Thursday, 8 May 2014
Book Review - A Cast of Stones by Patrick W Carr
In the backwater village of Callowford, Errol Stone's search for a drink is interrupted by a church messenger who arrives with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Desperate for coin, Errol volunteers to deliver them but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he's joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.
Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom's dynasty is near an end and a new king must be selected. As tension and danger mount, Errol must leave behind his drunkenness and grief, learn to fight, and come to know his God in order to survive a journey to discover his destiny.
Wow, what a journey!
Everyone recognises Errol Stone as the village drunk, and he's not yet nineteen years old. His one ambition is to earn a bit of money for his next fix of ale, so he won't fall apart. When a strange messenger wants a secret parcel delivered to Pater Martin, the reclusive priest, Errol is quick to volunteer. He knows the pay will keep sobriety at bay for at least another week, but comes to wish he hadn't bothered.
He never expects to be plunged, unwittingly, into the dangerous tension of church and politics. Opening his mouth to remark that he can see writing on a strange carved stone is his first big mistake. He is whisked away as a pawn in some weird game he can't understand, along with Liam, the village good boy, who seems perfect in every way. While he can understand why Liam, who can apparently do no wrong, may be desirable, he's at a loss to figure out why he's being dragged along too.
It's satisfying to see a main character develop from a pathetic alcoholic and self-proclaimed waste of space to a sharp and quick-witted young man who must remain on his guard every moment. Every time I picked up the book and said, "I wonder what Errol's up to," it was bound to involve intense intrigue, adrenaline and many secrets. There are the secrets he kept himself, which gradually unfold helping us to understand why he became a drunk at the age of 14. Then there are other secrets which he remains clueless about. Even the friends who want to train him up to be a reader of cast lots don't know. We don't know either. It seems only the baddies know.
The great question keeping us turning the pages is often uttered from the mouths of many different characters. 'What makes you so important, boy?" If only we knew. At a loss to answer, Errol doesn't have a lot of time to think about it, between having to defend himself from vicious murder attempts.
At the finish, my first move was to get hold of the second book, 'The Hero's Lot' on my kindle, as quickly as possible. It felt as if I was under a compulsion, as Errol was to get to the city of Erinon. This book should come with a warning, "Don't start unless you're prepared to put time aside for an epic trilogy."
I quickly finished all three books in the Staff and Sword series and highly recommend them to all fantasy lovers. The final installment, 'A Draw of Kings' was published just this February, 2014. As a homeschooling mother, I'll be recommending the whole trilogy to fellow parents. It has loads of suspense, a terrific cast of characters, an impossible looking quest, a puzzling mystery and an unassuming hero who gradually learns why he is pivotal. Everything is based on the Bible, including the old church system of lot casting. You'll see that the Illustrian concept of the Holy Trinity is a mirror of ours. If you're looking for a new series, I'm sure you'll find Errol and his friends well worth it.
Paula Vince is the South Australian author of contemporary fiction, set around her own environment, the beautiful Adelaide Hills. She believes that nothing has the power to work on emotions and touch lives like a good story. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. Please feel welcome to visit her blog, www.justoccurred.blogspot.com