CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Corus The Champion By D. Barkley Briggs

The holiday season — the days leading up to Thanksgiving and extending through New Year’s Day — is always a hard time to fit in extras. Touring book two of a continuing story is also hard. I guess you could say the tour for Corus The Champion had two strikes against it, but as anyone familiar with baseball (or softball) knows, it only takes one swing to hit a home run. The “one swing” CSFF had, is a great group of 27 bloggers who posted 46 articles reviewing or discussing aspects of D. Barkley Briggs’s excellent epic fantasy.

And now it’s time to vote. But unlike Survivor, none of these bloggers will be shipped off to exile island or booted from the game. Rather, more nearly in the tradition of the Heisman Trophy, we’re choosing the best of the best. The Top Tour Blogger must have posted all three days of the tour and should receive your vote based on how interesting, entertaining, informative, thoughtful, or creative the posts are. So have at it. You’ll have until December 19 to vote and will be choosing from the following:

Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Corus The Champion By D. Barkley Briggs  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Corus The Champion By D. Barkley Briggs, Day 3

This month the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Corus The Champion, book two of the Legends of Karac Tor by D. Barkley Briggs. We’ve had some unique posts this month. For instance, long-time CSFF member John Otte issued a writer’s challenge in his day two post, interestingly connected with fairy tales and the Bible.

In a different vein, Gillian Adams set up a challenge, this one between one of the characters in Corus the Champion and one from a series that provided inspiration for it. If you’re a fan of the Chronicles of Prydain, you won’t want to miss either Gillian’s day two or day three post.

Be sure to check out what the others on the tour are saying. You’ll find a list with links to specific articles at the end of the Day 1 post. My turn to share my observations about the book.

A Review

The Story. Corus The Champion is definitely not a stand alone novel. While it features four youths, in reality it is not a YA novel either. Instead, it is part two of a story for all ages that features four brothers ranging in age from 9 to 16. The range isn’t quite so rangy because the twins, Gabe and Garrett, are the 9-almost-10-year-olds. Ewan, a true tweener at 13, is the second child. The oldest is Hadyn, nearly a man at 16, going on 17.

I say that the book features the four brothers, but that’s only true in part. There are other central characters that figure prominently into the story.

The first volume of the Legends of Karac Tor ended with the twins finding the portal that took Ewan and Hadyn out of their real world into the land of five dominions, of the Grey, White, and Black abbeys, of the Fey and the Horned King. Corus the Champion takes up the story where The Book of Names left off.

Gabe and Garrett are separated in the transition from their world, and each begins an adventure that plays a part in the greater story of Karac Tor. They discover gifts and shoulder responsibility that eventually brings them back together with Ewan and Hadyn who have also been playing their part as Outlanders, using or surrendering their own gifts as need required.

Woven into the story of the boys is that of Sorge the Grey monk who once was the great champion’s pupil and later became his betrayer. He is now convinced that Corus still lives and he is determined to find him, to bring him back so the sleeping king can be found and awakened.

Strengths. Dean has created a dense, mythic world with it’s own history and ruins, religion and religious notables, politics and in-fighting, trade routes and drought. This is a world that feels real, and brings to mind J. R. R. Tolkien’s term, sub-creation — the process a writer uses to make a secondary world that is internally consistent.

The characters are well drawn and believable, too. Each of the boys is distinct; even the Fey have their own unique traits that make them seem realistic. The adults such as Sorge, Har, Cruedwyn Creed and the Highlander Va’nya, are equally true to life,

The story itself is full of adventure and intrigue, danger from within and without. There is sacrifice and grief, humor and hope, determination and death. It’s all there for the reader to grapple with just as the characters must.

A Christian religious framework, without the name, pervades the world, but this is not an idealized manifestation of faith. One religious group emphasizes the written tenets almost to the exclusion of any esoteric experience, for example, and one abbey looks down on another. Yet the belief is there, though somewhat neglected and misunderstood. Frankly, it’s almost an uncomfortably real portrayal at times.

Weaknesses. Two things would strengthen this story, I think. First, a review of the previous book and/or a glossary or a list of characters. There’s a nice map that helps immensely with the places, but more than once I found myself in search of something that would help me with the characters that appeared in the first book. I’d love to see those things posted at the Hidden Lands web site in the future.

The second thing that would enhance the reading experience, I think, is stronger character motivation. When Ewan had a goal, I was noticeably more invested in the story. Gabe, Garrett, and Hadyn seemed to have more happen to them rather than they taking the initiative or being the agent of action. Sorge had a strong goal, and yet I didn’t know him as well, so it took me a little while to warm up to his key part of the story. But warm up I did.

Recommendation. Corus The Champion is a story in the mold of the great epic fantasies. In my opinion, the Legends of Karac Tor is a lovable, motivated character, a la Frodo Baggins, away from being a series that will break away from the pack of epic fantasies emulating The Lord of the Rings. I highly recommend this for fans of epic fantasy, but read book one first for the full experience.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour – Corus The Champion By D. Barkley Briggs, Day 2

Borrowing versus creating — when is a work considered “derivative”? I’ve asked that question before in a short two-part series of posts, and yet the topic came up again in my article yesterday at Spec Faith. Consequently, as I read some of the tour posts about Corus The Champion by D. Barkley Briggs (AMG/Living Ink), the topic was fresh on my mind.

Clearly Dean (which is what the D in D. Barkley Briggs stands for) did his share of borrowing. His epic story includes Arthurian figures, but he doesn’t stop there as others on the tour noted:

Briggs deals heavily in the folk traditions of our own world. Arthurian legends are central to his story. His fairies are drawn more purely after the pattern in European fairytales than I have ever seen, and I saw a surprising number of gleanings from the Norse. (from Shannon McDermott‘s Day 1 post)

In addition, tour member Gillian Adams noted particular similarities to Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain:

Many aspects of the Legends of Karac Tor (the horned king, cauldron born, etc.) seem remarkably similar to the Chronicles of Prydain and there is a very simple reason: both Alexander and Briggs drew upon ancient Welsh mythology from the Mabinogen to form their tales. (from “The Peoples and Creatures of Karac Tor”)

At the same time the Legends of Karoc Tor has its own inventiveness — the Gorse, the Highlanders who strap on wings — as well as a new twist to familiar devices. Each of the brothers has a gift, for instance, but these have their own uniqueness. For example, one boy can “mind-speak” to birds — not to other humans or to the animal kingdom at large, but to birds.

The main illustration of this twist to the familiar is evident in the story structure. It is a portal fantasy, in which characters from the real world travel to a fantasy world, but it is more than that — Dean adds in a layer by having a few chosen characters travel between the worlds and back and forth through time. (I was immediately reminded of Stephen Lawhead’s current series with its use of ley lines — but Dean didn’t borrow from Lawhead since he wrote his book before The Skin Map was published).

Of course there are also elements familiar to our contemporary world — political in-fighting, greed and exploitation, corruption, religious squabbles, and more.

In short, I find Corus The Champion to be a wonderful blend of the familiar and the fantastic, the known and the unknown, the borrowed and the created. Dean has taken time to build his world, to give it depth, to allow the place to impact the story, to show the people shaped by the world. This is the kind of writing J. R. R. Tolkien referred to as sub-creation. And quite honestly, it’s the kind of fantasy I like best.

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