Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CSFF Tour - The Ale Boy's Feast Day 2

The end of the journey nears.

Yes, The Ale Boy's Feast is the last book of the Auralia Thread series by Jeffrey Overstreet, which is the featured book for the CSFF Tour this month. We've highlighted each book in the series, and my prior post linked to all of my posts regarding the books. Also check Becky Miller's blog for all of this month's tour participants.

The long journey continues for the houses of the Expanse, the land of Auralia's Thread. House Abascar continues their journey toward the Forbidding Wall under the captain of the guard, since King Cal-raven has gone missing.

The ale boy called "Rescue" has survived the collapse of the Cent Regus Core, the remains of another house where the people had been corrupted into beastmen. He finds an underground river where he tries to lead ragged slaves to freedom.

The beastman Jordam, now free of the Cent Regus curse, also seeks redemption while hiding a terrible secret.

Will the citizens of the expanse survive the worst attack from the disgraced Seers, a Deathweed that strikes without remorse throughout more and more of the land? Will House Abascar find their king and their new home? Will the sliver of hope found in Auralia's Colors prove to be more than a pretty decoration, or will the life within shine a way for these desperate people?

I'm being a little vague in my synopsis, because there are significant spoilers to the series if I delve too much into the plot. There are a lot of questions in my summary, because Overstreet has been asking a lot of questions throughout his series. The question today is, how does The Ale Boy's Feast fare in tying together the various strands and capping off such an ambitious series?

The prose of these books continues to be beyond standard fiction fare. He intentionally writes with a poetic flair and uses a lot of description and figures of speech to paint vivid pictures. The style is a unique voice, and it is one of the strengths of the book.

It can also be a weakness, as the book is a dense read. It is not light and easy fare, not a quick read for those pressed with time. It takes some effort, as does the series. Still, the series has been enjoyable in seeing the way he uses words so carefully.

Plot-wise, there are a lot of points that have been introduced all through the series. I think the book does a good job in bringing the major points to conclusion, but there are so many trails that they don't all get a satisfying resolution. Overstreet is not going to spell out the ending, purposely leaving things up to a reader's imagination, so this isn't what I'm talking about. There are just dangling threads at the end that don't get tied off. Sometimes the action slows and drags in paces, with bursts of excitement interspersed.

The main characters of Cal-raven, the ale boy, and the fate of Auralia play prominently through the book. The biggest complaint I had is that there are so many introduced in the series that I was seriously confused through much of the book. If one is reading the series through without much delay, it shouldn't be a problem, but after 4 years of the whole set, I couldn't remember everything. The first third of the book alternates widely between various characters, so even if I had been better on the characters, I believe the wide cast of viewpoint characters would create too much distance for readers to engage.

I've said before that the series was important because it tried to do things differently than much fantasy fiction nowadays. I still believe that, but I think the wild trails of the Expanse got a little away from Overstreet in this last book. The questions raised are poignant, the surprises revealed in the end satisfying, but it is like a beautiful English garden that got a little overgrown over time. In my opinion Cyndere's Midnight, the second book, is the best of the series. The Ale Boy's Feast was a little frustrating in the density of characters and plot points, but it is an admirable finish to an imaginative tale.
Legal mumbo jumbo: I received this book free from the publisher for review purposes, without obligation regarding my opinion. There you go lawyers.

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