Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: Seraphina

Originally my last review of the year was going to be volumes 5 and 6 of Kieli (yes not only  did I finally get both of them but I found time to read them as well!) and I didn't think I'd have a chance to read this book until 2013. But unexpectedly one of my libraries had a copy of this, I got it out, and then proceeded to read it over a day and a half this. This was impressive because not only is the book around 460 pages (which even for me is a bit thick) but those two days were Christmas Eve and Christmas Day where between the two of them I spent over 10 hours in parties and another couple of hours each day getting to/helping prepare for each. So I didn't just read this book fast, I read this book fast for me and I think that alone says something about how I liked it.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Summary: In the country of Goredd there has been a tenuous peace agreement between humans and the dragons for 40 years which seems threatened nearly every day due to a lack of understanding of each side. For Seraphina the peace is even more important for her than most, her mother was a dragon (a fact her father didn't know until she bled silver blood while she died giving birth to Seraphina) and her father human making her a hybrid and a fact she hides every day. There seems to be no upsides to her strange parentage and it only seems to have given her terrible headaches and strange mental landscapes to attend to, hardly a desirable thing. But with dignitaries from both sides gathering to celebrate the treaty she'll simply have to deal with everything while trying her best to stay out of the dangerous politics that it seems like she was born into.

The Good: Now THIS is what people should do if they want a medieval-Europe inspired setting! Goredd isn't a dressed up and renamed England or France, it's an original setting which draws heavily inspiration from real world culture (such as the music and the idea of Saints) without falling into some of the traps ("noooo you can't have women with power in a middle ages setting, wait almost all of the named royals are female? Well, everyone has to be whit-oh hell side characters from other countries and clearly described to be not-white!"). The story makes use of it's large page count to create a fairly detailed plot with multiple subplots that come together by the end (like a calmer version of Diana Wynne Jones' books) and there is plenty of politicking and scheming to make me happy. In these ways it feels like a rather mature young adult book, I can easily see that if just a few things were changed that it could be a work of adult fiction. That isn't to say that it should be an adult fiction book, it's simply a book that I think has more crossover appeal than others. 

The Bad: There were some points where it felt like Lucian, who can be a bit touchy but isn't hot tempered, got mad (or madder) at Seraphina than he should've just for the sake of advancing the plot but even then you could come up with a realistic reason for that (being in charge of all the security for the peace treaty celebration will make anyone cranky). I also had a bit of a hard time buying that Princess Glisselda was only 15, she does act like a 15 year old a lot of the time but there are other times when she was too wise beyond her years (which is something I could say for a lot of characters in young adult books actually, so while a bit frustrating it was something I could easily deal with and did half expect).

So I happily give this book four out of five stars, would buy it, and I'm hoping that there is in fact going to be a sequel. There was a note in one of the appendixes which lead me to think so but honestly I won't be crushed if there isn't. Yes there is so much more plot that could happen but after spending this much time with the characters I can see how they could further develop so even if there's not a sequel I can easily imagine how it would have gone down. For those interested there's a prologue which fills in one or two details and gives you a good feel for what the characters and the book is like. 

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