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.