Monday, November 21, 2016

The Shattered Vigil: Review

What matters most when evil threatens the land and even the smallest detail matters? It's elementary...

Actually, it's The Shattered Vigil, Patrick Carr's newest book, the second in The Darkwater Saga series.

The first book in this series, The Shock of Night, centers around a vicious attack on the capitol city of Bunard, but even before that book, Carr’s novella By Divine Right sets up a really fascinating world where you can quite literally ascribe someone’s skill to their talent or ‘gift’—ranging from medical abilities to musical performances.

Willet Dura stands out against that backdrop of ‘gifts’ as an ungifted man, a commoner, until the day he encounters someone carrying the most dangerous gift a man could possibly gain.

If you want, you can read my review for the previous book here, but the main thing you need to know is: yes, you should start with the novella and work through the series in order. Carr picks up the threads pretty well in this story, but I went back and reread The Shock of Night before starting The Shattered Vigil. It was just as fun the second time and made the story much easier to follow. My only (small) regret is not rereading By Divine Right at the same time.

For the Shattered Vigil itself, I think it is a worthy addition to the series.

As the story begins, Dura and his companions hope that they have ended the evil that invaded Burnard, but a series of near-disasters force them out of the city and into new perils. Though he is no longer the king's reeve, Dura and the others set out on a journey consisting of equal parts forensics investigation and fantasy quest.

I will admit that the story lost me a couple of times. The plot jumps back and forth between a handful of main characters, and it gets very quest-y at times, but it kept moving and kept turning out new adventures. Even better, Carr pulled in some highlights from the first book that I didn't expect to show up again, much less to be really important clues.

Oh, and there is also a's not quite a side-story, because it's also very important to the main story (something Carr seems to do well). Dura's lady-love is a very spunky (good) lady (literally), and between them, they produce a lot of smoldering-eyes scenes (meh, from my perspective, but good if that's what you like).

Basically, though, I really liked this story, as I've really liked Carr's previous stories. They are adventure stories--fun, a bit mature, a bit dark in places, and pleasantly inventive.

I recommend it if you like that sort of thing.

[My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of The Shattered Vigil in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]

Friday, November 11, 2016

Puppy Observations

Back in college (over five years ago now), I spent one class reading, re-reading, and generally analyzing short sections of Scripture. The goal was to come up with as many observations as possible.  If you spend enough time on a project like that, you can come up with quite a lot.

And, as it happens, you can make quite a few observations on children’s books too, after multiple re-readings—especially when you start with the basics, such as:

1. This is a book about puppies.
2. There are five puppies in this story (not counting the mother).
3. These are very unusual puppies, because they get chocolate custard for dessert.

Then there are the more subtle observations, and the various inferences you can draw from them:

4. Four of the puppies, on three different occasions, have to look for the fifth, the pokey puppy.
5. Even after finding the pokey puppy in the green-grassy space twice before, the other puppies don’t think to look there first when he disappears again.
6. If the puppies see a strawberry while on a walk, they get strawberry shortcake for dessert.
7. The puppies see six other ‘creatures’ on their walk, besides the desserts.
8. Five of these creatures, including a toad, a grasshopper, and grass-snake, are pictured in the book.
9. Only one creature, the “big black spider,” is not shown, suggesting that it must have been a truly terrifying spider, unfit for the pages of a children’s book.


10. If you listen carefully, you can identify chocolate custard by the sound a spoon makes as it is scraped over the side of a bowl.
11. The pokey puppy is a dog (presumably), and yet he manages to eat five servings of chocolate custard with no side effects.
12. And, even after eating 10 servings of dessert over the previous two days, the pokey puppy is still able to squeeze through a wide place in the fence that the other puppies have heretofore overlooked in their escapades.

If you really want to know what to take away from this story, though, just remember that the pokey puppy is the arch-villain here.

I mean—he lures the other puppies out under the fence and abandons them while he waits to discover what dessert will be. Then he ‘lets’ the other puppies arrive home before him. Once they are safely dispatched to their beds, he sneaks home to devour the dessert himself. 

But—in his final attempt—the other puppies accidentally foil him, saving the dessert! (For themselves, of course.)


Oh, and I might be back next week with a more serious book review.