The Book of Names by Dean Barkley Briggs

Join D. Barkley Briggs, author of the young adult fantasy novel, The Book of Names (Navpress Publishing Group), as he virtually tours the blogosphere in December on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion!

About the Author:

D. Barkley Briggs has worked in radio, marketing and new product development. He also pastored for 11 years. After losing his wife of 16 years, Briggs decided an epic fantasy might inspire his four boys to live courageously through their loss. The Book of Names is the first in a series of adventures set in the Hidden Lands of Karac Tor. Briggs has since remarried and now has eight children. Learn more at

About the Book:

It was supposed to be a routine Thanksgiving break. But when Hadyn and Ewan Barlow discover an ancient Viking runestone buried on their family farm, they unwittingly open a magical portal to another world. Fleeing grief and broken dreams over the loss of their mother, the two brothers find themselves hailed as Champions in the Kingdom of Karac Tor. But all is not well. Nemesia the witch is releasing shadows over the whole land. Names are being stolen from The Book of Names, the most sacred relic of the kingdom. Before long, the Barlows realize they must find the courage to fight, or they will never find their way home. There’s just one problem: even if they win, will anyone know how to send them back?

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Dean. Here's what he had to say:

Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?

On one level, I’ve always loved fantasy stories. I’ve always loved the adventure and magic. But there is a deeper story here. The Book of Names is partially my attempt to define and reclaim my life (and my kids), from some very painful events.

The Cliff Notes version: I was married to my dream girl for 16 years. We had four boys. At age 36, I lost my wife to cancer. My world crashed. It was the most wrenching, utterly disorienting, soul-shredding experience of my life. My young family felt exiled from the world we had known. We felt dumped into a strange, new world. If I could have, I would have laid in bed and withered away, but I had four young boys who needed me, and who needed to know that life can still be good. Together, we embarked on a journey, and thus my tale. It’s been strange, and it’s not over. The Book of Names is part of that journey. My four boys serve the role of heroes, struggling through the loss of their mother, then becoming magically ensnared in the perils of another world. It is my attempt to write my way through grief and inspire my sons to fully engage in life.

The premise is Narnia-esque, with a decidedly modern twist on the legend of King Arthur. Four brothers in rural Missouri are magically transported to another world. In the Hidden Lands of Karac Tor, names are being stolen from the mystical Book of Names, and it falls to the Barlow brothers to figure out what is happening. Through the perils they experience, the boys discover more about themselves, grow as brothers, and learn to live heroically. That part is fun, wild, straightforward "hero fantasy". But there’s a deeper side, too, and I think that helps set these books apart.

What is the most important thing in your life right now?

I want to live life on simpler terms. I want to impart a value system to my kids that is antithetical to the consumerism that defines the American dream—it’s no longer a dream, it’s a nightmare. The sum total of life has become acquisition. I’m as guilty as the next person, but I want to escape. I want my kids to escape.

What are you currently working on?

The Book of Names is the first book in a series called The Legends of Karac Tor. The second book comes out in Spring, 2009. It’s called Corus the Champion. I’m currently about halfway through the manuscript for book 3, called the Song of Unmaking.

What do you feel is your biggest strength?

As a writer? I really strive for a certain lyrical quality to the way I write. I want to imbue the narrative with a sense of meter and rhythm. Once upon a time, I also painted watercolor so I also try to write kind of like I paint, by layering light washes of words to build various scenes and characters. I’m also fairly organized, which helps with plotting.

Biggest weakness?

I suppose I might have a tendency toward symbolism that some might find annoying. To me, appropriate symbolism adds depth to a story if it’s subtle enough, like a treasure waiting to be found. Some might also fault me for being more of a classical fantasist, rather than something more trendy, such as urban or gothic fantasy.

What do you feel sets this book apart from others in the same genre?

It’s gritty and heartfelt. It’s got a raw core that most teens today will readily identify with. In fact, chances are they’ll feel like this is their story in some way or another. I don’t try to whitewash some of the deeply felt struggles teens face every day. And yet it does all this in the context of another world they can escape to, rather than having to slog through the disappointments of their own lives. Like all good fantasies, The Book of Names helps to stir a sense of wonder, which is increasingly rare in a jaded, cynical age.

Are you a different person now than you were 5 years ago? In what way/s?

I’m more compassionate. I have a greater sense of scale for what matters and what doesn’t. You know, like Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff...and It’s All Small. That’s really true.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from life so far?

Forgive. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Be forgiven.


(By now, the chilling truth has sunk in: Hadyn and Ewan are in a strange, new world. It’s not a dream. As they journey toward the capital city of Stratamore, hoping to find someone who can send them back home to Missouri, they are attacked by an angry mob of birds and five drone-like teenagers who have been following them for unknown reasons. Accompanied by Sorge the Gray Monk, Asandra the mirling, and a grumpy, stouthearted gnome named Flogg, the brothers take temporary shelter in a small structure called The Stone House.)

Sorge glanced out the peephole cut into the wall, “The birds that attacked us are a Flight of Crows. Sorcery makes the birds fly swifter, with focus and greater rage. They even seem to multiply. It’s Nemesia’s doing, I’m sure. Ewan, lock the door. Everyone else up against the east wall. Stay flat and still.”

Scooting on all fours, Ewan found the latch and slid the bolt. They all pressed against the stone wall, though Flogg seemed more irritated than afraid. Outside, amidst scattered, low voices, a sound drew near. Feet crunching on pebbles.

Memory jarred Ewan. “Sorge, the hole you made!” he hissed.

Quickly, Sorge smeared the rock face with his fingers. The surface sealed under his touch as if made of paste. At the wall, he drew himself to his full height, staff in hand. Pacing feet now ringed the Stone House. Only the four walls stood between the hunters and the hunted.

The five outside circled the Stone House with slow, deliberate movements—once in full, then twice. The light sound of flapping wings returned. Claws scratched against the thatched roof. Squawking. On the third circuit, something like fingernails began scraping the rock wall. Inside, the air strangely thickened, so that Ewan found it hard to breathe. A strange heaviness began oozing under his threshold of conscious thought, like smoke slipping under a door, making it difficult to think clearly. He fought it, trying to focus on a spot on the far wall. Beside him, Haydn leaned hard against the stone, as if using it to hold himself up. Matted blood was stuck in his brother’s hair, smeared on his face. His ragged breath strangely comforted Ewan, to know he felt it, too. They were both fighting the same thing.

Though Sorge had counted five, only one voice arose from the artificial calm. It was creepy and directionless, drifting like a leaf in the wind, leeching through the stone, shiftless and flat.

“Who far?” the voice said. It was male, not old. He sounded neither curious nor fearful, stringing words together like pearls on an open loop before letting them tumble thoughtlessly to the ground, unclaimed. Other voices rose faintly in response, moaning like wind on a barren plain. “Who journeys...through...the skies to the home...of despair?”

More soft strides on padded feet. More scraping. More bird noises. Strangely, none of them even attempted to peer through the high windows. Perhaps they didn’t care. Perhaps this was all some bad dream, or a very bad joke.

When a hard fist suddenly rattled the wood planks, Ewan jumped. So much for that theory. Sorge reached out to his left and right, placing a steady hand on the shoulders of both boys. He put a finger to his lips to focus their thoughts. Shhh...

Another thump, this time harder, as if one of the people outside had taken a heavy stone from the pond, and was trying to smash the door apart.

“Who crosses the hidden...barrier...”

The door rattled again, a bone-jarring sound. Thwack!

“ trouble holy men?”

Thwack! By now, the birds had gone wild, dancing and squawking, flapping and pecking.

“Plans come to nothing. Yours...ours. Nothing. The world will...come to nothing. Hide and prove us true. Emerge and join us. Fight and be consumed. We are...the Name—”

Thwack! Another blow and the door would surely shatter. Ewan found himself straining to concentrate. The what? What had he called them? The last word had drowned in the clatter, but Ewan thought he heard it: the Nameless. The boy’s voice had an gooey, sticky quality. The words formed questions, yet at the same time seemed passionless to any answer that might be given. Ewan’s head spun. The voice in his head felt foreign on the one hand, yet it entered his brain with a sense of relief, leaving a residue of thought he could not wipe away. He shook his head angrily, saw Hadyn making a similar gesture. Ewan wanted to scream, to force it out of his head.

The same young man kept droning on:

“Do not think proudly, outlanders. You have come for no great purpose. Let me show you the beginning...of the way of peace: Nothing matters.”

The other voices joined in, creating a soft, uneven chant: “Nothing. Matters. Nothing.”

It seemed to crescendo. Ewan braced for the door to splinter. Wings flapped wildly. Sorge’s knuckles were white on his staff. Asandra’s face glistened in the half light.

“Nothing matters...”

Then, simply nothing. They were gone, the sound of their feet trailing away to the south, lost amongst the whispering grass and the generous curves of dimpled land; lost in the slow circles forming on the water where silver perch topped the pond, gulping for mosquitoes. Birds and voices alike—gone.

Hadyn sank to his knees. In the warmish light, his face was pale. “We shouldn’t have come, Ewan. We should be home right now, with Dad. Not here, wherever this is. I’m so sorry.”

Ewan struggled to catch his breath. He felt the same. But home was a long, long way away...


"In the same vein as such master fantasy writers as J. R. R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, author D. Barkley Briggs has penned a superb tale... The Book of Names is fast-paced and compelling. Readers will be clamoring for Briggs's next installment in this exciting and worthy new series."

Win prizes!

THE BOOK OF NAMES VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on December 1 and end on December 23. You can visit Dean's blog stops at in December to find out where he is appearing!

As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner(s) will be announced at the end of every month!

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