Friday, January 4, 2008


While this is my final official post on AURALIA'S COLORS, that doesn't mean that I might pop up with another post on it in the future. Books like this tend to stay on my mind for weeks. When I wrote about David Anthony Durham's Acacia, I ended up putting up another post on it a week after my so-called "final" post. So you never know. I'm flighty that way.

I finished this book on New Year's Eve, some 2 1/2 months after I started. However, that was not the fault of the book. I had some author-sent books to read, and I wanted to get through them first.

This novel is difficult to summarize. It begins when a young female baby is discovered by a pair of outcast "gatherers". The baby has been placed carefully into the impression of a monstrous footprint. Almost like it was a cradle. The Gatherers who find her are outcasts of House Abascar, criminals who serve there time by living outside the protective walls of the house.

Paradoxly, these outcasts live outside, where there is the color of nature, while inside the house, the housefolk must earn the right to wear colors. Why? This scheme is the brainchild of Queen Jaralaine, who seeks to restore the glory of House Abascar. To do so, she declares the Proclamation of the Colors. During a period of Abascar's Winter, the housefolk must wear drab colrs and sacrifice everything beautiful to the throne. After sufficient sacrifice is made and enough beautiful things gathered, the colors will be restored in Abascar's Spring.

However, the Queen -- who has a tendency to wander -- disappears before she can declare Abascar's Spring, and King Cal-marcus never declares the Spring. Twenty colorless years go by.

Then, along comes Auralia, a weaver of fabulous things, things that bring hope to the wearer, and even, it is said, things that can heal.

The author, Jeffrey Overstreet, breaks a lot of "rules". He doesn't give us a lot of behind-the-eyeballs time with the title character, Auralia. At the same time, he puts us in a fever to read about her. The POV jumps from person to person, here the heroic/villianous Captain Arc-robin, there the nameless ale boy, here the king, Cal-marcus, there his son, Cal-raven. But somehow, I don't mind -- at least not after the opening chapters.

The author also yanks us out of the present just when it is getting interesting, and plunges us into the past to the schemings of a most unpleasant character, Queen Jaralaine through the eyes of the intriguingly complex Captain Arc-robin.

And then there is the ale boy, whom I tended to dismiss at first because he had no name. Even when he does learn his name, the reader does not. Grr. This is really the only quibble I have with the novel. People tend to get named, at least in Western cultures. Nothing in this book suggested that it was anything other than a quasi-Western culture. I am reminded of the Dog Boy in T. H. White's The Once and Future King. The poor Dog Boy didn't have a name either, but at least his designation got capitalized letters.

However, I cannot help but feel that the author kept his name from us because it might give something about him away. I cannot ignore the imagry behind some of the names in this novel. Auralia sounds very much like Aurora, which is the Latin word for dawn. This is a very apt name for her. Dawn is a burst of colors and light, just as Auralia is.

Color is the defining theme of this novel. Overstreet seeps his world in color, but only -- or so it seemed to me -- when Auralia is present. Everything is brown and drab and grey, but when Auralia comes along, she paints the world in her wake. This scene at the top of the cliff -- the subject of the cover art -- was the most unforgettable scene in the novel, even though I hardly understood what was happening.

After the cliff scene, I had a very difficult time putting the novel down. Auralia brings colors to Abascar, but she also brings a lot of trouble to herself. Mythical creatures mentioned throughout the book -- the Northchildren and the Keeper -- gradually become more real to the reader in what really is masterful storytelling. Nothing was a surprise, yet the way everything unfolded certainly could not be predicted.

Many questions are left unanswered in this, the beginning of a series. However, the book ended after a cataclysmic climax, and it had an epilogue I did not expect.

As I said in my year-end round-up, this book has a sense of wonder that I don't often see in fantasy these days. All too often these days, authors strive for gritty realism. We rarely get moments like that first glimpse of Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings, or when Lancelot performed his miracle in The Once and Future King, or when Silas found his gold in Silas Marner. The wonder in this novel was in Auralia's colors. It is a well-named book, and I look forward to reading the next installment, Cyndere's Midnight. Hmm. Is it a coincidence that Auralia's name is very like Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, and Cyndrele's name is very like Cinderella? Time will tell.

* * *
All my posts on AURALIA'S COLORS
All my posts on Jeffrey Overstreet (may overlap with the above)
Jeffrey Overstreet's Website and blog
Amazon Links - USA, UK, Canada
Novel page at Waterbrook

Upcoming - an interview with Jeffrey Overstreet!


Robert said...

I really enjoyed the book :) It was a pleasant surprise and I'm definitely in it for the long haul...

Robert said...

Also, looking forward to your interview!