Images – Cyndere’s Midnight 3

Much has been said by other CSFF bloggers about the beauty of Jeffrey Overstreet’s writing. They’re right. Even Publishers Weekly, reviewing Auralia’s Colors, called his writing “precise and beautiful.”

But what makes writing truly beautiful? It starts in the roots, in the word choices themselves, in the rhythms as they grow into something more. And it leads to greater things — to characters, to conversations, to story itself. To images that don’t fade.

Cyndere's MidnightIn my first post of this month’s tour, I said that Overstreet’s writing would leave readers with memories. Now that I’ve finished Auralia’s Colors and am partway through Cyndere’s Midnight, I still think it’s true. And not least among those memories will be certain images — images that stand out starkly, beautiful in their own strange ways, meaning different things to different readers.

In “The Heiress and the Oceandragon,” Cyndere mourns her dead by the fog-enshrouded ocean when she hears panicked cries that an oceandragon has been sighted.

“Cyndere!” they were calling into the mist. “Heiress! Where is she?”

The sound of their panic blew past.

Cyndere splashed out  of the tide.

There it was. A jagged line of darkness ahead, like a mountain range. As it took on detail, she heard its hollow groaning.

The oceandragon’s gargantuan form loomed, its snout resting on sand, head large enough to swallow a herd of wild tidehorses. The fog withdrew, and she could see the spiked tip of its tail curling about and resting on the sand beside her, ten times the size of the harpoons her father had hurled at seawraiths and horned whales.

But then the scene turns and becomes one of those images, one of those clear, strange visions that means something. I’ve read far beyond this chapter, but this image remains.

She stood still, waited for the dragon to writhe and twist and thrash down upon her. “Is this what took you down into the sea?” she whispered to her father. “Is this what you saw as the ship came apart?”

The fog thinned.

The oceandragon’s eyes were hollow, the head but a skull. Its sides did not heave; they were no more than rows of towering ribs. Its tail, a chain with links of bone. Perhaps it had been dead an age. The sea had carried it into the inlet by night and cast it onto the shore, having taken every scrap of its flesh, offering up its unbreakable skeleton.

That reverberating moan — it was only the wind moving through the skull’s cavities.

“Beautiful,” she said.

As writers, as readers, what do images mean to you? I’m not simply talking about description, but about those moments in description that suddenly stand in sharp relief, that linger, that turn into memory, that mean things. Imagery is as old as words, and a single image can tell more than pages and pages of them — the cracked Stone Table in Aslan’s How; the “shadow of his wings” in David’s Psalms; a barren mountainside I vividly remember from George MacDonald’s Heather and Snow, where a boy went out to walk with the Bonny Man and the angels.

Images may be beautiful or strange or frightening, or all three at once, as I think the image of the oceandragon’s skeleton is. You who have long been readers: what images still linger in you?






6 responses to “Images – Cyndere’s Midnight 3”

  1. […] I read Auralia’s Colors and Cyndere’s Midnight during my second CSFF blog tour (here’s one of my Cyndere posts) and am thoroughly hooked on the series, both for the story and for the sheer beauty of the […]

  2. Jason Avatar

    Heh, I can’t think of an image off the top of my head, now that I’m challenged! I made it a point to go through all of the “top blogger” nominees and leave comments. I must say everyone did a great job, including your comments here. I enjoyed what you had to share, and thought there was good insight into the imagery. I only wished you had finished Cyndere before the tour ended (not that I haven’t done that before).

    Anyway, keep up the good work, and I’ll keep my eye out here from now on.


  3. Leigh Avatar

    Images that linger…
    From “The Lord of the Rings”:
    When the Rohirrim arrive on Pelennor Fields
    When Frodo sees the fallen statue of the king crowned again
    When Sam carries Frodo up the mountain

    From your book, “Taerith”:
    When Taerith proposes to Mirian

    From “That Hideous Strength”:
    Ransom and Merlin’s first meeting

    There seems to be an added richness to those passages that linger in the mind. You do more than see what is happening. You feel it too. I love it when I’m reading a book and come across such a passage.

  4. Janice Campbell Avatar

    Many good books leave images that over time have transformed into “almost-memories.” From George MacDonald’s Back of the North Wind, I’m soaring high, seeing the earth from a birds-eye view. From Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, I bask in heat reflected from the centuries-old stones of the terrace, breathing the mingled scents of rosemary, lavender, and dust. From Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, I stand with Lily Bart in the kitchen of a poor woman, and feel the love and contentment that transcends the gritty poverty.

    These images are so vivid, they are almost memories with all the accompanying sensory experiences. Oddly, it’s rarely the moment of climax in a book that leaves these lingering impressions–it’s just an odd moment that somehow ignites a personal spark.

    Very interesting post, Rachel. Thank you!

  5. […] Steve Rice ? Crista Richey ? Alice M. Roelke ??? Chawna Schroeder ? James Somers ??? Rachel Starr Thomson ??? Robert Treskillard ?? Steve Trower ? Speculative Faith […]

  6. Rebecca LuElla Miller Avatar

    Rachel, I enjoyed your thoughts on images. Interestingly, in his interview with Robert Treskillard earlier in the week, Jeffrey Overstreet said he starts his stories with an image.

    What are some of my memorable ones? Scarlet O’Hara digging radishes out of the garden at Tara (maybe it wasn’t radishes, but that’s the image I have). Fiver burrowed into his small space in the warren, cowering from those who were bullying him (again, I may have details wrong, but that’s the image). Sam carrying Frodo up the path toward the fires of Mount Doom.

    Yeah, there are some key images that make a book memorable.


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