The judging has been done and Jo Unwin has made her very difficult decision. As I said when posting the shortlist the standard was really high and Jo found it so hard to choose, and it was so close that even though there wasn’t a runner-up position or prize initially there is now! So the runner-up gets their sub package reviewed by me and the winner by Jo. But Jo has indicated that she’d like to read more from all four writers in the top spots. She has also very kindly given feedback on the entire shortlist and ranked them in the order they appear below.
Winner: The Black Garden by Ruby Speechley
A good title, great, spare writing, and very well imagined, this is intriguing, and tense. I cared about Maddy immediately, and the author manages to do a lot with a very few words. I really want to read on, and more than any other opening chapter, this one gives me the confidence that the author really knows what they’re doing.
Runner-Up: A Good Lad by Terri Armstrong
Very good, lots of superb detail, tension and clarity. A very strong contender – could possibly do with a bit more sense of atmosphere. What kind of book is this?
Honourable Mention: Glass Houses by Jackie Buxton
Very good indeed, fabulously intriguing, understated phrases that layer in the suspense expertly. Great title. I’d like to read on.
Honourable Mention: Overmorrow by Rachael Dunlop
Wonderful detail, tension, tone. Really well done, and a very enjoyable read. Definitely an honourable mention but the author might find a way to lead us on more strongly. Give us a bit more of a sense of where this book might be going to take us. Where is the texture of this book, what is the tone?
Fifth Place: The Wave by Virginia Moffit
Again very strong, well written and a good strong concept. I would have been more hooked with a stronger sense of character.
Sixth Place: Down Among the Giants by Zoe Shoreland
A fascinating memoir, with a strong sense of danger and sadness. Not a strong title, and no indication of why we might be reading this – where’s the hook or intrigue?
Seventh Place: Rose Gold: A Piratical Tale by Nemma Wollenfang
Tense, atmospheric and an interesting story. Not a great title, and occasional clichés let this down.
Eight Place: Down to the River to Pray by Laurence Jones
Well written, and very good sense of place indeed. I didn’t pick up on the tone quickly enough though – the author might try to clarify HOW he wants this to be read.
Ninth Place: Queen Lear’s Legacy by Andrew Campbell-Kearsey
Nice writing and an interesting concept. I would recommend changing the title as it steers the reader too strongly to look for parallels.
Tenth Place: Give Me the Map by Alexander Barr
Some tight dialogue and a neat premise, I enjoyed this. I felt there was room for a bit of tightening here and there.
A huge congratulations to Ruby and Terri! You have until August 31st to polish up your submission packages and email them in to get your reviews. To everyone else a huge well done and maybe if you take Jo’s feedback and revise your first chapters then the December competition judged by Susan Armstrong could be your turn in the top spots!