Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

Cross-posted from Ask Andrea

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing AURALIA’S COLORS (WaterBrook Press September 4, 2007) by Jeffrey Overstreet


By day, Jeffrey Overstreet writes about movies at LookingCloser.org and in publications like Christianity Today, Paste, and Image. His adventures in cinema are chronicled in his book Through a Screen Darkly. By night, he composes fictional worlds all his own. Living in Shoreline, Washington, with his wife, Anne, a poet, he is a senior staff writer for Response Magazine at Seattle Pacific University.

Auralia’s Colors is his first novel. He is now hard at work on many new stories, including three more strands of The Auralia Thread.


When thieves find an abandoned child lying in a monster’s footprint, they have no idea their wilderness discovery will change the course of history.

Cloaked in mystery, Auralia grows up among criminals outside the walls of House Abascar, where vicious beastmen lurk in shadow. There, she discovers an unsettling–and forbidden–talent for crafting colors that enchant all who behold them, including Abascar’s hard-hearted king, an exiled wizard, and a prince who keeps dangerous secrets.

Auralia’s gift opens doors from the palace to the dungeons, setting the stage for violent and miraculous change in the great houses of the Expanse.

Auralia’s Colors weaves literary fantasy together with poetic prose, a suspenseful plot, adrenaline-rush action, and unpredictable characters sure to enthrall ambitious imaginations.

At the Auralia’s Colors Website you can read the first chapter and listen to Overstreet’s introduction of the book.

Andrea's Review


Okay, seriously now. The copy of the pre-written “reviews” the CFBA happily supplies summarizes this one pretty nicely. Albeit the “poetic prose” was still clearly written by an imperfect human being who occasionally uses an unnecessary thought tag here or there (pet peeve), and slips into omniscient now and again (that it largely proved effective where used is a credit to the author’s own gift) it represents an excellent first effort and fresh addition to fantasy bookshelves.

I really appreciated the distinctive world-building. Lately, too many of the “fantasy” stories I’ve read were set on basically earth. When you’re using magical elements, which do crop up in a few places, it’s the setting that will make or break that. What can be accepted as part of another world in well-structured fantasy will amount to dabbling in the realm of demons in a world too much like our own, and Overstreet’s writing showed an appreciation for this.

Though subtle, the theme of forbidding colors and talk of the Keeper (a God-figure) is woven to prod readers about matters of faith; although I had trouble interpreting the precise parable; Auralia almost becomes a Christ-figure in a traditional tragedy that would make the Bard proud (and how often do I get to invoke Shakespeare in a review?)


The Doctrine of Conditional Joy

G. K. Chesterton wrote in his book, Orthodoxy, "The things I believe most now are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be the entirely reasonable things . . . . Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense." Sounds strange--fairyland reasonable and common-sensical? He goes on to talk about this spirit of law pervading the realm of fairy tales, "a way of looking at life." Let's take a look one of the aspects he proposes.

First, all that takes place in a fairy tale is centered around the docrtine of conditional joy. The word if is paramount. "The fairy tale utterance always is, 'You may live in a palace of gold if you do not say the word cow'; or 'You may live happily with the King's daughter if you do not show her an onion.' The vision always hangs on a veto. All the dizzy and colossal things conceded depend upon one small thing withheld. All the wild and whirling things that are let loose depend on one thing that is forbidden.' " Are we surprised that such rules tug at our very heartstrings in anticipation and curiosity? When we realize that these unpsoken rules seem to mirror our existence we know why they resonate. As Chesterton so duly noted: "In the fairy tale, an incomprehensible happiness rests upon an incomprehensible condition. A box is opened and all evils fly out. A word is forgotten and cities perish. A lamp is lit and loves flies away. An apple is eaten and the hope of God is gone."

The whole crux of our existence, our entire paradigm, revolves around this doctrine of conditional joy. Humans were given this clear choice: to not eat from a particular tree, for it represented God's right to set the rules. Overstepping was not just an act of disobedience, it caused the whole infrastructure of creation to come tumbling down.

Thankfully, from the one act of rebellion all hope of God was not truly lost. At that very moment God produced a remedy for humanity--and guess what--it was another doctrine of conditional joy. We are all so familiar with the scripture: "That God so loved the world he gave his only-begotten son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).

We do not have to search the ends of the earth for a talking frog, gather a bushel of grain from a haystack, or fetch the princess's ring from the bottom of the sea to be given the greatest reward a King has ever offered. All we are required to do is believe in the Son, serve and honor him loyally and faithfully. I, for my part, am glad of the kindness in such an easy, joyful task.

[originally posted at http://www.cslakin.blogspot.com/: more on Chesterton at that address. Susanne]


"Scarlet" by Stephen Lawhead

(This post is part of the CSFF blog tour. A full list of participants can be found below!)

For a lifelong fan of Stephen Lawhead’s poetic and moving tales, every new book is a feast for the heart. Last year I read “Hood”, a necessarily brutal introduction to the rough world of the Brits and Normans of a thousand years ago. If that first volume in the King Raven trilogy was a little hard to get into, then it served to lay superb groundwork for this second one. Readers moving from the first book to the second will already know that the hero we have known as Robin is in fact Rhi Bran y Hud, and that our adventures do not take place in Nottingham, but rather in the March Forests of Wales in the times when the Normans began to overrun Britain and impose their cruelly weighted laws upon the Cymry. With this in mind, “Scarlet” grows beyond fantasy and becomes a living, breathing possibility of history.

The journey begins with Will Scarlet in a dark, damp cell awaiting the noose. He tells Odo the priest the entire tale of how he came to join the forest community, and the daring adventures accomplished in the company of his canny lord. Raids on forest roads embarrass the hard-nosed Franks again and again, rousing their ire and inspiring the band of rebels to ever riskier feats of bare-faced cheek, until Will is captured one unlucky night. But this is not the end of the story. I do confess that I began reading and soon after flipped through the back pages to see if Will escaped the impending execution; however, this information was not to be had in that part, and I was forced to find out in the usual way as events unfolded that did not disappoint in the slightest.

One of the most astonishing things about this book is the masterful style of writing. Now, we all know that Lawhead has always given us the very best of prose and adventure. Long have I modelled my own writing inspired by his example. But here, he has raised the standard by several rungs – most visibly in the changing viewpoints within the story. Aspiring writers are invariably told not to attempt this – let alone switch between first and third person narrative – because it’s almost impossible to pull it off without disturbing the natural flow of storytelling. But master that he is, Lawhead has accomplished it with flair. Only the most skilled of authors may break such rules and succeed at it, turning an apparent transgression of style into a many-faceted shine for the tale – thus dragging the reader happily helpless into the rush and flow of what would no doubt be called swashbuckling if this was a pirate tale. I guess young Rhi Bran is a pirate of the road, so the comparison may stand.

Speculative elements are found in the mysterious foresight of old Angharad, whose musings are reminiscent of prophets and druids. Her rituals and prayers seek a supernatural response to see through a complex and confusing matter facing the forest tribe she mothers.

“Scarlet” owns at once the familiarity of the traditional Robin Hood legends and a truer realism of earth and blood and honest-hewn humanity. Rather than the sanitised Robin and the Merry Men known to most of us, Lawhead has instigated a new tradition likely far closer to the truth of those turbulent times. A desperate folk having lost their livelihood and a desperate king denied his rightful throne are more than motivated to irk the strangers who cast them from hearth and home. The end of this book is not the end of the tale – there is another tome to come – but within these pages reside political intrigues, spiritual epiphanies, and tear-jerking romances to shake the world and change it almost beyond recognising by the time you turn the last page. This will be a joy to fans old and new, bringing back memories and hints of the world of Taliesin and Merlin, now long resting in the past. A hard journey taken with humour and zest, twisting into heart-warming surprises – a banquet for the soul, with the hope of more to come.

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