Friday, November 13, 2015
'The Shock of Night' by Patrick W. Carr
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.
I was really keen to start Patrick W. Carr's new series since I raced through his Staff and the Sword trilogy, being among my favourite reads of 2014. I've discovered the Darkwater Saga has the same complex, unique and carefully plotted new land I would have expected from him. There are some differences, though.
We have an older, more experienced hero, for a start. Willet is more confident in the ways of the world than Errol was at the start of the other trilogy. He's already widely known for his combat skills, and is employed as a reeve by the king. As he tells his story in first person, it doesn't take long to realise that Willet, having fought in wars, suffers from PTSD and also the loss of a dream. He'd hoped to join the church, from which he is now barred owing to blood on his hands. He has his own personal terror. Several grisly murders occur on nights when he knows he's been sleepwalking, and returns to his room with blood on the hem of his robe.
It takes a fair bit of brain power and mental connection from the reader at first, to latch onto the way this new world works, making it feel more like hard work than a good read, but once we've got it, then we're off. I'm hoping this review will also serve as a bit of a guide to make things easier than I found them to start off with.
The religions are divided into four priestly orders or divisions, which roughly equate to Christian denominations. There is Servant, Vanguard, Absold and Merum, and Willet's personal leaning is the Merum order.
Most significant to the plot is the way in which humans are able to inherit gifts - which come in six categories; beauty, craft, sum, parts, helps and devotion. They can be split into more specific attributes such as musician, artist etc. While we normally think of gifts as being randomly passed down through a person's genes, it's far more intentional in this world. Heads of families are able to decide who to pass their gifts on to, through laying on of hands. Knowing that too many splits dilutes a gift is also a consideration, and the more pure are regarded as more powerful and desirable. If somebody dies without formally handing on their gift, it is regarded as 'free' or up for grabs, so to speak.
Although killing for a gift is a crime worthy of execution, murderers will still target those who are known to possess valuable, pure gifts, if they believe they can cover their tracks and get away with it.
In this story, Willet becomes the recipient of an extremely rare gift believed by some to be extinct, that of dema or demere. Perhaps it happened because he was the only one around at the time, but the dying priest Elwin confers it on him as his last act. Willet is henceforth able to deduce the hidden thoughts, motives and histories of a person's heart through mere physical touch, often accidental. That's when the intrigue thickens. As he's also known to be investigating Elwin's death, ruthless crooks are out to kill him.
I'd recommend reading the novella 'By Divine Right' before getting stuck straight into 'The Shock of Night' as it introduces some of the background, making things clearer for us.
Thanks to Net Galley and Bethany House for my review copy.