Tuesday, January 20, 2009


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In The Book of Names, D. Barley Briggs introduces the concept of three religious branches, Black, Gray, and White, that operate independently of each other. Each group stands for following and emphasising a different characteristic of their creator.

The Gray Abbey works to balance the other two branches, White and Black, in their actions and try to moderate and work in harmony. The White Abbey has two main purposes, to learn all of the Book of Law, and to keep and protect the Book of names. Studious, serious and unbending, the White Abbey members see themselves as Stewards of the Truth, and are quick to inform others of any wrongs. By contrast, The Black Abbey follows the Way of Mystery, and seek to learn the unknowable secrets of Aion, The Creator. Rather than focus on logic, and strict adherence to written Laws, the Black Abbey strives to peacefully use rituals and power to fight the darkness through mystical means.

This struck me as the way many people view religion - either caught up mysticism and symbology, or legalistic and unyielding. Both extremes began with good intentions, but devolved over time into thinking only their way contains the path to true enlightenment. The Grays strive for a happy median, seeing good in both views. In fact, it is the Grays who become the strongest allies of Haydn and Ewan, while the other two factions get caught up in petty squabbles over who is the most correct and so the most important.
D. Barkley Briggs illustrates this point in a non-condemning way. Much like the world of Korac Tor, the different religious factions of our world have lost sight of the fact that we're on the same side. By dividing the Black, White, and Gray Abbeys among themselves, their common foe weakened what should have been a strong, unified front.

D. Barkley Briggs seems to have woven a modern parable into this story of a far away land.

Monday, January 19, 2009


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D. Barkley Briggs manages to weave a tale of Celtic, Norse, and a bit of Welsh legends into a story that begins innocently enough with clearing out brush at an old farm. The two oldest sons, Haydyn and Ewan Barlow, were recently transplanted here with their father and younger twin brothers after the death of their mother from a prolonged illness.
Questioning their faith at times after their painful loss, Haydyn and Ewan wonder why their father has moved their family out in the middle of nowhere, away from friends, school, and job. Clearing the mounds of brush in the field seems pointless to the brothers, and they begin creating tunnels and openings through the brambles to pass the time. One day, a side tunnel leads them to discover a carved stone arch deep inside the bramble pile.

Mr. Briggs story made me stop and think. In our complex world, sometimes a change of scenery is needed to start us down a different path. We often can't even glimpse the big picture, much like the Barlow brothers and their family, and question what has happened. In their case, the move brought them to where they needed to be so that great things might be worked through them.
The author does a nice job developing the feeling of desperation and frustration. A feeling echoed by children in the land Haydyn and Ewan must help by overcoming the feeling first in themselves, and later in the nameless ones.