Auralia’s Colors

Auralia's ColorsAuralia’s Colors isn’t explicitly a middle grade book, but it’s clean enough to be appropriate for precocious older tweens (i.e., the violence isn’t described in particularly graphic detail, the sex is only hinted at). It’s a great introduction to epic fantasy, with its somewhat complex story and not quite epic length. It contains metaphors that may be slightly too obvious for most adults but are perfect for readers learning to look beyond the words. You may want to read this along with your child so you can discuss some of the more complex ideas.

The world is kind of falling apart. Beastmen, viewed as violent and inferior creatures, lurk around the borders of the kingdom. The king continues policies that his vain, greedy, and selfish queen put in place—not so much because he believes in them but because he doesn’t know how to back out. The prince sees the problems and offers hope for the future, but right now he’s relatively powerless.

Colors belong to the king, quite literally. The amount of color you’re allowed to wear or own depends on your social status. Any color must be given to the king, and it’s buried in an underground cavern until the king declares it’s Spring, at which point color will return to the people and it will be glorious. But that promise is wearing mighty thin.

Then among the outcasts, a strange child appears. She doesn’t remember where she came from, but she knows her name is Auralia. She can collect and weave colors—colors people have never seen before. Amazing colors with the ability to heal, to make people happy. Of course, the king needs to own her or destroy her, but the prince is fascinated by her. The tension starts to spiral out of control.

Auralia is the title character, but she’s mostly a plot device. The story is primarily the history of a kingdom gone awry and the people who try to survive and maybe save it. The point of view changes from chapter to chapter, which sometimes messes with the chronology—you have to pay a bit of attention. But in the end, all the details matter as even minor things end up playing major roles.

The world is fascinating, the plot is complex and compelling, and the metaphors are thought-provoking. The characters, however, primarily give us insight into the world, move the plot, and demonstrate metaphors. Readers who require character driven stories may have some trouble getting into this one—it took me longer than I would have preferred for the book to totally grab me—but it’s worth pushing through until it does.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


There’s a good bit of violence, and it only increases as the story progresses. The wild cat that Auralia is friends with is shot—we never learn his fate. Auralia is clubbed and knocked out. She’s imprisoned and neglected in the hope that it will make her obedient—this kingdom is very much ruled by fear and punishment.

The jailer/torturer is pretty terrifying—the prisoners he carves up are works of art. This isn’t depicted terribly graphically, though. It’s mostly the concept that’s frightening. However, he does mess up Radegan, a minor but recurring character, pretty badly. In the end, he spares Auralia and punishes himself. He’s not considered particularly sane.

There are a few scenes that are kind of graphic, including killing a large spider bat and some fighting scenes. Often, though, it’s more aftermath than seeing violence as it happens.

When Abascar explodes thanks to the poor choices of generations of rulers, there are some briefly graphic but truly tragic scenes of the aftermath—the one the really hit me was someone fleeing holding a hand that no longer had a body attached to it. It’s a simple statement, but I pictured it vividly.


There’s a lot of drinking but it’s almost always portrayed negatively. One of the main characters is the ale boy whose job is to deliver drinks to the king and other nobles. Many guards and other people attempt to cajole or threaten him into letting them have some. The prince’s fiancée gets silly drunk with her friends and is very rude to the ale boy—she comes across as a spoiled teen in many ways. She also swears to one of her friends that she’ll get to taste some of the special liquor that’s only for the king, and she mildly blackmails guards to get to do it.

The king is a special case. He’s an alcoholic, constantly drinking a certain liquor that’s so strong that other people can barely sip it. The prince definitely sees this as a problem, regretting bringing up certain topics late in the day when his father is certain to be drunk.


Royalty and nobles look down on the common people. The common people look down on the outcasts. Everyone distrusts the beastmen because as a race they obviously can’t be trusted and they’re certainly less than human. The different kingdoms are in competition with each other, stereotyping and backstabbing—people from Abascar think the people from Bel Amica look like insects. Basically, it’s all a divided mess.

Sex & Romance

There’s nothing explicit, but Radegan definitely sleeps around, making promises to women that he never intends to keep. One of the women is married and her husband is abusive. Radegan is a charming rake who is completely out for himself. In the end, he pays dearly for this.

The king married Queen Jaralaine for love. When she disappears, he begins his long decline that takes Abascar with him. He arranges a marriage for his son, hoping his son won’t repeat his mistakes. The prince becomes infatuated with Auralia, although it never seems to really be love so much as fascination.


If your child is ready to transition away from books specifically aimed at young readers, this is a good stepping stone. It’s an appropriate challenge for a precocious reader who enjoys fantasy. Although it’s a book about epic failure, it ends on a hopeful note even as the kingdom is literally crashing down around the prince’s ears. The epilogue hints at the challenges to be faced in the next book and suggests a larger conspiracy. Consider reading this with your child to discuss some of the themes and metaphors—there’s much to talk about.

Auralia’s Colors (The Auralia Thread Series #1) by Jeffrey Overstreet
Published in 2007 by WaterBrook Press
First book in the Auralia Thread series
Read a hardcopy borrowed from BooksFree

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