Monday, February 16, 2009

Cyndere's Midnight - Day 1

Cyndere's Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet is the featured novel in the February Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour. Cyndere's Midnight is the second in The Aurelia Thread series, the first of which is Aurelia's Colors, both published by WaterBrook Press, under the Random House umbrella.

The Thread books have intriguing, attractive covers, always good when trying to drag readers' attention away from all the other possibilities on the bookstore shelves. In his blog on, Overstreet states the following:
Many of you have asked "Why was this categorized as 'Christian fiction' in the bookstore?" My answer: I don't know. I'm grateful that some bookstores are shelving it in the general Fantasy/Science Fiction section, because it isn't "Christian fiction." It's fiction. It's fantasy. I'm always pleased when I see it shelved in the same section of the store where you'd find books by my favorite fantasy authors: Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Mervyn Peake, Robin McKinley, Frank Herbert, and... of course... Professor Tolkien. In fact, one of my primary motivations in writing fantasy is to offer a "thank you" to those authors who have inspired me so much.
I'm with him. I may be a Christian, and there may be Christian themes in my work as a natural part of who I am, but I want readers--any readers, regardless of their system of beliefs--to enjoy my stories because they're good stories, not because they're sermon material.

Before Cyndere's Midnight, I hadn't read Overstreet's work, so I didn't have any expectations except those that any avid reader does: Tell me a good story.

I opened my copy and saw a map--gotta love maps!--with an interesting scape and cool names, then I read the intriguing prologue, the first chapter that introduces the reader to Cyndere and her husband, among other characters, and was pleased and hopeful that this was a book I'd read in one sitting.

That was several days ago. As of the writing of this post (February 11), I'm just over 100 pages in, I'm distracted, and I'm bored. The writing is good--the man knows how to compose a poetic sentence or construct a compelling image, and there are characters I want to know better--but I think I've found a writer who suffers from one of my failings: a literary game of Sardines, cramming too many characters into too small a space.

I don't know who to care about, or why. There seems to be a lot of backstory, too, but little of it that we get to see, and there are gaps in the action; we're told later what happened, but we don't get to experience it. Perhaps some of it was covered in Aurelia's Colors, in which case readers who are familiar with that novel may not be bothered at all by what I perceive as missed opportunities.

In an effort to find out if it's just me and not the book, I did a little reading-up on other readers' reactions. There is a large amount of glowing commentary on the novels, but there are a few less-than-overwhelmed readers whose reviews let me know that I'm not alone in wishing the story had a tighter focus.

All is not lost. I'm going to continue reading in hope that there are rewards waiting for the patient reader.

Check out other opinions and reviews at the blogs listed below:
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Wade Ogletree
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Alice M. Roelke
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Fred Warren
Jill Williamson


Robert Treskillard said...

Great review, and DEFINITELY keep going! I personally didn't notice the shortcoming you did, but then I've read Auralia's Colors.

Without having read that, I could see how some of it would be mystifying if not frustrating.

Keep reading!

BooksforLife said...

I liked your review, too!
The expert from Mr. Overstreet's blog was interesting. I never knew he thought that way and I just accepted the fact that his books were found in Christian Fiction without a second thought.

Amydeanne said...

good review. and nice quote from Jeff's blog.
i've had a bit of a hard time getting into this book myself, so your review made a lot of sense to me!

Brandon Barr said...

Thanks for the review Deanne. And your warning about cramming to many characters into one story is a good one. It's difficult to pull off. As I begin my next book, I need to keep this in mind being that its going to have multiple POV's. The fewer the better.


Robert - I finished the book, and I'm glad I did.

Books - I've often wondered if we Christian fiction writers who whinge about CSFF not being as accepted as we like is not because of the "Christian" label but because of the fact we didn't present a good enough product, one well-written and interesting enough for the public to read?

Amy - Welcome to the "Readers with ADD" support group! The story did finally grab me, though, and I discuss it in my second post on the book.

Brandon - I have multiple POV characters, too, but all with limited 3rd person, so the reader and the character only know what the character's own senses and thoughts reveal.

Jason said...

Hey, I wanted to say that I really agreed with you when you talked about the value of good stories. I'm working on a post about that based off some comments on this tour - hopefully I can finish it today.

I'm glad you stuck the book out. Auralia's Colors is actually a little less cohesive than Cyndere, but still a good quality read.