When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded on the streets of Bunard, Willet Dura is called to investigate. Yet the clues to the crime lead to contradictions and questions without answers. As Willet begins to question the dying priest, the man pulls Willet close and screams in a foreign tongue. Then he dies without another word.
Willet returns to the city, no closer to answers than before, but his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, a twist seen at the edge of his vision, and it’s as though he can see their deepest thoughts. In a world divided between haves and have-nots, gifted and common, Willet soon learns he’s been passed the rarest gift of all: a gift that’s not supposed to exist.
Now Willet must pursue the murderer still on the loose in Bunard even as he’s pulled into a much more dangerous and epic conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world–a conflict that will force him to come to terms with his own tortured past if he wants to survive.
Patrick Carr saw more of the world on his own through a varied and somewhat eclectic education and work history. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1984 and has worked as a draftsman at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and consulted as an engineer. Patrick’s day gig for the last eight years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and four sons he thinks are amazing: Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan. Sometime in the future he would like to be a jazz pianist, and he wrestles with the complexity of improvisation on a daily basis. While Patrick enjoys reading about himself, he thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.
I loved Patrick Carr’s first epic trilogy, The Staff And The Sword. It’s humor and unconventional hero won my heart. Oh yes, it was fabulous epic fantasy at its best too. Now comes a new offering, The Shock of Night, book 1 in the Darkwater Saga. Like it or not, it has a lot to live up to. The novel has a lot of the same strengths as The Staff And The Sword: complex characterization and richly detailed sense of time and place. It also seems a much more mature book, both in content and writing style. It gets a recommended rating from me.
Willet Dura is the king’s reeve. For those of you unfamiliar with medieval occupations, the term sheriff derived from shire reeve. In our world, a reeve would have been elected by the serfs, but in the Kingdom of Collum, Lord Dura was elevated to the nobility when he performed a crucial act for the welfare of the King Laidir. Dura’s background is full of contradictions. He was destined for the church until compulsory military service put him on a very different path. His military service is termed as heroic, yet he is haunted by failure and the Darkwater from which he escaped. Hated by the nobility, respected by the Watch and friend of urchins and prostitutes, Willet is a man searching for place, identity and peace. A series of murders, a mysterious group of gifted people and the growing presence of evil put Willet on a course of discovery and danger.
Patrick Carr has again created an unlikely hero. Willet has the temperament, physical attributes and intellect to be a leader among men. But his experience within the Darkwater has left him scarred emotionally. It may have also affected his reason to the extent he may just be insane. I loved Willet and was always in his corner, but even I had doubts about him. I never questioned his sincerity, loyalty or devotion, but his eccentricities, paranoia, and unaccounted night wanderings create suspicion. Just who is Willet Dura? That is a question that is explored throughout the book and will probably continue in the rest of the series. In addition to Willet, Carr introduces other characters equally complex. Some you will love, others hate and many more that will leave you wondering. The world Carr creates is rich in detail. It is familiar — names, descriptions and culture — but with enough differences to let the reader know this is place not like our own. Its medieval setting is fun, yet the people and science of this world seem far advanced to what our medieval world was like. Willet’s world has a strict class system with few interactions between the levels. The poor quarter of the city is very Dickensian. I also found the religious structure interesting and again, familiar. One more thing, I loved the cover model, even though you have to really look closely to see him!
So what are some of the themes? The triune Aer (God) distributes gifts for the welfare of his people, so gifting is something to examine. Yet in Willet’s world, gifts seem to fall to the privileged or elevate those who receive them. One religious sect emphasizes service, but their message is one dimensional and is drowned out by the assertions of the other sects. A heretical group even calls for the abolishment of gifts. The struggle of good and evil is given a twist as Carr looks at how man locks away the darkness in his soul. Another point of examination is Willet’s struggle with the nightmare of wartime experiences. I’m sure there are more things I just didn’t recognize. The Shock of Night is very complex and really deserved a longer reading time than I gave it. Coming in at over 400 pages, it isn’t really all that long, but demanded a lot of attention. Don’t think that this will be a light and easy read. I spent a week on it and still feel like I needed more time to absorb the nuances and details.
I am glad that the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring The Shock of Night this month. I am looking forward to reading what others think. This book really is suited for a book discussion group. Make sure to check out all the blog participants listed at the end of this post.
Audience: older teens to adults.
Great for book clubs.
To purchase this book, click HERE.
(Thanks to CSFF Blog Tour and Bethany House for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)
CSFF Blog Tour Participants
Thomas Clayton Booher
Carol Bruce Collett
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Michelle R. Wood