By the author of the acclaimed Passion Blue, a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of 2012 and “a rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion,” comes a fascinating companion novel.
Artistically brilliant, Giulia is blessed – or cursed – with a spirit’s gift: she can hear the mysterious singing of the colors she creates in the convent workshop of Maestra Humilità. It’s here that Giulia, forced into the convent against her will, has found unexpected happiness, and rekindled her passion to become a painter – an impossible dream for any woman in 15th century Italy.
But when a dying Humilità bequeaths Giulia her most prized possession – the secret formula for the luminously beautiful paint called Passion blue – Giulia realizes she’s in danger from those who have long coveted the famous color for themselves. Faced with the prospect of lifelong imprisonment in the convent, forever barred from painting as a punishment for keeping Humilita’s secret, Giulia is struck by a desperate idea: What if she disguises herself as a boy? Could she make her way to Venice and find work as an artist’s apprentice?
Along with the truth of who she is, Giulia carries more dangerous secrets: the exquisite voices of her paint colors and the formula for Humilità’s precious blue. And Venice, with its graceful gondolas and twisting canals, its gilded palazzi and masked balls, has secrets of its own. Trapped in her false identity in this dream-like place where reality and reflection are easily confused, where art and ambition, love and deception hover like dense fog, can Giulia find her way?
This compelling novel explores timeless themes of love and illusion, gender and identity as it asks the question: what does it mean to risk everything to follow your true passion?
Praise for the Novels of Victoria Strauss
“Fantasy elements and a historical setting rich with sensuous detail are satisfying, but it’s Giulia’s achingly real search for her heart’s desire that resonates most today, when millions of girls still have limited choices. A rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion.” – Kirkus Reviews on PASSION BLUE (Starred Review, a Best Teen Book of 2012)
“Compelling…absorbing…An intriguing historical novel inspired by accounts of women artists in the Italian Renaissance.” – Booklist on PASSION BLUE
“Mysterious dreams, suspense-filled legends, the terror that unfolds as the dig ensues, and the fine characterizations weave together beautifully to make this adventure fantasy a winner.” – Booklist on GUARDIAN OF THE HILLS (Starred Review)
“A rich story about human nature, this fantasy is a thought-provoking page-turner. The characters are deeply etched, and the plot turns are credible yet arresting…A thoroughly enjoyable read.” – Kliatt on THE ARM OF THE STONE
“The plot is complex yet convincing, and the abundant, well-chosen details of the settings–as well as the carefully developed characters–make this high fantasy a superior and original novel.” – Publishers Weekly on THE GARDEN OF THE STONE (Starred Review)
Buy the Book
Victoria Strauss is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the STONE duology (THE ARM OF THE STONE and THE GARDEN OF THE STONE), and a historical novel for teens, PASSION BLUE. She has written hundreds of book reviews for magazines and ezines, including SF Site, and her articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.
An active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), she’s co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that tracks and warns about literary fraud. She maintains the popular Writer Beware website, Facebook page, and blog, for which she was a 2012 winner of an Independent Book Blogger Award. She was honored with the SFWA Service Award in 2009.
She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Color Song Blog Tour & Book Blast Schedule
Thursday, September 19
Review at Leeanna.com
Tuesday, September 23
Book Blast at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, September 25
Book Blast at A Book Geek
Saturday, October 4
Book Blast at Susan Heim on Writing
Tuesday, October 7
Review at A Leisure Moment
Wednesday, October 8
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, October 10
Review at A Bookish Affair
To enter to win any of the following prizes please complete the form below:
2 Grand Prizes Winners: One Kindle Paperwhite with custom Color Song cover with Color Song and Passion Blue ebooks pre-loaded, plus swag (postcards, bookmarks), and signed paperback editions of Strauss’s Stone duology (The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone) (US only)
2 winners: Signed hardcovers of Color Song and Passion Blue, plus swag (postcards, bookmarks) (US and Canada)
5 winners: Signed paperbacks of Color Song and Passion Blue, plus swag (postcards, bookmarks) (US and Canada)
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on October 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on October 11th and notified via email.
Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Painting workshop of Maestra Humilità Moretti
Convent of Santa Marta, Padua, Italy
November, Anno Domini 1487
On the day the colors first sang to her, Giulia woke with a restless sense of anticipation, a breathless certainty that something was about to change–although within the high brick walls of the convent of Santa Marta, change was rarer than roses in November.
The weather was raw and blustery, the sky thick with clouds. Midway through the morning, Giulia’s teacher, master painter Humilità Moretti, set up her easel in the courtyard and summoned Giulia from her duties in the workshop to assist.
From among the pots of paint that crowded the small table at her side, Humilità selected one whose tight-corked throat was sealed with wax. Only a single paint was ever closed this way. Without meaning to, Giulia drew in her breath. Humilità glanced at her, and for a moment their eyes held: an acknowledgment of secrets, of a shared and painful memory.
With a knife, Humilità broke the wax and levered out the cork. The wind snatched the cork as it popped free, whirling it to the ground and tumbling it across the flagstones, the vivid gleam of the paint it had protected flashing as it rolled: the color known as Passion blue–bluer than sapphires, bluer than oceans, the most precious of all the workshop’s paints. Giulia chased after it, catching it before it could fall into the drain at the courtyard’s center. As she picked it up, she thought she heard the sound of bells.
Returning to Humilità’s side, she watched her teacher measure Passion blue onto her palette. It glowed like a sun-struck jewel amid the duller smears of umber and bone black and verdigris, though there was no sun in the clouded sky to make it shine–a mysterious illusion of inner light that no other painter could duplicate, though many had tried. The formula for its making was known to Humilità alone, a secret she had guarded for more than twenty years.
Normally Giulia could lose herself in watching her teacher work, imagining herself into Humilità’s hand and Humilità’s eyes until it almost seemed it was she who held the brush. But today she was distracted by the malicious wind, the penetrating cold, the restlessness that prickled through her body and made it impossible to stand still. And the bells. She could still hear them, an insistent, chilly chiming that made her feel even colder, for it reminded her of ice, of sunlight shimmering on snow. She’d never heard such a sound at Santa Marta. Where could it be coming from?
At last Humilità set aside her brush and carried her painting indoors, leaving Giulia to clear the work table. Humilità had taken the pot of Passion blue as well, to lock up in her study; but a residue of the shimmering paint remained on the palette, seeming to draw to itself all the light of the cloudy day. Beneath the hissing of the wind the bells chimed on–fainter now, Giulia thought, as if whoever was ringing them had moved farther away.
In the warmth of the workshop, she returned the paint pots to their places. Still the bells teased at her ears, sounding exactly as they had in the courtyard, and it struck her suddenly that this should not be. Inside, surely, they should be fainter, or clearer–but not the same.
The chiming followed her as she set Humilità’s used brushes in a jar of turpentine to soak, then carried the palette over to a table to clean it. Pausing, she closed her eyes, concentrating on the slippery fall of notes. She hadn’t realized quite how lovely they were–and, somehow, less like bells than she’d first thought, almost unearthly in their silvery cadences. They sound like…She groped for comparisons. A cascade of stars. A rain of crystal.
She opened her eyes. On the palette, the smear of Passion blue gleamed, as if the candles burning on the table favored it above the other colors. It drew Giulia’s gaze like a tether. She let her vision blur, let her eyes fill up with blue, with swirling azure currents and glinting sapphire radiance. The bell-music deepened, reaching into her, resonating inside her head.
It’s the paint that’s singing. The thought rolled up from indigo depths. It’s the voice of Passion blue.
Something flashed through Giulia’s body, a bolt of cobalt light. The palette snapped back into focus. The blue was just a smear of paint again. But she could still hear the bells, chiming, chiming; and her heart, suddenly, was pounding with dread–at the absurd, no, the mad thought that had felt utterly true in the instant it came to her. True in a way impossible things should never be.
She snatched up a scraper and dragged it hard across the palette’s wooden surface. The soft oil paints came up easily, the colors smearing into mud. Even the jewel essence of Passion blue could not survive such mingling. Again and again she scraped, until the palette was clean.
The bells were silent now. She could hear only the ordinary noise of the artists at their labor. But around her, the familiar landscape of the workshop had grown strange, as if she were looking through someone else’s eyes. She was cold, as cold as she’d been in the wind-chilled courtyard.
Am I going mad? She put her hand to her throat, thinking of the talisman she’d worn all summer and then destroyed, of the celestial spirit that had been imprisoned inside it. Am I being punished for the sin of putting my trust in magic?
No. They were just bells. Real bells, rung by real hands. I’ll never hear them again.
But within herself, she knew differently. And the next morning, when Humilità uncorked the pot of Passion blue and the crystal chiming rose, Giulia understood that something inside her had irrevocably changed. She would never be the same.