Author:  Jeffrey Overstreet
Title:  Auralia's Colors
Publisher:  WaterBrook Press

She was discovered covered in mud on the banks of the Thronscall River, a mere child not more than "two seasons," according to Krawg, a Gatherer. He and his partner, one-eyed Warney, discovered the mysterious child while investigating the ruckus produced by a flock of crows. Their unexpected find puts them in a bind. They are Gatherers, outcasts from House Abascar, forced to live outside the protective walls of the kingdom until their criminal sentences have been repaid and grace is granted to them by King Cal-marcus.

If the two known as the "One-Eyed Bandit" and the "Midnight Swindler" turn her over to a duty officer, they'll be accused of kidnapping, with punishment in the dungeons to follow. But if they leave her where she is, which they have ascertained is within a large footprint, one of the toes to be exact, then a duty officer will ride over top of her and "stomp her into the ground." So the two old thieves do the only thing that is left to do. They take the baby back to the Gatherers' village and hide her. That one small act is like a pebble thrown into a pond. As the ripples emanate outward, they will grow in strength, changing the Gatherers, House Abascar and reaching into the Expanse.

"River Girl" is the first moniker bestowed upon the orphan by the Gatherers. But a typical Gatherer child she is not. As she grows, she spends more and more of her time away from the village, exploring the Expanse and learning its secrets. She balks at her guardians' expectations that she'll follow the traditions of House Abascar, especially the Rites of Passage. A free spirit, she can't fathom life within the kingdom's grim walls. But there is more to the river child, now called Auralia. She has a talent unknown to the Gatherers, or to any in Abascar. Her nimble fingers weave vibrant colors into whatever she touches, bringing joy and hope into the drab lives of her fellow villagers. It is an act that defies the laws of House Abascar.

Only the king is allowed to possess color. Years ago, Queen Jarlamine issued a proclamation declaring all colors the property of the palace. Citizens sacrificing the most during Abascar's "Winter" would be greatly rewarded at the time of its "Spring." But before the Spring, the Queen had vanished, leaving House Abascar and its lands trapped in perpetual "winter." Now word of the mysterious girl and her talent has spread. Will the king be able to maintain his rule over the people as Aurelia's colors begin to awaken the memories of promises made, but never fulfilled? 

Auralia's Colors is the strong, well-crafted debut novel by Jeffrey Overstreet. This is a story about loss and of hope, of the conflict that ensues when self-preservation and self-interest collide with self-sacrifice. Mr. Overstreet's talent shines on these pages. His poetic way with words brings his characters alive on the pages, within a world vivid enough the reader forgets its fiction. This book has earned a place on my keeper shelf, with enough space reserved for the rest of the series.

     
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