CSFF Blog Tour: Corus the Champion

The sky was yellow with a strange storm. That was their first sign. Their second, less subtle sign was the messages the ravens dropped at their feet. “You have been chosen,” they read, “for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

Now the four Barlow brothers are in the Hidden Lands, experiencing adventure to the point of nearly losing their lives. In this, the second book of the Legends of Karac Tor, they are entangled ever deeper in that strange world. It’s a place of magic, and it’s riding the edge of apocalypse.

Perhaps the thing that stands out most about D. Barkley Briggs’ fantasy world is how old and tired it is. There is not a person who doesn’t seem worn out by life, or a nation that doesn’t seem worn out by history. The black strands are stretched over many years and woven depressingly over Karac Tor.

Its legends trace some of these strands. Briggs writes the old stories of Karac Tor well. They carry the flavor of real myths – the same mixture of small details with brief, enormous assertions, the same uncertain boundaries between fact and fable. Karac Tor being a fantasy world, its legends are true.

One of them is, in fact, a character. This, and his somewhat unusual, ah, form, give him real flair. This is one side of his character. The other is muahaha evil. All the characters of Corus the Champion are strong enough to carry their roles, but it’s the second-tier ones who show most of the color.

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. Briggs plumbed the old folk tales and came up with his hands full.

I ought to mention that the Legends of Karac Tor are written in an omniscient style. I have no complaint against this, but some may say (reasonably enough) that it creates distance between the readers and the characters. One recommendation I would make to Mr. Briggs regarding his writing style is that he use fewer sentence fragments. It’s not always bad to write in fragments. The brevity can create emphasis. Pack a punch. But it can be overdone. Become problematic. On occasion.

Minor errors aside, I did enjoy Corus the Champion. It’s a journey we’ve all seen before – discovering gifts, discovering destiny. Briggs enlivens it with sharply drawn characters, with interesting scenery, with living legends. The word he shows is complex and old, its magic deep. About the religion in the novel I hope to write tomorrow; today I will say only that it is present, strong, and satisfyingly integrated into the story. Corus the Champion is a book worth the read.

Per the custom, here are the links:

The book (Amazon)

The author (Hidden Lands)

And the blog tour:

Gillian Adams
Noah Arsenault
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour

Carol Bruce Collett

Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan

Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen

Krystine Kercher

Rebecca LuElla Miller

Eve Nielsen
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith

Donna Swanson

Rachel Starr Thomson

Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

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

Blog Tour: Worlds Unseen

The past comes back. Forty long years ago the Council for Exploration Into Worlds Unseen came apart, ending tumultuously after an all-too-brief quest for hidden truth. Its members scattered, took up new lives. Died, a few of them. Now, four decades after they knocked at the door of worlds unseen, the worlds unseen are knocking at theirs.

When the knock sounded on Eva Cook’s door, Maggie Sheffield – the girl she had taken in and raised – answered. She found truth. And danger found her.

Worlds Unseen, written by Rachel Starr Thomson, is the first book in the Seventh World Trilogy. It’s fantasy, but not typically so. The world has a feel of medieval mixed with the nineteenth century. Trains and tea kettles invoke the era of Laura Ingalls Wilder; swords and overlords invoke the era of Robin Hood. A wilder past, only a few centuries gone, has a memorial in the wandering Gypsies and a princess descended from the ancient kings. In a flash of modernity, the people do not only disbelieve their folk tales; they are forgetting them.

All these elements come together in remarkable cohesion. The characters, too, are of many different kinds – princesses and Gypsies, farmers and professors, lords and revolutionaries. Thomson endows them with a humanness readers can believe.

The writing style, too, is a mixture. In a way it seemed omniscient to me; the narrative moved from one character’s head to another’s mid-scene. In a way it seemed limited third-person; the narrative hewed closely to the characters’ viewpoints. You would think there’s a writing flaw somewhere in there, but it’s done so smoothly I can’t fault it.

Rachel Starr Thomson gives the book a spiritual dimension. Most of the characters do not appear to have much religion. By an interesting turn, their world’s true religion is wrapped up in history hidden in fairytales. But a spiritual reality encompasses them all. The question begins as what they will do about the worlds unseen; gradually it broadens to what the worlds unseen will do about them.

The one element of the book that needed further development was Maggie’s romance. The beginning was unexpected, the end was moving, but the middle was too brief. They said it was love and I believed them. But I would have liked to see it grow.

Worlds Unseen began with an ordinary girl seeking the meaning of an old scroll, and slowly grew ever wider and deeper. The threads came together wonderfully. I ended the book with the rush of pleasure and satisfaction that is the success of a novel. Rachel Starr Thomson writes with skill and imagination, weaving her story with mystery and beauty. Worlds Unseen is a very creditable addition to Christian fantasy.

Worlds Unseen is available as a free e-book on SmashWords. It can also be bought hard-copy from Amazon, B&N, and Rachel Starr Thomson’s site. The Seventh World Trilogy has an excellent site, with information  on the books, the characters, the world and its history; there is also a section devoted to Christian fantasy, featuring reviews, interviews, links, and Rachel’s Apologetic. Earlier I posted an interview with Rachel Starr Thomson; here is the rest of the blog tour:

Phyllis Wheeler (Nov 21)

Carol Keen (Nov 26, Dec 2, and Dec 9)

Bluerose’s Heart (Nov 28)

Lindsay Franklin (Nov 30, Dec 7)

Sarah Sawyer (Dec. 9)