A Cast of Stones (Book 1 in The Staff & The Sword series)
By: Patrick W. Carr
Published: February 1st, 2013
Company: Bethany House Publishers
Today I am going to be taking a look at Patrick Carr’s novel A Cast of Stones, the first book in his The Staff & The Sword series. While the events and the story did not surprise me (not to say that I did not thoroughly enjoy this book), what did surprise me was something behind the book itself that I was not aware of until I sat down to write this review and took a glance over at the reviews on Goodreads. Something that, had I known beforehand, may have coloured my judgement, and kept me from reading this book to begin with. I would like to remind everyone that my opinions are of my own, I do not mean to offend people by them, and apologize if my opinions do cause offense as it is not my intention to offend.
An Epic Medieval Saga Fantasy Readers Will Love
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
Errol is our 19 year old main character for the book and since the age of 15 when he saw his guardian get half-squished by a rock and quickly bleed to death, has been an alcoholic. You know the kind, the ones that pass out on the bar floor from having too much to drink. The kind to look for a drink at 10 in the morning. The one that does not know how to have just one drink in a day. Not many young protagonists have the honour of starting off as a struggling alcoholic, let alone show what happens when he goes without a drink in a day, how he fights off the chains of his alcoholism or show how he works at keeping away from having another drink. It is an honest reality and it is refreshing to see a serious subject taken with a character who is so young in his life. Errol is certainly not without his faults. On top of his drinking problem, he cannot read (something I do not know when I have seen in a character last), is not a perfect fighter straight off the bat, and up to the start of this book, has never been outside of his rural village and knows nothing about the world outside of it. He does not have an overwhelming thirst of knowledge of the world outside his village, and even later in the book only learns to fight to A) not die and B) survive. Good reasons and motivations for me to learn to be really good at fighting.
I am not an overly regliousy person. I was never taken to church on Sundays by my parents and the only two times I went to Sunday school was because of friends. I never disliked Christianity (or any of its MANY branches) but I was never raised in a household where it was a part of my life. Perhaps spiritual, but never religious one way or another, or even towards a particular faith. I have found myself distancing away from it more due to an extremely negative experience I had with an individual (one who claimed to be a very good Christian) in my more recent years. Add on top of that I have never found an appeal in Christian fiction that seems to be nothing but slamming the reader over the head with doctrine, warnings of morality, and/or promises of people being sent to heaven/hell for what they are doing. Yes I am getting to the point! Hush. So it is safe to say that I steer away from the Christian fiction genre when looking for new reads, and be aware of any red flags of that genre in my search.
This book is Christian fiction set in a high fantasy universe. And it set NONE of my flags off while I was reading it. Nor did I get the feeling of the Christian judge-hammer of DOOM while reading it from any of the characters or the voice of the author. And I really really enjoyed this book! I loved it. I was shocked to see on Goodreads that Bethany House is a major Christian publisher or that Carr is a Christian writer because I never got that feeling from reading the story. Yeah there is talk about religion and faith in the book (not the first book I have read to contain such topics) but it is not obviously Christian and even the amounts of talk about religion and faith are forgiven given the Medieval Europe setting. It is what one would expect from such a setting and even the talks about them are not heavy. It certainly helps that the main character, Errol, is not an overly religious individual. Part of me wants to reject the Christian fiction labelling for this book. It does not overtly talk about Christianity, but it does borrow some of its stories but that is hardly unique to Christian fiction. Religion does play a factor in the story but it is not a primary one and it part of the story largely due to its Medieval Europe-inspired setting. Perhaps this will come later into focus in the following books. I also fear that potential readers would be turned off by the labelling due to their preconceived notions of the genre and/or previous religious experiences, which would be unfair, in my opinion, to the readers as there is no need to do so.
While this is seen as a high fantasy novel, the world is not as in-depth in mythology and world history as Lord of the Rings or Markus Heitz’s Dwaves saga, it is definitely richer then the world of Harry Potter. Definitely a suggested read for fans of Tolkien, CS Lewis, Heitz, or George R R Martin. I do not see any dragons appearing in this series but I am definitely interested in exploring this world deeper that Carr has created for us.
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