Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Review - Cornerstone: Raising Rook

I am taking a brief respite from my series on Medieval Fiction to review a wonderful new contemporary fantasy by author K.A. Krisko called Cornerstone: Raising Rook. While set in our day and age, there are distinct medieval elements to this novel and it was a nice change of pace from the pure historical fiction and historical fantasy that I usually read.
It has great cover art too!
I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this book. It began as a quirky tale about an illustrator named Lorcas Felken who, years ago, received a cornerstone from some medieval castle as a birthday present from his father on the day he turned thirteen. The cornerstone, which had been transported from Eastern Europe to the U.S., sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean nearby his family’s summer cottage, which becomes Lorcas’ permanent residence after his relationship with his girlfriend falls apart and he needs a break from his everyday life. The story gets even stranger when he meets Zumar, a 600 year old ghost who was buried beneath the cornerstone back in the Middle Ages. The cornerstone turns out to be a sentient being called “Rook” that wants its castle rebuilt – and Lorcas discovers that he’s the person destined to rebuild it.

The story proceeds to introduce Lorcas to a host of other quirky characters who inhabit the cliffside town and, for reasons that are not immediately apparent, help him find the stones to start rebuilding the castle. The tension and conflict during this part of the story, which lasts about a quarter of the way through, is fairly light, and I was worried it might turn into a breezy little tale about a bunch of odd folks with little else to offer. But I stuck with it, and boy am I glad I did.

By the second quarter of the novel, the tension and conflict starts to really heat up. It becomes apparent that things may not be as they seem and possibly malevolent forces may be at work. There are a number of intriguing revelations as the story progresses, which I won’t spoil here, except to say that there are two factions at play in this book: one that wants the castle to be rebuilt and another that will do anything to prevent it from happening. One of the reasons this story works so well is that the author does a masterful job of keeping the reader guessing about which side is good and which is evil.

By the time I reached the novel’s midpoint, I felt as if I were reading a story by Stephen King or watching the TV show LOST when it was at its best, leaving everyone guessing about what the island really was and whether the Others were good or bad. I must say that the book ends in a way that begs for a sequel since, in my mind at least, I keep coming up with questions that need answers. But the story works well by itself and has more than enough to keep readers entertained. The fantasy elements are well done and they are a big part of the mystery that makes this novel a success. If there is a sequel, I’ll be buying it the day it comes out.

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