January CSFF Blog Tour Day 3: The Book of Names

Wow, is it Day 3 already?  I’ve been enjoying the posts from the other blog tour participants–lots of different viewpoints and approaches to reviewing D. Barkley Briggs’ The Book of Names. Today, I’m going to connect my work with theirs, comparing and contrasting some of the observations we’ve made about the book.

1. Grrl Power: In my review, I wondered if the teen-boy focus of The Book of Names might lessen its appeal to girls.  The female reviewers on the tour were very enthusiastic about the story, and Keenan Brand brought in his 10-year-old niece, who loved the book and can’t wait until the next one.  She did note that Asandra was very quiet through most of the story, so maybe I wasn’t totally out to lunch on this issue.  Anyhow, I surrender–unless they’ve had a hefty dose of gender-sensitivity training, girls will probably enjoy this book as much as boys do.  And as far as general appeal goes, Amy Cruson reported that her husband stole her review copy, finished it in one sitting, and is eagerly anticipating the second installment.  That was pretty much my experience, so I guess we’ve got the whole market covered from young girls to older guys.

2. Tough Love: Shane Deal’s review of the book was negative overall, though he still thought it was worth reading.  He expresses disappointment with Briggs’ character development and a general lack of direction in the plot, hoping these shortcomings will be improved in the sequels.  As a writer, I value negative reviews, even if I don’t particularly enjoy them, because they’re usually both honest and helpful.  It’s easy to tell someone what they want to hear about their work, not so easy to offer constructive criticism.

3. Color My World: Jeff Draper and I were both impressed by Brigg’s vivid imagery and also by his spot-on handling of Hadyn and Ewan’s grieving over their mother’s death.  We see moments when the two brothers are leaning on each other for comfort, and we also witness them  screaming at each other in frustration and rage.  That’s real life.

4. This is the Christian SF&F Book Tour, After All: Several reviewers provided very thoughtful commentary on the issue of how “dark” a Christian fantasy tale, particularly one aimed at young people, should be.  Rebecca Miller’s posts on this topic are well worth reading.  Andrea Graham wonders if Briggs may have confused magic and spiritual gifts in the readers’ mind, and that’s been a bone of contention among reviewers of Christian-influenced fantasy since C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books.  For my part, I wondered if the conversations in the story about “maintaining the balance” between good and evil forces strayed a bit into gnosticism, but the overall message of the book is that good is stronger than evil and will prevail, and that position, coupled with the positive values that infuse the story, carried the day for me.  This is a work of fiction, set in an imaginary world.  I didn’t expect a theological treatise sprinkled with fairy dust.

5. And Now for Something Completely Different: Steve Rice’s irreverent reviews are becoming legendary on the tour.  They’re hilarious, but there’s a solid core of intelligent criticism beneath all the whipped cream and seltzer.  Check ’em out.

That’s all for now, folks.  Next month, the CSFF Blog Tour will be reviewing Jeffrey Overstreet’s Cyndere’s Midnight, second in his Auralia Thread series of fantasy stories.

For more commentary on The Book of Names, please visit these other fine stops on the CSFF Blog Tour:

Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Valerie Comer
Melissa Carswell
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Alice M. Roelke
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
Timothy Wise

>>This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<

6 thoughts on “January CSFF Blog Tour Day 3: The Book of Names

  1. Great posts, Fred. I may have forgotten to say this earlier, but by observation, I’ve concluded that women in general are OK with a male protagonist. Hence, the wide-ranging appeal.

    Myself, I think it’s high time Christian fiction offered more to men and boys.


  2. Thanks, Becky. You know, I don’t think the male POV bothered me as much as what felt to me like a missing female presence in the story. Maybe that’s a reflection of the Barlows’ loss of the only woman they really understood. I’m curious to see how my own teen daughter likes the book.

    I agree on the lack of Christian fiction offered for men and boys. It’s a little daunting to go to the Christian fiction rack in Borders or a Christian bookstore (as I did when I was hunting for The Book of Names) and be confronted with a sea of bonneted women. I mean, Amish girls are cute and have a great work ethic, but my boys wouldn’t spend five seconds trying to dig something a little more masculine out of _that_ bookcase. 🙂


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