Tag Archives: magic

Review: A Cast of Stones, by Patrick W. Carr

A Cast of Stones, by Patrick W. CarrA Cast of Stones, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 2013)

The kingdom of Illustra has a mediaeval feel to it, with horses, knights and magic. The story opens with Errol, a homeless youth, seizing the opportunity to deliver a message to a reclusive priest. The money will buy him more ale, which will push back the memories he can’t face.

Errol is the most unlikely of heroes: scrawny, hopeless and addicted to drink. Yet as he’s dragged unwillingly along with the others on a desperate journey, he develops skills and a sense of worth. Something about the lad engaged my interest from page one, before I realized he was the novel’s protagonist. (He wouldn’t like me to use the word “hero.”)

There are plenty of allegorical references to the Christian faith, but not in a way that should limit this book’s appeal to a wider audience. Readers will find the corrupt as well as the pure within Illustra’s church leaders. Indeed, the pure seems the exception rather than the rule.

The magic element comes from those who can cast and read hand-carved lots. To anyone but a reader, the lots look like balls made of wood or stone. To a reader who asks the right question, the lots can reveal truth—and the future.

The novel’s magic and religious systems are well-thought-out, the world feels believably real, and the characters come alive. Errol’s perpetual danger on his journey (and once he reaches his destination) and his transformation along the way, make for a deeply satisfying fantasy read.

Favourite line:

“I am Brother Fenn,” the man in the cowl said. His voice sounded dry, dusty—as if he’d forsaken water when he’d taken the rest of his vows. [Kindle location 1616]

A Cast of Stones is book one in The Staff & The Sword trilogy, and I was happy to discover that books two and three are already available. For more about the author and his books, visit patrickwcarr.com. You can watch a brief trailer for A Cast of Stones, complete with original music: [Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Emissary, by Thomas Locke

Emissary, by Thomas LockeEmissary, by Thomas Locke (Revell, 2014)

Hyam is an honest and unremarkable farmer in a world where magic is only permitted within the confines of  Long Halls: places of training for wizards. He was a Long Hall acolyte for a time, until the wizards threw him out. Not that he wanted to stay. To be an acolyte was much like being a prisoner.

Now, as Hyam reaches his coming-of-age birthday (21), his mother’s deathbed request sends him back to the Long Hall with a message. The unwelcome news he receives there, plus the sudden onset of what seems to be magical ability, thrusts him from his home and into a life of adventure.

Emissary is mainstream fantasy fiction, in the classic reluctant hero’s journey style. It’s been called epic, but I wouldn’t go that far. It’s a fun read with plenty of action and struggle, enjoyable characters and a well-developed world and magic system, but epic fantasy has a weight to it. Emissary, for all the great danger Hyam faces, is a lighter read.

The dangers are huge and at times spectacular, but he always comes through them with ease – even when survival looks impossible at first. [I’m excluding the ending from this comment, because I don’t want to give any spoilers. Perhaps they all die. You’ll have to read the book to find out!]

Thomas Locke is a pseudonym for Davis Bunn, a well-known, award-winning novelist. I understand the choice to use a pen name for this series. It’s an entirely different genre (fantasy instead of suspense) and it’s also a clean mainstream story instead of Davis Bunn’s overtly Christian novels. This way, readers know not to have the same expectations they’d have of his other work.

If you want to know more about Emissary, there’s a free ebook excerpt called The Captive available through the author’s site: The Captive. This may be only available in Kindle format. It’s Joelle’s story (she’s one of the key characters in Emissary). There’s also a book trailer for Emissary and a sample chapter on the Thomas Locke website.

Emissary is book 1 in the Legends of the Realm series, and book 2 is scheduled to release in 2016. Also to come from Thomas Locke is Trial Run, book 1 in the Fault Lines series. This one looks more like science fiction from the brief description at the end of Emissary, and I’m eager to learn more about it.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]