25 Apr 2013

Review of 'A Cast of Stones' by Patrick W. Carr

A Cast of Stones: The Staff and the Sword Trilogy Book 1 
"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."
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I admit that I tend to have high standards where any novel set in the medieval era is concerned, but I really could not get on with this one from the outset.  There were some original elements to the story, and some original characters, but on the whole it seemed a little disappointing and dare I say it maybe a little `ordinary'?
By which I mean rather similar to a lot of other fantasy stories out there, with perhaps little to make it stand out from the crowd except the `lots' and `readers' who will be mentioned later.

First of all there was the writing style- without meaning to seem cruel or unpleasant in the early parts the novel read as though it could have been written by a teenager I know this was probably the author's first book, but the writing felt amateurish in places, especially some descriptions of characters' feelings and metaphors.
Some characters were interesting, like Errol the hero at times, but others may have been just 'stock' characters. Like the ninja-style girl amazingly skilled at fighting, a drunken priest, a greedy merchant, and a love interest or two.

Also, it seemed to be lacking in any real sense of period (at least at the beginning). Yes, it was meant to be set in medieval times, but the setting just seemed superficial as though having the characters wearing cloaks and fighting with swords and bows was enough.
Yet their speech was very out of place and peppered with modern day idioms and phrases, and characters eating such exotic delicacies as turkey and potatoes which were unknown in Medieval Europe.
Also, although fantasy can stretch reality there were some incidents were too implausible. Is it actually possible for a person to dodge an arrow shot from only a few feet on front of them? Even if characters were hit, they would just pull out the offending arrow, carry on with what they were doing, and maybe seek medical treatment later, then seemingly be perfectly fine in a day or two.

Errol the hero also seemed to have an uncanny ability to just pull though when he seemed to be at the point of death. Some two or three times in the novel is badly wounded or sick and near to dying but just manages to survive.
Then there were the fight scenes. I understand element of danger was necessary and allowed Errol to develop his fighting ability but there can be such a thing as too many fight scenes. Perhaps this story relied too heavily on them for `action' at the expense of plot and character development and ran the risk of making the story seem repetitive.

Moving on, some of the religious elements of the work of `Christian Fiction' warrant a mention. Yet the central notion of the `readers' who are `born with' the power to see what is written on lots seems to be one that is dubious. Basically, `lots' are round balls which readers use to help them make decisions or find out information by `fixing a picture' in their mind of the possibilities. To me, it seemed a little like visualisation and appeared as though the readers were almost able to project their thoughts onto the lots.

The allegorical retelling of some Biblical accounts seemed to fall short by their apparent lack of consistency with scripture. For instance it was claimed that Elision (the equivalent of Christ) died to `lock' the evil spirits away from his creation- but there was no mention of him having died for the sins of humanity that I could recall. There was mention of a human King having `purchased the barrier' between the world of men and the evil spirits with his blood- but he was human and not Jesus. Also the descriptions of people being demon possessed might have been a little too intense.

Overall, A Cast of Stones was not a book I greatly enjoyed, and I would not be very likely to recommend it. I received a proof copy of this book from Netgalley for a review. All opinions expressed in it are my own.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts, I might have to read it myself to make a descision, my brother wrote the post for my blog :)


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