The Hero’s Lot
Errol Stone believes his troubles have at last ended.
When Sarin Valon, the corrupt secondus of the conclave, flees Erinon and the kingdom, Errol believes his biggest job is to befriend the dying king. But other forces bent on the destruction of the kingdom remain and conspire to accuse Errol and his friends of a conspiracy to usurp the throne.
In a bid to keep the three of them from the axe, Archbenefice Canon sends Martin and Luis to Errol’s home village, Callowford, to discover what makes him so important to the kingdom. But Errol is also accused of consorting with spirits. Convicted, his punishment is a journey to the enemy kingdom of Merakh, where he must find Sarin Valon, and kill him. To enforce their sentence, Errol is placed under a compulsion, and he is driven to accomplish his task or die resisting.
Book 2 in The Staff and the Sword series.
This sequel exceeds its predecessor on many counts. The stakes are clearly articulated, the characters better drawn, and the plot developed in a stronger, more engaging direction. Yet overall structural weaknesses rob it from inspiring the tight dramatic tension the author so clearly wants to communicate.
Errol is no longer the drunk we first met, and his maturity matches the novel’s more able footing. He shows the ability to gain new skills and allies. But like the book itself, Errol stumbles in puzzling, often bewildering ways. A misstep in plans or inexperience leading his fellow soldiers is to be expected at this stage in the character’s development. Leaving his armed company for the sake of some entertainment at the local tavern, something he’s never expressed any interest in before, smells of cheap theatrics, especially when he’s soon ambushed by antagonists who are not introduced earlier or mentioned ever again.
The journey of Martin the priest is handled better. This time around the reader is allowed to follow him, Luis, and Cruk through their travels, and seeing the events through their experienced eyes adds depth and meaning to the already richly creative world. Here author Patrick Carr shines, pushing both his characters and readers to reexamine their assumptions as he introduces new mysteries, wrestling with very meaty spiritual questions. I’d have loved for this part of the story to go on longer, really pursuing the ideas brought forward.
Erroll is given many layered conflicts to wrestle with. There’s his potential relationship with the princess and heir to the throne, his spiritual questions regarding destiny, and the hint of discovering his true identity. Any of these ideas, if fully explored and given the time to develop, might have raised this book to a grand level of storytelling.
Unfortunately we’re not given that treat, as the book skips abruptly into a swords and daggers climax. This structure damages the overall plot as all previously introduced complications and antagonists are whisked away, to be replaced by a new setting, new characters, and a brand new villain. Before we have a chance to properly engage with any of these ideas, the big showdown arrives. The small emotional reveals tossed along the way added some flavor but no true zest.
I enjoyed this second book better than the first, and recommend it as a casually fun reading experience. But you may be as frustrated as I that such a creatively brilliant premise isn’t getting the equally excellent execution it deserves.
Patrick Carr has officially become one of my favorite authors. I could hardly wait until his last book of the trilogy came out. He created his world well, adding mythical creatures and real humanity excellently. His character development is wonderful; I was pulling for Errol by chapter three. My only complaint is that Errol never truly discovers how much he is loved by Aura. I understand Holy Spirit’s majesty and wisdom, but I LOVE his friendship and humor. Errol never figures that out. He only ever decides that he must obey out of duty, not love. That would be the only thing I would have fixed. Otherwise, I recommend the book for everyone. Five stars!