Junior Inquisitor

Junior Inquisitor

Monday, April 27, 2015

My review of R.L. King's STONE AND A HARD PLACE

Let me start off by saying this was a damn fine book, I enjoyed reading it, and it was worth the 2.99 I plunked down for it. I will be waiting for the next one in the series.

Anyone who's met me knows I am a reader. On any given week, I plow through 4 books. Sometimes much more if I have free time, and rarely less. As a result I have over the years accumulated hundreds of books and have amassed a decent sized library with everything from history, to philosophy, to cheesy pulp fantasy complete with politically incorrect cover. My wife, tired of me trying to find a place for my latest acquisition bought me a Kindle, which is currently holding about 500 books. When that is full the Paper White Kindle I won from Jess Alter will be my new repository for reading.

There was a time when if I started a book, I finished it. I could count on one hand the number of books I picked up and didn't complete. Now, I am always pressed for time, so if a book turns dull, or gets weak, or drags, I toss it; making no apologies for doing so.

In the last year I have been given several dozen books for review. Most of them sucked. Being kind of nice, I discretely contact the author, let them know why I didn't enjoy their book and let it go. Negative reviews are to be expected, but they do sting. I see no need in wounding someone further by posting a negative review on Amazon or the like.

Now, having praised the book, let me get into the areas I though it was weak.

Alistair Stone is a wizard. He is asked to temporarily take on an apprentice, which he does so reluctantly. There is some confusion, several times Alistair is referred to as an “excellent teacher,” but it also seems that he had never taught an apprentice before.

Most of the world is very well fleshed out, but magic itself appeared to be glossed over. Where does it come from specifically? Is the ability to do magic solely genetic or is there some other method of learning it? Is magic a specific color, or smell, or does that vary person to person or maybe by the type and intent of the spell?

For me the biggest hole was the blasé way Alistair explained the difference between white and black magic to his apprentice. White magic is powered by the person making the spell, black magic drains others for power. Take to much from someone and they become a corpse.

Black magic is seductive, addictive, and generally used for nefarious purposes, by people that could easily be categorized as “evil,” or at least bereft of most normal morality.

Given all of this Alistair glosses over in just a page or three the difference between white and black magic, and completely leaves off warning the kid about why to avoid people who use black magic.

There is an addictive source of power that is available to a young and new to the magical world apprentice, favored by dangerous people. These magicians, who enjoy hurting and manipulating others, who do not even see mundanes as “people,” but as batteries to be used as they see fit, use black magic, Despite this, Alistair, does not bother to very clearly and specifically explain why it would be bad for his apprentice to go hang with them?

Why not just toss him overboard after the chum has hit the water and the sharks have arrived explaining, “You'll learn to swim faster this way.”

 I did not connect with Alistair as well as I could have, he came across as someone who was superficial, pretending to care, but really self-absorbed at his core. He “cared,” but not enough to really do work. He is driven more by curiosity to solve the main dilemma, rather than altruistic reasons. Perhaps this is deliberate, Alistair is an interesting, but not really very nice person, and we've all known a few of those. Problem is, after awhile, these kinds of people become less interesting and end up becoming some one that you used to know.

Like I said good book. I enjoyed the depth of the characters, the pace, and their dilemmas. 4 stars, worth the 2.99 price and I will be ready to read the next one when it is ready.

You can find Stone and a Hard Place here -
Lastly, if Alistair ran into Brother Sebastian and the Inquisitors, the fight would be short, and not in favor of the Brit.
Now if you want to meet some truly destructive, power-mad witches, their minions, and the men who hunt them, when not running for cover -
Available here -
Smashwords - http://goo.gl/XsGgAC
Google Play - http://goo.gl/g2kNPa

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