The king is missing.
His people are trapped as the woods turn deadly.
Underground, the boy called Rescue has found an escape.
Hopes are failing across The Expanse. The forests, once beautiful, are now haunted and bloodthirsty. House Abascar’s persecuted people risk their lives to journey through those predatory trees. They seek a mythic city – Abascar’s last, best hope for refuge – where they might find the source of Auralia’s colors.
They journey without their king. During a calamitous attempt to rescue some of his subjects from slavery, Cal-raven vanished.
But his helper, the ale boy, falling through a crack in the earth, has discovered a slender thread of hope in the dark. He will dare to lead a desperate company up the secret river.
Meanwhile, with a dragon’s help, the wandering mage Scharr ben Fray is uncovering history’s biggest lie – a deception that only a miracle can repair.
Time is running out for all those entangled in The Auralia Thread. But hope and miracles flicker wherever Auralia’s colors are found.
In The Ale Boy’s Feast by Jeffrey Overstreet, the characters introduced in the preceding three books of the Auralia Thread reach the culmination of their quests, facing their greatest dangers, enduring their greatest hardships, and suffering terrible loss in the process. This makes The Ale Boy’s Feast a bit grimmer in tone than the earlier books, but ultimately more glorious.
Even amid the most tragic moments, the story captures an element of wonder, as glimpses of beauty compel the characters to seek out the mystery they cannot comprehend. As they struggle through hardship and turmoil, a higher vision captivates Cal-Raven and many of the others, and that adds depth to their external quest. Yet even though the story contains some spiritual parallels, if you read it as a straightforward allegory, it simply doesn’t work. I plan to explore some of the themes and spiritual elements woven through the tale in greater depth as the tour continues.
This vision of beauty drives the ale boy in his pursuit of Auralia and her colors, even though they appear lost forever. His journey aids many and gives him a glimpse into a realm he never imagined. Meanwhile, Cal-Raven forges onward in his quest of faith, attempting to lead House Abascar to what he believes will serve as a safe haven, while the forces that sent his people into exile gather in an attempt to destroy them forever. In house Bel Amica, Cyndere seeks to hold fast to her vision for the redemption of the beast-men and calm a people churning with rebellion due to the mandatory removal of all the Seers’ potions. Against them all rises a force with strength beyond their understanding, a Curse born of rebellion and the pride of man that blights the entire land. With ever-growing strength, the Curse spreads across the Expanse and their hope for freedom dwindles.
As the book progresses, the stakes rise and the plot picks up pace. Layer after layer of story unfolds, in the process revealing answers to long-standing questions about Scharr Ben Fray, the Seers, the Northchildren, and the Keeper. Since I’ve followed this story from the beginning, I wanted a strong, worthy conclusion, and overall, the ending of the tale satisfied my expectations. The primary story threads reached conclusions I never anticipated, but they felt perfectly suited the to story.
While the main elements came to a fitting end, I would have liked to see a stronger resolution for some of the characters and and have a little more time to explore the victories and futures they enjoyed. After having journeyed with them through dire circumstances for so long, I wanted a greater picture of their redemption. I freely admit however, that personal preference drives that desire.
One other element that provided a minor detraction from this otherwise compelling story was a slight awkwardness to the prose in the beginning. Normally, Overstreet writes with a beautiful, lyrical style, but for some reason at the start of this book it faltered a little and seemed to take a while to get back on an even keel. Even so, that didn’t remove my enjoyment of the story.
Through the Auralia Thread, Overstreet weaves a numinous tale, one that will reside in the realms of your imagination long after you close the pages of the book. For that reason, I highly recommend it for older teens and adults. This isn’t a book to pick up lightly, but one to read, to savor, and to consider. The depth of the story has earned it a place on my keeper shelf.
A note for those who haven’t read any of the series yet–The Ale Boy’s Feast is not meant to be a standalone novel. In my opinion, all the books weave together to create one story, rather than a series of related tales. To pick up The Ale Boy’s Feast first would be like introducing yourself to Tolkien’s work by starting with The Return of The King. So if you’re interested in the book, do yourself a favor and begin with Auralia’s Colors.
While Overstreet has a distinctive style, the sense of mystery pervading his books reminds me a little of George MacDonald’s Phantastes. The element of beauty and wonder juxtaposed against great darkness also reminds me of ND Wilson’s 100 Cupboards series, though that was written for a young adult audience.
*Readers read at a greater pace than any one author can keep up with, so I plan to begin tagging this section onto reviews as a way to highlight other Christian writers that you might enjoy if you liked the reviewed book.
For additional discussion of The Ale Boy’s Feast, be sure to stop by some of the other tour sites:
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Rachel Starr Thomson
As a member of the CSFF blog tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.