Day Two, on with the review…
Being the second book of a series, Cyndere’s Midnight has to overcome some of the usual handicaps faced by such stories. It has to be a complete story, in and of itself, while at the same time continuing the tale begun by its predecessor and setting the stage for the next story. It’s not introducing a shiny new world no one’s seen before, and it’s not going to end with a fully-satisfying sense of closure. The story also has to bring readers who missed the first book (like me) up to speed while keeping fans of the first book engaged.
Cyndere’s Midnight is, to my mind, mostly about passing the torch. Auralia the artist/weaver began a quiet revolution in the world of Auralia’s Colors, and now it’s up to Cyndere, King Cal-raven of Abascar, Rescue the ale boy, and Jordram the beast-man to carry on her work, countering the encroaching evil and bringing harmony back to the Expanse. Along the way, Cyndere comes to terms with her sorrow, Cal-raven learns to accept the responsibility of being a king, Rescue finds his purpose in life, and Jordam begins to recover his humanity. Any of these threads could be a novel all by itself, and they intertwine with each other. The result is that there is a lot going on in this story, and it’s hard sometimes to know where to focus one’s attention. There are other sub-plots that begin to form, then recede into the background, perhaps to surface again in the next installment.
There are a lot of unresolved mysteries in this story–the fate of Auralia, the identity of the monstrous (yet strangely benevolent) Keeper, the nature and source of the evil, mutagenic Essence and the medicinal water and blue flowers at Auralia’s well outside Tilianpurth. There’s much discussion of the enigmatic Northchildren, but they make no appearance here, and though Jordam and his brothers talk incessantly about their Cent Regus chieftain, Skell Wra, he remains offstage, even in his own lair. All the mystery gets a little frustrating at times, but I think this is primarily a function of Cyndere’s Midnight being a transitional story in a series.
The characters are complex, and they all have their quirks and faults. No “plaster saints” in this book–they’re all human beings (or at least partly human) wrestling with very human failings and problems. I complained a little in my review of last month’s book about a lack of female presence in that story. Not a problem here. The ladies hold their own, and more, with the men. Cyndere and her confidante, Emeriene, are strong, confident, and resourceful. There are also many female soldiers in the Bel Amican and Abascar armies. If there’s a lack in characterization, it’s in the villainry. The cloth-swathed Pretor Xa is the lone representative of the sinister Seers, and since Steve Rice has already taken the expression, “better living through chemistry,” I’ll just have to say that Pretor Xa reminded me instantly of Mumm-Ra from the old Thundercats cartoon series. Hmm…he mostly hung out with mutant beast-men too.
Sorry, ghosts of my misspent youth pop up every now and then. 🙂
Overstreet describes the world of the Expanse in lavish detail. Many of the flora and fauna are familiar to us, others are totally alien. I particularly enjoyed the tetherwings, the tame little watchdog birds that Cyndere employs to warn her of danger. At times, though, there were so many new creatures running about, it became a bit overwhelming.
There are many strong themes running through the story–forgiveness, redemption, perseverence, courage, and the costs required of those who oppose evil, as well as the consequences of embracing it.
The result of all this detail and complex plot and thematic content is a very dense story. This is not “short attention span theater.” It asks for focused reading and deep thought. Sometimes the weight of the story slows it down. There’s a pretty cool battle scene near the end, but if you’re looking for a slam-bang actioner, you’ll be disappointed. Cyndere’s Midnight is a journey, and it’s often arduous and emotionally draining, but it’s a trip worth taking.
Tomorrow, reactions to what other folks on the tour are saying about Cyndere’s Midnight.
For more commentary on Cyndere’s Midnight, please visit the other fine sites on this month’s tour:
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Todd Michael Greene
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Alice M. Roelke
Rachel Starr Thomson
>>This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<