Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Cast of Stones

I finished A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr a few days ago and have let the story simmer in my mind, trying to decide precisely what to say about this first in the Staff and the Sword trilogy. Basically, it all boils down to this: It is fantastic, action-packed, and riveting. Now allow me to expound a bit on this rollicking good tale and why you should read it right this minute.

Errol is the town drunk; something happened in his life a few years ago and now the young man prefers to spend his time inside an ale tankard, content with his lot, doing the odd job here and there. All that comes to an abrupt halt when he agrees to carry a message to a reclusive priest for some coin; expecting this to be a rather mundane task, Errol instead finds himself fired upon by an assassin as he seeks out Martin the priest. Things go from bad to worse when Martin, his friend Luis, and Errol are poisoned, and then they find themselves on yet another mission in which Errol gets separated from his traveling companions. It is then that the biggest change comes to our unlikely hero; forced by injury to give up the ale, Errol learns to use a staff as a deadly weapon. This skill leads him to a traveling merchant caravan; he joins in order to meet up with his missing friends but quickly finds himself at the mercy of the caravan's leader. Add into this the fact that someone is stalking him, knowing his every move, putting his life in danger, and Errol knows he must get to the isle of Erinon as quickly as possible. And, oh, did I mention that Errol has the uncanny ability to cast lots--a skill that allows those asking questions which path to take?

A Cast of Stones starts off with a bang and doesn't let go throughout the entire book. Errol is a sympathetic lead character, making mistake after mistake, unsure of himself and definitely not talented (at least at first). The brilliant character development, however, slowly reveals another side, and Errol begins to realize that he can make a difference in the fate of the kingdom. The supporting characters are just as well drawn, with motives and emotions bringing depth to what otherwise might have been just another hero tale. Just as I found myself invested in one scenario, I'd be led into another scene that would capture me, making me feel as though I had to keep reading to find out what happens next. That's good storytelling, people.

If I have any complaints about A Cast of Stones, it might be the speed of the "romantic" relationship Errol encounters late in the book; still not sure I'm buying it, even though it's mostly just hinted at at this point. But in a book filled with a wide array of characters of varying degrees of morality, that's a very minor point. I have to say that this debut author has captured me completely, and I'm eager for the second book to be in my hands as quickly as possible. This trilogy, and this author, are definitely rising stars you want to keep your eye on. Recommended.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House, for review without prejudice.


Thursday, February 07, 2013


Scarlet picks up pretty much where Cinder left off--Cinder is in jail and Levana has Kai precisely where she wants him. But Cinder being Cinder, she's not going to just rot in jail until she's exported to Luna; using her new found Lunar "gifts", Cinder escapes from jail with a rather hapless accomplice named Thorne and takes off in a stolen air ship, hoping to discover more about her existence on earth and her life as Princess Selene. Meanwhile, far away in France, Scarlet is tending her missing grandmother's farm, frustrated that no one will take her seriously when she claims her grandmother has gone missing. Enter Wolf, a street fighter who happens to intrigue Scarlet, and the two set off on a journey to find said missing grandmother...who is also the woman responsible for saving Princess Selene. Nice tie-in there.

Scarlet got off to a bit of a slow start for me, but once Scarlet and Wolf go on the run, things pick up quickly and the back and forth between the two main characters kept me saying "just one more chapter" until I was done. I liked how Scarlet felt betrayed and yet was willing to trust her instincts; I love Cinder and her sarcasm, and once I got used to Thorne, he rapidly became a favorite character. Meyer's world-building is meticulous and layered, with many not whom they seem to be and lots of wrenches being thrown into play. Nothing is ever easy and most of the time I was breathless waiting to see how on earth they were going to get out of the predicaments they found themselves in. From the nastiness of Cinder's stepmother, to Kai's sacrifice, to Thorne's irritating self-delusion, all of the characters shine with life. Excellent read and ready for number three!


Friday, February 01, 2013

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I picked up Cinder on the advice of a couple of good reading buddies, though I wasn't so sure it would be anything new in the world of fairy tale retellings. I'm beyond delighted to report that it far exceeded my expectations! Not wasting time in recounting the plot, I will simply list what I enjoyed so much about this well-written book.

Likes: Cinder herself. Despite being part cyborg, she's amazingly real with authentic human emotions. I loved the interaction between Cinder and her little sister Peony (and that was only reinforced by what happened later). I liked how Cinder took responsibility for Iko who was really nothing more than a machine, and I thought the relationship between Cinder and Kai was fun and teasing. Unlike some reviewers, I didn't feel it was too rushed because occasionally we meet someone and we just click with them, and I felt that was what happened between those two. I liked Cinder's sarcastic sense of humor, and I loved her mechanic skills! The plot, while never losing sight of its general theme of a retelling, did move in unexpected, if somewhat puzzling, ways, and the true evil of Queen Levanna has me wondering just how she's going to be ultimately defeated. And the way Cinder met challenges? Brilliant, even when she seemed to have given up. I will never count her out.

Dislikes/Quibbles: Cinder did get into the ball a little too easily, even if I could explain it away by her "gift"; in fact, she really did have a lot of freedom of movement in a city under siege. Oh well...big deal. It's a fairy tale, right? And I did figure out the big reveal amazingly early, though my interest never wavered despite knowing where we were headed. And yep, that's all I can think of as far as dislikes.

Cinder is such fun and such an original take, mixing fantasy and sci-fi, that the pages turned themselves. I'm in this series for the long haul--Ms. Meyer's writing has captured me fully. On to the next one!