastic job the author and one of the best indie fantasy books I've yet read; it stacks up better than many traditional fantasy books to boot. It's not grimdark, or subversive, but one of the best examples of, as you say, traditional fantasy done very right.

I'll be adding it very high on the list as soon as I'm done I'm thinking.

The audiobook is fantastic too. Michael Kramer -- narrator of Wheel of Time, Mistborn, and Way of Kings reads it, which makes it seem even MORE like Wheel of Time.
 

Kalavan

Ran bridges next to Kaladin
#15

Davis Ashura

Told lies with Locke
#16
I've also really enjoyed the first book in Will Wight's Traveler's Gate trilogy, as well as Jacob Cooper's Circle of Reign and Davis Ashura's A Warrior's Path.
Thanks for the post, Ryan! It's much appreciated. I'll second Jacob Cooper's Circle of Reign and James Islington's The Shadow of What was Lost. I'd also include Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw. That was one of the finest books I've read in the past few years, indie or otherwise.
 
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btkong

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#17
There's an unofficial story here I'll share about Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw. In part because I do notice the book has sort of picked up steam now.

To answer the above question, yes, I read it.

No I didn't like it.

The reason is fully explained below. I've expanded quite a bit on they why because the book seems to be picking up some steam and I'll likely be getting future questions about whether I have read it or not and whether it should be on the Best Indie List or not.

Here's the deal. Take this whole huge narrative below as my answer and an unofficial review of the book.

The author contacted me for a review a last year; I agreed to review it and I did, but was wholly unimpressed with it. In fact, I struggled to even finish it and had to force myself even though I was paid to read, review, and give my honest opinion.

At the request of the author, I never posted the big review I wrote for it since it was not glowingly positive as seems to be the case for his amazon page with hundreds of 5 star reviews.

My suspicions were raised regarding those Amazon reviews after finishing the book -- I went through many of these trying to figure out how he had so many glowing five star reviews in such a short period of time for a newer indie book, especially when what was being said in most of the reviews did not align with my own reading experience of the book. I only point this out because my review was so at odds with what all these hundreds and hundreds of reviews were saying.

Anyways, back to why I didn't like the book.

I can see why some readers would like it -- The Name of the Wind and The Blood Song were huge inspirations for the author and his story. And on that note, for a tale that feels in the same direction, the author did succeed somewhat.

But, if those source books that inspired it were forest fires, A Dawn of Wonder was a shadow of a candle flame in comparison to them.

Yes, Dawn of Wonder has some of the same elements: unexpected events and tragedy propelling a village boy from the wilds into a great city, boy proves to be a genius at everything and lands up going to a military school, then has adventure and proves he's a genius and saves the day.

A book that tries to do the same thing other books before it is not a bad thing, and Renshaw does tried to tap into the same essence that The Name of the Wind / The Blood Song do.

But it's also in the HOW you weave the story threads together, in the how of tale telling, in the how of building the characters that determines how good the story comes off. I know we are talking fantasy, and indie fantasy at that, but there's a certain level of verisimilitude needed to be believable and practically every event, every plot in the book lacked that.

And this was where A Dawn of Wonder failed completely for me: the premise is good (I'm a sucker as the rest of you for the 'talented, unknown boy gets caught up in the greater world, goes to martial/wizard school and proves to be a genius ' trope), but the implementation of it -- how the threads are put together, how the characters are drawn and interact, how the plot lines up, and how events happen, were as rough as the Gulf of Florida during hurricane season.

Spoilers here, but here's some of the main reasons why I thought the book was so bad.

The hero was a coward (spent most of the time running from fights and leaving friends to die), and the hero was able to solve problems without breaking a sweat, on demand.

And 'events' just lined themselves up without making a lot of sense half the time (village boy hero somehow gets into an elite school, becomes like an adopted son to a general which was wholly unbelievable in how it happens, and generally gets caught up in major events that seem to happen at whim and without valid or believable reasons).

Even the ending, the final resolution to the conflict was absolutely ridiculous. This was solved literally by an actual strike of lighting -- I'm not sure if there was some intentional irony that a strike of lighting solves all the hero's (emotional) problems, but if the author was trying to be intentionally ironic, then he succeeded more at this then anything else in the novel I felt.

Basically, everything that happens is just lined up for the hero like a line of dominoes waiting to be pushed over; the plots and situations open up for him, and are solved by him, on whim and demand (to push the story forward) without tangible or believable reasons for such situations to happen.

I give Renshaw credit where it's due for trying to write a different sort of story with a different kind of hero (one who vacillates between being a hero and a coward) who spends the book fighting against suppressed emotional issues that flare up in every situation of conflict.

Yes this is interesting as the author does break some expectations for a heroic hero as protagonist there.

But how can you really get behind a hero who's reduced to a quivering coward every single time a conflict/fight breaks out; the protagonist will literally turn tail and run, leaving his friends to die. This happens multiple times.

It's even more gulling when the book's premise is about a Valin-like hero training at an elite martial academy.

Kovthe or Valin this hero is not!

I suppose that's a good thing, but it makes for some hard reading, and because of this, an unlikable protagonist. The reader is willing to wait for a payoff, for the hero to step up and conquer his emotional issues, to become the hero he is suppose to be -- that you demand him to be -- but you wait, and wait, and by the end of the novel, it simply doesn't happen. The hero's emotional block is solved by the end, but it literally takes an act of god, not the hero's own efforts, to fix -- a cheap and deeply unsatisfying dues ex machina solution to the problem.

This is an indie novel, so we have to cut some slack here I know. And the book does set up events for the next book -- things may vastly improve there, maybe. So things could vastly improve in the future. The writer has talent.

I'm not out here to hurt someone's blossoming career, especially indie authors who I do try to support now. But I did not enjoy the book in the least. And I had to be honest about that.

I do note the author has a pretty cool cover now (vastly upgraded from his old cover when I reviewed it last year) and the audiobook has one of the best narrators Tim Reynolds (same guy who does Red Rising); and there's clearly a big marketing push now for his book / audiobook with such a high profile audiobook narrator, a professional cover, and all these new reviews.

I do wish Renshaw the best success -- he's a pretty nice guy from our email exchanges. And it was hard for me to give him, as I was told, the worst review he's ever received. I spent a very long time reading the book and writing that review, because I wanted to be very clear why I didn't like it and why I felt the novel had serious problems. With a rewrite or two, it could be quite good I think.

But as it stands, the novel felt like it was rough draft and needed a rewrite or three.

But I had to be honest and at the end of the day, a book is only good if you enjoy it. I did not. But you you might. But by all means, read the book and let me know what you guys think.

With so much positive hype and praise I see about this book, I'm wondering why I didn't see it all when reading the book. Have I missed the new Blood Song or The Name of the Wind?

I don't thinks so, no.

I read some of the negative reviews on the amazon page, and most of these hit on the same points I found when I read the book. Exactly the same complaints I had.

I'd like to know how off I am here regarding how good the book is -- am I out of touch with reality about what people like, or is the hype paid for with fake reviews, or are my standards simply unrealistically too high, and I was too hard on the book with my review (which has never been posted yet).

If it comes off that a lot of other people on this forum love the book, I may go back and take a look at it the book again, in part because I'd like to know why and how my impression of the book is so different than the rest.
 
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kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#18
There's an unofficial story here I'll share about Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw. In part because I do notice the book has sort of picked up steam now.

To answer the above question, yes, I read it.

No I didn't like it.

The reason is fully explained below. I've expanded quite a bit on they why because the book seems to be picking up some steam and I'll likely be getting future questions about whether I have read it or not and whether it should be on the Best Indie List or not.

Here's the deal. Take this whole huge narrative below as my answer and an unofficial review of the book.

The author contacted me for a review a last year; I agreed to review it and I did, but was wholly unimpressed with it. In fact, I struggled to even finish it and had to force myself even though I was paid to read, review, and give my honest opinion.

At the request of the author, I never posted the big review I wrote for it since it was not glowingly positive as seems to be the case for his amazon page with hundreds of 5 star reviews.

My suspicions were raised regarding those Amazon reviews after finishing the book -- I went through many of these trying to figure out how he had so many glowing five star reviews in such a short period of time for a newer indie book, especially when what was being said in most of the reviews did not align with my own reading experience of the book. I only point this out because my review was so at odds with what all these hundreds and hundreds of reviews were saying.

Anyways, back to why I didn't like the book.

I can see why some readers would like it -- The Name of the Wind and The Blood Song were huge inspirations for the author and his story. And on that note, for a tale that feels in the same direction, the author did succeed somewhat.

But, if those source books that inspired it were forest fires, A Dawn of Wonder was a shadow of a candle flame in comparison to them.

Yes, Dawn of Wonder has some of the same elements: unexpected events and tragedy propelling a village boy from the wilds into a great city, boy proves to be a genius at everything and lands up going to a military school, then has adventure and proves he's a genius and saves the day.

A book that tries to do the same thing other books before it is not a bad thing, and Renshaw does tried to tap into the same essence that The Name of the Wind / The Blood Song do.

But it's also in the HOW you weave the story threads together, in the how of tale telling, in the how of building the characters that determines how good the story comes off. I know we are talking fantasy, and indie fantasy at that, but there's a certain level of verisimilitude needed to be believable and practically every event, every plot in the book lacked that.

And this was where A Dawn of Wonder failed completely for me: the premise is good (I'm a sucker as the rest of you for the 'talented, unknown boy gets caught up in the greater world, goes to martial/wizard school and proves to be a genius ' trope), but the implementation of it -- how the threads are put together, how the characters are drawn and interact, how the plot lines up, and how events happen, were as rough as the Gulf of Florida during hurricane season.

Spoilers here, but here's some of the main reasons why I thought the book was so bad.

The hero was a coward (spent most of the time running from fights and leaving friends to die), and the hero was able to solve problems without breaking a sweat, on demand.

And 'events' just lined themselves up without making a lot of sense half the time (village boy hero somehow gets into an elite school, becomes like an adopted son to a general which was wholly unbelievable in how it happens, and generally gets caught up in major events that seem to happen at whim and without valid or believable reasons).

Even the ending, the final resolution to the conflict was absolutely ridiculous. This was solved literally by an actual strike of lighting -- I'm not sure if there was some intentional irony that a strike of lighting solves all the hero's (emotional) problems, but if the author was trying to be intentionally ironic, then he succeeded more at this then anything else in the novel I felt.

Basically, everything that happens is just lined up for the hero like a line of dominoes waiting to be pushed over; the plots and situations open up for him, and are solved by him, on whim and demand (to push the story forward) without tangible or believable reasons for such situations to happen.

I give Renshaw credit where it's due for trying to write a different sort of story with a different kind of hero (one who vacillates between being a hero and a coward) who spends the book fighting against suppressed emotional issues that flare up in every situation of conflict.

Yes this is interesting as the author does break some expectations for a heroic hero as protagonist there.

But how can you really get behind a hero who's reduced to a quivering coward every single time a conflict/fight breaks out; the protagonist will literally turn tail and run, leaving his friends to die. This happens multiple times.

It's even more gulling when the book's premise is about a Valin-like hero training at an elite martial academy.

Kovthe or Valin this hero is not!

I suppose that's a good thing, but it makes for some hard reading, and because of this, an unlikable protagonist. The reader is willing to wait for a payoff, for the hero to step up and conquer his emotional issues, to become the hero he is suppose to be -- that you demand him to be -- but you wait, and wait, and by the end of the novel, it simply doesn't happen. The hero's emotional block is solved by the end, but it literally takes an act of god, not the hero's own efforts, to fix -- a cheap and deeply unsatisfying dues ex machina solution to the problem.

This is an indie novel, so we have to cut some slack here I know. And the book does set up events for the next book -- things may vastly improve there, maybe. So things could vastly improve in the future. The writer has talent.

I'm not out here to hurt someone's blossoming career, especially indie authors who I do try to support now. But I did not enjoy the book in the least. And I had to be honest about that.

I do note the author has a pretty cool cover now (vastly upgraded from his old cover when I reviewed it last year) and the audiobook has one of the best narrators Tim Reynolds (same guy who does Red Rising); and there's clearly a big marketing push now for his book / audiobook with such a high profile audiobook narrator, a professional cover, and all these new reviews.

I do wish Renshaw the best success -- he's a pretty nice guy from our email exchanges. And it was hard for me to give him, as I was told, the worst review he's ever received. I spent a very long time reading the book and writing that review, because I wanted to be very clear why I didn't like it and why I felt the novel had serious problems. With a rewrite or two, it could be quite good I think.

But as it stands, the novel felt like it was rough draft and needed a rewrite or three.

But I had to be honest and at the end of the day, a book is only good if you enjoy it. I did not. But you you might. But by all means, read the book and let me know what you guys think.

With so much positive hype and praise I see about this book, I'm wondering why I didn't see it all when reading the book. Have I missed the new Blood Song or The Name of the Wind?

I don't thinks so, no.

I read some of the negative reviews on the amazon page, and most of these hit on the same points I found when I read the book. Exactly the same complaints I had.

I'd like to know how off I am here regarding how good the book is -- am I out of touch with reality about what people like, or is the hype paid for with fake reviews, or are my standards simply unrealistically too high, and I was too hard on the book with my review (which has never been posted yet).

If it comes off that a lot of other people on this forum love the book, I may go back and take a look at it the book again, in part because I'd like to know why and how my impression of the book is so different than the rest.
What a patient and informative review, Ben. I suppose you feel like it was needed since David likely knows Renshaw and you wanted to explain. What it does for me is see your skills at reviewing and editing, which new folk don't know about you or how and why you created this massive and preeminent site. Good on ya for going to that extreme for us.

However, for the opposite of that post, my question is why you like What Was Lost. I've tried three times to get beyond the sample. I have a "Books to give up on..." file to remind me of my rejections and why, and What Was Lost is the most prominent because (this is my note to myself): "if they hate the Gift so much why do they have schools for it, and this one is an "enormous" castle. Doesn't make sense. The kid used only a "trickle' of the Essence but Administrators just happened to be RIGHT THERE and their "Finders" went off. Yeah right. He SAYS this power makes them hated but they don't seem hated, rather held in awe. No sense again. Leehim gets the black lines treatment for USING essence but Davian will get the same for NOT using ESSENCE at the trials. No sense."

Because you are praising it, and I really want to like it, what am I missing or is it like Gardens of the Moon which I quit three times as well until forcing myself to finish and then not reading anything but Malazan for months.

Do I just have to stay with What Was Lost longer?
 

btkong

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#19
Well, also note -- I almost always listen to audiobooks. I will without a doubt say this changes the experience completely. Renshaw has his book narrated now by Tim Reynolds who I consider one of the best audiobook narrators in the business. SO it's entirely possible that my reading (or listening) of a book might be skewed by the talented narrators, who can pull a mediocre book through voice acting into the realm of a good book. As I read the book, perhaps the audiobook is will change everything.

I listened to the audiobook of The Shadow of What Was Lost, but Michael Kramer, the god of narrators is the guy reading it. This may have completely skewed my experience, though I maintain, the book if you push through is pretty interesting. I'd like to hear more about what people think about The Shadow of What Was Lost as well.

A lot of my 'judging' a book depends on my instinct really. I give a book a go and the litmus test is simply this: how captivated did the book keep me. I have a very, very short attention span and I'm more likely to put a book down then continue reading if I don't feel the story. For me, just getting to the end of a book already means that book stands out. If I can't put the damn thing down and listen to it all night, well, there's something about that book that's special.

One of 'my' tests I use when judging a book. Hardly scientific (do note, I also do a LOT of research to see what other people are saying about a book from everywhere before picking up the book to try it first).

The kid used only a "trickle' of the Essence but Administrators just happened to be RIGHT THERE and their "Finders" went off. Yeah right. He SAYS this power makes them hated but they don't seem hated, rather held in awe. No sense again. Leehim gets the black lines treatment for USING essence but Davian will get the same for NOT using ESSENCE at the trials. No sense."
A lot of this is explained as you go along in the book. There' a lot to unpack and it takes a while. Without a doubt, Jordan's effort is deeper and world building more grand than this pocket version, but if you can, stick with it and see. Or better, get the audiobook.

Perhaps I should give Renshaw's audiobook a go and see how the experience differs than the reading, which was a real challenge.
 
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Davis Ashura

Told lies with Locke
#20
I do wish Renshaw the best success -- he's a pretty nice guy from our email exchanges. And it was hard for me to give him, as I was told, the worst review he's ever received. I spent a very long time reading the book and writing that review, because I wanted to be very clear why I didn't like it and why I felt the novel had serious problems. With a rewrite or two, it could be quite good I think.

But as it stands, the novel felt like it was rough draft and needed a rewrite or three.

But I had to be honest and at the end of the day, a book is only good if you enjoy it. I did not. But you you might. But by all means, read the book and let me know what you guys think.

With so much positive hype and praise I see about this book, I'm wondering why I didn't see it all when reading the book. Have I missed the new Blood Song or The Name of the Wind?

I don't thinks so, no.

I read some of the negative reviews on the amazon page, and most of these hit on the same points I found when I read the book. Exactly the same complaints I had.

I'd like to know how off I am here regarding how good the book is -- am I out of touch with reality about what people like, or is the hype paid for with fake reviews, or are my standards simply unrealistically too high, and I was too hard on the book with my review (which has never been posted yet).

If it comes off that a lot of other people on this forum love the book, I may go back and take a look at it the book again, in part because I'd like to know why and how my impression of the book is so different than the rest.
I discovered Renshaw's book on reddit/fantasy. Someone posted about how wonderful it was. I read the free sample available on Amazon and was immediately struck by the prose. That's what I look for first, and I think Renshaw's use of simile and metaphor is superb. I loved his descriptive language and some of his turns of phrases in just that short segment and throughout the rest of the book made me re-read entire passages for the deftness with which he described a setting or situation. His book is the only book that made me stop writing my own book. So I loved it. I even contacted him and asked to interview him for my website, which he was kind enough to do. I even posted my review on several other forums without his knowledge. I did so because I felt that strongly about his book.

As for the criticisms, I can see easily see why others would despise Aeden, the main character, for being a coward. I recognize that, and for those going in expecting a Rand al'Thor type hero, or even a Belgarion or Valin, you're in for a disappointment. That seems often to be the crux of the criticism: the disgust with the main character. However, I didn't see a coward. I saw a broken boy who could be so much more. I saw a boy who was trying to overcome his weakness and failing, but still struggling on. I empathized with that boy because they exist. I've met them. I've cared for them. Child abuse is a shitty thing, and I forgave Aeden's cowardice and I was never disgusted with his actions. I was sad for him and, for me, the story isn't about a hidden prince going on to do great things, but about a young boy, growing up with a terrible tumor inside that shackles his potential. To me the story wasn't about what badassery Aeden would accomplish and make everyone's mouth drop in awe, but what he could do despite his fear induced limitations. And, yes, I believe the ending is intentional because of Renshaw's personal beliefs. Again, it was something I accepted. The bottom line is that I appreciated the character traits in the story, and I also didn't find the lucky happenstances overtly illogical.

It goes without saying that not everyone will read and interpret a book the same way, but that's how I read it. And those who didn't like the character or found the plot unsupportable will most likely dislike the book and do so for the same reasons.

But that doesn't mean that Renshaw's over 700 reviews are faked and, in fact, his sales would tend to argue for his reviews being real. Renshaw was #1 in Audiobook sales for epic fantasy over the weekend and has been top five for several weeks. That's an average of over 500 copies sold a day. For Kindle sales, he's been in the top 500 for sales/downloads for months. That's about 500-700 copies sold/downloaded per day, but he wasn't doing that well until probably late summer. Prior to that, his Amazon Kindle ranking was in the 1000-2000 range, which is more like 75-100 copies sold per day. BTW this is almost exactly how Shadow of What Was Lost did in terms of sales for the first 6-8 months after it was released: strong initial sales and then an explosion. Regardless, some indie authors who are much more knowledegable than me about sales and reviews argue that for every 1 review, there is generally 100 books sold. That's close based on my sales (mine is more like 1:150) and some other author friends of mine. In Renshaw's case, though, doing a rough estimate of his sales based on his historical sales ranking, he's probably sold or had downloaded somewhere in the 70,000-80,000 copies, which should give him about 800 reviews. Which is where he is.

I know I'm coming off as touchy or even a bit of an ass with that last paragraph, but I thought it important to point out why I don't think his reviews are faked.