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 1

Epics. They are so much more than the average novel — histories and languages and prophecy, symbols and cataclysmic stakes. With D. Barkley Briggs‘s series The Legend of Karac Tor, we have an epic story.

Yes, in the wonderful tradition of writers like J. R. R. Tolkien and Stephen Donaldson, Briggs writes interlocking books that depend on one another to tell the entire story.

For readers, epics create an interesting challenge: if you read the first book when it comes out, you have a wait before the next edition releases. Certainly anticipation may rise, but what about forgetfulness? That, too, may rise. Hence some readers hold off buying until the entire series comes out. With a well-discussed and lengthy series like Harry Potter, that would be a difficult task in and of itself.

Epics are also challenging because they are about some place new, as in, no one has ever heard of it before. Consequently, a good map is a huge benefit in reading high fantasy. Often times the cast of characters is expansive and the names unfamiliar. In fact, there may be an entirely different language and certainly a new and unusual culture.

Why, then, would anyone want to read something so Other? Precisely because it takes readers beyond the bonds of the Primary World (as Tolkien called it) with which we are familiar. My contention is that we humans know there is more to life than this life, the perishable-ness of it, the mortality, the fading glory. We long for a glimpse beyond, and epic fantasy gives us that.

We also long for right to win out over tyranny, for good to find love as well. We want the noble to be compassionate and the great to be selfless. In short, we long for God. Epic fantasy at its best, gives us just such a glimpse.

The Legend of Karac Tor fits nicely into this category of epic fantasy. Corus the Champion is the second installment, a bridge between the accomplishments of the first in the series, The Book of Names, and the newly released book three, The Song of Unmaking.

What a fantasy readers’ dream — three books in the series available at once!

Take some time over the course of this week to see what those participating in the tour for book two have to say.

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