Tuesday, 30 October 2007
‘Auralia’s Colors’ – Jeffrey Overstreet (WaterBrook Press/ Random House)
Every so often I read a book and know within a few pages that I’m in for the duration. One book, eight books, it doesn’t matter how long the series turns out. I’m there at the start and I’ll be there at the finish. Tad Williams, Greg Keyes and Steven Erikson (amongst others) have all trapped me in a book buying frenzy, now it’s the turn of Jeffrey Overstreet with his novel ‘Auralia’s Colors’.
Thanks to the strange working practices of one of the UK’s largest delivery firms (naming no names), this book found it’s way to my desk rather than through my front door. I had my reading list all mapped out for the next few days but I’d finished my current book and thought I’d flick through ‘Auralia’s Colors’ on the way home. Fast forward a few days and the reading list is once again in need of re-shuffling. ‘Auralia’s Colors’ is a magical read, that’s all I can say. It’s by no means perfect but it’s not far off.
Auralia is found, as a baby, lying abandoned in a monster’s footprint. Raised by criminals, living outside the walls of House Abascar, Auralia discovers an ability to craft colours which enchant all who see them. In a kingdom where unregulated colour is strictly forbidden Auralia’s gift will bring her into conflict with the ruling classes. The outcome will determine the fate of an entire kingdom but perhaps more importantly the fate of certain people who live in it.
The fantasy genre seems to be very harsh in tone at the moment; life is cheap in any book you come across and blunt realism is the order of the day. The ‘average fantasy fan’ would be forgiven for thinking that ‘Auralia’s Colors’, with it’s fairytale plot, might be better off being aimed at a younger audience. While this may be true of the plot, once you’ve jumped in and immersed yourself in the language you’ll find that there’s a lot to be had out of this book. There’s a real poetic feel to the prose that lends the book a dreamlike quality perfectly suited to a fantasy setting. Overstreet’s prose means that you will see every leaf in the forest and hear the water running along the rivers. The downside to this is that, every now and then, Overstreet gets carried away by the world he has created and forgets to attach the same level of importance to the people who live in it. This can make for a strangely disjointed read in places but I personally was enjoying the book, as a whole, too much to care. Talking about the characters, there is an ambiguity in all of them that belies initial impressions of ‘Auralia’s Colors’ as a children’s book. It also made me willing to put that extra effort into the read and discover what it’s all about, this is certainly a book that rewards the effort you put into reading it.
As I’ve said already, ‘Auralia’s Colors’ is by no means a perfect book but there is plenty there to recommend it to anyone. I love what’s going on in the genre right now but this made a refreshing change.
Nine out of Ten