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There have been many instances where I've come to believe the word genre in "genre fiction" has become a synonym for "cliché." For example, we often see the same old tropes - be it monsters, magic, or technology - used over and over. I even see some authors base the reality of their books on systems created by other authors or in roleplaying games such as White Wolf's VAMPIRE or TSR's DUNGEONS & DRAGONS.
Fortunately, in A GAME OF COLORS, John Urbancik demonstrates that a fresh idea can exist in genre fiction, and can actually make sense.
The basis of magic in this book (and I presume in the entire Colors series Urbancik is working on) involves, as the title suggests, color. As one character slowly learns, magic is based in the manipulation of color, and color comes from emotion. Witches - both male and female, I should add - can also draw color, ultimately magic, from other people to use for their own power, giving the magic a vampiric slant.
Interesting stuff if you ask me. And there's more to this book than a nifty new form of magic.
The plot follows a young witch wannabe named Sara, who begins to learn to use her powers from Gypsy, the head of a coven of witches based under Gypsy's nightclub, The Precipice. The month-long initiation is a long, tedious, and often painful one for Sara, who is also here in search of her lost sister Katie. As Sara learns more and more about her abilities and meets the charming, velvet-clad witch Stefan, she finds herself involved in a conspiracy against Gypsy and has to face the decision to either support or stand against her mentor.
While this is not the first installation of the Colors series (you'll need to get your hands on the very limited A DARKER DAWNING for that short story, "The Absence of Color"), it still reads much like the first part, or perhaps even a prologue, of a novel. Urbancik neatly introduces his characters and his system of magic, gets us hooked on them, and then entices us with the hint of chapters to come.
All in all a good read. Urbancik's pacing and narrative flows from the pages like the colors from his characters' fingertips and pulls the reader directly into the prismatic storyline.
I give the A GAME OF COLORS four BookWyrms.
This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.