Patrick W. Carr's A Cast of Stones is book one in The Staff and the Sword series. The narrative follows the journey of Errol, the village drunk, as he climbs out of the ale barrel and discovers physical talents and depths to his character that he didn't know existed. All of his “friends”—might be better to call them acquaintances (more on that later)—are surprised as well. Carr tells his tale from a third-person POV and follows Errol's story with a single plot line.
The tale begins when an official messenger from the capital Erinon arrives in a backwater village with a message for Martin—a hermit priest who lives with a servant Luis in a nearly inaccessible cabin in a nearby gorge. Errol, who knows the path to Martin's cabin better than anyone, manages to get the job delivering the message along with some sacramental bread and wine. He can't believe his luck. The payment from the messenger will keep him in ale for the foreseeable future and Errol's vision of the future only extends to his next drink. Errol's future is about to change. A mysterious man in black tries to feather Errol with arrows. Errol barely escapes after leaping into the river, and the message is ruined in the process. Martin, Luis, and Errol set off the next morning to intercept the messenger but discover along the path that they have been poisoned. Errol saves their lives after obtaining an antidote from a herb woman. As the story unfolds, Errol finds that many people are trying to kill him. Fortunately, Errol is good at running. Errol is caught up in something “bigger” than begging for ale. It has something to do with a looming succession crisis. The elderly king has no heir and ancient prophecies tell of dire consequences if the royal line ends. The mystery of Errol's place in this crisis and the physical threats to his life fuel the narrative.
I have mixed feelings about A Cast of Stones. At times, I didn't want to stop reading. At other times, well, I had to finish the book for the blog tour. I found the middle of the novel, when Errol stays with the farmer Rale and then joins a caravan as a guard on his journey to Erinon, riveting. Other parts of the novel fell flat for me because I didn't like many of the other characters and the limitation to Errol's POV keeps the reader in the dark for too long. I'll delve deeper into what I liked and didn't like about A Cast of Stones tomorrow.
Wondering if you should invest some money in this series? You can dive in for free. The Kindle version of A Cast of Stones is currently free on Amazon. Not sure if this is forever or a limited time offer, so get it now!
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of A Cast of Stones from the publisher.
To learn more about Carr and his work, check out his website and blog.
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