Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Rant: Seraphina

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Firstly, thanks to Krispy and Alz for the rec. Secondly, hell yeah, epic fantasy! If we have to have a trending creature of the year, let it be dragons and not vampires or werewolves or any of that tripe. Dragons are awesome. And the dragons in SERAPHINA are extra awesome, because they're shape shifters.

Obviously, I loved this book. I felt such a sense of fulfillment at the end, which I have not felt for many books this summer, even the ones I liked. But this one was rich and delicious and like a big, indulgent slice of chocolate cake.

I've really backed off on fantasy lately, and I think that's sometimes because I feel as if the characters are not always so developed and tend to be cardboard cutouts of what you'd expect in a Quest Type Book. This book, luckily, did not fall under that category. The characters are wonderfully multi-dimensional, and I found myself enjoying getting to know them and being around them. This may be an odd comparison to some, but to me, the book had the style of Ella Enchanted. And not only because Kiggs reminded me of Prince Char. It was because the characters were so delightful and well-rounded and temperamental, and like actual people. Seraphina, of course, was a spectacular main character, no two ways about it. Princess Glisselda surprised me with how she grew throughout the novel. And all the side characters impressed as well.

The book is a cool hybrid of fantasy and mystery, as in the heart of the book lies a murder plot. Just to be clear, though, this is not one of those fantasy books that's like YAH, EPIC BATTLE AFTER EPIC BATTLE. The truly action-packed scenes are far and few in between. I get the impression the author does not particularly enjoy writing them. It's not anything to the detriment of the book, but it might be, if you're expecting a traditional world-war style epic fantasy.

SERAPHINA is not without its flaws. The pacing is not ideal. By which I mean, I don't think anything in the book plot-wise interested me until after page 300. Yeah. I read 300 pages in which Nothing of Serious Import happened. (To be fair, things happened, they just weren't things that were terribly Urgent or Gripping.) By around page 180, I felt sort of gypped. I was like, central conflict??? I need it! Your world is good and cool Rachel Hartman, but I'm done with this back story shit.

It's not like the 300 pages were lousy to read. Rachel Hartman world-builds (and writes!) like a boss. But. There's a ton of info-dump. And I can't praise the book to high heavens for a good 100 pages of info-dump and 300 pages of slow-moving plot.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend the book, because I don't regret getting through those 300 pages. It was worth it. It was so, so worth it.

So in conclusion, huzzah for SERAPHINA!


All right. This book weirdly reminded me of Inuyasha (in a good way), except replace demons with dragons. Halfsies trying to find their place in the world? People hating all demons/dragons and saying they don't have souls? Main character who cannot come to terms with his/her identity? Full dragon/demon who seems pretty emotionless but actually is a softie on the inside (Sesshoumaru/Orma)?

And speaking of which, I really just needed to out my love for Orma. Because I love him. I love that he's prickly and unintentionally hilarious and also badass as all get out. I WISH he wasn't Phina's uncle. Because that would've been a fun pairing. Kiggs is just too vanilla. He's like Prince Char except less charming and with more angst. Not that there's anything wrong with him, I just am obsessed with men who are emotionally unavailable. Like Sesshoumaru. Yes. And Orma. And Narl from SPINNER'S END by Robin McKinley, because who doesn't love an emotionally unavailable fairy smith?!?! Best love interest ever. This probably explains so many things about me, but I'm over it.

I have to admit, I'm not fond of love triangles, and I'm not fond of this one in particular. Although I like that Kiggs and Seraphina were friends to begin with, it was still sort of weird how she fell for him. Also, Kiggs irritates me sometimes with his bastard angst. It's getting to Jon Snow levels of moping. Man up, dude. (And this is from someone who loves Jon Snow like a crazy loving thing, but that's probably because of Kit Harington. Hey, Kit. Call me.) Furthermore, doesn't seem like much of a competition unless Princess Glisselda has secretly been hiding how she burns with passion for her cousin-fiance, which I didn't get anywhere in the book.

But anyway. Sequel? Let's get that rolling out soon. Because I needs it.


  1. LOL, I love your rant and YAY I'm glad you loved it! I agree with you that the pacing is probably the biggest sticking point with this book. That and it's dense. I would've liked more forward action as well, but all in all, I am absolutely gaga over the worldbuilding. Like you, I'm a little frustrated with the YA fantasy I've been reading because of the lack of depth. They're fine and fun on the surface, but I feel like I'm constantly wishing for MORE or like if you poke at the worldbuilding a little, some of the stuff just doesn't make sense - or it doesn't seem like that much thought was put into it. I don't get this at all with SERAPHINA. It's a fully functional, fleshed out world!

    As for ORMA, oh goodness how much did I love him?! A LOT. I too have a weakness for emotionally unavailable dudes who are unintentionally hilarious and totally badass. Heart heart heart. Let's have MORE Orma.

    I'm actually okay with this love triangle, though I agree Phina's falling for Kiggs was a little...uh...clunky? I agree that in terms of emotions, there doesn't seem to be much competition because I also didn't get that Glisselda was harboring any secret affections. BUT I kinda like that the love triangle has this kind of different dynamic. Like it's a love triangle that has consequence. They can't be together because of Duty but also because of Friendship - and I like that they acknowledge their feelings but do the right thing and say they can't be together while he's still engaged to Glisselda. Like I like that the love triangle angst isn't about OH, WHO DO I BELONG WITH? and more about these other things.


    1. I do prefer love triangles where it's not eminently obvious who the last couple standing will be. Like, in Twilight? Who really thought Bella would go for Jacob? It's obvious it was Edward the whole time.

      Then again, I sort of thought it was obvious that Katniss would go for Peeta the whole time too ...

      I read somewhere that the sequel is coming out in 2013? But that sounds suspiciously soon for such a big book, idk.

    2. Totally agree! I felt like the Bella/Jacob thing was so manufactured. Sure, HE had feelings for HER, but I never bought for a second that she had anything BUT platonic feelings for him. It was so obviously Edward.

      For HG, I thought the love triangle was heavily weighted in favor of Peeta too. I thought Collins did a good job showing that Katniss cares about both guys and that her feelings for Gale are very strong, but yeah I always thought Peeta had the edge (much as I adore Gale). He gets more page-time for one.

      And yep, goodreads says expected pub for the sequel is 2013. Maybe it's late 2013???

    3. Team Peeta, ftw! I was neutral toward Gale until Book 3 when he became full-on douche.

      I'm really hoping Goodreads is not lying to us. Add that to the other books I'm anticipating in 2013: ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER and the sequel to THE NAME OF THE STAR. I feel like there's other 2013 stuff I can't remember, but it already bodes well!

    4. LOL, I'm actually Team Gale! But not in the sense that I thought he and Katniss should've ended up together. I was just really into Gale - except when he lost his shit in Book 3, but even then I couldn't say I was surprised...or that I blamed him really... :P

      Yes! I have so many books I'm excited for in 2013!

  2. Omg, Kiggs totally reminded me of Prince Char, too! Because they both got super mad they were lied to and they're not very forgiving. And I also agree that Char >>> Kiggs. I didn't like Kiggs very much. Angsty, yes, but also that scene where he was all up in Seraphina's business about who she was or wasn't romantically involved with just really turned me off him. So that made me not particularly fond of their romance/love triangle.

    AND YES ORMA IS SO AWESOME! Definitely the best character in the book.

    Basically I'm so glad to have someone who felt some of the same things I felt about this book, even if ultimately you loved it and I didn't, haha. :)