Rachel Hartman's Seraphina is one of those books that start slow and then increasingly worm their way (pardon the pun) into your mind with an utterly...moreRachel Hartman's Seraphina is one of those books that start slow and then increasingly worm their way (pardon the pun) into your mind with an utterly compelling, multi-layered, multi-faceted, and unique world building. The human society seems inspired by the Renaissance, but without taking any real world setting one on one. However, the world building doesn't end there, but also explores dragon society - or should I say dragon societies? - which not only is decidedly different but apparently in parts technologically more advanced. (view spoiler)[For example, the dragons possess technological communications gear with functions similar to mobile phones as wearables when in they're in human form. (hide spoiler)]. Forty years ago, Seraphina's country and the ardmagar of the dragons formed a peace treaty, allowing coexistence (including diplomatic hassles on all sides!) of dragons, dragons, and humans. Basically, everything happening now is based on this event and the wanted and unwanted opportunities it created, down to the heroine's very own life and talent. The story is one of music and talent, fear, shame, prejudice, courage, love, and finding one's way in a society that is changing a lot faster than its rulers understood it would based on their decisions. It is written in fluent, beautifully worded language that adds depth not only to the feeling and the setup of the story, but to the reading experience itself. So many books these days are written in simple prose, only retelling but not immersing into their tale. In that regard, Seraphina stands positively out. It is also one of the few examples of limited first person perspective being skillfully used to further the reading experience instead of escaping description. In all these aspects above, it is a straight out five star book, highly recommended to spend your time on! I most certainly hope for a continuation of the plot! I absolutely want to know how their tale continues!
That said, I have to explain the four (rather than a five) star rating given, unfortunately, this does not work spoilerfree, so decide yourself if you want to know more about dragon technology / philosophy or not prior your reading experience.
(view spoiler)[The dragons, when taking their human form and living in human cities, use sophisticated technology developed for the -compared to dragon bodies- limited human body. Technology forbidden to the less advanced humans around them. But when they are in their dragon form, they are described entirely in terms of the highly intelligent blundering beasts of lore, living in caves, hoarding gold, shitting -albeit fastidiously- in the woods.
The dragons developed their ability to take human form a long time ago to allow for research and the gathering of knowledge, resulting in their mastery of the intricate communication (and I assume other) devices helping them in human form. And in all that time they didn't think about adapting this technology for use with their dragon form? They don't take advantage of it in war, when they're attacked by what amounts to Medieval knights with flame throwers?
Fastidious and nitpicky as they're described they still just shit in a valley or pothole instead of devising a dragon-sized water closet? They limit themselves to technological marvel only useful in their human form, a shape the ardmagar, the very instigator of the peace treaty, didn't use for years!? No hoard with central heating, automatic cataloging of the content, electronic alarms against thieves, and properly sized amenities?
Once this occurred to me about halfway through the book, I hoped for an explanation - or at least a hint of that "logical crack" being acknowledged - maybe as part of the dragons' philosophy regarding staying close to their very nature or something like that, but it wasn't addressed at all, and given that we get glimpses of dragon society through dragon eyes (albeit in memory), there would have been ample opportunity to do so. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Wounded by Lindsay Buroker is an entertaining contemporary mystery/romance. The book starts slow, with the first 35% pretty much spent on setting up t...moreWounded by Lindsay Buroker is an entertaining contemporary mystery/romance. The book starts slow, with the first 35% pretty much spent on setting up the stage, the characters, and the details required for the events happening at a breakneck pace in the rest of the book. Overall, the setting is believable, the two main characters likeable (though I couldn't keep myself from searching for similarities to LB's heroes from other books), and the mystery/crime and involved science is brought to good use. For those who may be put off by the slow start: yes, there are LB's trademark explosions later on. ;)
The one flaw that caused the loss of the fifth star (and would have cost another half one, if GoodReads would allow half ones) is in the character of Sam. Sam's character, her motivations, and the reason for her behavior aren't given or hinted at, despite her playing the role of antagonist in the beginning of the book. She comes over almost as flat, one-dimensional, as if written solely to be disliked and despite her role and the importance of her actions in the finish, there's no conclusion to that thread either. Yes, it works out for the plot, but Sam's response to that is completely omitted, leaving a dangling thread in an otherwise well-rounded tale. I seriously would have wished to have her equally well fleshed out as the rest of the cast. (less)