Sunday, January 18, 2009

CSFF Blog Tour: D. Barkley Briggs: The Book of Names

I generally don't like writing negative reviews, but I have to be honest, I really did want to write a positive review, but I was less then impressed by the book.

I must say that I came to this book, like I do for all books, with high expectations. Perhaps for a satisfying story or at least some kind of great philosophical point to chew on for a few days. Perhaps I had expectations that were to high and missed the joy of the storytelling as a result.

The Book of Names, a novel by D. Barkley Briggs, is the first book in the Legends of Karac Tor series. It reads similarly to Madline L’engle, though less polished, and not as deep as L’engle’s work. Still, it is a moderately good start to a series, but not an excellent one. The first four chapters proved to be interesting and meaningful, but from then on it failed to fully capture any sense of wonder, though there were some things to think about from time to time.

For much of the book it felt as if the characters were wandering about in a fog. I never felt I could get close enough to the character’s either, they seemed very distant, remote. The exception to the rule being the villains, which often was given in the very intimate first person point of view. I felt a closeness and personality to them, why not the heroes? The villains were well done enough, having more depth then most villains, they are the ones that leave you thinking at the end of the book, not the heroes, which by contrast felt very flat. One character, of whom I got the impression was playing the teacher role in the book kept conveniently forgetting some important and very obvious details that one of his station and occupation etc wouldn’t be very likely to overlook on several occasions, a plot device far overused.

In truth, I was disappointed. I hope that perhaps I will receive the wish for more depth in the rest of the series, the first two chapters to the next book are at the back of this one and they seem promising in that department. I am hoping that it won’t got back into wandering around in a fog, which really was this books biggest failure. It seemed to lack an overall shape. What was the overarching definition of the story? It didn’t seem to have any kind of set beginning and more importantly an end, even if it’s not the end of the series it felt like it was just cut off one day when it seemed like a good length for a book. I was holding my breath for the again in the “There and Back Again.” that we read in The Hobbit. Perhaps there isn’t meant to be an again, I don’t know. The story isn’t over yet, I will give it that possibility. Still it fails to stand as an individual book apart from the rest of the series.

I really did wish to like the book and had a number of high expectations, but they were left unfulfilled and disappointed. I hope that the rest of the books will redeem the first one and help clear out some of the fog the characters were wandering in, or maybe it simply needs a second reading on my part. I will allow that a brilliant overall narrative is a possibility, and the fog wandering is just some kind of “set up” for the rest of the series.

Overall, despite my complaints, I did enjoy it a bit. Just not nearly as much as I would have liked to. Mostly for the simple reason of not feeling like I’ve had the chance to actually get to know the main characters, at the end of the book they still seemed like strangers. The exception being the villainess, her I felt like I knew a bit and she stands out in my mind as the most distinctly different character.

We’ll have to see how the story plays out. I will not say that it isn’t worth the time to read, but it isn’t as good as it could be. It may just need a re-reading on my part, I hope to do so eventually, when I do and if I find it better, I’ll post another review of it. I’ve had that happen before, a book turn out to be much more enjoyable on the second reading then the first. So there is still hope! I do applaud D. Barkley Briggs on the tremendous amount of effort put into the story, despite my feelings about it, I must acknowledge the depth of the work involved. Writing a story isn't easy, and it was a good effort.


Links of importance:

The Book of Names on Amazon
D. Barkley Briggs’s Web site
D. Barkley Briggs’s blog


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Hey, Shane, thanks for your honest appraisal. For some reason, publishers seem eager to sign authors to multiple book contracts but are less ready to take on continuous story series like The Lord of the Rings. Even though it wasn't advertised as such, that series more closely resembles The Legend of Karac Tor than, say The Hobbit. So I think you're right--The Book of Names will grow (and probably grow on the reader) as it fits in with the other books.

I do think there was considerable "set up" involved in this book. But I'll address that in my own review later in the tour.


Chris said...

Well done Shane. I enjoyed your analysis of the book. Good balance...honesty. In the 2nd post it feels like your getting wishy-washy. Review the book and stand your ground. First thoughts are often best thoughts because they aren't encumbered by second guessing.