Tag Archives: Patrick W. Carr

Review: The End of the Magi, by Patrick W. Carr

The End of the Magi: a novel, by Patrick W. Carr

The End of the Magi, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 2019)

Whether he’s writing historical fiction or epic fantasy, Patrick W. Carr brings exotic settings to life and creates unlikely heroes who inspire strong reader loyalty.

The End of the Magi is an intense, danger-fraught novel of biblical fiction where the magi in question are those who come bearing gifts for the Christ child. But the story—and their role in it—doesn’t end there.

The culture and the prophecies fascinate, and the snippets of wry humour make me smile. And I love how the story shows God choosing to use someone from outside the Hebrew lineage, someone with questionable heritage and a physical deformity, as part of His purposes. How like God to use the unlikely and to include the excluded.

Favourite lines:

“The only thing worse than disagreeing with the king is being right when you do it.” [Kindle location 3182]

“You see yourself as a man cursed with a clubfoot and beset by trials at every turn… But I see a man who has triumphed over every obstacle placed before him.” [Kindle locations 3373 and 3376]

“It’s almost as if God takes delight in accomplishing His ends in the most unlikely way possible.” [Kindle location 3943]

This is a novel for Christmas or for any time of year, for savouring and for discussing. It reminds us that God works in His own methods and according to His own timetable, often in ways that surprise, and that He has a place for the willing heart in His service.

Well done, Patrick W. Carr! As a long-time fan of his fantasy fiction, I give my hearty approval to his first historical fiction.

For more about the author and to read samples of his work, visit patrickwcarr.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher through #NetGalley. My opinions are my own.]

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Review: The Wounded Shadow, by Patrick W. Carr

The Wounded Shadow, by Patrick W. CarrThe Wounded Shadow, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 2018)

This is one of those books I didn’t want to end. It felt so good to be back with these characters, even in their overwhelming struggle, and I found myself rationing the reading time to make it last.

Willet Dura, the hero, has been my favourite all along, and I became very fond of Mark early on in this book.

The Wounded Shadow is the third and final book in the Darkwater series, and it’s not one to pick up if you haven’t started at the beginning. The scope is vast, and enough has happened that a reader starting here would feel lost.

In this, book three, the hints and threads set out in previous instalments come together in satisfying and surprising ways. Even nearing the end, I couldn’t see how this conflict could find a satisfactory conclusion, but it did.

I confess I didn’t fully understand part of the ending, but that’s me, not the writer. I need to re-read it and to talk to others who’ve also finished the story. For now, my limited understanding doesn’t diminish my sense that this is a rich, immersive series that I look forward to re-reading in the future.

I highly recommend the series, and suggest readers begin with the free ebook-only novella (you can read it on your phone if need be) By Divine Right. The rest of the series is available in print and ebook versions, and it’s too good to miss even a bit. Great characters, epic story, lots to love… even some humour.

This is Christian fiction with an allegory feel, and definitely without pat answers or anything trite or simplistic. As with everything else in the series world, the faith is complex and nuanced.

As well as the Darkwater Saga, Patrick W. Carr has also written The Staff & The Sword series (also highly recommended). For more about the author and his books, visit patrickwcarr.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Shattered Vigil, by Patrick W. Carr

The Shattered Vigil, by Patrick W. CarrThe Shattered Vigil, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 2016)

Willet Dura is one of the most interesting characters I’ve “met” in a long time. He may be insane, and he definitely has something nasty locked up in his mind that at times takes control of his actions. But as a reader, I’m on his side and I know he’s one of the good guys. Even though the other “good guys” in the Vigil don’t trust him.

He treats even the lowest with dignity and compassion, he fights for justice, and he loves God. In the world of this series, God is called Aer, and is a triune deity Christians will recognize. There are recognizable spiritual parallels between Willet’s world and ours, but readers of any (or no) faith can enjoy this epic fantasy series with its depth of characters, plot, and setting.

The series is dark in places and heartwarming in others. I did not expect the “aww” moment in this book. (It was a side note, really, but I won’t spoil it. Just watch for Willet to yell at Jeb.) On the other hand, I didn’t expect to be concerned about nightmares over something that happened later, even though it was “off-camera.” I trust the author enough to wait for the next book in the series to find out why he allowed it to happen.

Another thing to appreciate in these books is the occasional bits of humour. Bolt, Willet’s protector, has an endless supply of pithy one-liners that often bring a smile. My favourite from this book:

You look like something the cook should have thrown away.” [Kindle location 1428]

Point of view alternates between first person (Willet’s scenes) and third person for everyone else. The storytelling is immersive, the settings and world-building convincing and complex, and the characters compelling.

The Shattered Vigil is book 2 in The Darkwater Saga, and new readers are strongly urged to pick up the novella By Divine Right as a free ebook to introduce themselves to Willet and his world.

Patrick W. Carr has also written The Staff & The Sword series. For more about the author and his work, visit patrickwcarr.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]


Review: The Shock of Night, by Patrick W. Carr

The Shock of Night, by Patrick W. CarrThe Shock of Night, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 2015)

Willett Dura is a member of the local constabulary while in personal service to the King. He’s compassionate to the poor, loyal in his duties, and out of place in the King’s court.

There’s a vault in his mind, a place even he can’t go, linked with his wartime trauma. He’s also a nightwalker, waking in the morning with no memory of leaving his room… but sometimes with bloodstains on his clothes. And always on the night of a murder.

Willett has investigated the killings, found some of the culprits, and he’s mostly sure his own hands haven’t done the deeds. He’s learning to live with the uncertainty, and with the discomfort of being made a minor lord, and anticipating his upcoming marriage.

An encounter with a dying man changes everything. Burdened with an unexpected – and rare – spiritual gift, Willett’s life is upended. He’s thrust into membership in an unseen group called the Vigil, and expected to trust their half-truths about a danger larger than he can imagine.

He didn’t want this gift, and it may cost him everything. But if it’s true that the gift came to him by God’s will, then he may be the Vigil’s best hope of succeeding – even with that vault in his mind.

Patrick W. Carr has imagined a richly-textured world and culture, with enough similarities to mediaeval towns and forests to allow readers to connect. These people’s faith resembles Christianity in the sense that there’s a trinity, one member of whom came to earth to bring salvation. Their worship began with a central church organization, which has split into four Divisions, each emphasizing a key point of doctrine.

Their spiritual gifts, unlike ours, are limited in number and given by God, to be passed down in the family. If someone dies unexpectedly, their gift will go free, and be directed to a new recipient. Killing a Gifted to steal a gift is a major crime.

The Shock of Night is an excellent read. I took a few chapters to be fully immersed, likely acclimatizing to the culture, but I’m happy to say the Darkwater Saga series is starting off every bit as strong as the author’s previous series, The Staff & the Sword. This is a book you can read and re-read, think about and discuss. It has enough meat to satisfy a literature class, while delivering a smoothly-flowing and enjoyable read for people who just want a really good tale.

Amid the action and intrigue, one subtle thread I appreciated was the illustration of how long-term mindsets of bitterness or complaining could destroy even the most outwardly-upright individuals. Willett’s surname, Dura, speaks of his strength and endurance. In a world of ease and suffering, he tries to make a difference.

I also appreciated the writing itself, and the occasional sparks of humour. Some of my favourite lines:

His face had taken on the stillness men wear when they’ve no choice but to swallow their anger. [p. 47]

The familiar ache of what I’d lost in the last war pulled at my insides like scar tissue covering a wound in my soul. [p. 55]

The part of my brain where I kept my common sense rebelled at the idea. As usual it lost almost immediately. [p. 357]

The novel is mostly written in the first person, from Willett’s point of view. Other scenes in third person let readers learn what’s happening when he’s not in the room, and this is integral to the story. I didn’t find it jarring like I usually do.

This is a clean fantasy novel with elements of Christian allegory, suitable for believers and non-believers. At around 460 pages, it’s heavy, so an ebook version might be a plus despite the high price. (It’s my review, I can say it: pricing an ebook over $10 offends me, and only books of this high a calibre deserve the $10 price.)

Do take advantage of the free ebook novella prequel, By Divine Right (find it at your favourite online bookstore). Even if you don’t like ebooks, grab this one and read it on your computer, tablet or phone. The apps for Kindle, Kobo, Nook etc are all free. The prequel isn’t required reading for the series, but it gives helpful background, lets you get to know Willett, and it’s a good story in its own right.

Award-winning author Patrick W. Carr’s characters and worlds are nuanced and satisfying, and I highly recommend The Shock of Night and his first series, The Staff & the Sword. For more about the author and his books, visit patrickwcarr.com.

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

Review: A Draw of Kings, by Patrick W. Carr

A Draw of Kings, by Patrick W. CarrA Draw of Kings, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 2014)

This review contains spoilers for the previous novels in the series. If you haven’t read them but enjoy clean, epic fantasy and Christian allegory where it’s all story and no preaching, grab an ebook copy of book 1, A Cast of Stones, from your favourite online bookstore (it’s a free download) and check it out. If you’re interested, my review is here: A Cast of Stones.

A Draw of Kings is a satisfying conclusion to a series I fully enjoyed. The world-building is rich and detailed, the characters are people I care about, and despite an honest, realistic feel, nothing was upsetting to me as a reader. From the first book, A Cast of Stones, these stories pulled me in, and I wanted to spend more time with the characters.

In this story, the kingdom of Illustra faces attack on multiple fronts. King Rodran has died without an heir, and the protective barrier will fall. The main characters from the previous books split up on various desperate missions, still not knowing whether it’s Errol or Liam who will die to save them all.

None of these characters are perfect or heroic (except, perhaps, Liam) but they fight for their kingdom the best they can. Those who survive come out stronger. And face more challenges.

We need more Christian fantasy fiction of this calibre. For more about the author and his books, including new material releasing this fall, visit his website: patrickwcarr.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Hero’s Lot, by Patrick W. Carr

The Heros LotThe Hero’s Lot, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 2013)

The Staff & The Sword series needs to be read in order. And it’s worth reading without seeing the spoilers for book 1 that will appear in the following review of book 2. If you haven’t read book 1, A Cast of Stones, you can see my review here. If it appeals, pop over to your favourite internet bookstore and download the book for free in Kindle, Nook or Kobo format.

I have so many books in my to-read stash that I’d forgotten I had A Cast of Stones until a review caught my interest. It took great self-control not to immediately buy The Hero’s Lot when I finished, and this time I went ahead and bought book 3, A Draw of Kings, to read immediately after book 2. Book 3 is $9.99 Canadian. I’ll only pay that much for an exceptional ebook. This series is worth it.

Enough rambling. Here’s my review of book 2, with the aforementioned spoilers for book 1:

The Hero’s Lot continues the saga of Errol Stone, a reluctant hero who somehow survived the first book. Naturally (for Errol) just when life is looking good, he’s thrown back into danger. This time he’s sent on an impossible quest. His friends Martin and Luis are sent on another path that turns out nearly as dangerous.

The world of Illustra bears a striking similarity to a mediaeval type of Earth, and its religion echoes key elements of Christianity. Illustra’s deity is a Trinity: Deas, Eleison and the “unknowable” spirit, Aurae. Except that the healers, rejected by the official Church (definitely a capital C for this institution) say Aurae communes with them.

Illustra’s Church has many devout priests, as well as others who have done untold harm in its name. Errol knows this better than most, and his pain is almost his undoing. The characters take an honest look at the problem of hypocrisy and abuse of power within the Church, and I think readers who’ve had their own negative experiences with Christians and/or the church will find this series a safe place to be. No pat answers, no denial, but perhaps a gradual presentation of hope.

Lovers of epic fantasy, whether they’re people of faith or not, can appreciate the sweeping nature of the series, with its intricately-crafted world and cultures, characters who inspire loyalty (or enmity), chases, combat scenes, plus threads of romance and the occasional funny line.

Some of my favourite lines:

Questions chased each other through his mind like unruly acolytes playing tag before vespers. [Martin, a priest. Kindle page 58]

“I always think better when I hold a cup of tea,” Karele said. “It keeps my hands from running away with my thoughts.” [Kindle page 75]

Naaman Ru moved through opposition like a phantom, and the touch of his shadow brought death. [Part of a fight scene. Kindle page 423]

I read a lot of books, most of them very good. Sometimes it starts to feel like work. With A Cast of Stones and The Hero’s Lot, I wanted to keep reading and see what happened, but I also wanted to take it slowly so the story wouldn’t end too soon. For me, that’s rare.

It’s also worth noting that the covers for this series are amazing.

Patrick W. Carr is an award-winning author of character-driven fantasy. His new series, The Darkwater Saga, releases this fall. For more about the author or to sign up for his newsletter, visit patrickwcarr.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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.]