A Cast of Stones, first in The Staff & The Sword series by new author, Patrick W. Carr, is a lot like I was in high school. After a bad first impression, Carr’s first novel needed a little time to explain itself before it won me over. But it did win me over in the end.
A Cast of Stones is set in the fantastic Illustra, a land ruled by the crown, the church, and the conclave of readers. With easily-spotted ties to our own world, Illustra is a land in crisis. The king nears the end of his days without leaving an heir. The conclave charged with approving the future king is shrinking rapidly due to unknown assassinations. And the church has been infiltrated by the very powers it seeks to thwart.
Enter Errol Stone, an orphan addicted to ale who may just be the kingdom’s only hope. To be honest, it took me a full third of the book before I found Errol to be worth rooting for. Then again, Luke Skywalker isn’t likeable in Star Wars until at least Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back.
Being his first novel, Carr should be alotted a certain amount of grace. He crafts some great passages, but there are a few places where I was pulled out of the narrative by details that probably should have been caught by an editor. The plot follows the traditional hero’s journey, but twists in elements unique to Illustra.
For those willing to push past the first third of the book, A Cast of Stones will capture your interest and leave you waiting for the next installment with bated breath.