(Note: In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.)
The king is missing, but frankly, that’s the least of these people’s problems.
The people of Abascar are exiles without a home behind them. Bel Amica is an open refuge, except for maybe the refuge part. It’s not safe to live with so many people who are so angry – most especially the Seers, who mix sorcerous potions and like to borrow other people’s bodies.
So a remnant presses through the forest. Their goal is a legendary city their missing king once found. Their obstacle is, well, the forest. It is being devoured by the Deathweed, which chokes or slashes every living thing it reaches. The fugitives can fend it off with fire; no one can guess how to destroy the Deathweed, though their best bet would probably be to nuke the forest.
Plus, there’s a band of runaway slaves lost in underground caverns, with no water or food to help them along. And there’s some poor fool wandering around whom everyone wants to kill, including his wife.
So you’ll understand why no one is having a good day.
The Ale Boy’s Feast is an elaborate book. As the last book in a series, it is complicated by characters and story threads established over three previous books. But it goes deeper than that. Elaborateness is intrinsic to Jeffrey Overstreet’s style. His prose is filled with metaphors, lengthy sentences, descriptions, personification.
Overstreet’s world, the Expanse, is broadly and vividly imagined. It is made complete – and foreign – by a wealth of imagery and detail. The Expanse has a sense of mystery, and of glory more than beauty. (Though if your travel agent ever suggests it to you, you may have to shoot him in self-defense.)
The Ale Boy’s Feast needs to be read with more concentration than most modern novels require. If you try to skim along the narrative, you’ll get lost. You have to set your mind to it and follow – through the abundant descriptions and intricate prose, through the jumps between characters and threads. There are a good number of plotlines, and the book can leave one and take many pages to return. I mean this as commentary, not criticism.
Here is my criticism: The novel suffers from excessive gloominess and gruesome imagery. Did I need that picture of the boy’s end? No, I did not.
Especially because it turned out to be irrelevant to the story. Overstreet had an odd habit of slipping in inconsequential big events; characters would run off on grand schemes, or just die, apparently for the heck of it. I hope to be more specific on this tomorrow.
And the ending … I don’t want to sound too negative, because there were many wonderful things about it. It simply ended too abruptly, like a song that reached its crescendo only to be cut off mid-note.
But I believe that most who enjoy fantasy novels will enjoy The Ale Boy’s Feast. The plot is solid and, at certain moments, breathtaking; the characters are diverse and three-dimensional. The language of the novel, like its world, is rich with detail and beauty. Forging through The Ale Boy’s Feast requires an investment, but the careful reader will get a good return.
Legal Disclaimer: I in no way condone or advocate the shooting of travel agents. If your travel agent does try to get you to go some place crawling with lethal plant life and evil wizards who hate everyone, don’t shoot him. Merely back slowly out of the room and run don’t walk to the nearest police station.
The author has a website for you to check out, and Amazon is ever useful. The Ale Boy’s Feast may be read as a standalone novel – I did all right – but it would be better to begin at the beginning: Auralia’s Colors. I regret that I cannot critique this novel as the denouement it is; you will, however, find those who can here:
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Rachel Starr Thomson