CSFF Blog Tour – The Ale Boy’s Feast by Jeffrey Overstreet, Part 1 The Dark World

Jeffrey Overstreet - photo by Matt Sumi

“A darkly complex world populated by a rich and diverse cast of characters, in which glimpses of haunting beauty shine through.” So said R. J. Anderson, author of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter and Wayfarer in her endorsement of Jeffrey Overstreet‘s The Ale Boy’s Feast.

As I read this final edition of the Auralia Thread series, I am struck by how apropos that simple description is. Today I want to think a little bit about what created the darkness of this world.

Going back to the beginning of the series, I see darkness in the political structure. Rulers are autocratic, and punishments are merciless. Consequently there is a great divide between the privileged and the “criminal element,” poor people who are left to fend for themselves without the protection of government services.

In conjunction with this divide is rampant prejudice, within particular houses, or feudal realms, based on economic and social standing, and between the various houses of the land known as The Expanse.

In addition, there is darkness in this world’s history. One of the houses has fallen to ruin because its people have succumbed to a madness that turns them into dreaded beastmen. The effect on the remaining houses is decidedly negative. They shore up their defenses against raids and have less and less to do with outsiders.

A third element that creates the dark tone of these books is the various dangers that encroach. There are dangers from outside the “civilized” communities, but there are also traitorous dangers from within. Each seems to grow as the series progresses.

Another source of darkness is the false religion, and the seers who teach it, that holds sway over one of the houses. Those following the seers are powerful but unprincipled. They pose a threat to every good character in the story.

Along with this aspect is the unknown of the “childish superstitions” that most adults deny — the existence of the Keeper and the reality of the Northchildren. Belief and disbelief create division and suspicion. At times, the most rational of people can’t tell if they are dreaming or experiencing something from a realm beyond.

Finally, the bleak landscape creates darkness. Even if Deathweed weren’t devouring all living things and turning The Expanse into a wilderness, places like The Eastern Heatlands and the Forbidding Wall still produce an atmosphere of gloom and foreboding.

Quite a dark world, indeed. But then there are those “glimpses of haunting beauty.”

I’ll take a look at that aspect next time.

For your enjoyment, spend some time with others discussing this fourth of four, the White Strand in the Auralia Thread.

Check marks are direct links to tour-related articles.

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NOTE: Tour participants, the Amazon link you received for our featured book is broken. You may use this one, or another of your choosing.


  1. Good point about the growing darkness through the series. When reading the first two books, i remember wondering if the series is an allegory for modern society. As we stray from the truth, and the light, we are more suspectible to corrupting influences in a downward spiral. When Auralia brought colors into their darkened city, she was branded an outcast and evil. When all collaspes around their heads, the survivors must leave behind their old ways and journey to a new beginning. Now, in the Ale Boy’s Feast, they must work together and fight the ones who would return them to the dark ways they left behind.


  2. Yes, there is definitely a lot of darkness … which makes the redemption at the end of many of the people, as well as of the Expanse, all the more sweet.


  3. Actually, I said that about RAVEN’S LADDER, but I’m sure it’s true of ALE BOY’S FEAST as well! I’m looking forward to reading it when I get the chance.


  4. […] others on the CSFF tour have to say about The Ale Boy’s Feast, check the links at the end of yesterday’s post. You can also read an interview with Jeffrey over at Spec Faith in which he discusses art and […]


  5. I’ve one post thus far-I need a check mark please 😉


  6. Rebecca, thanks for that clarification. I should have spelled that out. The endorsement in the book makes it clear that your comments are about Raven’s Ladder.

    I guess I was thinking that your remark fit the entire series. My thoughts in these two posts are about the entire epic.



  7. Tim, I wouldn’t say this one is allegorical, but I do think it depicts the darkness of a fallen world. The Expanse suffers because of a Curse, so there certainly are parallels.

    And Robert, you’re right. The darkness — the books almost feel dystopian — certainly sets up the need for redemption, individually and for the world. What an interesting twist at the end.



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