The Story. Corus The Champion by D. Barkley Briggs 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 Briggs 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.
This review first appeared at A Christian Worldview of Fiction
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.