Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cyndere’s Midnight

Title: Cyndere’s Midnight

Series: Auralia Thread Series #2 (Blue Strand)

Author: Jeffrey Overstreet
Genre: Adult Literary Fantasy

Excerpt from “The Heiress and the Oceandragon,” Chapter 1 of Cyndere’s Midnight:

Cyndere walked down to the water to make her daily decision—turn and go back into House Be Amica, or climb Stairway Rock and throw herself into the sea.

It had become a habit. Leaving her chamber early, while the mirror-lined corridors were empty of all but servants, she would traverse many bridges, stairs, and passages and emerge on the shores of the Rushtide Inlet, escaping the gravity of distraction. Today in the autumn bluster, she wore her husband’s woolen stormcloak at the water’s edge. She brought her anger. She brought her dead.

While the fog erased the wild seascape, waves exploded against the ocean’s scattered stone teeth, washed wide swaths of pebbles, and sighed into the sand. They carried her father’s whispers from many years past, mornings when he had walked with her along the tide’s edge and dreamt aloud. His bristling grey beard smelled of salt, prickling when he rested his chin on her head. He would place one hand on her shoulder and with the other hold a seashell to her ear. “Hear that?” he’d say. “That’s your very own far-off country. You will walk on ground no one has ever seen. And I’m going to find it for you when I venture out to map the Mystery Sea.”

He had done just that. While Cyndere’s mother, Queen Thesera, stayed home to govern her people within House Bel Amica’s massive swell of stone, King Helpryn discovered islands, sites for future Bel Amican settlements.

A heiress to a throne struggles to tame the beastmen that killed her husband.

The Craft: When I saw that Cyndere’s Midnight was on the blog tour’s schedule, I must admit I groaned inwardly and considered skipping this month. The end of Auralia’s Colors had so thoroughly put me off as a reader, I had no desire to continue the series and would have never read Cyndere’s Midnight, except for this blog tour.

I can now say I’m glad this novel was included. Is the writing perfect? No, but this story’s structure was much more balanced and satisfying than the one in Auralia’s Colors that off-put me so much. It appears that book one acts, as I had wondered, like a drawn-out prologues for the rest of the series.

Like Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight is literary in style, and the prose itself is very vivid and descriptive, with a certain lyrical quality to the way the words are used. This remains the writing’s strongest quality.

The cast of characters is very large for this second book. That wouldn’t be a problem normally, as many of them are returning from book one. But the time lapse caused some confusion for me. But beyond that, readers will be able to identify with complex and well-motivated characters, even though they aren’t the kind you fall in love with.

The plot continues to be the weak spot, in that while Mr. Overstreet builds a wonderfully complex tale, he seems to have difficulty bringing those strands together for a satisfying climax and end. That said, Cyndere’s Midnight is a vast improvement over the first novel. So while the ending is bittersweet, I didn’t walk away feeling like the author betrayed me.

The only other “major” criticism I have of the craft is the couple long flashbacks, which refer back to events that have already occurred within the story. The one in the chapter “Ryllion’s Faith” would be an example. The withholding of that much vital information simply to create suspense feels much like deception, a violation of the unspoken reader-writer pact. Compounding this, those flashbacks then turn into large info dumps, existing primarily to tell the reader about past occurrences—hence breaking the first rule of writing: show, don’t tell.

The Content: Cyndere’s Midnight mirrors the content of Auralia’s Colors. While this novel is not as dark or graphic as book one (or so it seemed), this remains very much an adult fantasy. The topics are more mature and some scenes are quite intense as they deal with war, murder, and other such things.

The spiritual thread remains deeply buried, even as the presence of the Keeper grows. There is also talk of moon-spirits and we meet some of the “seers” that serve them, but the story portrays them as a false religion, especially the farther you get into the story. More troubling is the mixed portrayal of Cyndere’s calling for the spirits of dead family members (they don’t show up, though) and the burning of items associated with them. It is possible, however, that I missed certain clues about this in my reading, that this will be dealt with more thoroughly in later books, or that the author intentionally left this vague, perhaps for characterization of Cyndere.

Themes are as numerous as the characters. Redemption’s reach, prejudice, and addictions are all topics wrestled with among these pages.

The supernatural elements are more clearly defined in this book. Most of the time the “magic” handled by the protagonists are portrayed as simple gifts given, like a musical ability, which are strengthened by following the Keeper.

Summary: Cyndere’s Midnight is a story that requires discernment. This is not bad or wrong. The result, however, is that certain people should avoid reading this tale: kids under sixteen, new Christians, and those needing clearly defined spiritual or magical elements. Also, this style is not highly recommended for readers who prefer fast-paced, high-action stories.

But if you like complex tales or prefer great prose, Cyndere’s Midnight might just be the tale for you.

Rating: Content—2, Writing—4, Overall—4.3

Find my review for Auralia's Colors (book 1) here and Raven's Ladder (book 2) here, or order Cyndere's Midnight here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a balanced review.