This fantasy book is first in the "Legends of Karac Tor" series by D. Barkley Briggs and is published by NavPress, a division of The Navigators.
The Book of Names: A Novel is written for kids ages 13 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Brothers Hadyn and Ewan Barlow find an ancient portal to the world of Karac Tor and discover they have been called to this land to serve as champions for the great Aion, who has been absent for many years. The country is in peril as Nemesia, a witch following the orders of the Devourer, turns young people into an army of nameless and mindless followers. The grey, black and white monks remain faithful to Aion and discover that the Book of Names, a magical text that contains all the names and accomplishments of every person who has been and will be in Karac Tor, has nothing but blank pages for the future generations as a result of Nemesia's actions.
Both Hadyn and Ewan have been given special gifts to battle against the evil taking over the land, and the Devourer orders Nemesia to have the boys stopped. She captures Hadyn and begins a ceremony to free darkness from the otherworld into Karac Tor. Ewan, along with a handful of Aion's followers, rescue Hadyn and the Nameless, but not before Nemesia releases evil throughout the land. Archibald, the ruler of Karac Tor, seems oblivious to the danger his people are in, and the majority of the monks are unsure of what role the Barlows are to take in bringing about Aion's return. Hadyn and Ewan discover that their younger brothers, Garrett and Gabe, have been called to Karac Tor to be champions as well, and Hadyn declares that they will all stay and fight for Aion.
Aion, son of the great King Olfadr, is the Ever King of Karac Tor. He was good friends with Yhu Yoder, the first man, and also kept company with Kr'Nunos, a deceiver. Kr'Nunos convinced Yhu Yoder to kill Aion. Kr'Nunos' plan did not go as he hoped as Aion was reborn and promptly banished Kr'Nunos from the kingdom. Known now as the Devourer and Keeper of Hel, Kr'Nunos seeks to take advantage of Aion's long absence to completely cover the land in darkness and evil. Aion's faithful followers, however, wait for his promised return in the Final Days.
Although Reggie Barlow is struggling over the loss of his wife, he is a loving and involved father to Hadyn, Ewan and their two younger brothers. Archibald is a good man, but a weak leader. While he is not blind to the growing problems in Karac Tor, he doesn't do anything about them and allows Jonas, an evil and manipulative man, to remain in an influential position within the court. In order to control the Nameless, Nemesia preys on their weaknesses and past hurts and often reminds them of how worthless they are.
Other Belief Systems
Nemesia, once a follower of Aion, practices witchcraft and sorcery to fulfill the plans of the Devourer. More and more people are turning away from Aion and are embracing pagan rituals, such as participating in blood sacrifices.
Hadyn is tempted to swear after injuring himself, but he doesn't do so out of respect for his father. In order to have visions about the future, Nemesia boils live mice; the red steam from their blood fills the room. In a moment of rage, Nemesia kills a cage full of mice, drinks their blood and then proceeds to cut herself. Cruedwyn, a warrior seeking to protect Hadyn and Ewan, stabs and kills one of the Nameless and later wounds many more. Nemesia cuts the throat of one of the Nameless in order to get the attention of the Mismyri, a group of evil creatures she has released from Hel. The Mismyri proceed to eat the flesh of the dead girl in order to gain strength. The Devourer brutally stabs and kills Eldoran, the Father of the grey monks.
Nemesia talks about a past lover, and she has an illegitimate child with Sorge, a former warrior who is now a monk. Kr'Nunos enjoys transforming into the shape of wild animals partly due to the way they mate.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Why don't Hadyn and Ewan want to share their discovery of the stone arch?
How do they ask their dad for help in deciphering the ancient words written on the stone opening to the portal without telling him the whole truth?
How would the outcome of the story have been different if they had told their father about their findings right away?
What kinds of things do you keep from your parents [us]?
How might something have been different if you had told your parents [us]?
- How do you know that Hadyn and Ewan are still grieving over the death of their mother?
How does Hadyn's sorrow play into Nemesia's plans to make him one of the Nameless?
What roles do Ewan and the importance of family play in saving Hadyn from Nemesia's grasp?
How important is your family to you?
- How do you know that Archibald wants to do what is best for the people of Karac Tor?
What or who distracts him?
How are the sly words of his adviser, Jonas, hurtful to Archibald?
What are Jonas' motivations for keeping Archibald from taking action against the evil in the realm?
What strategy does Jonas use to do this?
Why are his actions particularly effective on Archibald?
- Why does Hadyn declare that he and his brothers will fight for Karac Tor?
What have Hadyn and Ewan learned during their time there?
From what you've read about the four brothers, why might they have been chosen as champions for Aion?
Note: Eldoran consumes wine with a meal.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.