Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Follow the cursed Cripple of Kilten into a world where crooked dark cities have tunnels instead of streets and clusters of dragon-scaled towers are the abode of seers living in the greatest city of all. A fog of fear rises when the immortals who lived in secret among humans, stir, and sorcerers fight for a deadly but powerful staff in a circle of combat in a bid for ultimate domination. It is immortals against mortals, and it all gets complicated when the cripple finds out that he too is an immortal.
The Cripple and the Staff employs the archetype of an orphan destined for greatness who must comprehend his true potential and ultimately save the world. But this time, the orphan is a cripple – the result of the cruel bite of a hunter’s trap. Still, the story is entertaining and has moments of brilliance.
I enjoyed the relationship between Mendall, the old hermit sorcerer, and Shale, our orphan who has yet to fully grasp his fate – it reminded me of the relationship between Merlin and Arthur. Furthermore, any time an author creates poems or ballads, I see it as an additional treat, like sprinkles on my sundae. So, when Mendall instructs Shale to memorize old ballads, I was looking forward to reading more of them throughout Shale’s time in the tower. Alas, I’m saddened to say this did not happen – but maybe that would be too much of a spoiler of things to come. Nonetheless, I am intrigued to find out what Mendall’s scheming will lead to (and what knowledge he possesses that has made him a target for the immortals).
The ancient immortals fall on two opposing sides – the Elsiks and the Dreln. One ruled like tyrants, dominating all humans and other inferior species. The other possessed wild magic and the ability to drain their enemies of power. What appealed to me most was that neither side was perfect – it’s like you have to choose between the lesser of two evils. I admit I found myself rooting for a side that I didn’t expect! One setback, however, is that I would have liked to learn more about the Elsiks and Dreln throughout the story – like tiny teasers placed strategically throughout prompting the reader to keep turning the pages, rather than have bulk of the information dropped in my lap towards the end of the book. (The same is true for a few more places of info-dumping the occurred throughout the story – like when the author explained the difference between a White versus a Golden Elsik.)
One part of the story that I was definitely looking forward to was The Match for the Staff of Amrod! The writing when Shale had to perform the illusion round was superb! But the following rounds seemed rushed – I would have liked a little more detail.
For the most part, the details and world building flow decently without the reader getting too bogged down (although there were some parts I had to drudge through to get back to the action, and there were other parts that seemed to skim or jump over what could have been more fully developed and would have added more intensity to the story – like Shale’s training with the mage-warriors).
Overall, it’s an enjoyable read and left enough carrots dangling for the sequel, The Raven and the Plague. I expect we’ll read more about Shale learning to master the awesome power he wields (and I wonder how many more times he’ll accidentally channel too much power – and what harm will come of it.) I think most fans of books like Harry Potter and Eragon will enjoy The Cripple and the Staff.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Appropriate for ages 14 & up.
For more information about M.M. Mancey, check out her website.
I received a free copy of The Cripple and the Staff from Goodreads-Making Connections in exchange for an honest review.