Wednesday, May 11, 2011
by Jeffrey Overstreet
A pair of outcast thieves find an abandoned child on the side of the river, lying in a giant footprint. She is brought to the criminals' community, outside the walls of House Abscar, where she is raised with the other orphans under their care. But there is something different about Auralia. She has an amazing ability to craft colors. Colors that are forbidden in Abscar. Colors that enchant all who see them. Colors that will change the lives of all of the houses in the Expanse.
Auralia's Colors is an inventive story, unlike anything I had ever read before. It creates a vivid picture of a great land, called the Expanse, and of the different types of people who inhabit this land. The descriptions are very detailed, to the point where a creative mind could envision themselves walking along the banks of the River Throanscall or wandering amongst the Gatherers' huts.
The characters are very well developed, and display a diverse array of personalities. The ones who should be likable are likable, and there are a couple that you don't feel as guilty about disliking. For me, this was Stricia. For some reason, I just wanted someone to go Wicked Witch of the East and drop a house on her. Oh, irony. My absolute favorite character was the ale boy. Before they even got into his back story, I was intrigued by him. I am super excited to read The Ale Boy's Feast, which is also on my list for this month.
The story is narrated from the "over the shoulder" view of the important character in the scene. For most books, this would mean one to three characters, but in Auralia's Colors, this covers over ten characters. This has the potential to get confusing - or annoying - fast. Yet, somehow, it works here.
One of the first things I noticed when I started reading Auralia's Colors was that there is quite a bit of dialogue. I understand that dialogue enhances a story, but I guess I like when a book opens up with vast imagery as opposed to conversation. I was very put off by the somewhat gruff conversation between Krawg and Warney in the first chapter. It took re-reading several times to make it past that and into the actual story. I feared that would set the tone for the whole book. Fortunately, once it picked up pace, I enjoyed reading it.
Honestly, there was a segment here or there that I found unnecessary to the greater story. A view point that did not seem that significant. A conversation that seemed trivial. A character that did not seem so important as to warrant the amount of coverage it received. The number of named characters was so massive that it is possible to become confused, or forget some altogether, so that when they are later mentioned, you have to stop and think to remember what you already learned about them. When you combine this with the extravagant descriptions, the story does have its moments where it seems long-winded and it causes you to lose interest. I feel that it took me much longer to read this book than it should have.
Auralia's Colors is classified as a Christian Fiction novel, though there seems to be a dispute amongst reviewers as to if this is a correct classification. Jeffery Overstreet is a Christian novelist, which is probably the inital reason for the classification. Unlike much of the Christian Fiction available today, there are not overbearing religious messages. However, I could actually see Christian influences in the story. I have seen other reviewers mention before that there is the Keeper as a god figure, looking over the children. One could also say that the Northchildren represent angels. But to me, the most noticable influence would have to do with the moment where Auralia tells the ale boy that she is going home, and the circumstances surrounding that event. I could note mention of each of the "seven deadly sins" represented and punished.
I find myself with mixed emotions for Auralia's Colors. It was a good story, but I sometimes wondered if it fell into the category of "too much of a good thing."
Auralia's Colors is somewhat tame, as far as fantasy novels go. If your teen wishes this book to read, you really don't have anything to worry about. It does not use standard "bad" language and only briefly alludes to anything that could be seen as inappropriate, such as romantic encounters, without ever going so far as to cross a line. There is a large amount of violence, but nothing overly graphic or gory. Auralia's Colors is a nice, safe read for teens as far as fantasy novels go, though it is somewhat long and wordy, so if they are not an avid reader, they may get frustrated and give up before the end.