As I mentioned yesterday, I will be posting a two day review since I am still in the process of finishing up this excellent book. Yesterday, I spoke about the four outstanding qualities of Tolkien’s work: Names, Songs, Geography and Companionship and I covered the first two yesterday. Today, I will cover the final two.
Geography. There are Nine Worlds connected by arches that move one not only through space, but through time to other worlds parallel to ours. There have been a spate of parallel dimension type fantasy books in the past couple of years. But, in my opinion, D. Barkley Briggs has created a multiverse that is deep and complex and believable. His descriptions of the mountains, the valleys, the cities filled with canals and decay; the frozen wastelands; the bloody battlefields and yes, the deep, dangerous forests once again reminds me so much of Tolkien. The places have faces; they live and breath; I can see them and smell them and taste them. And there are places I long to see and places I would never visit. Here is a description of the White Woods where the Fey dwell:
“Finally, they drew near the bulk of trees — vast acres of beech and white birch, a few grand oaks — laid like miles of rumpled blankets on the high plains. Far beyond sight, Sorge said, the woods began their slow ascent along pine- and fir-covered slopes toward the Frostmarch.”
The Frostmarch! What a glorious name for a frozen wasteland of mountains! The city of Faielyn is patterned after Venice with gondolas and sinking buildings and canals but the similarity is so superficial and this city begs one to visit. There is a wonderful chase and fight scene through the watery canals and the cramped alleyways of Faielyn. I felt like I was there!
Companionship. Here, D. Barkley Biggs has created more than your average fellowship of travelers. Each character is complex and layered with subtle surprises that spring forth and just the right time to surprise the reader. The four brothers are each distinct and, quite frankly, are not that interesting at the beginning. After all, they are but pre-adolescents. But, as the story progresses, they grow and mature and grow on the reader. Each brother has a gift, a strength and I will leave the discovery of that to the reader. There are monks of the Circle who differ over seemingly trivial religious matters. One rogue monk, Barsonici reeks of body odor and yet spouts philosophy with the best of philosophers. His rival monk, Sorge, has many surprises in store and there is a very good reason he believes Corus is still alive and sets out to find the Champion to awaken the Sleeping King. And Corus, trapped, tortured, broken for over twenty years by the Deceiver himself, Kr’Nunos, the horned king daily tortures Corus, also known as the son of Lotsley (have fun figuring out who this person REALLY is!) Here is a snippet of the dialogue between these two:
“ . . . here you are, trapped in chains. Abused. Emasculated. Enfeebled. Why don’t you just die?”
Corus clenched his teeth. “Because I am a frayed patch in the garment of your glorious plan. My chains mean you fear my doom may be true, that I may one day stand beside a king, and the land unite.”
I could go on with more examples of this excellent story. Each brother has his own part in the story and it is worth discovering their journey on your own. If there is one weakness in my mind, it is the omniscient point of view from which most of the book is written. But, after reading Tolkien, I realized D. Barkley Briggs’ style is very much the same. And, that is nothing but a compliment!
Step slowly and carefully through the arch into the Nine Worlds and enjoy one of the best fantasy books I have read in years. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish “The Book of Names.”