Gather ’round, kids. It’s time for a story.
A few years ago, I was at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Indianapolis. To help defray the costs, I found a roommate via ACFW’s e-mail Loop. I had never really met my roommate before, so it was maybe a little awkward when we met. But he was a good guy, very determined to make a splash at the conference and tell people about the book he had written. But hey, that pretty much describes everyone at a writers conference, right?
Anyway, we didn’t see much of each other, maybe a few minutes at the end of the day where we’d compare notes and he’d think about his game plan for the next day. He was a lot more organized than I was, keeping track of all the editors and agents he had spoken to in his conference book. By contrast, I was a lot more sedate. I knew who I had to talk to and, since it was a short list, I could keep track of it mentally.
At the end of the conference, we went our separate ways. I did pretty good for myself. It was at that conference that I pitched this weird book about superheroes competing on a reality TV show to Jeff Gerke at Marcher Lord Press and my friend, Jill Williamson, pitched that same book to her agent, Amanda Luedeke, for me. I wound up signing with both Jeff and Amanda shortly thereafter.
And my roommate? Well, I lost track of him. Until I heard that he landed a publishing deal with Bethany House for this book called “A Cast of Stones.”
That’s right, folks. My roommate was the very talented Patrick Carr and just recently, I finished reading his “The Staff and the Sword” trilogy.
Let me start by saying I’ve really enjoyed this series overall. As a matter of fact, Patrick’s book was the first I was asked to read for a possible endorsement as a published author (my quote’s on the back of A Cast of Stones and everything!). The whole trilogy follows the adventures of a young man named Errol Stone. Errol has had a rough life in his little village. He’s actually the town drunk, much more content to spend his life swimming through an ale-induced haze. He’s not what you’d call a hero. No, another villager named Liam is every inch the hero. He’s tall, strapping, good-looking, and just inherently a great guy.
The weird thing is, both of them get caught up in an adventure that could rock their kingdom to the core. Either one of them could turn out to be the hero that their kingdom desperately needs.
I don’t want to say too much more. I mean, I know, the first book in this trilogy came out last year, and all of you should have read it by now, but if you haven’t, I don’t want to spoil anything. So let’s talk about what I’ve liked about the series in terms of generalities:
- The lots – One of the interesting things that Patrick included in his stories is the idea of the lots. In his world’s version of Christianity, the Church determines their course of action by drawing lots. Specially trained individuals named readers are able to carve lots out of wood or stone and then draw them to answer carefully worded questions. Patrick put a lot of thought into how this system works and it’s simply fascinating to learn how the whole thing works (and sometimes doesn’t).
- Errol’s journey – Another thing I’ve appreciated is how Errol goes from drunk to hero in the first book. Simply awesome.
- The “extraneous” characters – There are a lot of people to keep track of in this series, but it never got overwhelming. There were a few times when I was left wondering who someone was, but my confusion ended quickly.
That’s just a little taste as to what I’ve liked about the series overall. Now let’s talk about the last book, A Draw of Kings.
It’s kind of hard to sum up the plot of this book without dropping a lot of spoilers from the first two. So let’s talk in broad strokes. The kingdom is facing its worst crisis as its enemies are pouring over the border. Errol and his friends are charged with finding a way to stop the demonic forces that threaten to consume them all. Heroes will be made. And one of them will have to sacrifice everything to ultimately defeat the evil.
Okay, so that’s not a very detailed explanation, but again, spoilers and all that.
For the most part, I was very satisfied with the way things wrapped up. At the heart of this trilogy is a question (and it’s one that I can’t share without, again…well, spoilers) that revolves around Errol and his friend Liam. I thought I had the answer figured out by the middle of this book, but it turns out I didn’t. Instead, the way that Patrick answered the question was an enjoyable twist, one that I didn’t see coming. The final confrontation and battle was heart-wrenching in a good way and, ultimately, I finished reading this book feeling very satisfied.
My only quibble is that the last book seemed a bit scattershot. There were a lot of loose threads to be tied up before the book ended and, in some ways, that seemed to dilute the plot a little. A lot of the characters had to go their separate ways to accomplish whatever tasks they had. As a result, the ending of the book felt rushed as it all came together. It’s a minor thing, really, but there it is.
In the end, I really appreciated the story that Patrick set out to tell. It was unique, delightful, and a crazy ride. I simply can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next.