The fourth and final book of The Auralia Thread opens with House Abascar's journey northward, seeking a home. But evil haunts them in many guises. If the fabled city exists, how many of the dwindling house will reach it alive?
The forest has become bloodthirsty in root and twig. The young king Cal Raven has disappeared. Shar ben Fray is galivanting in the southern desert.
And the Ale Boy?
Ah, the ale boy. The poor little fella is getting tired of rescuing everyone. Will his job never be done?
Jeffrey Overstreet has crafted a tale here that stands out as creatively different from many other Christian fantasy novels. His plot is surprising, his language rich. His characters don't fit into molds. Twists pop up just when you think you've got it all worked out into a tidy allegory, leaving you gasping in grief, thrilling with delight, or simply blinking in astonishment.
The ale boy is probably my favorite of the wild cast of characters. Still, as wonderful as they were, the characters are only a few of the crown jewel of these stories. Shining out brilliantly are pictures of creativity, beauty, mystery, and unforeseen grace.
This last book, even more so than the previous three, contains some darkly violent images. These moments are used deliberately to show the disgusting and deadly nature of evil, but I wonder if they might have been carried off with a bit more suggestion and less detail. A similar warning should be given for the temptations faced by adult characters, which, though appropriately shown as evil, make these not children's books.
I tend to agree with author Rachel Starr Thomson, who called the series "highly moral, but not simplistically so" in her excellent review here.
The tale ended well, and I could not read anything else immediately after. I felt I had been on a long journey myself with all the characters. While many loose ends were tied up by last few pages, a few were left blowing wistful and mysterious in the wind of wonder.
I was left with a strong reminder of the beauty in the world and the creative urge in us that reminds us of where we come from, who we were meant to be. Auralia's colors did their work well.
*Disclaimer* - I received a free copy of this book for review from Waterbrook Press. But I didn't have to like it. :-)