I love to read and write women’s fiction. I’ve never had a desire to write an epic fantasy novel and I don’t often read them, either. In fact, almost all of my knowledge of epic fantasy comes from movies. I absolutely love epic fantasy films. I could watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy over and over again, but I won’t ever read Tolkien. In fact I have, much to my embarrassment, accidentally called Tolkien by the name of Tolstoy who is a much different kind of author and wrote Anna Karenina. Tolkien is just not an author I can relate to, yet I love his stories in film and think it’s cute that I have some friends who sort of see him as a demigod and put Lord of the Rings figurines around their offices to pay homage to him.
So, it’s a little bit strange that I would review Jeffrey Overstreet’s latest novel, The Ale Boy’s Feast on a blog that is mostly about Women’s Fiction, if it is about anything at all. For this reason and all the ones listed above, please note that I am in no way qualified to review any epic fantasy novel. You might be asking how I ended up reading The Ale Boy’s Feast in the first place. Well, part of the truth is that I occasionally receive review books from Jeffrey’s publisher because 1) they published my first two novels and 2) I requested to review it through their blogger program. Why would I do that, you might also ask? That’s where this all begins to make sense. It all started back when I met the author.
I met Jeffrey Overstreet, a film critic, about four years ago at a writing retreat set up through our publisher for its authors. from day one I think just about everyone there was inspired by Jeffrey’s thoughtful ideas and unique view of art and writing, me included. When we had a poetry slam one evening during the retreat and he chose to read his wife’s (Anne Overstreet Doe) beautiful poetry instead of something he had written himself, it didn’t matter that he wasn’t a Women’s fiction author. I mean, how sweet is that? Naturally I was going to support him and purchase his first novel Auralia’s Colors and as I already mentioned, I already enjoyed watching epic fantasy films. How different could a fantasy novel be? Well, it was better!
So now that I’ve written a bunch of stuff to make this look like the review I promised, here is what I think of the whole series by Jeffrey Overstreet.
1) You need to read the first three novels Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, and Raven’s Ladder before you read The Ale Boy’s Feast. You must read them in order or the final one won’t make sense, so just go ahead and buy all four right now. You don’t want to miss the connecting threads that are woven through each of the novels. Overstreet has created such an intriguing world that to read The Ale Boy’s Feast by itself would deprive you of enjoying the journey that comes to an eloquent end in the final novel.
2) The plot of the series is so compelling that you won’t be able to wait to move on to the next book. It is very complex, yet the writing is so good that each scene flows seamlessly together. Each novel leaves you wanting more. Luckily, if you are just finding out about the series, you won’t have to wait as long as those of us who started from the beginning when the first book came out.
3) The characters are a lot like real people. They are flawed, yet somehow the least of them are capable of heroic acts that to me make epic fantasy films worth watching. We are all looking for a hero and what’s better than to be made to believe, at least within the pages of a novel, that we might find it in ourselves to be heroes, too.
4) I wouldn’t begin to try to dissect the many themes of this series in a review, but the one that spoke to me throughout had to do with the practice of art. What happens when art and beauty are suppressed in a culture? Do we forget how to appreciate art as we grow up? Why do we stop seeing its beauty all around us? And especially, what happens when art is introduced to someone who has never experienced its beauty?
5) The last book in the series, The Ale Boy’s Feast, was a satisfying ending to the story, and yet it left just enough threads untied to keep my mind thinking about the characters and wishing I could go back and revisit the story to see what else might happen to them.
So how is that for an epic fantasy review? Okay, it’s not written like an expert fantasy reviewer, but it just goes to show that a great story surpasses boundaries and while before I was only an epic fantasy film viewer, now I am a fan of at least one epic fantasy series. Not bad for a Women’s fiction author, right?