A modern-day fairy tale–cum-allegory of self-actualization, healing and empowerment.
The hero’s journey: that time-honored device for teaching truths about human development and existence. Anderson puts a feminine twist on this model in her debut novel, named for the two opposing, ultimately reconciling forces in the life of Agatha, the young protagonist. She enters this world, as do all children in Anderson’s vision, radiating brilliant colors and delighting in her exuberant, unique gifts. She is an irresistible target for Conred, an otherworldly being who feeds on colors and leaves in their stead a pair of soldiers charged with imprisoning Agatha in grayness that defines Conred’s existence. She goes from being boundlessly creative to being overweight and unhappily married—until Conred reappears. After he threatens her daughter, Zeal, Agatha meets Tellaga and learns the truth about both herself and Conred. With Tellaga’s help, Agatha rediscovers the beauty of her being, the power of her gifts and the fierce, transformative power of compassion. It’s an unabashed inspirational tale that enmeshes symbolic names and predictable plot twists with wildly inspired details, such as Zeal’s talent for arranging inanimate objects into fanciful figures and scenes. Anderson delivers her story with earnest clarity, simplicity and straightforwardness, and she includes a study guide for readers who wish to apply Agatha’s lessons to their own experiences. The hero starts out young, innocent and pure but encounters challenges as she battles to awaken her full potential. The tale is both an allegory for damaging a spirit, which so often occurs in childhood and beyond, as well as a methodology for neutralizing and overcoming the trauma.
A quick read and a reminder that the greatest prison—and its key—lies within.