In particular, we are looking at his fourth novel, THE ALE BOY’S FEAST, the white strand of the Auralia Thread.
If you missed Day One of my review, you can read it by clicking here.
Today I’d like to provide excerpts of Jeffrey’s writing and talk about their craft in terms of theme, plot, and character.
Jeffrey’s language is poetic, imaginative, and beautiful, and I hope I can capture a bit of that through my selections.
The Ale Boy’s Name
Here’s where Jeffrey gives a hint as to the real, given name of the Ale Boy. It is a flashback to his birth, and his parents are talking:
“We will give him the best tools, whatever his passion.” Her voice fades almost to a whisper, as if she might fall asleep. “Like these.” Her hand still trembling, she raises up a fistful of long needles of varying thickness. “Each thread-pin has its own name. Each one stitches a particular cord. The larger ones can pull thick, binding lines. But the tiny ones, like these…”
“They have names?”
“The green one, that’s Patcher. The red, that’s Key. Yellow’s the Stitch. Brown, that’s Thorn. These two, they’re thicker. I call them Knife and Spike.”
“And the thread-pin with the bright blue gem?”
“Don’t you love how it gleams? Azure. Like the sky after a storm. It’s my favorite. I use it when I do the heavy stitching and weave things into a whole. I just call it the Pin.” She smiles and shrugs.
Well … the little Ale Boy (baby?) reaches for one, and that becomes his name.
The fascinating thing is that Jeffrey is pulling everything together here … the series itself is named “The Auralia Thread”. Auralia has provided the thread, while The Ale Boy is some sort of needle that is weaving what she has provided, fixing things.
This explains why Auralia herself was missing from the middle of the series as an active agent … the Ale Boy was the active agent, and the two are intricately connected.
And this leads me to the next topic…
How People Die
Jeffrey has given us an incredible picture of what happens when someone dies. Not only is it poetic, but it is tender. Here, the Ale Boy is on the verge of death, and he is surrounded by Northchildren, who are the departed souls of those who have died before:
“Are you Northchildren?”
It’s what some people call us. She does not speak with a voice. It’s a wave of sensation between touch, taste, sight, scent, and sound. Like you, we grew in the Expanse. Our shells shattered, as they all do. We consented to be carried home and restored in an uncorrupted form.
“Mother.” The word escapes him even before he knows what he’s saying.
I’m here too, son, comes a voice from the circle. His father? He reaches for their names and for his own.
We were sent to find you, says his mother. Your sufferings are over. No more fear. Only mercy.
“You unstitched me. Just as you unstitched Auralia.”
We untied cords that bound you in a broken shell. Don’t be afraid. On the mountain we’ll take you to the garden, where you’ll be refashioned. Your body will grow back from your spirit. And you won’t suffer any poisons from the Expanse. You’ll be free in the light to move from here to there, from past to present. Free to witness so many amazing things. And we’ll be together.
“What do you mean… my ‘broken shell’?”
Think of a soldier casting off battered armor after a war.
And a little further on…
They laughed. They laughed a lot.
If this is what I’ll become, I’m glad, he thinks.
In their candlelit circle, the Northchildren watched a stand of couldgrasper trees stretch, soak in sunlight, raise arms and hands in praise, hum with the blood of sap, tremble with birds. They observed this as if it was as rich as any human story, seeing so powerfully that he felt as if he had stumbled through his earlier years in a half sleep.
He realizes now that all he’s known in the Expanse has been a song. Everything he’s seen, everything he’s overlooked—a testimony, inviting him to answer.
So when people die, they are ‘unstitched’ … that is not only poetic, it is very appropriate for The Auralia Thread.
Milora and Obrey—About Playing
Krawg is offering nut shells to Milora and Obrey for them to make something beautiful out of it.
“She’s not a trained monkey,” Milora muttered. “Obrey plays when she’s inspired.”
“I’m not givin’ her a job,” he said. “But if she can make Fraughtenwood look a little better … Well, it’s such a grim and shivery place. Maybe a spot of beauty would do everybody some good.”
Obrey jumped up and set about bouncing. “Make something with me, Milora!”
“Beauty,” said Milora, “is very laborious.”
To me, this exchange relates directly to Jeffrey Overstreet’s own feelings about having “grown up” and being put under contract to create books. To him, it saps his imagination away. He wrote an article about this experience here, and it reveals the conundrum of being an author in today’s “market driven” publishing world.
I’m including this just so you can get a glimpse of Jeffrey’s creativity. This reminds me a lot of Brian Jacques Redwall feasts!
Everyone there would have a different recollection about which was most surprising of the dishes carried from the kitchen.
For Ann-moryn, there was the garlic custard, made from rock goats’ milk and drizzled with a spicy hajka sauce. For Irimus Rain, there was the baked sweetroot mash. For Loyselis and Lar-yallen, there were mugs of spicy smoke-bush tea. For Pol-moryis and Elysruth, there was summer-bird pie. For Jaysin who would ring the bells, a roasted fish drawn from the secret river (and he would have the strangest dreams that night). For Manda and Tonny, expecting a child, there were sweetglory rolls. For Jenn and Gabe, who tended to the animals, a stew of boar and grandwine. For Cus-velyr and Yeltse, a bowl of cold, candied cream.
Conclusion and an Appeal
I could go on and on! There is so much rich writing here, the book itself is a feast.
Jeffrey … are you ever going to have an audio version of the book? I bet that would be incredible to listen to, and would really highlight the poetic language.