Cyndere’s Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet

If you like fantasy literature with intelligence and conscience, then look no further.  Auralia’s Colors was Jeffrey Overstreet’s first foray into the world of fiction and it was a moderate success.  The book is not perfect and it was clearly the work of someone finding his voice, but there was plenty to applaud and much to enjoy.  It was the introduction to the world of The Expanse, Auralia, Abascar, Prince Cal-Raven, Beastmen, and many other fantastical yet believable characters and places.  Overstreet is a fan of language and word play, heavy on description and mood.  His strengths were in that arena as opposed to pacing and dramatic muscle.  Not to say that the first book was boring.  Not in the least.  I was captivated by the story and the characters and Overstreet ended the book in a way that made me eager for the next installment.  

Enter Cyndere, Jordam, and a motley crew of new and old characters.  Everything that worked best in Auralia’s Colors is present.  Every shortcoming (and I mean every single one) that was present in the first book is absent.  I have never seen this much improvement in a writer from one book to another.  Stephen Lawhead showed considerable improvement in his writing from The Dragon King trilogy to his next fantasy series, The Pendragon Cycle, but those were more gradual as he improved throughout the Dragon King series.  Overstreet has come of age over night.  I was on the edge of my seat throughout the book and moved to tears at other times.  His writing is poetic without sounding forced or flowery.  His characters are well rounded and really felt three dimensional in Book 2.  The story is epic yet intimate, with the best moments coming in simple, quiet scenes.  The two protagonists, Cyndere (a heartbroken princess) and Jordam (a beastman) are vibrant, alive, and too big for the page.  Jordam in particular is a delight.  He is one part Gollum, one part Kong, one part orc, one part little boy.  He is a multitude of ideas and emotions all fighting for supremacy.  His character drew me in and helped me accept every thing that Overstreet had in store.  The ideas of redemption, grace, free will, and predestination are all handled well without belaboring the point or drawing attention to themselves.  

I whole heartedly recommend this book to anyone that loves a good story.

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