Cyndere’s Midnight

With “Auralia’s Colors,” Overstreet introduced an expansive and vast world with lush language and a huge cast of characters that were juggled nicely for a premiere novel. In “Cyndere’s Midnight,” Overstreet’s great writing has only gotten better, with a larger cast of characters that are handled more effectively than in the previous book, a deeper delving into the world of Abascar, and a pretty fast moving storyline with plenty of classic bloody fantasy action. There’s romance, lust, betrayal, magic, evil, and a powerful sense of good. It’s an engaging read from start to finish.

There’s several different plotlines that make up the story of the book – the central one being a well-rendered classic beauty and the beast tale, of a beastman named Jordam who awakens from the beastmen’s eternal ravenous walking slumber, thanks to Auralia’s Colors, and meets Cyndere, the heiress who is determined to bring back the Cent Regus house from the deep dark pit into which “The Essence” flung them.

The novel also follows a storyline from the perspective of The Four Brothers (beastmen)- Mordafey, Jorn, Goreth, and Jordam, who want to make a deal with the Cent Regus monsters so they can take over House Abascar and steal all their treasures. Often in fantasy novels, when the writer chooses to write from the perspective of the “bad guys,” it’s done cheaply, where the author merely imprints human characteristics directly onto a beast. But Overstreet shows more attention to detail than this; the way the beastmen speak and the way they act, and their very attitude, are much more than simply the opposite of humans – they’re their own twisted and scarred race.

There’s of course several other small characters spatted through the lot, the more prominent of them being Captain Ryllion, a soldier at Tillianpurth who is willing to do anything to kill the beastmen once and for all; Emerienne, one of Cyndere’s handmaidens and her closest friend; and Pretor Xa, a Seer from Bel Amica with mysterious intentions and a creepily confident always-there grin. And this just scratches the surface. With “Cyndere’s Midnight,” Overstreet has overcome the problem that the first book encountered, where the language took over the characters and detached the reader from the story slightly.

Now, the characters and the language dance together, one rarely overtaking the other, usually balancing out perfectly. When the story is written from the perspective of Jordam, the sentences are written with earthy, lushy, violent tones, appropriate to a beastman, but when we get the perspective of Cyndere, the language is appropriate to that of royalty – Cal-Raven’s perspective usually has a strong tone of pride in House Abascar and a sincere desire to do what’s right – all these different perspectives balance out in a story that takes the reader all around the Great Expanse, and though it’s not unpredictable or ridiculously inventive, it is an extremely well crafted tale that fascinates and enchants and fulfills the promise that “Auralia’s Colors” gave.

Overstreet also threads in dozens of different themes throughout the book, from the obvious beauty and the beast theme to others like finding your calling, the power and danger of human reason and pride, the need to trust in something greater than yourself, and the important task of the stronger needing to help the weak, regardless of personal danger or loss. It undergirds the whole story with strong morality that will cause readers to become thoroughly involved in the large and seemingless endless Expanse. The morality also firmly entrenches “Cyndere’s Midnight” in a world that has some very clear rules and some very clear mysteries that readers will want to learn more about as soon as the book is closed, though unfortunately we’ve got to wait a couple more years till “Cal-Raven’s Ladder” comes out. All right, Mr. Overstreet, we’re waiting…..

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