Although it had been a long day and my eyes were gritty, my mind wouldn’t settle down. I opened a book that was better than I’d hoped, and intended to read myself to sleep. At three a.m., I finished the last page, and slapped the cover closed. “One darn good book!”
It was Patrick Carr‘s debut novel, A Cast of Stones, first of The Staff & the Sword series.
Usually when reading a book for review, I take notes, jot down ideas. This time, I read for the simple pleasure of it.
The story centers on a young drunkard named Errol Stone, the joke and the burden of Callowford. He has no close friends, but there are people who care about his well-being: a “perfect” peer, a warrior in hiding, the herbwomen for whom he gathers medicines, an old priest in the woods, and a few others.
One day, a traveler rides into the village. Errol sees the chance to earn a few coins to pay for more ale, and volunteers to deliver a package and a message to Pater Martin out on the ridge. He expects it to be only an errand, but it turns into a run for his life. Errol evades an assassin, and delivers the message, but now it’s unreadable, and the package almost destroyed.
Who’d want to kill him? He hasn’t been anywhere, or done anything much but drink for the past few years.
The answer matters to Pater Martin, too, but there’s another matter pressing on his mind: Errol’s bondage to ale. With the priest’s help, and that of Martin’s servant Luis, and for the first time in a long while, Errol spends a night without alcohol. It’s a rough night, but it’s a step toward recovery.
Something happens, though, that makes Errol suspect Martin and Luis are keeping secrets, and he is at the heart of the mystery.
The next morning, the trio sets out for the village in order to meet the traveler, learn what the sodden message was meant to say, and perhaps learn why a man in black shot arrows at Errol.
What they find are more questions—and more assassins.
Before those questions are answered, they’ll collect more traveling companions—Cruk, a captain in the royal guard, and Liam, a young man Errol’s age and so perfect in all he does he set’s Errol’s teeth on edge—and cross paths with enemies disguised as friends. They’ll learn the king is dying without an heir, and they are essential to making sure the new king is chosen without the kingdom falling into war.
And Errol will face his past, his insecurities, and his addiction. A warrior in hiding rescues him when he is separated from his friends, then teaches him to fight with a staff rather than a sword. Errol not only gains discipline but skill and confidence. It serves him well when he falls in with sketchy folks on the road, and earns him a place of respect when he reaches the royal city.
All is not well, however. Assassins, strange murderous creatures, and a seemingly all-knowing presence stalk him and his companions. The old king is frail, still needing a successor.
And Errol is halfway in love with the king’s niece.
I enjoyed following his adventures through A Cast of Stones, and look forward to reading more in A Hero’s Lot. I’ve only read the first chapter, but am looking forward to a solid block of free time so I can dive in. The covers are evocative of mystery and fantasy, fitting of the stories within. The final installment, A Draw of Kings, is due out February 2014, and is available for pre-order.
A Cast of Stones is this month’s second featured novel in the CSFF Blog Tour. Check out the sites below for more discussion of this excellent yarn:
Emma or Audrey Engel
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
August 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm
I agree! This one was pure reading pleasure;) hard to stop and jot notes.
August 26, 2013 at 9:55 pm
Yep, I can’t wait for the third one, but I guess I have to!!
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
August 27, 2013 at 12:17 am
I didn’t take notes with this one either, it was that good!
August 29, 2013 at 3:29 am
I’m glad to find someone else who liked these books as much as I do! Great post!
August 29, 2013 at 7:56 am
I loved this first book, and the second one I am still finishing, but I have read enough to that I posted about it too. It deserves it! I can’t wait for the third book!
August 29, 2013 at 1:27 pm
Nicely done! You gave details without giving AWAY the entire story. I enjoyed it, too, and plan to finish the trilogy (just read A Cast of Stones for CSFF Blog Tour).