Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book Review - Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

Book: Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

This is Julie!  I have a review system you may (or may not) want to look at to see HOW I come up with my ratings and what I rate on.

Ridiculously simplified summary: A selfish king takes all the colorful items in his realm, forbidding the people from having colors. Meanwhile, a strange girl comes to the Gatherers, the people outside the city walls, and brings colors to them...

Content: See my review of Beckon. I like happy endings, or at least not miserable ones. I thought this book would end pleasantly enough but around 2/3 or even 3/4 through, things start going very, very, very wrong.  Bodies literally pile up. And unlike in Beckon, I have no idea why any of it happens.

As for Christian content, presumably the Keeper is the God or Christ figure, but it's some sort of conglomeration of animals (for some reason I imagine it looking like one of the Legendary Beasts in Pokémon). It's referred to as an "it" and if I recall correctly, it doesn't speak. Unlike Aslan (who has at least a Biblical link in the whole "Lion of Judah" thing), this weird figure did not appeal to me at all.


Compelling: 4 out of 10. What one person finds fascinating, another will find dull, but I like character-driven plots more than omniscient, flowery language. I found the basic idea of a king stealing the land's colors interesting but wasn't driven along to read, so it took me a long time to finish. The end is where Overstreet pulls out the stops and accelerates the action.

Characters: 3 out of 10. You ever see Dharma and Greg, where a straitlaced guy marries a free-spirited woman? Or maybe more accurately, the parodies? (Dharma stands on the table. Greg: "You come down from there." Dharma: "No, you come up here!" Greg stands on the table and the audience laughs.)

I felt like the title character Auralia was like Dharma in that she was a bizarre character who didn't fit in. (Yet everyone--everyone, even the man they said was beyond redemption--adored her and/or thought she was amazing.) I'd actually consider her a Mary Sue character. We eventually see that yes, she was meant to be amazing and otherworldly and such. I just don't like characters who we are told are amazing and great, when I never feel like they are. I just didn't "get" why she was so great. Other readers might.

I found most of the other characters flat or annoying. A month later, I still recall the driving motivation for at least three point-of-view characters is "something bad happened and they went crazy."

This book reminded me how exciting it is to read characters who want something, with strong motivations.  The only two characters I liked (comparatively minor ones) were the young woman scheming to become queen and the thief. They were the only ones who seemed to want concrete things. They were the only ones I felt were real, with goals and hopes of their own. I felt like the rest of the characters really existed to serve the story, doing whatever it required.

Writing/editing: 7 out of 10. Very difficult for me to rate this. There are some beautiful descriptions and a few interesting turns of phrases. However, I really just want a fun and compelling read. Much of this read to me as though Overstreet were trying to write a literary novel. As I read I couldn't help thinking of James Joyce, Raymond Carver's "Cathedral," and all those other authors Creative Writing and English teachers revere. Me, I want to read an entertaining story, not a story where the words are viewed as more important than the characters.

Plausibility/believability: 1 out of 5. Again, there are some good physical details. At first I was caught up in the concepts but by the end I really didn't understand why anything happened the way it happened.

Positive: 1 out of 5. See the body count referenced above. It had some of the most gruesome images I've read, like a man lovingly holding a hand with no body attached. Any Christian references are so subtle I didn't get them. Apparently there are supposed to be 3 more books, so it all may pull together as the series progresses. But I couldn't glean any meaning from the tragedies in this one.

Gut reaction: 1 out of 5. This is not a book for me. I probably should have known better, given the reviews I saw went on and on about how poetic and flowery the language was. But I was hoping looking at this book would strengthen how I write my descriptions. Since I'm not going to write from an omniscient point-of-view and don't really want to write "fancy," I don't think it helped me.

Bonus points: 5 out of 5.

Recommended for: Fans of epic fantasy with omniscient point-of-view and a literary/flowery style, who aren't adverse to a high body count.

Probably not good for: People who like happy endings; people who hate Mary Sue characters; people who need concrete motivations for characters; people expecting an explicitly Christian book.

Total Rating: 2.2 out of 5 stars

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