Cyndere’s Midnight is the second book in Jeffrey Overstreet’s series, The Auralia Thread. In the first book, Auralia’s Colors, we were introduced to the magical Auralia, the conflicted Prince Cal-Raven, and the nameless, unassuming ale boy. Now Cyndere’s Midnight takes us away from House Abascar all the way to House Bel Amica, where heiress Cyndere loses the men she loves and must choose between giving up on life or following the seemingly hopeless dream she once shared with her husband: taming the beastmen who killed him.
New faces and stories
Cyndere’s Midnight is populated by characters barely mentioned in Auralia’s Colors. The main characters — Cyndere, Emeriene the Sisterly, Ryllion the guard, Mordafey and Jordam the beastmen — are entirely new. A few familiar faces make reappearances, like Cal-Raven and the ale boy, but the real, emotional storyline wholeheartedly belongs to Cyndere and Jordam. Cal-Raven and the ale boy are only used to drive the plot forward.
I have mixed feelings about these new characters. Cyndere and Jordam are certainly more believable and relatable than Auralia, and their relationship is fascinating and complex – all positive changes from the first book. At the same time, however, the enormous jump from Auralia’s Colors to Cyndere’s Midnight was unexpected and unsettling. Some of the conflicts in Auralia’s Colors are left unresolved at the end, but these conflicts are still only briefly addressed in Cyndere’s Midnight. I missed the first book’s focus on the ale boy and Cal-Raven, even as I was happy that Auralia had taken a backseat.
Villains: good or bad?
Most of the villains in Cyndere’s Midnight are beastmen. Addicted to a dangerous substance called Essence and bloodthirsty to the point of complete stupidity, these beastmen are unable to string a full sentence together and seem to spend most of their time on slobbering and infighting. With the exception of Jordam, the beastmen are shallow characters and, due to their low, animal intelligence, they don’t make very satisfying villains. For one thing, they are just so plain dense that, if it weren’t for their size and numbers, they’d pose no threat at all. For another, the beastmen’s evilness either stems entirely from the influence of Essence, or from the mere fact that they’re beastmen, who are generally understood to be evil. These facts prevent Overstreet from exploring the darkness of human nature and choices, since Overstreet can instead handily point to other causes that explain his beastmen’s flaws.
There are also some villainous humans, whose names I’ll keep secret since they would spoil the story. One of these human villains is believable and fleshed out fairly well, but the other – the really evil one – is completely unexamined. We have no idea what his motives are or how he came to be the way he is. My hope is that this villain will become clearer in the next two books of the series, and that Cyndere’s Midnight is just meant to be a mysterious introduction of the man.
The writing takes a while to get going
Jeffrey Overstreet’s writing is, like last time, enjoyable and poetic. Unfortunately, however, I found his penchant for metaphors overwhelming at the beginning, and even though I was immediately drawn to Cyndere, it was still difficult to feel her emotions through the heavy veil of symbolic language. And even though it’s no secret that her father, brother, and husband are all taken from her by the beastmen – that’s all mentioned in the book’s blurb – Cyndere’s Midnight still insists on describing each death for several pages. The book would have been much improved had Overstreet started Cyndere’s story after all of the men’s deaths and instead jumped right into the action.
On only a tangentially related note, the Christian symbolism is more obvious in Cyndere’s Midnight than in Auralia’s Colors. The Christian element still isn’t overbearing and rarely bothered me while reading, but for those of you allergic to religion, you may want to keep this in mind when deciding whether to start the series.
Why should you read this book?
If you enjoyed Auralia’s Colors, you will likely enjoy Cyndere’s Midnight – but just a little less. The characters, while generally more appealing than those from Auralia’s Colors, are still entirely new and may prove a bit of a shock to anyone expecting more about Auralia, the ale boy, or Cal-raven. However, despite the new characters, and despite the shoddy villains so far, Overstreet’s vision for the series is still obviously guiding the plot’s progress. By the end, you’ll start to see promising threads from Auralia’s Colors weave into Cyndere’s Midnight, and I am still eager to see what new surprises Overstreet will reveal in book three, Raven’s Ladder.