A Cast of Stones – Patrick W Carr
This book first came to my attention when I was vainly browsing my own. The cover and premise intrigued me, but I have to admit I was put off by the strong references to being a Christian publication. It is constantly referred to as being a bestseller in the Christian fantasy chart.
I am not sure what put me off about this. Maybe I was expecting a strong moralistic overtone or a preachy message but thankfully I got over myself and tried the book.
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 travellers, 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.
Show Less I find books about drunks okay but annoying. Although it is realistic to explore the floor of the drunk and their constant lapses with their demons, I often find that it is tedious and monotonous when reading it. Thankfully, Patrick W Carr seems to share this opinion too. When we meet Errol he is indeed a drunk but is able to function. He is inherently a good person and despite the desire to drink, the episodes are brushed over to concentrate on the plot.
The local farm boy developing his skills to become a big time player in the world, is certainly nothing new. However, Errol learns and improves his ability in a variety of ways and situations. It is not a case of being mentored by one individual who makes him run up 5,000 hills whilst carrying a sack full of rocks every day but is more subtle than that. Errol learns as he goes along and the people he encounters. At the start of his adventure he is forced to run more than fight.
It is a nice touch as it shows how vulnerable Errol is. Patrick W Carr also does not shy aware from Errol’s flaws. Despite admiring his friend Liam, he is also insanely jealous of him and his near perfect character. Errol is developed well and the growth his character demonstrates is believable.
Errol is joined throughout the story by a host of interesting characters who all hold onto their own secrets and lies. The most memorable of which are the farmer Rale who acts like a temporary father figure to Errol and Luis the enigmatic who is clearly much more than he seems. Both of whom I imagine will feature more in the sequels. Errol is told snippets of information but never really trusted by the others
The plot is a good one. The current King is old and his health is failing. There is no natural succession to the throne and many parties are angling to put their own contender on the throne. Errol is able to understand casting. I won’t spoil what that is, but it is a brilliant concept and very original. It initially poses lots of continuity and logical questions but Patrick W Carr is able to answer most of them over the course of the novel.
There are some drawbacks. Errol is far from invincible, but I lost count of the amount of times he almost died throughout the novel. There were too many occasions where he work up in a bed having been nursed back from health for my liking.
The ending is not so much a conclusion but the convergence of plot threads before the next book. It is satisfying if not a little predictable.
Overall, I thoroughly recommend this debut novel. The story flows along nicely and is filled with good, likeable characters. I’ve already purchased the sequel and am looking forward to it.
My rating 8.9