Monday, April 15, 2013

Book: A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr

I have another book to point you to, and you can also see a review of this over at Ann Hibbard’s Blog. It’s a book that was provided by BethanyHouse Publishers in exchange for this review. Well, they didn’t ask for this exact review, but you know what I mean.

A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr is a fantasy fiction novel that opens The Staff and the Sword Trilogy. Carr is a first-time novelist, which explains why you haven’t heard of him before this year. Unless you follow Christian Fiction, where he won a contest for A Cast of Stones a few years ago that is likely behind its recent publication.

Overall, A Cast of Stones introduces us to the Kingdom of Illustra. This kingdom is somewhat medieval in its general setting and is a place where, if not magic, at least some supernatural is considered a normal part of life. There are other kingdoms on the map outside of Illustra, but they are not primarily involved in A Cast of Stones.

The action begins in a remote village of Illustra and through the course of A Cast of Stones, moves through other cities and towns until the climax occurs in the capital city. Across the miles, the reader might be forgiven for not grasping all of the geography, for one thing that would benefit the reader would be a map of the kingdom. However, the description of the setting is well-done and leaves the reader feeling like they have at least seen a good film of Illustra, even if they cannot quite say they’ve been there.

Characters include two young men on seemingly different tracks in life, a priest or two, and a few more heroic types. Further, A Cast of Stones introduces us to a religious leader called a “reader” who holds certain responsibilities in the Kingdom. Rather than rip that from the middle area of the book, I will simply acknowledge that it does take a bit to figure it all out, but the mystery of understanding who does what, and who has what power, is part of the fun of A Cast of Stones.

The plotline is fairly straightforward in A Cast of Stones. There are lies, betrayals, secrets, and battles in advancing the story. Certainly some of these are predictable, but overall there is enough not-quite-obvious to keep the reader interested. Further, it serves well in introducing the reader to this new world. After all, if you both do not know what is happening and the universe in which it occurs, it’s harder to finish. The resolution is adequate to a book known to be part 1 of a trilogy: most of the simple loose ends are tied up while the bigger story obviously must continue.

In sorting out the plot, I found myself a little tripped up on the organization of the church in Illustra. A Cast of Stones features a unified church that has a hierarchal structure, and for a free/independent church tradition person such as myself, that took some sorting out. I will likely draw myself an org chart to go with my map to help me remember how it all works for the rest of the trilogy.

I found myself liking A Cast of Stones. Frequently, as a reviewer I find myself having to finish books, but this one took no extra push to finish. Carr has created a world that I am curious to see more of—more about Illustra, more about the neighboring kingdoms, and more of the stories Errol and the other characters introduced in A Cast of Stones.

If you need a good fiction series to get lost in, A Cast of Stones is a nice place to be lost. The sequel is due out this summer, and then we’ll have to wait until next February to get the resolution, but if that’s the worst thing about this series, it’s a good series.

note: I did receive a copy of A Cast of Stones in exchange for this review.

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