Author’s Note: We were provided with free copies of the novels in this series in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The Staff and the Sword Series
The Staff and the Sword is a powerfully written book series that, at the time of it’s release, shook the fantasy genre at it’s core. In this series, Patrick Carr deviated from the typical pitfalls and tropes used in many fantasy novels by crafting relatable, deep characters and an engaging storyline. While each novel in the series contains both strengths and weaknesses, the series rounds out with a strong score, and would make a great Christian animated series. Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses in each novel.
A Cast of Stones (4 out of 4 points)
The opening novel of the series, A Cast of Stones, introduces the reader to a broken young man named Errol Stone who lives in the poor village of Callowford. Errol hides from past trauma by getting drunk as often as possible. He has little care for those around him, and has given himself entirely over to his addiction. One day an important messenger arrives in Callowford with a package that needs to be delivered to a nearby churchman. Errol realizes that he is out of money with which to buy ale, so he volunteers to make the harrowing journey. Little does Errol know that this decision will greatly alter his future. Unlike the other novels in this series, this one contains no errors.
Major strengths of this novel include the engaging and consistent storyline, the well-structured plot, and the character depth. Additionally, Errol is one of the best developed protagonists I have seen in some time. His struggles and learning experiences are perfectly crafted and align very well with his character’s purpose. It would take some time to cover all the positives in this novel, so perhaps the best way to sum it up is by saying the following. Fantasy authors who are looking to craft a story that real people can relate to should use A Cast of Stones as an all-purpose reference guide. For these reasons and more, the first book in this series earns a perfect overall score.
The Hero’s Lot (3.5 out of 4 points)
The second novel in the series, The Hero’s Lot, contains similar strengths, but has some flaws. Major strengths of this novel include it’s realistic portrayal of legalistic church corruption and it’s theme of living under The Holy Spirit’s direction. Major weaknesses of the novel include some choppy chapter transitions and abrupt character introductions. This being said, it would have been helpful to add an additional book in-between this and the final novel. Doing this would have allowed Carr the creative space he needed to flesh out some key characters’ backstories (and the content in The Book) and to better establish how the interactions between different cultures in Illustra influence the storyline. If the entire additional book was set in Merachi, for instance, then a lot of plot holes could be filled in. For the strengths and errors listed, The Hero’s Lot stops just short of a perfect score.
A Draw of Kings (2 out of 4 points)
The final book in The Staff and the Sword series – A Draw of Kings – is the weakest novel, but still has plenty of strong content to work with. Major strengths of the novel include the lessons learned by the main characters and the original ending that isn’t overly predictable. Major weaknesses include Liam’s unfinished character arc (his character desperately needed some realistic flaws, no one is perfect), the overwhelming number of sub-plots, and the plot gaps (i.e. the disappearing barrier) that could have been remedied by adding another novel to the overall count. Thus, this novel earns an average score for not reaching it’s full potential.
Finally, Carr earns a half an x factor point for originality for crafting an excellent Christian fantasy series, and for coloring outside the lines with his incredible protagonist. Additionally, the BOR team believes this book series would make an excellent multi-season Christian animated series made for a teenage audience. Maybe Angel Studios will pick up this project next..;)
Wish List Series Rating: 10 out of 12 points