CSFF Blog Tour – Auralia’s Colors, Day 1

When I get an advance copy of a book, I tend to read and review as soon as possible. After all, I think the reason publishers send those books out is so that we can start talking about them and generate some buzz. If I sit on my review until … well, a scheduled blog tour, I’m not doing the author any favor and, in my view, am breaking trust with the publisher.

The dilemma I’m faced with then is, What do I say about the book during the blog tour? I’m referring specifically to Auralia’s Colors, Jeffrey Overstreet‘s debut fantasy novel for adults.

I suppose the place to start is to point readers to my review, posted at Speculative Faith last October. The short version of it is, I highly recommended the book. In fact I classified it as an important book, though I did not personally love it, primarily because I did not love any of the characters.

And still, I called it important. I think, my evaluation of the book today would not only reiterate that view but expand upon it. Why important?

For one thing, I think Auralia’s Colors is a departure from much Christian fantasy. It is not allegorical, though symbolic, and it is not overtly Christian, though containing redemptive elements.

In addition, Mr. Overstreet has given some attention to language, and the result is a work leaning toward literary fiction. The pace of the novel is markedly different from, say, Robin Parrish‘s superhero, high action fantasy Relentless. This fact also is important, in my view, because it expands the Christian fantasy genre.

No more can people pigeonhole Christian fantasy, though some still try. Recently in an interview with Christianity Today, VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer said

you couldn’t write Narnia today and have it accepted by the evangelical world because [of the magic] and because in its metaphor, it effectively has a non-Christian worldview.

Now, if we go to another fantasy world, we need to find Jesus there—literally. That is why the Harry Potter books are viewed to be straight from the pit. Even if Rowling says she’s enjoying [employing?] Christian themes, forget it. How do you write a Christian fantasy today? I have no idea. I don’t know that you can. I think we’ve killed it.

I think Auralia’s Colors is the perfect counterpoint to that argument. (For more on this discussion, see my Speculative Faith post on the topic.)

Certainly this novel does not have Jesus there, literally. And as I already pointed out, it is not allegorical, though certainly there are some apparent symbols, color being a primary one.

Auralia’s Colors does one other thing, which I think is especially significant. It is not a children’s book. I don’t know for certain how publisher WaterBrook is marketing the novel, but without a doubt, it is an adult book. Sure, young adults may read it, because clearly fantasy crosses age barriers like few other genres. But that fantasy must be written first and foremost for children is a myth (the old fashioned kind, not the myth of C. S. Lewis).

Here’s a novel, very different from Sharon Hinck‘s adult The Sword of Lyric series, very different from Karen Hancock‘s adult Guardian King Series, written with a sophistication and style that will appeal most to adults. It’s an important addition to Christian fantasy.

Take time to see what others on the blog tour are saying:

18 Comments

  1. I saw that argument in CT as well, and thought the exact same thing. Especially becasue I know several Christians who write fantasy, but whose books are not “Christian” as it would commonly be termed. Two of them are shared world authors, yet their books still reflect the Christ they love.

    Vischer is shortsighted. The problem is that the Chrsitian bookstores will only carry books with a literal “Jesus” figure, so Vischer seems to think that is all there is. That, as we know, is not the case.

    Christian bookstores need to expand their selection, and Christian writers need to be more voacl about there faith, so the other Vischers can’t make such silly remarks.

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  2. Rebecca, I think this book is important as well. Jeffrey has a gift and this is very original for a fantasy piece. I did love the characters. The prince was interesting as was the old man and how can you not love Auralia?
    Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful words.
    Karri

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  3. I love your posts, both here and at Speculative Fiction. They are certainly food for thought. Off the top of my head, I think the problem stems primarily from thinking an “Evangelical” world view and a “Christian” world view are completely synonymous.

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  4. Becky, I loved this book. It was as if Jeffrey wrote his heart into this book. It is so alive and unlike any other I have read (which is quite a few). The words he uses are so vivid and alive. I gave it a 10/10 in my review on my blog.

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  5. Thanks for your honesty about his work, and the stance of our western mind set when it comes to “what’s acceptable art.” I’m about to start work on a new novel completely devoid of the mention of God, Christianity and allegory. It’s written with a secular audience in mind. Yet it has one of the strongest messages of love and going after the perishing–true human compassion. I’m very excited about it, but wonder if I’m better off going to a secular publisher (however the reality is that my publisher will most likely take it…love Tsaba House!).

    As to “not loving any of his characters,” I thought that was a gusty thing to say. But I think we need to continue to be honest as Christians with other Christians. First of all, we should know that we’re coming at something with a great deal of love (which I clearly felt in your post, review and commentary…and had other great things to say). But secondly, it’s the criticisms that really help me grow as an author! I welcome it (thought my flesh loathes it). 😉

    Well said!

    CH

    PS – If your readers want free stuff (and you don’t mind me shamelessly plugging my site), they’re welcome to come on over to the contest I’m running on Jeffrey.

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  6. Would you please explain what a blog tour is? thanks

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  7. John, I couldn’t say that Vischer is short-sighted but certainly not up on the latest. The fact that Auralia’s Colors came out in September 2007 hardly makes it a book he couldn’t have checked out, especially since it was written by a Christianity Today contributing author.

    I think we need to point out these fallacies whenever we see them, simply because a man like Vischer is bound to have an audience. His word, even though he is misinformed, carries weight and creates buzz.

    Wish I could have left a comment at CT.

    Becky

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  8. Karri, I thought the prince was interesting, too, and I rooted for the ale boy. I actually would have liked more about him.

    Auralia, I have to say, I admired from afar. I never felt like I knew her. I didn’t know what made her tick or even what she wanted to accomplish, except for a few scenes.

    But here’s the thing. The book is easier for me to remember than most. It was not “standard fare.”

    Becky

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  9. Gene, thanks for your kind words. I suspect you
    re right, that there is some other differentiation to be made, but since I would classify myself as an evangelical (hard not to since I attend an Evangelical Free church 😉 ), I guess I’d prefer a different term. Evangelicals don’t require preaching or overt Christianity more than any other Christians, I’d say.

    No, it’s something else, something cultural rather than religious, perhaps, or a certain way of applying religious belief. How about “legalists”? Maybe that’s too harsh.

    I think there are some Christians who are afraid of the world and consequently feel the need to guard against it. And rightly so, to a degree. James (the Bible author) said whoever is a friend of the world is not a friend of God.

    Please note, I am NOT saying fiction is of the world. Actually, that may be what the fearful Christian thinks, which also might be the best way to characterize those who feel there has to be a literal Jesus in every fantasy story.

    OK, now I feel like I need to do a full post on this subject. 😀

    Becky

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  10. Eve, I’m so glad you loved the book. It really is exciting for me to see readers finding books through the tour that resonate with them.

    Christopher, I mentioned your contest over at Speculative Faith and will try to remember to point people from here to your blog tomorrow as well. Your contest is a good one!

    Suzanne, a blog tour! I’m happy to tell you what a blog tour is. A group of bloggers agrees to post about a particular book, and in the case of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour, we agree to post within a three-day span. Our goal is 3-fold. We want to draw attention to the book or web site we feature, highlight the Christian SFF genre, and attract readers to our individual blogs. Our tour also has built some sense of community because we post links to the other participating in a tour, visit each others blogs, and leave comments.

    One of our members, now on the administrative team, started a blog site for us: CSFF Blog Tour. Feel free to check it out, or take a look at the archived posts here in the Blog Tour category in the sidebar for other samples.

    Becky

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  11. hmmm “fundies with bunched undies” may be the term you’re looking for. Instead of evangelical or legalist, I mean.

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  12. I wouldn’t exactly agree with Vischer, but I can see his point – I know many Christians who would not want to read Auralia’s Colors because of the lack of “Christian” content and would be appalled that it is sold at a bible book store type place. If you’re mainly looking at those people – his statement isn’t all wrong.

    On the other hand, I know Christians who love Narnia, but claim that Harry Potter is straight out of Hell. This drives me up the wall and back down again. While Narnia is an allegory and HP isn’t… you can’t accept one and say the other is anti-Christian, in my opinion.

    I would love to see a whole post on the fearful Christian topic, though! 🙂

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  13. Becky,

    I agree that this book is a significant book, and that it does show the shallowness of Phil Vischer’s comments. Just because he doesn’t know how to write a Christian Fantasy, doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. I don’t think we’ve killed it.

    -Robert

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  14. Kait, I’m really interested in your comments for several reasons. One is that you still refer to “bible book store type places.” That term “Bible book store” is one I grew up with but haven’t thought of in a long, long time. Where I live, Christian book stores ceased being “Bible book stores,” for good or ill.

    I can see that someone who still wants to go to a Bible book store would be looking for something different from the person going to a book store or even to a Christian store.

    Please note, I do not want to denigrate people who view literature differently from me. However, I think there is a perspective that perhaps reflects a lack of experience or knowledge. Here are some of the points I think people who define Christian fiction narrowly may not realize:

    1) Not everyone learns in the same way
    2) Coming to Christ is often a result of many people’s input, over time
    3) Stories that do not present the gospel may prepare the heart of a reader to hear the gospel preached
    4) God can be seen in symbols and analogy and types. That He isn’t in a story overtly doesn’t mean He isn’t in a story.

    Becky

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  15. Robert, I prefer to think Mr. Vischer is merely uninformed about the genre.

    And Sally, I couldn’t use your humorous tag for a couple reasons. I think some of the people who object to certain kinds of fiction might not even be Christians. They are Religious Works believers and have a list of do‘s and do not‘s they want to impose on everyone else. But there are also some immature Christians who genuinely are afraid they will fall back into a sinful lifestyle if they give the pleasures of sin the tiniest foothold.

    The latter, I say, need good Christian fiction that is overt, encouraging by its example, uplifting in its message of hope.

    That doesn’t give a pass to stories with that intention to be shoddy. I think George Bryan Polivka’s books are examples of stories that fit into what I consider good Christian fantasy, albeit overt in its message. I’m not going to laugh at people who like those books. I like those books, for goodness sake. It’s just that I don’t think all Christian fantasy has to look like that.

    Becky

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  16. Rebecca – I agree.

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  17. Sorry, Beck. You either get drive by sarcasm from me or a long, long comment. And since I don’t have time for a long comment….

    But I do want to make clear that I wasn’t laughing at people who like books with overt Christian messages. I was laughing at people who tell other people that the only books acceptable to God are ones with overt Christian messages.

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  18. […] articles, so you’ll have to do a site search once you find a participant you’d like to read) https://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/csff-blog-tour-auralias-colors-1/ Cyndere’s Midnight […]

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