I didn't know what to expect as I've not read anything by this author before but I got really enthralled with the first book and had to read all three...and I'm hoping there's more coming. This genre is not my usual but as I grow older, my usual is changing too!
This sequel exceeds its predecessor on many counts. The stakes are clearly articulated, the characters better drawn, and the plot developed in a stronger, more engaging direction. Yet overall structural weaknesses rob it from inspiring the tight dramatic tension the author so clearly wants to communicate.
Errol is no longer the drunk we first met, and his maturity matches the novel's more able footing. He shows the ability to gain new skills and allies. But like the book itself, Errol stumbles in puzzling, often bewildering ways. A misstep in plans or inexperience leading his fellow soldiers is to be expected at this stage in the character's development. Leaving his armed company for the sake of some entertainment at the local tavern, something he's never expressed any interest in before, smells of cheap theatrics, especially when he's soon ambushed by antagonists who are not introduced earlier or mentioned ever again.
The journey of Martin the priest is handled better. This time around the reader is allowed to follow him, Luis, and Cruk through their travels, and seeing the events through their experienced eyes adds depth and meaning to the already richly creative world. Here author Patrick Carr shines, pushing both his characters and readers to reexamine their assumptions as he introduces new mysteries, wrestling with very meaty spiritual questions. I'd have loved for this part of the story to go on longer, really pursuing the ideas brought forward.
Erroll is given many layered conflicts to wrestle with. There's his potential relationship with the princess and heir to the throne, his spiritual questions regarding destiny, and the hint of discovering his true identity. Any of these ideas, if fully explored and given the time to develop, might have raised this book to a grand level of storytelling.
Unfortunately we're not given that treat, as the book skips abruptly into a swords and daggers climax. This structure damages the overall plot as all previously introduced complications and antagonists are whisked away, to be replaced by a new setting, new characters, and a brand new villain. Before we have a chance to properly engage with any of these ideas, the big showdown arrives. The small emotional reveals tossed along the way added some flavor but no true zest.
I enjoyed this second book better than the first, and recommend it as a casually fun reading experience. But you may be as frustrated as I that such a creatively brilliant premise isn't getting the equally excellent execution it deserves.
Last summer, I read one of the best books ever. It was so enthralling, I declared there has to be a sequel! This is that book. Have you ever felt a compulsion to read one more paragraph, one more page, one more chapter? This is that book. It's a book to hide in for hours if possible. Just warning you! You'll be up too late if you start this at bedtime. You'll forget to make dinner if you begin reading late in the afternoon.
The tension builds throughout the story, drawing you farther and farther in. So many little mysteries and secrets arise leading you toward the next chapter. Martin, Luis, and Errol, travel through new lands filled with danger, making new alliances and discovering enemies as they attempt to fulfill their own compulsions and untangle the gnarled and twisted sedition in the Conclave.
If you've not read A Cast of Stones, start there. If you have, you already want this book.
The Hero's Lot is second in the Staff and the Sword Series by Patrick Carr. Read my review of the first book, A Cast of Stones.
The story begins with the evil Sarin Valon fleeing the city of Erinon. The compulsion the church laid on Errol compels him to the Judica in the first place, and the church leaders are bent on using him to their advantage no matter what the cost. As punishment for allegedly working with herbwomen, which is considered nothing short of sorceresses, Errol is compelled once again by the church to find Valon in the enemy kingdom of Merakh. His friends Martin, Luis, and Cruk are sent off to find out Errol's importance and significance in the scheme of things by Archbenefice Canon to Errol's hometown of Callowford.
As with everything, nothing goes as planned. There are many dangers on the path for anyone on a righteous quest, and Errol discovers that nothing is what is seems. He is able to cast lots and read the results, but it appears that Valon also has many readers at his disposal and is staying one step ahead of him no matter how much Errol tries to anticipate Valon's moves. As for Martin and his band, danger follows their every step as well. Secrets of the kingdom are exposed that change everything. Will they be able to find Errol in time to warn him of what is to come? Or is too late to save the realm that will have no future without the successful completion of the quests of both parties?
Errol is off to another epic adventure, and I couldn't help but empathize with the poor boy with everything that gets dumped on him. No matter what he does or how hard he tries to do the right thing, his choice in the matter is forever taken with the church's compulsion. This second book in the Staff and Sword series was the best middle book I've ever read. There was no long, boring, filler chapters; it was all fast paced excitement that I remember from the first book, with all-new continuations of the tale. A wonderful story, and it's getting an enthusiastic five stars from me!
This book was provided by Bethany House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.