Sometimes I write a book review because I promised I would. Sometimes I need to because I want to tell the world about a great story. Sometimes I just have to write a review, even though I feel like I am spiritually and mentally under attack every step of the way. That probably sounds arrogant and judgmental, since I am nobody, have no influence, and over five hundred voices already disagree with me about the book. I also don’t think I’ve ever published a two-star review.
This book gets two stars from me because it’s not trash in terms of writing. There are few errors and some mildly interesting elements. It also doesn’t contain objectionable elements such as lurid violence, explicit sex, gratuitous language, or excessive commendation of bad actions. But I will say, more about that last point later, because it’s not free of that extremely objectionable element, by any means.
The rest of my review contains spoilers. I only warn the reader to be polite, because for crying out loud, could they make things any more obvious? There is nothing, nothing, NOTHING surprising in this book. NOTHING.
The main mystery comes down to determining the next king of a decaying land. I can’t even tell you how obvious it is that the next king is going to be somebody unexpected. Oh, wait. If you didn’t fall asleep amid the jackhammer foreshadowing, maybe it isn’t all that unexpected. Why doesn’t the author sneer at boring “mister perfect” some more? Why doesn’t he make the priest a little more stereotyped; messy, self-indulgent, tolerant, stumbling. Check check check. The guy whose behavior is secretive, reprehensible, downright anti-honorable, is actually a real good guy, mentor, and true believer! Didn’t see that coming!
Normally an author wants his readers to like his main character. Or at least show some strong feeling for him, besides the “aw” of pity or the “ew” of disgust. But that’s all you get with Errol for maybe a third of the book. The unlikely hero is so overdone. The orphan hero whose past is mysterious is absurdly overdone. Yep. Here it is again, only without any real nobility or admirability at all. I might have admired him for his ability to survive being chased and shot at on the perilous journey to the inaccessible location. But wait! The chaser later admits he didn’t want to hurt him, just do one essential thing that he completely failed to do. Eventually Errol gets up to speed, cares about improving himself, and work hard to become good at something. That comes after … wait for it … a near-death experience and providentially being cared for by a reclusive former legendary warrior!
Only outcasts, people in seclusion, and people who are ponderously ethnically diverse, crazy, “Have a past”, or use incomprehensible powers that require exhaustive training (except for the hero because he is “gifted”) are worthy of inclusion in this story. Or worthy of trust. Or worthy to be listened to. But they better have lied, abandoned previous responsibility, or just plain done something non-virtuous, non-daily-life-boring somewhere along the way, or they are not going to make the cut in this story.
Did I mention a legendary indomitable warrior who screws up repeatedly? Did I mention there are THREE legendary warriors, all reclusive, all waiting for the right moment to be there for our hero? And you can become a legendary warrior too. Just practice a lot with your stick that several people say is too lightweight. Don’t ever carve a better stick, even when that’s what you asked for tools and wood to do. You will still beat the tar out of anybody, any weapon, any number of opponents, tirelessly, with your STICK, because it is such an unexpected weapon! Oh, please, mighty stickmaster, train our battle-seasoned veterans of the sword, lance, and crossbow how to fight with a stick!
Naturally the now hardworking (but still pretty much virtue-neutral) hero arrives at the capital city. Naturally he will confront his destiny and show up all the wise and experienced people who have just been waiting for him to discover secret knowledge and do amazing things they trained all their lives to be prepared to do but can’t, because he has to show them up. He has to borrow somebody else’s stick when uncontrollable monsters arrive and start eating people, but he smacks these formerly unbeatable hordes of monsters into submission with his borrowed stick, and later his own stick. Everybody emerges victorious, even smarmy mister perfect, but Errol gets the greatest accolades because he used to be a drunk!
And, yes, there the story, first of a trilogy, ends, resolving … well … nothing. Well, not quite. There is this little teaser thingy that is supposed to shock the socks off of you. In case you don’t know what the “Cast of Stones” title is all about, the way they determine matters of importance such as what direction to take their quest in, or who the next king will be, they make a bunch of perfectly round balls, ideally of hand-carved stone, and toss them. Only a person gifted and/or trained in the art can read the message in the stones, blah blah and so on. This to me sounded like a cross between the dice you roll in Dungeons and Dragons and, sorry, a lottery drawing. It is nothing like the lots in the Scriptures. Nothing like it at all.
In fact, This so-called Christian book kind of turns on it head and distorts of every Biblical principle. Philippians 4:8 is probably another thing people consider to be overused, but you can’t get much clearer about what we are supposed to fill our head with. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Finally, no doubt long after everyone has quit reading, I will say that I really don’t understand the portrayal of belief in this book. It seems to be the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the Scriptures, and it seems the religion has got hopelessly corrupt. But it also seems that some person besides the Christ the author pretty clearly presents is the one who died to bring peace. What in the world does that mean?