**spoiler alert** I think, when one of the main characters dies, it's difficult to like the book again, even if it was enjoyable before. It's easy to...more**spoiler alert** I think, when one of the main characters dies, it's difficult to like the book again, even if it was enjoyable before. It's easy to find all kinds of reasons to hate it - too many plot holes, not enough world building, lots of angst, bad characterization, not enough romance, too much romance... the list of crimes goes on. When you've put such a personal investment into the book, the loss can seem like a slap in the face.
I will try not to be mad about being slapped in the face. Warning: Wall of Text incoming...
So, putting aside the issue of the MC's death, (which I actually thought was well-treated) there were several reasons why I gave this two stars.
#1 I still have questions, some of which are integral to the plot. Like: Why would they make serum into a virus? Once it got into the general population, wouldn't you have to continually inoculate yourself to guard against infection? Like, every day for the rest of your life? Otherwise you could catch it from anyone, anytime, repeatedly. I didn't understand the pathology and I don't understand the decision on either David's or Tris' side to use it.
#2 Roth's worldview ended up being pretty depressing. She seems to be saying that humanity basically sucks, and will always suck, no matter what situation you put it in. All governments are corrupt, power always corrupts, history will always repeat itself. There's not much to redeem humanity, even the sacrifices of good people don't achieve peace. Roth shows us scenario after scenario of abuse, revolt, inequality, and none of it gets resolved. No-one is trying to prove that all people have an equal capacity for good, only that everyone has the equal capacity for evil. While that might be true, I found it one-sided.
#3 Good people don't get what they deserve. Life sucks, get over it, I know, and I don't mind grim-dark stories. But here it wasn't consistent with the previous books, I thought. Here the tone got grittier, angstier, and there wasn't the theme of empowerment lifting it all back up. I suppose the theme was self-sacrifice instead? That would make sense of Tris' character arc and explain why the author wrote the ending that way. And I think then that love was supposed to be the uplift. Except that it wasn't. Tris was self-righteous and judgmental. It wasn't cathartic or redemptive to watch her sacrifice. It was just dark. And that's not even mentioning all the things everyone else lost.
In the end, the cost of a new civilization was very high. And I was left with zero confidence that this time things would work out differently. So it was all for nothing. In light of this, even though the book was good, I can't really say I enjoyed it. So, 2 stars.
But look, you say, not every hero needs rewarding, not every death needs to 'mean something' - real life isn't a fairy tale. But killing someone because 'real heroes are supposed to die' is also unrealistic. It's an oversimplification. It's formulaic, and it forgets that stories are also allegories, and not real life. If the hero must die, it should be part of something bigger, it should advance the plot or the allegory. It shouldn't cut the story short and end the plot. In my opinion at least.
Edit: I feel like I might be the only one, but I actually enjoyed Tobias' viewpoints. Yes, he was irrational and falling apart and not nearly so unflappable as he appeared in Divergent, but I felt like his viewpoints were some of the most honest characterizations in the book. He struggles with himself and in the moments where he gets angry and is in danger of becoming his father I was terrified for him. After that, I'm a little relieved that Tris didn't end up with him. Would she have been safe the rest of her life? I'm not sure. (less)
Smart, ambling introduction to a well developed world of humans vs. dragons. I really enjoyed some aspects of this book, and yet others left me feelin...moreSmart, ambling introduction to a well developed world of humans vs. dragons. I really enjoyed some aspects of this book, and yet others left me feeling like there was a lot of missed potential. Maybe I was expecting a different book.
Good things first: In most humans vs. dragons stories I've read it's been all about the war/fight. Here it's more nuanced than that. There is prejudice, distrust, and a general undercurrent of hatred that shapes the culture of the people without engaging them in war. I thought it was brilliant.
Seraphina is not a whiner. Thank the saints. She mopes, for sure, but she gets over it.
Seraphina and The Love Interest actually share intellectual interests, AND, these interests are not wholly subsumed by later physical interests, but continue to play a role in the relationship even through to the end of the book. OMG. I'm trying to think of another story where the romance does not get sucked down into the "omg-i-want-you-i-need-you" mire. (maybe it will in future episodes? I hope not)
Now to the beats I think were missed: Can I preface this? Seraphina is a story about finding the courage to be who you are. There is nothing wrong with that story. It's very YA and speaks to a younger audience, which apparently isn't me anymore. I was bored by that story. Perhaps I've read it a lot.
What I hoped Seraphina might do in addition is address the cross-cultural conundrum: That she might need to face the problem of trying to live in two worlds at the same time: How she might cope with the expectations of two very different cultures, neither of which she truly fits in. I feel like this is a problem that speaks to more and more people as the world gets smaller... but regardless, there wasn't much about that here. It's mostly presented as a problem of being "truthful" (i.e, hiding or not hiding), which I found a little too simplistic.
Where were the arguments with her father over an acceptable career path (assuming music and marriage were out)? Where were the debates with Orma over behavioral instincts of dragons vs. humans, or the philosophical underpinnings of such beliefs (assuming she really does enjoy philosophy as the text indicates)? In addition to developing character and world, these mini conflicts could have added a whole new dimension to our understanding of what it was to be Seraphina, one more intricate than the simple "they will kill me if they know" imperative. It also might have made her seem less passive in the beginning, but that's another kettle of fish entirely.
There are other things I disliked too - the fact that once the Love Interest was introduced, the book became a romance; the very small role the interesting garden characters played; the self-centeredness of the main character; - These are pet peeves though and probably don't need elaboration.
Overall, a good book and one I would recommend for the YA audience. (less)
Better than #1. I can't say how many things I liked in this one: the music/opera (which could have been a disaster but instead was charming), the clim...moreBetter than #1. I can't say how many things I liked in this one: the music/opera (which could have been a disaster but instead was charming), the climax (which was tense and dramatic and scary, as it should be), the mystery of the briar king and the motives of the church and the fanes and the fae-realm and the powers of Anne Dare, the slimy fascination of the undead prince.
It was all quite surprising. This isn't a Hollywood style block buster of a series, but it has crept up on me. The writing drives forward with every chapter, and it's hard to put down.(less)
Grown-up dragon fun, if you don't expect too much from the historical side. This is a historical fantasy (see that emphasis on fantasy?) with a loosel...moreGrown-up dragon fun, if you don't expect too much from the historical side. This is a historical fantasy (see that emphasis on fantasy?) with a loosely historical flavor. Still, the wartime setting is a nice change from regency or medieval castles etc.
Plus, the relationship between the MC and the dragon is so sweet. It made me chuckle at first to see the straight-laced naval officer calling his battle-thirsty, spike-studded dragon "my dear", then I got over it. Why can't men show affection for their pets too?
I've never been the sort to read for dragons or other mythical creatures, but this book sold me from the beginning. A light and interesting read.(less)