Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

The Shock of Night (The Darkwater Saga #1)
Patrick W. Carr
Bethany House Publishers

My Rating

❤ Goodreads Synopsis ❤ 

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.

My Thoughts

First off, you should know that despite my love of Tolkien, I don't read all that much fantasy. So my mind tends to wander when I pick up a fantasy book, which is what, unfortunately, happened with The Shock of Night. It had nothing at all to do with the author's work, just my lack of attention span for this novel.

Have you ever read The Lord of the Rings? How about the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters? Somehow, and I'm not sure exactly how, Patrick Carr managed to create a nearly perfect combination of the two concepts. So if you're wondering how The Shock of Night feels, well, there you go. It's a really good mixture, very enjoyable. I will say the story itself lagged just a tad in the middle, but I forced myself past the slow part and the action got going again.

The story does tend to wander a bit, which didn't help with my attention problem. I'm not sure the story was ever quite as clear as the author intended. Sometimes the characters had those profound "Ahha" moments that should have been obvious to the reader, but it took me a few times reading the paragraph to finally grasp what had just happened and why it was important. The author skirts around out and out mentioning what just happened, leaving it to the reader to make an educated guess, which is fine, but a little bit of extra clarity would have been very helpful.

Then there's the names. Pellin. Dura. Bolt. Volsk. Toria Deel. Ealdor. None of these are easy names to remember. The only reason I remember Dura and Bolt is because they're the lead characters, Dura especially and so you kind of HAVE to remember them. But some of the others, well, they're easy to forget if you don't encounter them for a few pages. Easier names would have proven themselves most helpful. Just because Tolkien loved to make up his own names doesn't necessarily mean every other fantasy writer should do the same thing.
As for the story, it's funny that Carr would use the concept of spiritual gifts in such a way. Where they're tangible things that you can actually feel in how a person interacts with you. The gifts make you stronger, smarter, faster, gentler, more compassionate, etc. And then you have the use of the mind palace, locking memories away, delving minds for information, breaking vaults in someone's mind. These are all very popular elements with the modern audience today, partially thanks to Sherlock I'm sure.

Also, I've heard a few arguments that this isn't a Christian story and shouldn't be marketed as such. A Christian man wrote it, but I agree, the church in Carr's story is not a whole reflection of Christ's followers. This is a fantasy world, so while you might see a little bit of allegory, it's not intended to be a blatant copy of the Christian church. That said, there is enough comparison, especially dislike among denominations and fractures that result from that dislike. Carr may have used the fractures in an extreme way, but the church in his story does serve as a reminder that believers should never see one another as the enemy.

On the whole, the book was entertaining. It's the first in a series, but I do think it felt more like the second in a series. As if there was part of the story missing, which left me with a slightly disjointed feeling, hence the 4 stars. I rather wish I'd read the short story first, since there is one called By Divine Right and I suspect it fills in some gaps. But you shouldn't need a short story to fill in gaps that the book itself is missing.

A good read, but I'm not sure I'll continue with the series. Bolt was pretty awesome though. I almost wish the story had been from his perspective. Bodyguards are almost always the coolest!

* I received a free copy from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review, which I have given*


  1. I've had this feeling a few times with modern fantasy, that the world it takes place in and the rules of 'magic' are just not explained well enough. And then the story just feels disjointed. I didn't have this problem with Carr's first fantasy trilogy, so it's a pity to hear you found it here.

    I think it's really difficult to write Christian fantasy that appeals to everyone. I do think it's a genre that offers a lot of possibilities to Christian authors, but how perfect should your allegory match? Have you read Arena by Karen Hancock? That might be one of the most Christian fantasy books I've ever read (Tolkien and Lewis excluded), but I don't mind a more subtle message myself either.

    1. It really is a shame that I didn't connect to the story as well as I had hoped. Because it has so much potential! The physical manifestation of gifts was especially interesting, like you can feel a welcoming persona from an innkeeper blessed with the gift of helps and hospitality, etc. That part of the world-building was really cool. But the author left too much unsaid and made assumptions that the reader knew what he was talking about when he referenced past events. We weren't there, we didn't see them, and not everyone, myself included, has read his prequel short story.

      I don't read a lot of fantasy for the very reasons I struggled with Carr's work. Which is a shame because I LOVE fantasy film and television.

      I haven't tried Arena by Karen Hancock, but since you've recommended it, I'll track it down. I'd love to find a Christian fantasy book apart from the old standbys like Lewis and Tolkien and MacDonald that I just love.


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