Laurie's Reviews > Auraria

Auraria by Tim Westover
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Jun 24, 2012

it was amazing
Read in June, 2012

‘Auraria’ is a fantasy story set in a real town and based on many of the local folklore and superstitions. Auraria, Georgia had a very brief gold rush in the mid-1800s; then most of the people left again. But some hung on, running pharmacies and bars and hotels. They farmed and were turkey drovers and, no matter what their regular work was, most of them sought gold. Holtzclaw has been sent there by his employer, Shadburn, a land developer who, it turns out, grew up in Auraria, although Holtzclaw is not aware of this fact at first. Holtzclaw, it turns out, does not know a lot of things about his employer or the town of Auraria when he first gets there.

Sent to procure certain parcels of land from the locals, Holtzclaw finds things to be not quite normal from the minute he sets foot in Auraria. A boy fishes in mist rather than water. A watery princess appears and disappears. A phantom piano player amuses the patrons of a tavern. There is a singing tree, and a giant tortoise that talks. The townspeople regard this all as perfectly normal, rather like dwellers in Charles de Lint’s Newford regard fairies in the city, and so Holtzclaw does, too. That’s part of what I love about the story: that the supernatural is so accepted and normal in this place, and that a newcomer can do so, too. There are multiple plots taking place during the story; a lot of different people have plans of their own about Shadburn’s development, which involves building a damn and turning the valley into a lake.

It’s a tale of human greed and folly, and blindness to what is real and beautiful. It’s beautifully written; I wouldn’t change a single word. Despite the plot of land developer despoiling nature, the book is not a simplistic tale of evil greed vs nature & good folks; it’s more complicated than that, as life tends to be. The book has been compared to “Through the Looking Glass”, but I disagree. While fantastic things happen, it all hangs together with internal logic in a way that Carroll’s work doesn’t. I was sorry when I came to the end of this story.
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