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Book Review: Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

* Genre: Fantasy
* ISBN: 1400072522
* ISBN-13: 9781400072521
* Format: Paperback, 336pp
* Publisher: WaterBrook Press
* Pub. Date: September 2007
* Series: Auralia Strand Series
* My Interview with Jeffrey Overstreet

In the story of Esther, a young woman marries a king and changes the kingdom for the better, at least in the case of the Jews, the lowest caste. Auralia�s Colors, by Jeffrey Overstreet, is reminiscent of this story from the Old Testament. As with Esther, Auralia is a young woman of beauty and talent that changes the society that shuns her so much that it can never return to the way it was.

Overstreet, a nonfiction writer known for his movie reviews and perspectives on art and entertainment, has turned to fantasy for his first foray into fiction. A psychological and emotional story, Auralia�s Colors tells the story of Auralia, a foundling gifted with the ability to weave the items of the forest into beautiful cloths. House Abascar�s attempt at creating equality by removing colored items from all people and only distributing it by the king�s favor has only deepened the gulf between the poor and the rich. People have become more selfish as they have sought to curry the King�s favor an the caste system has only become more deeply striated. Auralia�s ability with color upsets all that the people of Abascar had come to know in the last twenty years since color had been outlawed, and this fragile house, led by a drunken king, is unlikely to withstand the torrent her power unleashes.

More a series of character studies than a comprehensive novel, the narrative follows Prince Cal-raven, his betrothed Stricia, the ale boy, Auralia, and a few others as the seek to live in the deeply broken society of House Abascar. Each character suffers under various pressures and each reacts differently. Some rise to heroism, some devolve into selfishness, and some becoming something more than they thought they were, and all because Auralia had walked through their lives.

The novel focuses on the emotions and reactions of the characters not description of the events that occur. I felt that the narrative was thinly woven together and that I didn�t really know what was going on throughout the story. It made the narrative seem broken and disjointed, as most the action was seen only through a veil of thick emotion, making it harder to understand what was going on. Overstreet prefers to use metaphor and simile to describe what is going on, rather than using direct description. This gives the novel the feel of poetry, but for those readers who are dense with poetry, this is more frustrating than entertaining. Additionally, Auralia�s Colors has lots of things happen, but it seems as if Overstreet kept changing his mind as to what story he was trying to tell. Is it the story of the ale boy? Or Auralia? Or Prince Cal-raven? I couldn�t tell, and the lack of clearly defined hero or heroine was unexpected and difficult for me as a reader. In fantasy, writers usually have a clearly defined evil, and a clearly defined good, even when an anti-hero drives the narrative. Auralia�s Colors is weaving together several lives into a garment of brilliant colors that will change the future of House Abascar irrevocably. The disconnected threads of the story are only brought together in the final few chapters.

But some readers may like this fact. It is often very hard for people to know what is evil and what is good. When should a subject break a king�s laws? At what point has benevolence moved into dictatorship? And is it the place of the king to create equality among his subjects? Overstreet brings this third question to the fore on page 254, �You want a gift from the king? Hear this: if you allow Abascar freedom, some people will choose what they shouldn�t. � But take away that freedom, and no one has opportunity to choose what they should.�

If as a reader you are looking for a philosophical novel this book will be good for you. It addresses themes of right and wrong, government and the people, hope and despair. But it should not be a book the reader picks up expecting to read quickly or easily. It will make its readers think and will challenge them as they turn the pages.

Auralia�s Colors is very well-written. Although its narrative seemed to lack cohesion (it doesn’t, it just seems to) for its majority, the questions about life it raises are worth exploring. Although none of the characters are particularly compelling, the interplay between them is. The tapestry woven through their stories is beautiful and is completed through a cataclysmic event that brings all the threads together. The descriptions have the feel of poetry and the narrative is vibrant with color. Auralia�s Colors is the first in a series of books that weave together the threads of different lives, changing the world and society that they are a part of into something completely new. I recommend Auralia�s Colors as a good but challenging read.

You should also read the reviews by Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, Fantasy Debut, Fantasy Book Critic and OF Blog of the Fallen, as their perspectives are quite different from mine.

This post is part of the CSFF blog tour for January 2008. Read posts from these other participants in the tour:

Brandon Barr Jim Black Justin Boyer Grace Bridges Jackie Castle Carol Bruce Collett Valerie Comer CSFF Blog Tour D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Jeff Draper April Erwin Marcus Goodyear Andrea Graham Jill Hart Katie Hart Timothy Hicks Heather R. Hunt Becca Johnson Jason Joyner Kait Karen Carol Keen Mike Lynch Margaret Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Melissa Meeks Rebecca LuElla Miller Mirtika or Mir’s Here Pamela Morrisson Eve Nielsen John W. Otte John Ottinger Deena Peterson Rachelle Steve Rice Cheryl Russel Ashley Rutherford Hanna Sandvig Chawna Schroeder James Somers Rachelle Sperling Donna Swanson Steve Trower Speculative Faith Jason Waguespac Laura Williams Timothy Wise