I’ve been waiting for this book ever since reading the first book in the series around this time last year. Then, after reading the middle book this summer, I became even more curious how the story would turn out—and just a little on edge, hoping that the ending would be worth the wait.
When the book came, I didn’t have time to start it immediately, but I added it to my stack and left it there until a day or so later. Eventually, the call got too strong. I picked up the book and started reading…just a chapter before I went back to that other project, right?
Not a good idea.
I ended up skimming the first half of the book before I forced myself to put it back in the stack.
In A Cast of Stones (review from last March), Errol Stone finds himself under a compulsion that draws him away from his messy, dismal life as a village drunk into the equally messy, dangerous plots of the church and the kingdom. He survives, only to have the church place him under a second compulsion in The Hero’s Lot (reviewed back in July), ordering him to track down a rogue reader—someone who can trace his every move and know what he’s thinking almost as soon as he thinks it.
Errol should return from his search a hero twice-over, but once again Illustra has turned upside down and one of Errol’s greatest enemies has seized the throne. Not his greatest enemy, though, because in A Draw of Kings, the land’s greatest enemy—the demonic malus—are gathering the ferrals and the surrounding nations to destroy Illustra.
For years, the barrier has kept these enemies out. Now, with the barrier falling, someone will have to die to renew it. Even more—for the nation to truly survive the threatening chaos, it needs a new leader, and a new understanding of the old mysteries.
From first to last, I’ve enjoyed reading this series. With the first book, Patrick Carr caught my attention by creating a vivid medieval world, and a complex, intriguing blend of characters and action. Where fantasy stories sometimes find it easy to rehash stereotypes about the orphan hero or the ancient world of horse riding and sword fighting, Carr writes in a way that feels real—as though he knows what he was talking about and understands Errol’s pain on his journey from a discarded orphan to discovering a talent that might make him one of the most powerful men in the kingdom.
The middle book felt a little harder to in some ways, but this final book brought back the fresh sense of discovery, adventure, and borderline disaster that made A Cast of Stones so much fun. It's not the ending I expected, though in some sense it still feels expected, yet with enough surprises to keep the story going and keep readers guessing all the way to the end—and then a little further.
These books aren’t YA fantasy, so know that they deal with some difficult topics, but they tell a great story. I consider them to be some of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in the past year, and I’d recommend them for any reader from older teens on up. (For those of you who still haven’t tried the series, A Cast of Stones is available for free in the Kindle edition.)
[My thanks to Bethany House for sending me a review copy of A Draw of Kings, in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]