Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

In a world where color has been banished, a young woman defies the king with a cloak woven from all the hues of nature, throwing the fabric of society into chaos and turmoil.

I became a fan of Jeffrey Overstreet after reading his book on film, Through a Screen Darkly, and subsequently become a reader of his blog, Looking Closer. Auralia’s Colors is the first in a proposed series of four, to which I say, “Bring it.”

It’s an astonishingly accomplished debut, and falls prey to none of the lazy traps to which fantasy writers are prone. The characters are strong, the concept and plot inventive and original, and the prose is lyrical. Here’s a sample:

The child’s words, an empty chant, made Auralia recoil. A sudden fear swept over her, and she climbed off the stool, dragging the cape toward the questioner as if to save her from a chill. “Nobody owns the colors. Can’t you see? They’re free. They’re what trees do. They’re what water and sky do. Fields. Hills. Mountains. No matter how much you give them away, there’ll always be more.”

Auralia is a fresh creation, a character that I can’t compare to any I’ve seen in the fantasy literature I’ve read. She’s not the stereotypical fierce hoyden or pampered princess, nor is she the wise and mystical Galadriel-type. She’s a child of nature stepping into destiny with a confidently unsure step, if that makes sense. She doesn’t know who she is or where she came from, but she can’t deny the purpose and passions that animate her any more than the trees can deny giving their colors.

Overstreet credits Patricia McKillip’s The Book of the Atrix Wolfe as an influence in his foreword, and I would say that’s the author I’d most closely link him to, of the ones I’ve read–I’ve not read Guy Gavriel Kay yet, whom Overstreet also mentions. I put it in my Young Adult category not because I think it’s written for a teen audience, but because teens who love to read and enjoy books about magic are likely to enjoy this book. Especially the girls.

The highest praise I can give this book is to tell you that it took me forever to read, by Superfast standards, anyway, because I was so enthralled by the story and the world he was creating that I wanted to stay in each sentence a little longer than usual.

12 thoughts on “Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet”

  1. What? You haven’t read Kay yet? For shame!

    Actually, I’m not sure you’ll like him—people tend either to love him or hate him; he has a very particular prose style that isn’t to everyone’s taste. (I love him to pieces, and I still find it a little overwrought at times.)

    However, GGK is often compared to GRRM, and I know many, many fans of both—perhaps you’ll be one of them.

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