Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Cast of Stones

Title: A Cast of Stones
Series: The Staff & the Sword
Author: Patrick W. Carr
Genre: Adult Epic Fantasy

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—2, Overall—3.4 out of 5 stars

Book Trailer


When the town drunk takes a message to a hermit priest, he is pulled into the center of kingdom-altering events.

Excerpt from “Errol,” Chapter 1 of A Cast of Stones:

Smells of earth and dung drifted slowly past the fog in Errol’s brain. His skin prickled with cold. Waster and ooze soaked his threadbare garments and he shivered. Cruk had thrown him out of the tavern. Again. Hanks of brown hair dripping muck hung across his vision. The ringing of Liam’s hammer just across the street paused, then started again with light tapping blows, as if in laughter.

Cruk smiled down at him without malice. “Next time I’ll carry you out back and throw you in the midden.”

Dizzy from his flight and a little wobbly from drink, Errol picked himself up in stages. He closed his eyes against the glare of the morning sun, sluiced the worst of the mud from his clothes, and rubbed an aching hip. His tongue wandered the crevices of his mouth as he struggled to make it obey his commands. The effort made him reel.

“You didn’t have to kick me so hard.”

Tall, broad-shouldered, and ridiculously strong from long days working in the quarry, Cruk towered over him from his vantage point on the porch. As always, his face put Errol in mind of a sack of potatoes.

Cruck barked once in amusement. “I didn’t, you little runt. If you don’t believe me, then come back here and I’ll have another go at it. If Pater Antil catches you drunk at this hour, you’ll end up back in the stocks.”


The Craft: A Cast of Stones tells with descriptive prose a complex story about an unexpected protagonist.

For Errol Stone is a self-admitted town drunk who can do nothing well except drink and gather herbs. Not exactly a heart-warming protagonist whom you want to follow around for four-hundred pages. Yet he captures interest from the early pages and is even sympathetic early on. More than that, his transformation into a full hero by the end of the book is arresting, perhaps the strongest element driving this book.

This transformation is then set against a skillfully drawn setting. Blending traditional fantasy elements with medieval historical, the world only accentuates Errol’s transformation.

The plot is also solid. While not exactly a heart-pounding page-turner, A Cast of Stones does provide consistent pacing and the necessary tension. Interest is held and the story always moves forward.

On the negative side, I found Errol’s voice inconsistent. I initially took him to be much older, only to doubt that assumption a few pages later. It continued to vacillate throughout the beginning of the story, and even knowing his real age (nineteen) didn’t help anchor me.

Also the climax didn’t hang together as well as I desired. Maybe due to the late introduction of several vital elements? Yet that said, A Cast of Stones still delivers an enjoyable fantasy adventure.

The Content: A Cast of Stones seems to provide content as murky as the craft is solid.

So yes, there is some good material dealing with hard issues, including addiction, living with difficult memories, jealousy, and service. However, I am deeply concerned over how some of the supernatural elements are handled, especially the casting of lots and their readers as well as “compulsions” (causing another person to act, even if it’s against his will). Neither element cleanly conforms to biblical standards. Rather, they sit in a gray zone which leaves me uneasy and require the read tread carefully. I will address some of my concerns further tomorrow.

Beyond that, you have some drinking/drunkenness, portrayed in a negative light. Typical fantasy violence, though nothing sticks out to me at the moment as extreme, and not any sexual elements, besides a couple minor innuendos.

Summary: A Cast of Stones offers a solid fantasy and an interesting study of character. However, the supernatural elements are ambiguous at best and edge closer to some lines than I’m comfortable with. As a result, I recommend extreme caution.

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—2, Overall—3.4 out of 5 stars

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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