Read Auraria by Tim Westover Online


Water spirits, moon maidens, haunted pianos, headless revenants, and an invincible terrapin that lives under the mountains. None of these distract James Holtzclaw from his employer's mission: to turn the fading gold-rush town of Auraria, GA, into a first-class resort and drown its fortunes below a man-made lake. But when Auraria's peculiar people and problematic ghosts colWater spirits, moon maidens, haunted pianos, headless revenants, and an invincible terrapin that lives under the mountains. None of these distract James Holtzclaw from his employer's mission: to turn the fading gold-rush town of Auraria, GA, into a first-class resort and drown its fortunes below a man-made lake. But when Auraria's peculiar people and problematic ghosts collide with his own rival ambitions, Holtzclaw must decide what he will save and what will be washed away. Taking its inspiration from a real Georgia ghost town, Auraria is steeped in the folklore of the Southern Appalachians, where the tensions of natural, supernatural and artificial are still alive....

Title : Auraria
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780984974801
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 398 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Auraria Reviews

  • Emily
    2019-01-31 02:17

    I requested this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program because the description, of a place in Georgia where supernatural creatures abound, intrigued me. I was excited to learn that I had won it. When I got the book, however, I saw on the back cover that it had been compared to Alice in Wonderland and I was much less enthused. I really, really did not like Alice or Through the Looking Glass (please don't stone me!). Fortunately, though, I really did like this book. I identified heavily with Holtzclaw, who is charged by his increasingly distracted employer to purchase land in Auraria and then build upon it a grand hotel. As the wondrous happenings kept piling up, Holtzclaw tended to take them in stride and respond respectfully and pleasantly, without freaking out or disbelieving as a lot of fantasy protagonists who are not originally from the outlandish place they find themselves. I found it amusing that Holtzclaw had more trouble with the supposedly "regular" people: contractors, out-of-town guests, etc, than he did with the ghosts, giant turtle, eccentric townspeople, and baa-ing fruits. The writing was descriptive and captivating, I hardly wanted to put it down. Apparently, this is the author's first novel in English, but you wouldn't be able to tell. One small nit-pick: as I was reading, I dismissed many typographical, spelling and grammar errors thinking this was an ARC. Turns out it isn't. Uh-oh. On the whole a very entertaining and rewarding book. You could even read it with/to your kids; although it isn't written expressly for children, there wasn't a single bit of objectionable content. It's probably less racy than the Wonderland books, but with a much more intriguing plotline. I kind of wish I could relocate to Auraria myself. It seems there would never be a dull moment!

  • Tammy
    2019-02-08 07:09

    This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & BuffyThey say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and sometimes I agree with that and sometimes I don’t. In the case of Auraria, however, I’m begging you to not judge it by the cover. When I was first asked to review Tim Westover’s latest, I was left a little flat by its nondescript gray tones, and I couldn’t imagine what this book was supposed to be about. But the story caught me completely off guard, and I’m here to tell you Auraria is a book worth reading, and I am recommending it without hesitation.Filled with folktales and magical imagery, Auraria is the tale of two men, Shadburn and Holtzclaw, who try to turn the small, mountainous town of Auraria, Georgia into a world-class vacation resort. The first sentence of the book sets the tone for what’s to come:“Holtzclaw hadn’t heard of Auraria until his employer sent him to destroy it.”Holtzclaw is given the task of buying up all the land parcels in Auraria so that his employer Shadburn can launch his plan. But when he arrives and starts getting to know the townsfolk, he discovers a wild and unpredictable place full of ghosts, singing trees, and moon maidens that bathe in the springs of Auraria in order to wash the gold off their skin. At first Holtzclaw is skeptical of the piano-playing ghosts and fish that jump out of the mist, but the longer he stays in Auraria, the more he becomes enchanted by the magical forces at play. Most of the land owners he approaches sell their property willingly enough after seeing the pile of money and gold coins Holtzclaw pulls out of his bag, and before long Shadburn joins Holtzclaw in Auraria to begin putting his plan into action: building a huge dam to stop the waters that flow throughout the town to create an immense lake, which will literally bury Auraria underwater.The pace of the story is like a leisurely stroll down a mountain path. Westover takes his time painting a picture of the strange town, and his masterful descriptions of Auraria and its inhabitants evoke a folktale feeling. The themes of water and gold weave their way throughout the story. When Holtzclaw first arrives in town, he meets Princess Trahlyta, a mysterious girl who appears whenever Holtzclaw is near the water. She pops up again and again in the story and serves as a mentor and a muse for Holtzclaw as he becomes embroiled in the goings-on of the strange community. And Auraria, like its name, is full of gold, but only those who are lucky will ever find it in vast amounts. Flakes of gold, or “colors,” are everywhere, and the residents of Auraria even wear hats that double as gold pans. But as the residents are told to move to higher ground before the lake rises, Shadburn reveals a darker purpose for flooding the valley: he wants to literally bury the gold underwater and recreate Auraria as something other than a gold town.As Shadburn’s vision is finally realized and people begin to flock to the newly built Queen of the Mountain hotel and Lake Trahlyta, the ill-built dam begins to crumble and the townsfolk’s ever-increasing dreams of gold spark a frenzy of gold hunting that signals the end of Shadburn’s dream. For the town of Auraria, and its gold, refuse to stay buried, and Princess Trahlyta is determined to put things back the way they were.Westover’s imagery is wonderful. When Holtzclaw goes to the cemetery to try to convince the ghosts to abandon their graves, he finds them unwilling to leave: “The dead clung to their coffins like survivors of a shipwreck.” And at the Old Rock Falls tavern he meets Abigail, whose dusty bottles of spirits evoke a magical world: “At the bottom, sediment in suspension was swirled upwards by Abigail’s handling then drifted downwards again like a lazy ghost.”Auraria contains far too many marvels to list here. I was reminded of both Lewis Carroll and Neil Gaiman, for both the playfully absurd characters and Westover’s ability to make the reader fall in love with a town full of magic and ghosts, despite that absurdity. The author weaves a spell that will leave you believing in ghostly piano players and story-telling terrapins, all the way to the book’s perfect and satisfying end.Many thanks to QW Publishers, for supplying a review copy.

  • Katy
    2019-02-14 02:06

    Book Info: Genre: Magical Realism Reading Level: Adult Disclosure: I received a free eGalley eBook edition of this text from NetGalley in exchange for an honest reviewSynopsis: Water spirits, moon maidens, haunted pianos, headless revenants, and an invincible terrapin that lives under the mountains. None of these distract James Holtzclaw from his employer’s mission: to turn the fading gold-rush town of Auraria, GA, into a first-class resort and drown its fortunes below a man-made lake. But when Auraria’s peculiar people and problematic ghosts collide with his own rival ambitions, Holtzclaw must decide what he will save and what will be washed away.Taking its inspiration from a real Georgia ghost town, “Auraria: is steeped in the folklore of the Southern Appalachians, where the tensions of natural, supernatural and artificial are still alive. My Thoughts: I live in Georgia, but haven’t really been into the north Georgia mountains. I was charmed by the fantastic happenings that Holtzclaw experiences in and around the community of Auraria. I’ve become interested in learning more about the lore and legends of this area as a result of reading this book. Since I have absolutely no knowledge, I can’t comment on whether the creatures and ghosts used in the book are based upon real legends and lore, but the legends and such he uses/creates for this book are very fun. I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite among the many characters – living, dead, and supernatural – that people this excellent story. The residents of Auraria are varied and eccentric, and watching Holtzclaw – the consummate city gentleman – as he tried to provide an “appropriate” reaction to the more-often-than-not crazy events around him was highly entertaining; I spent a great deal of time giggling while reading this story. It reminded me, in a lot of ways, of the old tall tales we used to read and hear when I was in grade school, such as Pecos Bill and the like.The end of the book is devoted to an explanation of some of the real-life places and events that served as inspiration for this story, although it does not address the supernatural elements such as the plat-eye, the wonder fish, the moon maidens and the like, on which I plan to do some research when I can shave out the time. All in all, if you enjoy tall tales, legends, stories of the strange and wonderful, and the mysterious, you should enjoy this very engaging and enjoyable book. Highly recommended.

  • Laurie
    2019-02-05 00:58

    ‘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.

  • April Steenburgh
    2019-02-04 09:03

    Holtzclaw is a respectable man, trying to conduct respectable business and purchase properties in the valley of Auraria for his employer Shadburn. He does not know what Shadburn want's the land for, but he has seen the man's magic touch when it comes to turning purchases into profit. Unfortunately, Auraria is not a laid back lady ready to give up her land and citizens easily. It is an unruly valley, filled with fish that can be fished out of thick mist instead of water, moon maidens, ghosts, an ethereal princess, and gold. The entire valley is haunted by gold, the potential for the next big strike. Holtzclaw will need every trick in his book to convince landowners to sell, all the while trying to decide whether to hold onto what he knows is real and sane or to fall into the wonder that is Auraria.Auraria is a bit of historical whimsy, facts folded so neatly into folklore that it is impossible to pry one from the other. I loved the almost off hand manner in which elements of the fantastic were described to the reader- they were presented as a fact of life for Auraria, nothing remarkable. And as a reader, that air became infectious. Even as Holtzclaw became accepting of ghosts and moderately sentient fruit, the reader is drawn along with him into the brilliant madness that is Auraria. It is a wonderful meld of history with folk culture, ghost stories, and tales told grandparent to grandchild on cold nights before a warm fire.The story itself is a thoughtful move through conflicts of mundane and mystical, of belief and what drives us to do the things we do on a daily basis. It is about loyalty and love and the roots we have to our hometowns. For the historically minded, it is an original look at the tourism industry that drove resorts to pop up across the country like weeds. I spent much of my childhood in the Adirondacks, where my family has it's roots, so reading Auraria was almost like visiting old neighbors. We didn't have the drive for gold, but we had some of the same quirky characters and were in an area obsessed with attracting tourists.Whether your are a fantasy reader, a fan of historical fiction, or just looking for something new and brilliantly unique to read, give Auraria a shot.

  • Steph
    2019-01-31 02:12

    Within the first few pages of reading Auraria, I knew that I had found something special. What a delightful surprise Auraria turned out to be! An early critic of the novel compared it to “Through the Looking Glass” and, like it’s predecessor, Auraria holds a distinct and unique magical quality, both in its story and its writing. The plot weaves the story of one young man’s struggle between the desire for progress, prosperity and proving oneself with the mysticism and beauty of nature and the simplicity to be found in it, so often forsaken for loftier, vain aspirations and only later to be discovered and recognized for its worth. It blends in fascinating accounts of Application folklore with lovable and memorable characters. I don’t know that there has ever been a book like Auraria. Tim Westover has created something truly remarkable. Like Lewis Carroll’s and Garcia-Marquez’s work, Auraria is meant to be read by generations to come. P.S. This was a Goodreads "FirstRead". Thank you Publishers!

  • March Shoggoth Madness The Haunted Reading Room
    2019-02-19 07:05

    A delightfully winsome and cozy historical fantasy, set in Northern Georgia; an alternate history of a factual locale, a near-ghost town which, like so many, was founded on the potential boom of a gold rush. Auraria, in this book, is not what one might expect to find, however; instead, it is something more akin to Faeryland: singing trees, fish that live in mist, and much, much, more. Staid Mr. James Holtzclaw, right-hand man for a land acquisitions firm-a man who values order and symmetry-is about to experience his perception of reality undergoing a kaleidoscopic change. Holtzclaw plans to travel to Auraria to buy up all the land possible, for his employer’s unstated purposes; but folks in Auraria are much more clever than he has any right to expect.Really, Holtzclaw should have paid much closer attention to the mythical and bizarre figures on the gold coins his employer handed him, to use for payment to the landowners of Auraria and environs. And he should have listened to what folks told him about Auraria…

  • Collyn
    2019-02-01 02:21

    It's Gatsby...but not. Women with voices "like money" and flickering green lights at the ends of docks, and yet it's not a love story or in any way derivative. It's about what money makes of us, so in a way, Auraria is a lot like Gatsby, but with mysticism and rural Georgia.

  • Angie Lisle
    2019-01-23 09:16

    The story begins with Holtsclaw leaving behind the civilized city to travel to Auraria, a once-booming gold mining town turned ghost town, located in Georgia's rural mountains. His boss, Shadwell, has assigned him the task of purchasing all the land in town - by whatever means necessary. Holtsclaw cares only for money; he dreams of being a big business tycoon like his boss Shadwell. But the business in Auraria doesn't go as Holtsclaw planned, namely because the local folklore is still alive and magic doesn't respond as mortals do. With help from a quirky cast of characters, Holtsclaw realizes that life offers something much more magical than money or gold.Much of the folklore is based on early Colonial interpretations of Cherokee myths, showing how the Cherokee left their marks on the land, even after the Trail of Tears. This theme is reinforced by Westover's use of the actual historical events that followed the Trail of Tears: the gold rushes of colonial NC and GA, the tourist trade in Appalachia, and a new era of industrialization. The reader can continue this theme by comparing and contrasting the Industrial Era and today's computer era. In a unique way, the story shows how time, and people, continue to leave marks on a place. The well of local legends is never depleted, but continuously renewed. I received a free uncorrected proof copy of this book from goodreads first reads. There were a few typos/grammatical errors but Tim Westover assures me that the these have been fixed in the final version. This is the author's first novel written in English; this book feels like it was written by someone born and raised in Appalachia.

  • Meg - A Bookish Affair
    2019-01-29 03:52

    This book was definitely different than I expected. It's sort of hard to categorize it. The story is definitely unique. I could see this story appealing to a wide variety of readers. As a historical fiction lover, I really liked the historical elements. The story takes place in the late 1800s. It was interesting to see what things were like then. There is also a really interesting fantasy element to it, mostly having to do with the characters, which I will get into later. Auraria is in the middle of nowhere Georgia. It's not all that notable except for the people or rather beings that make their home there. I loved all of the different beings in this book. Westover does a great job with making them feel really real. That's definitely a talent! I love when authors are able to turn the fantastic into something familiar. It's sort of magical realism in a way. My favorite character was the Princess of the lake. She is just a really cool and very well written character.The downside of this book to me really had to do with the main character, Holtzclaw. There is all of this fantastic stuff going on around him and he's just not that exciting on his own. He's definitely a good guy and is trying to do right by his employer, Shadburn, and by the people of the town but he struck me as a little bit flat. On the upside, he did help to make the more unique characters stand out a little bit more. Bottom line: This book is great for those who like a little fantastic with their literary.

  • Hope
    2019-01-23 03:20

    I won a copy through the Goodreads' Firstreads program. Fantasy collides with reality in this refreshing novel by Tim Westover. AURORIA is set in the mountainous valleys of Georgia, in a town tucked away from prying eyes. Moon maidens, spirits, and wonders abide throughout the countryside. When aspiring businessman James Holtzclaw journeys to Auroria on business at his employer Shadburn's behest, he finds himself immersed in a culture unlike any before. A sleepy little ghost town should be an easy triumph, but there is more nestling among the waters than meets the eye. The story follows Holtzclaw as he discovers a variety of treasure, local folk, and obstacles. I found this story enchanting and dream-like. The first few chapters don't reel you in, but if you wade past them - what a catch. Westover has such mastery over storytelling and the English language that I will want to go back and read this every once in a while simply for its beauty. The characters are rich and vibrant, with so much truth behind the human condition. The storyline crescendos with action then gives way to moments of peace or sheer whimsy. Reminiscent of books like BIG FISH, the tall tales and magic cater to those of us who seek adventure. I highly recommend this, and wish there was more on which to indulge. I would give this more stars if I could. Happy reading!

  • Maggie
    2019-02-02 05:06

    This is such an imaginative story and filled with the most unusual spirits. I really enjoyed reading about this magical place and the locals, spirits included. One reviewer compared Auraria to the magical world of Wonderland. I can agree. Once you begin reading, the unusual becomes common much as Alice's adventures did. The fact that a boy can catch a fish out of a mist seems not only possible but normal. Talking to ghosts and giant turtles and singing trees is common place in Auraria. The building of a dam to build a resort hotel and turn the venture into a profitable business deal was secondary for me. My primary love for this story was the fantasy and the imaginative magical happenings. Mountain folklore and real happenings mix well in this novel. This book will be enjoyed by those who love a good fantasy mixed with a touch of romance.

  • Benjamin
    2019-02-01 00:52

    I am very impressed with this book, it was so masterfully written. After reading Auraria, I feel like I've actually been in the towns, mountains, and valleys. The characters are so vivid, by the end of the story, I felt like I knew everybody in town. Perhaps my favorite part was how Mr. Westover mixed myth with realism, he never went overboard with the folklore. In this sense it reminded me of another of my favorite books, American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Reading this book was a pleasure, and I look forward to seeing what other books Mr. Westover publishes in the future!

  • Joy Davis
    2019-02-01 08:57

    Auraria is an unusual mixture of fact, fantasy, magic, and mayhem...all set in a town in GA called Auraria. It is a compelling story and a delightful read!

  • Michelle
    2019-01-21 09:16

    I very much enjoyed this book! It's a lovely piece of magical realism that made me happy throughout the entire book. Highly recommended.

  • Archerjoe
    2019-02-08 09:12

    Well written, interesting story.

  • Jaime Boler
    2019-01-28 02:13

    It's a good thing I don't judge books by their covers or by their publishers; otherwise, I would have missed a gem. The cover of Tim Westover's novel Auraria is embossed with the faint outline of mist-covered woods and mountains. Nothing special. Nothing really concrete as to what the story will be about. Westover's publisher, QW, is not one of the powerful publishing houses either. QW is an indie publisher, of which I honestly had never heard. However, if you skip over Auraria for its forgettable cover or its lesser-known publisher, you are depriving yourself of a truly unforgettable story. The beginning of Auraria recalls the eerie opening of Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula. Like Jonathan Harker traveling at night in a carriage to the home of Count Dracula, James Holtzclaw approaches the fading gold-rush town of Auraria, Georgia, in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, in a blue mist. His employer, a rather mysterious figure called Hiram Shadburn, sent Holtzclaw to Auraria to "destroy" the town. Shadburn wants to turn Auraria into a resort and drown the place under a man-made lake. Westover only gradually reveals Shadburn's true motives and his surprising history. Again like Stoker, Westover knows how to set a mood. In his traveling bag, Holtzclaw carries a significant amount of money, money Shadburn gave him to buy property. "The thousands of dollars in federal notes were just ordinary paper, but the gold coins were the strangest" Holtzclaw had ever seen. "Instead of eagles and shields," Westover writes, "the coins were stamped with images of bumblebees, terrapins, chestnut trees, and indistinct figures by a stream." The strange gold coins had come from Auraria, and now they were returning home. Westover illustrates how unique the town of Auraria is. Its weirdly wonderful inhabitants are just as quirky as the town. Holtzclaw gets to know the people of Auraria as he buys their property. He meets a boy fishing where there is no water. Holtzclaw sees the boy catch a fish nonetheless. When questioned, the boy explains, "I just throw out my line, and the fish latch on." Holtzclaw is certain the child has cooked up a scheme to try to sell fish the easy way. As Holtzclaw descends deeper into the town, and buys up more property, it gets weirder. The town's dead sit on their gravestones and can carry on conversations. To move Auraria's graveyard to its new location, he must ask permission from the cemetery's oldest resident, not from the inhabitant most advanced in age but from the little girl who has been there the longest. Holtzclaw also comes into contact with Princess Trahltya, who frolics in Auraria's springs and who works for the moon maidens. Auraria contains many fantastical elements, as you have probably already surmised. The genre of fantasy allows Westover to let his imagination run wild. He never lets himself be tied down to genre or literary technique. For example, Westover masterfully employs magical realism in his story. Holtzclaw enters a man's town house to inquire about purchasing his land. Those within say Mr. Walton is upstairs. When Holtzclaw gets to the town house's top-most floor, there is still no sign of Mr. Walton. Holtzclaw is not in an ordinary town house, nor is he is an ordinary town. Belulah, who lives there, admonishes Holtzclaw for taking things at face value: "Well, you know how some houses are," she says. "They look small from the outside, but they're bigger inside. How were you counting? By the windows? That's not a very good way to count. What if someone forgot to put in a window or put in an extra one?" Things are not what they seem, as Holtzclaw and his readers learn time and again in Westover's story. Another shining example of this is when a ghost named Mr. Bad Thing plays a piano. Holtzclaw is convinced it is a player piano. Again, one of Auraria's residents scolds him: "Just because you don't know it works," she says, "doesn't mean that it can't work." Westover uses skillful personification to tell part of his story. Deep under the Appalachian Mountains lives the "Great and Harmless and Invincible Terrapin." The gigantic turtle talks and has a history and a memory. "Long ago, when the world was soft and had not been baked hard by the sun," the terrapin begins, "I was a small terrapin. The sun began to blaze, and I fled from its heat. I burrowed into the mud, and as I grew, I made larger and larger channels. I came to this place where the rock was soft and the valley was cool and dark, and I have lived here ever since." He confesses, "I am old here." The turtle also feels pain. Although he is "invincible" does not exempt him from suffering: "I suffer the pain of many, many long years spent under the mountain." His time in Auraria changes Holtzclaw, just as Westover's story affects readers. One cannot spend time in Auraria and be the same person he was prior to his arrival. That holds true for Holtzclaw and for us. Auraria is such an appealing story because it crosses so many different genres: historical fiction (yes, the town of Auraria, GA, really did exist; see E. Merton Coulter's Auraria: The Story of a Georgia Gold Mining Town), fantasy, ghost story, and mystery. Southern folklore comes to life in Westover's hands as he intertwines fact with fantasy and superstition. But perhaps Westover's greatest achievement is proving book covers and publishers mean very little really; it's all about the story. The stuff in between the covers is what really matters.

  • John
    2019-02-16 06:51

    English teachers say that "most unique" is not proper English, which is a pity, because this is the most unique fantasy I have read in a long time. Perhaps I should say it is unusually excellent and excellently unusual. It owes almost nothing to conventional sword and sorcery fantasy, and though set in the Georgia mountains amid adaptations of real Georgia places (carefully explained in the "Note on Sources" at the end), it is not even very like other adaptations of Southern Appalachian folklore to fantasy fiction (such as Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John stories). It begins with a quintessential American activity (though one rarely used in fantasy) --a very conventional young man named Holtzclaw is going around buying up land in a very small Georgia town on behalf of a mysterious entrepreneur named Shadburn --just as the Marcellus shale operators are buying land in my little West Virginia town right now. But the town where Holtzclaw is operating is a former gold-mining town (Auraria) which is now a ghost town, and many of the inhabitants with whom Holtzclaw must negotiate are actually ghosts, from Mr.Bad Thing who plays the piano at the local restaurant (guests think it's a player piano, but it's not), to a sweet little girl named Emily who feeds Holtzclaw on wild mushrooms (one of which killed her long ago). There are other creatures who are odder than ghosts, like the Great and Harmless and Invincible Terrapin whose memories go back to the creation of that country, and the rabbit-eared moon maidens who wash gold from their fur into the local streams. (These last are not landowners but visitors, customers of the local Rain Princess Trahlyta.) After Holtzclaw somewhat unexpectedly succeeds in buying up the town property, it turns out that Shadburn (who grew up in Auraria) plans to build a dam and create a lake which will drown the source of the gold --he feels the local inhabitants' infatuation with gold is unhealthy. The dam is duly built and the town duly drowned (like those under many TVA projects), with all the inhabitants moved to higher ground. There Shadburn builds a pretentious resort hotel , The Queen of the Mountains, managed rather ineptly by Holtzclaw, aided by Abigail (the lively and practical proprieter of the restaurant) and distracted by Lizzie Rathbun, a vamp and con artist who lures him into a scheme to run a glamorous lake boat which never truly gets finished. (Spoiler Warning) The climax of Holtzclaw's efforts at the hotel is a splendid society gala which dissolves into chaos when the guests riot to protest the performance of a singing tree instead of the expected human star. Meanwhile rains have brought on a flood; the lake boat is caught on the dam and dynamited by Holtzclaw under Lizzie's instructions (so she can collect the insurance). This destroys the dam, the lake is drained, the old town reappears, and Holtzclaw, after an unsatisfying brief return to the normality of Milledgeville (where he rejects Lizzie, now living well on the insurance money), returns to settle in Auraria with Abigail, and apparently lives happily ever after-- much more of a eucatastrophe than I actually expected. The beginning of this story is a marvellous exploration of the town's extraordinary inhabitants. The middle sequence with the dam and hotel sometimes has a bitter flavor, but the end is surprisingly satisfying. Apparently Tim Westover's only other work was a highly regarded collection of stories written in Esperanto. It might be worth learning Esperanto to read it.

  • Taryn
    2019-02-02 03:01

    I’m a Northeastern girl through and through. I was born in Manhattan, raised on Long Island, and lived in Queens post-undergrad; I went to college and grad school in Rhode Island; the majority of my friends and family are spread between Boston, Providence, and New York City. The furthest south I’ve been in the U.S is South Carolina. So it was with slight trepidation that I approached Tim Westover’s Auraria, a novel centered on a small Southern gold mining town and steeped in rural Georgian history, culture, and myth. With very little background knowledge of the area, I was still able to understand and connect with Westover’s cast of mysterious, quirky, and downright magical characters.Those characters were one of Auraria‘s biggest strengths. The residents of the town range from a piano-playing ghost to a Great and Invincible Tortoise to fish spirits to the assorted humans who happen to be just as odd as the non-humans. Out of our large cast, I liked Princess Tralyhta and Abigail the best. Both were presented as strong, fearless, and competent, and both were able to take Holtzclaw under their protection from some of the more dangerous elements of the town. The Princess managed to be mysterious, childlike, and threatening by turns, and I enjoyed her random interactions with Holtzclaw, as well as her explanation of how gold forms and why Auraria needs to be rid of it. Abigail, a tough young lady who sees visions of gold, was just excellent, and I would have gladly read an entire novel from her perspective. These unusual small-town folks helped to give Auraria the charming, dusty feel of a sepia-toned photograph–the story of a time that has come and gone.For me, the weak link was actually our main character, Holtzclaw. As an outsider to Auraria, sent on behalf of his employer Shadburn to buy up property, Holtzclaw is a logical choice to serve as our point-of-view character; we can meet the rest of the cast through his eyes. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, and for good reason (hello, Great Gatsby!). However: Holtzclaw is presented as competent from the start–there is no real arc for him to go from surprised and frightened of the living local legends to deftly negotiating with them. Even when he fails in some of his early business deals, it’s not because he is freaked out by the ghost or the moon maiden or whoever–it’s just because his arguments fail to sway them. He is rarely surprised or impressed by any of the bizarre sights he is confronted with, which was honestly difficult to believe. Despite following him around for most of the novel, he remained a cipher to me (albeit a cipher who liked squirrel brains and a good claret).I want to call this Red Power Ranger syndrome. When there is one character that is designated as the leader, it tends to obliterate his flaws, making him technically perfect, but also boring. His one defining character trait becomes “leader.” Like the original Red Power Ranger. While you maybe liked him, he was never your favorite–it was the bad-boy White Ranger or the awesome Yellow Ranger. Holtzclaw is Auraria‘s Red Power Ranger, and I don’t think he necessarily had to fill that role.Please read the rest of my review over at Bookwanderer!

  • Jennifer
    2019-02-13 06:02

    “Holtzclaw hadn’t heard of Auraria until his employer sent him to destroy it,” the novel begins. There are strange things that happen in Auraria, a town tucked away in the mountains of Georgia, a town obsessed with gold but too seldom finds it, a town where “the whispering walls make strangers nervous.” It begins a lot like Dracula, when Jonathan Harker first enters Transylvania and hears about strange phenomena unique to the area. However, Auraria is much less hostile. It is a place where you can catch a fish by throwing a line into the mist, listen to the ballads of a singing tree or the stories of a giant terrapin, or even catch a glimpse of the mysterious moon maidens, who leave behind colors of gold whenever they bathe.This book has an enormous amount of potential, but it feels more like a draft than a completed novel. This feeling stretches beyond several grammatical errors to the characters and story itself. Holtzclaw, the main character, barely shows emotion or thoughts of his own until the last third of the novel. Up until then, he could be mistaken for a robot. He shows absolutely no surprise or shock when he witnesses the strange happenings of Auraria or meets Princess Tralyhta*, who claims she’s the princess of the rivers and springs. He never thinks he’s going crazy or that his mind is deceiving him. He just accepts everything. Because he is a robot. In fact, in the first part of the book, the only thing he cares about is a bottle of Claret. When someone drank a vintage Claret out of the bottle instead of a cup, Holtzclaw “felt an emotion that others would call anger begin to rise towards his face.” He also never questions why his employer sent him to this old gold mining town that produces no gold. He just does what he’s told, and even when he notices his employer is investing money he doesn’t have, he doesn’t try hard to stop him. And though he’s a stranger in a strange land, there’s only one person who doesn’t sell him their land almost immediately with no questions asked. Most of the conflict is easily solved, whether it’s people handing over their land or digging for gold to replenish an empty treasury (one of the townspeople had a dream about where the gold was hidden, and sure enough it was there when they looked for it and the whole thing happened in the course of a few hours).As for suspension of belief, I would be more inclined to believe a tree could sing than baronesses and other members of elite society would hike up their skirts and go digging for gold in the pouring rain or that someone would consider how indecorous it is to pull a lady up by the armpits when she’s drowning in a lake, all of which happens in this novel; that’s not how most people behave. So it’s a good start, but it’s not quite there.*Seriously, there are some really weird/bad names in this novel. There’s a character named Mr. Fabricatorium and a Mother Fresh-Roasted to name a few. Check out my movie reviews at

  • Audrey
    2019-01-23 04:56

    It's always something of a risk, requesting ARCs from Netgalley, particularly books by authors whom you've never heard of. But the blurb contained enough interesting details to pique my interest -- this sounded like a great cross between John Crowley's Little, Big and Charles de Lint's Appalachian stories, like A Circle of Cats. Westover proves himself right off as a talented writer with surehanded prose, deft descriptions, and an ear for strong dialogue. I was easily caught up in the setting and time period; there are enough details to provide a sense of location and time period, but also just a tinge of vagueness so that the story takes on an almost otherworldly sense as well at times -- as though the characters have been pulled out of their actual time and location and dropped into another world. That's a hard trick to manage, but Westover does it well.In fact, he does it almost too well from the start. While all the characters are interesting, it's Holtzclaw whom we are partnered with from the beginning, and I wasn't sure I bought into his total acceptance of the folklore of Auraria. At first, it's obviously because his character is so blindly set on obtaining the land his employer demands, but at some point his eyes are opened more clearly, and he just accepts things so naturally. I'm not sure if readers are supposed to just accept that he had acclimated to the place so quickly that he could do nothing but accept what was going on around him. His character seemed so uptight in the beginning that I really expected more of a freakout from him, but that never happened.The various characters are amusing, interesting, and varied; the plot moves along quickly, with just a few lapses in a couple of spots. There were one or two chapters that seemed out of place -- almost like small, stand-alone chunks of folklore or old stories tucked into the larger story being told. There were wonderfully written, like everything else here, but they disrupted the flow of the story for me, and it took a bit to get back into the rhythm of things. Westover has written an enjoyable novel, with just the right combination of historical fiction and Georgian folklore to keep readers of a variety of genres interested. This is one that I'm glad I took a chance on at Netgalley, and I'll be recommending it to readers upon release.Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy in e-book format from Netgalley.

  • Denzil Pugh
    2019-01-25 04:56

    His first novel, Auraria, was an episodic romp into the supernatural world of the Appalachian Mountains. Briefly, Holtzclaw, a real estate developer in the pre-modern days (early 1900's? there's not really a date given, nor is it needed), is sent by his boss in Milledgeville to the area around modern day Dahlonega, Georgia where a resort town was to be constructed. There he proceeds to buy up land from the residents, and finds them very odd, almost Alice In Wonderland-ish. Ghosts play pianos and remain in the houses with their still living husbands, fish are caught out of thin air, and giant turtles sleep for eternity inside the mountains. It is a wonderful book that I highly recommend, as it's the kind of book that I enjoy. The plot isn't really the most important thing; rather, it's the experience of existing with Holtzclaw in this strange and wonderful world. I find that the most pleasurable times while reading are the little things in life experienced through words. The boy fishing at the beginning, the fruit scene outside the eatery.... that's what makes this book worth reading. Fantasy works sell themselves on epic, noble actions, against the evilest of foes. But in works such as this, or in something like George MacDonald's "At the Back of the North Wind," or "The Quest for the Faradawn," by Richard Ford, it's the ordinary actions of life that enrich the books, endear them to the heart. And it's often these things that amateur authors (and by that I mean even some that are wealthy and have published many books) overlook, and it diminishes the "afterglow" of the book. If I have not lived in the world between the pages, it cannot reappear in my dreams, float about in my thoughts. It's the balance between the two that authors must find, (for instance, Terry Brooks describes every tree in the forest...) and I'm glad that you've found a decent balance. There is so much potential here, as there usually is in what what Tolkien called "Faery" (and I realize that the world you have painted has nothing to do with elves and the like, but the play-dough, the Platonic "Form" is the same). I would have loved to linger more in the houses Holtzclaw went into, explore the fantastic normality of the citizens.

  • ZaBethMarsh
    2019-02-02 08:02

    James Holtzclaw arrives in Auraria, Georgia to manage his employer’s dream of turning the quirky lost town into a first class resort destination. Accomplishing this task requires that he work with the town’s unique eccentrics. He must overcome hurdles that would crush the most sophisticated hotel concierge or professional business assistant, yet Holtzclaw never wavers in his quest until he emerges from this challenge a changed man.What makes this fantasy story with its headless ghosts, mythical creatures, and moon maidens so believable is that Holtzclaw never once questions their existence. His acceptance allows readers to easily suspend their belief of reality. If you give yourself over to this story, you’ll believe that Auraria exists if we could just travel down the right forest path in Appalachia. Tim Westover has written a wonderfully intelligent fantasy folklore tale. His style brings to mind classic literature with its tight prose and advanced vocabulary, yet it is sprinkled with honest humor and idiosyncratic characters that make it a satisfyingly quick read. Both lovers of science fiction and connoisseurs of the written word will find equal enjoyment in this novel and feel blessed to have found the proper mixture of the two. Because I believe that this novel should become an instant classic on everyone’s reading list, I’m going to post this in the classic category for my Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge.I immediately fell in love with Auraria because I remember being a young Bostonian arriving in rural West Virginia. This hero’s journey reminded me how I shed my city girl lifestyle for the slower pace of country life while attending a small liberal arts college. What had frustrated me and awed me as a freshman now endears me as an adult to the green, lush landscape that was the site of my priceless education. I hope everyone finds a little bit of themselves in Holtzclaw and earns his similar fate.

  • Grace
    2019-01-29 08:21

    Author: Tim WestoverTitle: AurariaDescription: Based on legends from rural Georgia, this book describes the efforts of James Holtzclaw to purchase land for his employer, a land developer who has a complex plan to build a dam, a hotel, and a center of industry near the tiny town of Auraria. Formerly known for its gold (which is still present, but makes no one rich), Auraria has an odd assortment of residents, including some ghosts, some recluses, and some eccentric folks looking to get rich. Holtzclaw observes the strange goings-on without becoming rattled, but he is shaken when it appears that there might not be enough capital to finish the project. Likewise, he wonders how he might get some of this wealth for himself.Review source: Library Thing early reviewersPlot: It took me quite a while to figure out what the plot might be. Though it centers on Holtzclaw, the action revolves around him; he himself is passive through much of the early portion of the book. As the Queen of the Mountains hotel is built, however, a plot begins to emerge.Characters: I wouldn’t say that the book is character-driven. Many of the characters are known only by their oddities. The main characters act, or are acted upon, but their motives remain hidden.Writing style: This book is magical realism via the rural south, something quite new to me. Since the characters weren’t the strong point, I kept reading early on mostly to find out what bizarre happening would be next. By the end of the book, though, the author has us thinking about some big ideas: what is happiness? What is money for? How much is enough? What are the moral/ethical issues centered around Americans’ identity as consumers and tourists?Audience: This is literary fiction. It would be especially of interest to those who have an interest in local Georgia history or in southern fiction.Wrap-up: By the end of the book, I was mighty impressed, but the beginning was powerful slow. That’s the main reason it gets 4/5*

  • Danny
    2019-02-05 03:05

    When Holtzclaw arrives in the town of Auraria he first meets a young boy sitting on the edge of a misty ravine, holding a fishing pole above the gap. When the traveler points out that most people have better luck fishing in places that are wet, the boy responds, "Mist is wet, isn't it?" When the boy hauls up his line with a gold-tinged fish attached to the end, Holtzclaw is at pains to point out how this defies all logic. The boy, unconcerned, continues fishing. Holtzclaw continues into Auraria, soon to discover that the North Georgia mountains hold many more mysteries than mist-dwelling fish.The story ambles along, offering delight and unexpected whimsy at every turn. As Holtzclaw and his employer attempt to turn the valley into a tourist destination, they face obstructions as far-ranging as moon maidens, giant terrapins, and uncooperative ghosts. The human residents, while more amenable to the changes, are still an odd lot, and try to teach Holtzclaw a little but about mountain lore along the way. By the end of the book, Holtzclaw learns that chasing after fortune isn't all it's cracked up to be, but that the mountain valleys are well worth exploring.(This review is...subpar, which is too bad because the book is a great read if you like tall tales and back country wisdom wrapped up in local myths and legends from Appalachia.)

  • Bandit
    2019-02-18 06:59

    This is generally not my sort of story, but I'm all for reading diversity. Auraria comes across from description as magic realism, reads like fantasy and reveals itself to be a work of historical fiction (albeit with plenty of artistic liberties) in an afterword. This tale of a small town with unique local colors that gets bought and revamped is best described as whimsical.Quirky is fine, but there are limitations of whim. Auraria the book just like Auraria the town has plenty of charm and wit and humor, but it did read a tad long, particularly toward the middle, although was to a great extent redeemed by its lovely ending. Somewhat of a morality tale about greed, putting the tags on priceless things, generally despicable nature of humans, finding a real home for the heat to be at, etc. Strong writing, very impressive. Enjoyable reading, would probably be tremendously more so for fantasy fans.

  • Nicki Markus
    2019-02-13 00:59

    I was approached by the publisher to review this book and I must say that I found it to be a delight piece of whimsy.This is a story where the supernatural is treated as a mundane fact of life and the reader follows Holtzclaw into this world. It is a world where moon maidens bathe in streams, leaving traces of gold behind, and where ghosts play the piano in bars.What I enjoyed about this story was the blending of fact, folklore and fiction. The book takes inspiration from a real haunted town and mixes in local folklore to create an enchanting tale that is at times both funny and yet somehow sad. The characters were quirky and memorable and the story moved along at a good pace once it got going. This is a book that will appeal to fantasy/paranormal readers who like tales with a whimsical vein. It might also be of interest to some fans of historical fiction who don't mind a splash of the supernatural and a little humour added in.

  • Maureen
    2019-01-21 08:55

    I was pretty surprised at the end to see how practically everything in this book is tied to something real that was patch-worked together in a very creative way. The fantasy overlaid on it, apparently fueled by folk tales and legends is very imaginative. I can't help but that think that there must be a parable here as well, but no one else seems to have mentioned it, and I guess I am not all that skilled at critique anyway. I enjoyed the first half of the book more, when it was focused on Holtzclaw and moved slowly. When Shadburn came to town, and the time started jumping forward in greater segments, it wasn't quite as enjoyable. It wrapped up the way I expected, but I think it would have been more enjoyable to see things play out between Holtzclaw and Abigail instead of a leap forward of more than 5 years. But overall it was pleasant read to start the year.

  • Patrick Turn
    2019-01-21 04:55

    In his novel Auraria, Tim Westover has achieved a rare accomplishment, successfully blending fantasy and fiction into a work which isn't bogged down by one nor the other. The description of the town of Auraria in this novel was phenomenal, and the character description and development was both witty and fun. When I first began reading this book, I was not expecting to be drawn into a town where I could take nothing for granted. Seemingly normal aspects or environments would suddenly become fascinating and magical. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever seen a small town not just as it is, but what it might be if magic was real.

  • Dj
    2019-02-17 04:03

    This book was surprisingly interesting. It is definitely written in a relatively unique style, and I suspect that most readers will, at the very least, find it enjoyable. If you are familiar with southern history (or grew up around northern GA or western NC), you will find references to areas such as lake Toxaway integrated into the story.While it is (at times) a supernatural story, it was not written to frighten, or to amaze. The supernatural characters are integrated into the lives of the people in the book in a manner that is quite entertaining.This is a bit of a rambling review, but I would recommend this book to readers of virtually any age group or genre.