CSFF Blog Tour: The Hero’s Lot

Even if your enemy has any number of vicious cutthroats, and still more vicious ferrals, at his command, one could see reason in hunting him down, if the necessity were great enough. But when your enemy can see you coming from a thousand miles away, one would strain hard to see any reason in taking up the hunt.

So it’s doubtful that anyone in Illustra saw the sense of going after the traitor Valon, least of all the people who actually did.

The Hero’s Lot is the second book in the series The Staff and the Sword, written by Patrick W. Carr. As in the first book, politics and intrigue worthy of our own world combine with the first principles of epic fantasy – kings, prophecies, swords, other-worldly beings, other-worldly powers and dangers.

I believe that, on the whole, the second book was better than the first. It got to the heart of the matter, weighing what hangs in the balance, painting sharply the looming threats. This novel also provided a more nuanced view of the Church, portraying more good along with the bad, and giving hints as to how so many in the Church had lost their way.

I noticed the unnecessary repetition of the first book here, too. Overall I thought the problem was lesser, but it did manifest itself in a new way. Rather than the author repeating a word, the characters repeated each other’s thoughts once or twice. For example, one character tested the veracity of the lots by asking a very simply question: “Is Martin a priest?” Many pages later, a different character – one who missed the previous demonstration entirely – also tested the lots’ reliability with a question: “Is Martin a priest?”

There was more violence in this book than I liked; it got quite dark a few times. Yet I felt, in The Hero’s Lot, more of the heart of religion, and not merely the forms: in the revelation of truth, in the guidance of Aurae and in characters’ submission to him, in seeing – if only briefly – the change and the brotherhood faith brought to men in the dark city of a lost country.

I hope to see more of Liam in the third book. He’s vital to the story but rarely involved, and it would be good if he could take a place on the stage; he is, after all, in the same boat as Errol.

The Hero’s Lot is a complex fantasy, detailed in the peoples and history and religions of its world. Sword-swinging alternates with scheming, action with deep exploration. The series continues next year, with A Draw of Kings, and I hope to be there.

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

CSFF Blog Tour: A Cast of Stones

Not to put too fine a point on it, Errol Stone is a drunk. Drinking is the only thing he’s good at.

That, and running errands over the Cripples. In an effort to earn more ale money, he agreed to take a message to the hermit-priest. So he got involved in the Church, and the watch, and discovered all sorts of things he was good at. Living is not necessarily one of them.

With A Cast of Stones, Patrick W. Carr begins his adult fantasy series The Staff and the Sword. In his world there are echoes of our world; blond hair is signature to the Soedes, and red hair and lilting speech signature to those from Erinon.

The Church, above all, rings with the echoes – with their sacrament of bread and wine, their divine Trinity, their priests and monks and liturgy. It hails, too, back to the worst days of the Catholic Church – with its wealth, its power and abuse of power, its persecution even of believers.

The most original idea of the book is the readers and their ability to cast lots. Compulsions form another fascinating, other-worldly element. Another such element, the malus, are plainly based on the Christian doctrine of devils, with, perhaps, some inspiration from the Nephilim. It’s by no means a new idea, but it is a compelling one and Carr executes it with skill.

A Cast of Stones is Patrick Carr’s first novel, but you couldn’t tell from the writing. It had a high degree of polish, though I would offer this piece of advice to Mr. Carr: Avoid too much repetition of certain words. You should icord.org/soma-carisoprodol/ only describe a character’s eyes as “glittering” so many times in the same chapter, and you should almost never use two slightly different versions of the same word in a single sentence. (The worst instance of this in the novel was, “A line of shelves lined the wall” – for which, oddly enough, I almost blame the editor more than the author.)

I think the greatest error of the novel was that the author didn’t do enough to sell the vital point of preserving the kingdom. Important characters – protagonists, what’s more – are primarily motivated by saving the kingdom, to the point that they will sacrifice themselves and others.

But readers could well wonder why the kingdom is worth the sacrifice. Every authority, every institution seems dominated by corruption and arrogance. Injustice is painted again and again – in the punishing of the innocent, or the overly-harsh punishing of the guilty. The anarchy of the caravans suggests a society in political and moral disarray. Worse, readers were not made to feel the suffering that the kingdom’s collapse would cause, nor did the characters who wanted to save the kingdom give much impression of loving it.

A Cast of Stones is a fine novel – well-written, with a well-constructed fantasy world that gives the feel of complex societies, of vast and diverse countries. I enjoyed the real-world texture, as well as the fantastical threads. A Cast of Stones sets out to be a fantasy novel for adults – and succeeds.

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