I don’t read fantasy. Not for me the aliens and half-man half-beast beings. I want no eggplant suns rising over lemonade seas. Yes, I can take a few hobbits, but some race must resemble human at least in the way humans act and reason. This Patrick Carr novel is one of a very few fantasy novels that I enjoyed completely. The author adeptly weaves a tale replete with blue skies, green trees, and people that look and act like you and I might if we were in the same circumstances. The society feels somewhat medieval with horses for transportation, swords and knives for weapons. But the city looks more like Rome with its classed society, more than medieval towns with a local ruler and farmers and trades people living inside a walled community. However, as in modern times this culture boasts libraries and an efficient means of long distance communication (though restricted mostly to rulers and priests). The novel’s world comprises two major divisions: the Darkwater (an unexplored land of war and legend) and the known world where our protagonist and his friends live and travel. The kings and the four churches vie for the peoples’ allegiance along with another unknown entity. The churches each hold a different view of Aer, their god. The inhabitants of the known world are imbued by Aer, with. . . well it might be well to quote The Exordium of the Liturgy at this point.
The six charisms of Aer are these:
For the body, beauty and craft
For the soul, sum and parts
For the spirit, helps and devotion
The nine talents of man are these:
Language, logic, space, rhythm,
motion, nature, self, others, and all
The four temperaments of creation are these:
Impulse, passion, observation, and thought
Within the charisms of Aer, the talents of man,
and the temperaments imbued in creation
are found understanding and wisdom. Know and learn.
The charisms, or gifts, are limited in number. Those people who possess them generally gain wealth. The gifts are highly sought and highly treasured. They are most often handed down within a family, from one person to another, by the laying on of hands. The characters are real, questioning their destinies and their decisions.
Our hero Willet Dura received his gift unexpectedly in the first novel in this series, The Shock of Night. Willet is a former student of the priesthood, a soldier who fought in the land of the Darkwater, who alone among the fighters returned to live in the land of his birth, and to live a somewhat normal life. Willet is a reeve (detective) for the Kingdom of Collum. He examines murder scenes, interviews witnesses, and places guilt. This novel begins after an incident in which Willet acquires a gift, and a battle which changes the course of his life and the lives of others in his community, both described in The Shock of Night, the first novel in this series, which should be read prior to The Shattered Vigil.
What was missing from The Shattered Vigil? I would have liked fuller descriptions of the places in the novel. The author paints his landscapes with a broad brush but I would like a fuller description of the sights, sounds, and odors of the environment. I am thinking of The Lord of the Rings because in some way I was reminded of those books when reading The Shattered Vigil. Where Tolkien described a multi-layer forest, Carr leaves us with a few trees. There are plenty of places where the action can rest and description begin. That is my only quibble. Give me a little more description to go along with the almost breathless non-stop action and political intrigue.
Without telling you anything to destroy your enjoyment of The Shattered Vigil (or The Shock of Night), I can tell you that this novel works on several levels. First, it lets you see that good characters do not always do good, and bad characters can sometimes be life savers. Next, it explores issues that relate to our lives today, issues such as church-state relationships, political maneuvering, the appropriate use of gifts and talents, how evil functions, and others. And this is the type of novel I like: one that makes me consider and reconsider attitudes and perspectives that I may have to adjust. Just what might happen if church and state get too chummy? To what lengths might spiritual gifts be exercised? Is it ever right to do wrong from a good motive? Is it right to do good from a bad motive? What powers should people have over others? Is the right and honorable thing, really the correct action? Are there times when we should be less open and truthful? And it challenges us to consider the wider ramifications of our actions. Could we save a life or change a life for better or worse by our action or inaction?
Finally, The Shattered Vigil leaves you wanting more, needing more. You need more time to ponder the line between the people in the known world and those in Darkwater. Will those in the known world survive? What would it mean to survive? Would they become evil? And what will happen to Willet and his comrades? Will they survive? Or will they succumb to the Darkwater? Is survival even possible with the tools of their enemy arrayed against them? I guess we’ll all have to wait for the next book in the series.
NOTE: While reading the prepublication version of this novel, which was provided for me at no charge solely for purposes of review, I noticed several major errors that should have been corrected. I also logged onto Amazon prior to writing this review and found that the Kindle edition was already being sold. It is my hope that these errors were corrected prior to the Kindle edition being released.