The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

The Darkwater Saga, book 1
Category:  Christian fiction, mystery and suspensescience fiction and fantasy
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date:  November 3, 2015
My Rating:  2 Stars

Description

The Darkwater Claims All Who Enter It. All But One.

When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded, Willet Dura, reeve to the king of Bunard, is called to investigate. As he 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 his task, but the clues to the crime lead to contradictions and questions without answers, and his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, as though he can divine 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 dangerous conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world--a conflict that will force him to come to terms with his inability to remember how he escaped the Darkwater Forest--and what happened to him inside it.

Review

Before we begin…I don’t typically read reviews from others until I have finished mine as I don’t want to be influenced by their thoughts. I was getting a bit confused in the beginning of the story though and so I’m glad that I stopped over at Goodreads and read the first review that popped up.  The review was written by David Bergsland. Without it I wouldn’t have known that there is a free prequel, By Divine Right, which is intrinsic to the understanding of the story. Go grab it before you read The Shock of Night and it may save you some of the confusion that I experienced. I also recommend that you read Bergsland’s review as it is excellent.

I absolutely love this book and I am absolutely frustrated by it at the same time. Let's start with the positives and then with my cautions for believers.

Patrick Carr is a fantastic story crafter. I was captivated by The Shock of Night from beginning to end; it was tough to pull myself away and get back to real life. The ending truly was a mystery to me. Better minds than mine may have figured it out but it kept me wondering until the end. There is a feeling of Sherlock Holmes. Our protagonist, Reeve Willet Dura has crafted his gift of observation over the years and he is able to discern more than the average investigator as to what the crime scene and body have to say about the murderer. I enjoyed the intricacy and brilliance of it.

Carr creates well-developed worlds and well-developed characters. As with any genuine relationship it takes time to determine someone’s character and in that manner we get to know our main character. Willet finds himself having to work with people who completely mistrust him; a feeling which is mutually shared. What is discovered over time is that Willet engenders loyalty. He is honest, brilliant, kind, and devoted to the poor. He is also intensely loyal. An eclectic cast of characters surround Willet that challenge, improve, and assist him in numerous ways. If you have read many of my reviews you will see that I almost always fall in love with a character; usually a minor character. My favorite in The Shock of Night is Custos the librarian. Oh to know a mind like that in such a humble man with such a kind soul. Don't worry...The evil characters are devilishly evil. They won’t disappoint as foils for our good Reeve.

Cautions for Christians

The Shock of Night is published under the genre Christian fiction by Bethany House Publishers. Unfortunately, the term “Christian fiction” in today’s market is far too flexible. Even within this flexibility, The Shock of Night is pushing credulity to me.

Patrick Carr presents us with four religious factions. Carr calls it the four-part church. You will find representatives, called criers, of the four distinct orders in the town square proselytizing on behalf of their particular sect daily. They have a set schedule and a set location that is within hearing distance of one another from which they speak. The factions do not make a complete whole and they are set upon disagreement. No single faction stands out as the Christian church.

There exists a complete dichotomy between this pseudo-religion and the Christian church, which worships and serves the triune God. The one true God that is one yet also three; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three parts of the trinity are not divided. They do not compete. They are one and the same. In contrast, Carr’s four-part church smacks of the religious dissension evident in the multitude of cultural religions rife throughout society. Carr does introduce a semblance of the trinity but it is not at all fleshed out and is mentioned only briefly. Throughout the book, I was confused as to Carr’s intentions with this religious structure. I never understood clearly how the parts fit together; it is like a puzzle with several key pieces missing. The closest modern-day religion that Carr’s pseudo-religion could be based upon is Catholicism as its structure contains bishops, cathedrals, unmarried priests, etc. but it still doesn’t fit. What is evident is that in no way shape or form is it Christian.

In The Shock of Night the four orders theology is best described by quotes directly from the book (Aer is the name given for god):

1. The Servants

The purpose of man is to serve others, placing them above himself,” the Servant’s crier proclaimed, his brown robe ruffling in the breeze. “If every man looks to use his gift in his own interest, we will descend into selfish barbarity.

2. The Vanguard

I must take issue with my brother,” a brazen-throated woman in white declaimed. “While service is a noble goal, there will always be evil in this world. Unless we are bold in confronting the enemy’s malice, servanthood will only provide fuel for its excesses.” Tall, her auburn hair floated in the breeze, wreathing her head in a flaming halo atop her spotless white robe. “The gifts of Aer are given so that we might eradicate evil from the world.

3. The Absold

The Absold’s crier—they were almost always attractive blue-clad women—had the largest portion of the crowd. Many of the men gazed at her with something other than religious fervor.

While I can sympathize with the desire to serve and to fight evil, as my brother and sister so eloquently express, I must disagree. Our principle purpose here is not dependent on what we do, but on what we are. We are all fallen. Only by extending forgiveness freely to each other, in imitation of Aer’s forgiveness for us, can we free ourselves from those internal chains that make us less than we are. Then you will see your gift shine forth.

4. The Merum

The Merum priest, dressed in red, waited for her to finish. The crowd in front of his stand, a simple stack of granite slabs at odds with the massive cathedral behind it, was smaller than the other three, and most of them waited passively, their faces neither pained nor expectant. “The strictures are these,” the priest intoned, reciting the daily office. “You must not delve the deep places of the earth, you must not covet another’s gift, and above all you must honor Aer, Iosa, and Gaoithe in all.” He stopped. The Merum never debated. They quoted the office in pieces between the proclamations of the other three. Most people, even those who didn’t adhere to their division, had heard it so many times, they could recite it themselves.

As is discernible from the quotes above, many of the religious leaders are female.  If you are unsure why I find this a concern, please read this article from CARM that can explain it far better than I could.  In a nutshell... God's authority structure does not provide for women leading men.

If this book were not placed within the Christian fiction genre I would not take such issue with it. It is when fallacy, in it’s filthy ugly rags, purports itself as the pure and holy truth that our combined hackles should be raised.

  • Does a balance need to be found within Christian fiction?  NO
  • Should we delve in and avoid critically seeking out every theological point of disagreement? YES
  • Or should we enjoy the story as a whole, being aware that it contains biblical error but also knowing that it is enjoyable and clean?  I want to say yes but must say NO.
  • Do we need to major in the minors? YES, but then these points are not minor; Biblical inerrancy is not a minor detail.  Anything presenting itself as Christian must be held up to the light of scripture.

There is one spiritual component presented that I can agree with and that is that the Darkwater are representative of our lives. Once we choose darkness it comes snarling out violently. Only the rare person can block those desires returning to Christ.

The Shock of Night is such an engaging fantasy. I wish that I could give this review without reservation.

I received a review copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. My thanks to the author and publisher.

the Darkwater series

Patrick W. Carr

Patrick W. Carr

Patrick 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.