A great frustration of many in the realm of Christian fiction is the lack of imagination or uniqueness. This may sound like a slightly exaggerated claim, but there is often a limit of Christian fiction that is not geared towards Amish romance, Old west romance, or murder and drama. None of these are a bad genre, or ones that should be dismissed or ignored, but these limit the appeal of Christian fiction. It is for this reason I was very excited when Bethany House announced the release of a new book by Patrick W. Carr A Cast of Stones: The Staff & The Sword.
Set in an almost middle age's world, A Cast of Stones is a book that gets off to a quick start with action, adventure, and examination of life. This is the first book in a series that Patrick Carr is offering, and it seems to be a story that will excite and enthrall. The story begins with a young man by the name of Errol who sets out on what seems to be a simple task, and one that he has done many times, but that quickly takes twists and turns that young Errol could not expect.
As the story progresses many changes begin to happen to Errol as his identity and character are challenged, and he must either stay who he is, or become who he was destined to be while being confronted with insurmountable odds. Throughout this story Errol is challenged with a pain that he had spent year suppressing through drink. Errol is not only haunted by these great pains, but also sought after by enemies whom he does not know, and thrown apparently off track by events outside of his control.
Patrick Carr did more than just write intriguing fiction with Cast of Stones, instead he also offers character lessons and moral challenges. In its pages Carr creates a mirror for self-examination. It is for this reason that I give this book five stars for interest, intent, and intrigue. If you love fantasy and adventure, then Cast of Stones: The Staff & The Sword is a book worth reading.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Errol Stone is good at one thing: drinking himself into oblivion. Having the reputation of the town drunk of Callowford, his one goal in life is making another coin to pay for another night of loose living in the local tavern. Doing any and every odd job for the advancement of his vice, his ears perk up immediately upon the arrival of a nuntius who wishes to deliver letters to a hermit priest who lives in the forest. Despite everyone's doubts, Errol is determined to deliver his messages, collect his other half crown, and spend a week in the tavern nursing his habit.
But along his journey, he meets an assassin that will stop at nothing to take Errol's life. Bewildered and confused, Errol runs as fast and as far as he possibly can. Barely escaping with his life, he stumbles into the home of the hermit priest, Martin and his servant, Luis. Once he recounts his story and tells them the messages were ruined along the way, Martin and Luis begin packing to leave. Stunned at the turn of events and having no other choice but to go along with them, Errol is sucked into the mysterious quest that leaves him with more questions than answers. Compelled into service for the church, Errol has no choice but to go along for the ride. Will he prove himself to be a reader of stones and worthy to cast lots to save the kingdom? Or is he really just the useless drunkard that everyone believes him to be?
I was quite impressed by this novel, simply because whether you like fantasy fiction or not, you're going to love this tale of redemption, forgiveness, and second chances. I've always avoided this genre simply because of the magic, sorcery, superstition, and nonsense that seems to accompany this kind of story. But Carr made this a humorous, believable tale that kept my interest up till the last page. I am anticipating the next installment in the series, and would recommend Carr's first novel to teenagers and adults alike.
This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.
Patrick Carr makes his debut with an epic fantasy that will engage readers as they venture into the world Carr creates, one on the brink of destruction where adventure awaits a reluctant hero.
In A Cast of Stones, Errol is the village drunk, not the sort of person you expect to do heroic deeds. Errol drowns his sorrows in ale, doing occasional errands to earn enough coin to buy more ale. He is hired by a church messenger to take an official communication to a recluse priest living in a rustic area. A simple delivery becomes deadly as an assassin hunts him down. He scarcely makes it alive to Pater's home but the letters are too damaged to read. Errol, Pater Martin and Luis hurry to reach the church messenger in the village. They are poisoned from the bread Errol brought from the village. Errol barely manages to get help in time. That's when their troubles really begin.
Once in the village, the church messenger gives Pater the message verbally. It requests that Pater travel to Erinon to meet with the others to cast the stones for the king's successor. But they face danger along the way. Errol discovers he can read the stones Luis casts. His new talent requires him to serve the church as a reader. Errol gives up his taste for ale, learns to read and fight, as he journeys to his new life. But someone is killing the readers in the church.
Carr's debut novel is filled with strong characters and a tightly-woven plot. Errol's story continues in The Hero's Lot (summer 2013).
Highly recommended for teen collections in public libraries and school libraries.
Disclaimer: Book reviews are my opinion of books I either purchased or received free of cost from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
Disclaimer-*This book is so extraordinary I'm afraid my review will fall embarrassingly short in it's description.*
Young Errol Stone is little more than a drunk doing anything to earn an extra crown for ale until one day a mysterious messenger sends him with a letter that nearly ends in his assassination.
King Rodran is dying and their is no heir to the throne. It will be up to the Readers to reveal the next king but they are disappearing at an alarming rate! Errol sets out for the capital, Erinon, with his friends Martin and Luis, a priest and a Reader, and Liam, the perceived future king.
However it is Errol that is being hunted by unknown assassins and otherworldly beasts. But why?
Their enemies obviously know something they don't!
I absolutely cannot believe this is Patrick W. Carr's first book!! If you like fantasy, medieval, or even historical fiction, you will LOVE this book! I can't recommend A Cast of Stones enough!!!!
In my opinion Patrick Carr has all the potential of J.R.R Tolkien!!
I received this book free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.
I love the cover of this book and even though it's intensely well written, the plot of Errol's story didn't grab me until 100 pages into the book. Errol is an orphan and at age 18 has been the town drunk for years, but one day he gets an opportunity to deliver a very important message and his destiny changes upon making the decision. Here is what Errol learns on his journey:
How to escape arrows/archers/assassins
How to read stones/become a reader (someone who is like a prophet, they exist only within the power of the church)
What it feels like to be under a compulsion (going in a certain direction)
How to fight poison with healing herbs
How to get up at dawn for traveling (I'm a late sleeper so I understood his struggle there)
How to ride a horse
Errol has no education, but learns to read in his journey
What it's like to be under Deas's touch/favor (the word used for God in the plot)
How to survive a near drowning
How to fight with a staff (think Moses or Gandalf here)
How to overcome an addiction
How to guard a master caravan/get promoted among skilled fighters
How to learn an opponent's weakness
Errol learns to bargain in trading goods
How to face injustice
How to decipher corruption
How to fight for a kingdom
What do I learn from Errol's story? I didn't get attached to his character until later in this story, but I was amazed at his ability to survive in any situation and his resilience. He is the most ignorant protagonist I have witnessed in fiction, but he's a FAST learner and as he realizes where he belongs in the story he becomes legendary in the kingdom. Watching his transformation in the story blessed me more than I anticipated, it gave me hope as well as entertainment.
I learned that not every character turns out the way you believe they will. Your rivals/enemies can become your closest friends and allies; someone you think is trustworthy can quickly become a betrayer.
Greed is a powerful element in Errol's journey. It never touches him, but it affects everyone around him for better or for worse.
When God is in control of your destiny, whether you're aware of this or not or even welcome it, GREAT things are possible.
I thought Errol would travel with the same characters throughout the book, but instead he comes across three different circumstances before he reaches his destination. His transformation is completed before he arrives and that makes the journey more important than the point he's trying to reach. Some books are frustrating when written like that, Carr does it brilliantly and masterfully as if he's taken this journey himself.
Honor as well as skill makes a great warrior. Errol works hard and is determined to do the right thing even when he has no choices. I was in amazement when he overcame his addiction. There are men in this book who are skilled fighters, but some of them have no honor.
There is some romance within the story, but it's mostly action and battles. Errol learns to balance his fighting techniques and prefers to halt a fight than deliberately maim an opponent. He had my admiration and respect there as well. I pictured him to be like a ninja with his staff, but his movements are graceful as well as deadly.
There is an epilogue at the end that illustrates a sequel will be available soon, but even if this reviewer doesn't continue with the rest of the saga I take great pleasure at seeing Errol's journey conclude the way it does. I was utterly moved at the end, I wish all books had such an ending for characters like Errol. They learn meekness in the midst of survival and they take the humble attitude when facing injustices. I have a feeling that Errol will continue to succeed even when the stones say otherwise.
I want to thank Bethany House for the review copy they provided. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.