James Holtzclaw is sent to Georgia’s Appalachians on a special errand. He has a sack of money and instructions to buy every property in Auraria. That shouldn’t be difficult, for the one-time gold mining town has gone bust. A few dozen families remain on their farms, sifting for gold flakes in Lost Creek.

In theory, Holtzclaw’s employer wants to harvest scrap metal from the old mills. He actually has a dam across Lost Creek in mind. Those hardscrabble farms will be transformed to valuable lakeside estate. With his agenda hidden, Holtzclaw easily persuades landowners to sell. However, very strange things are going on. Holtzclaw, whose coins are stamped with designs he’s never seen before, must learn Auraria’s golden secrets. When he sees a princess walk on water and watches Mr. Bad Thing play the piano – rather, doesn’t watch Mr. Bad Thing, because that entity is invisible – Holtzclaw realizes that he must deal with Auraria’s non-human residents too. What will they do when a lake fills their valley?

I loved Auraria, a 2012 novel by Tim Westover, who based much of his mythos on southern Appalachian folklore. This story romps across those rugged mountains and splashes gleefully into springs flecked with gold. Westover presents us with a delightfully imaginative world, where trees sing and fish swim in the mist. His fluid, humorous style draws us right into that magical place, and straight into a story which could have been written by Stephen King on a good acid trip. Highly recommended.

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Jenny Barden's masterful novel about the lost colony of Roanoke.






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