A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr is the first in a series of The Staff and The Sword. It’s a beautiful tale of how circumstances changed a young drunk both physically and spiritually as he is pulled unwillingly into a quest.
Errol Stone will do anything for ale. His friend, Cruk, knows this too well. So when a church rider comes to Callowford bearing a message for Luis and Martin–two hermits who live past the Cripples–Cruk and the rider doubt Errol’s ability to navigate the difficult terrain to deliver it for the rider. The rider must be in another town by night fall and promises money to Errol for the delivery.
The rider is the catalyst in Errol’s life. Errol brings not just the message, but also the bread and wine for sacraments to the hermits living in isolation away from town. An assassin stalks Errol on his journey. Arrows whiz by, barely missing Errol, and finally Errol jumps into the icy river to avoid the assassin. Nothing is what it seems and Errol learns Luis and Martin are high up in the church. Errol’s friend, Cruk is part of the Watch—an army of men sworn to protect the king and the church. Readers of the church are being killed off in the hundreds. The church has dispatched the Watch to protect the benefices instead of the king and no one knows for sure if the king lives or dies as all readers have been called to Erinon to choose a new king. What follows is a quest to return to Erinon and King Rodran in which Errol is an unwilling participant until Luis sees that Errol has the ability of a reader.
A compulsion is put on Errol and Luis declares him property of the church. Errol fights his thirst for ale and eventually learns and grows into a sober man as the quest becomes more dangerous. Errol faces his past, recognizes his alcohol addiction, and learns to fight well with a staff. The story mixes divination and Catholic history and hierarchy in the world that Patrick W. Carr has built. The dialogue is humorous and snappy. I couldn’t put down the novel and read it in one day. I rated the novel five stars and can’t wait to read the second novel in the series to see if Errol or Liam become the next king.
*Book won in a drawing. Reviewed because I wanted to review it.