Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: Cyndere's Midnight


The thread that began in Auralia's Colors continues through book two, Cyndere's Midnight. Since book three just came out, and since I've finally met the author (who works on campus and was a classmate with my wife back in the 90's) and we've become friends, it was high time to catch up on the series.

The innovative nature of Auralia's Colors continues in this one. Just as Auralia's Colors both was and wasn't an introductory "fantasy" novel, Cyndere's Midnight both is and isn't a "Beauty and the Beast" story set in the same world. Overstreet's writing is very different from the rest of the fantasy genre. The most important thing is the characters (rarely so in other books in which the characters have all been cribbed from Joseph Campbell's notes), and the narrative viewpoint is more episodic and cinematic, sometimes starting in surprising places and leaving more for the reader to figure out on his own. It took me about half of the first book to start to "get" what was going on because of these differences from the genre. Overstreet's voice is richer and demands slower reading than most (all?) other fantasy novels, and even for this one it took me a quarter of the book to remember "how" to read it. (I guess that means I'm finally able to learn.) There's definite improvement and I'd say the sophomore jinx has been avoided. The narrative drive has strengthened, and there's also some very inventive battle scenes near the end.

My favorite part has to be one of the cultures Overstreet created that we really see for the first time here, an incisive depiction of a scary and powerful moon-worshiping cult. There's some subversive wit here in that I found myself laughing at not because it was silly or funny, but because it was so accurate and yet so outlandish -- the best kind of laughter, laughter because the truth hurts. (The author assured me that this culture continues to be important in the next book ... ) I won't say too much because the best way to enjoy this book is not to expect anything and let it surprise you -- and a detailed review might get in the way of that! Also, be sure to start with book one.


Lindsay said...

Hypothetically, if a person read the first book three years ago and remembered the big picture but not the details of the story, would you recommend re-reading it before moving on to the second? Or are the details crucial to understanding what's going on in the sequel? Totally hypothetical.

Ben McFarland said...

Lindsay, It's not really a problem. I'll bet there's a synopsis somewhere that'll jog your memory anyway, but it's been at least a year since I read the first one and the main characters are new to this novel.

Totally hypothetically of course.