Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet introduces the Expanse, an area settled centuries before the story opens and now divided into different "houses" or kingdoms. There's a small amount of low-key magic (strictly literary and non-occult) and some gadgetry at a late-medieval level. One of the kingdoms, Cent Regus, has already wiped itself out by ill-advised experiments that turned its people into beastmen.
This story concerns House Abascar, where the now-missing queen persuaded the now-aged king to confiscate anything particularly colorful or beautiful from the citizens. The items were supposed to be used to beautify the palace and improve the kingdom's status among its neighbors, but much of the loot is merely mouldering in a storage area by the dungeons.
Enter Auralia, a foundling with a gift for producing colorful items. She lives among the Gatherers, outcasts from the city of Abascar, but unlike them, she doesn't want to become a regular citizen confined within the city walls. But at sixteen, she is supposed to appear for the Rites of the Privilege to justify her existence and win admission to the city.
The major selling point of Auralia's Colors is the writing. I've read more modern fiction in the last few months than in the previous few years, and it was a relief to encounter a literate author. Most writers these days follow rules set up and enforced by ignorant and poetry-free Pharisees.
By those standards, Overstreet is a lousy writer. So are Tolkien, Lewis, and a host of others. (I could list the rules they break, but the rules are superstitions without linguistic basis.) The defenders of the rules say that rule-breakers can't get published. Overstreet shows that they are and should be wrong. His style is poetic, his vocabulary adult (in the good sense), and his sentences coherent. (Unlike others. Who break their sentences. Into fragments. For no apparent reason.) If you are a writer, you should copy some paragraphs from Auralia's Colors by hand until you get a feel for proper writing. If you are a reader who enjoys modern fiction, avoid this book at all cost; it may open your eyes to good style and ruin what you now prefer.
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