rameau's Reviews > Seraphina

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
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There are roughly two types of fantasy books...

***

No. Wait. Let me try this again. Because I utterly suck at fangirling--examples on how it's done here and here--let me try something new. Try listening to the music while you read. I hope you have your headphones near.

Click.

Also do me a favour, would you, read the blurb first. In fact, let me make it easy for you:

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.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.


***

There are roughly two types of fantasy books: Those that are clearly pagan and those that twist Christianity into something fantastical. In my experience the former are almost always more entertaining.

That is, unless the book was written by Rachel Hartman.

She skipped the monotheism part and just kept the saints with their miracles and virtues. Or that's what it looks like to a secular Evangelical Lutheran. This secular and tone deaf reader also suspects that this was done to keep one of the truly good things that the church promoted:

The music.

It permeates the story. From vocabulary I never had a chance to learn in my own tongue, to plot threads that pad if not carry the story. It's a whole reason for Seraphina's existence and place in society. It's what makes her who she is and determines who she must show herself to.

She has a reason for her reticence. Seraphina's deformity isn't the kind that plagues most young adult novels. She doesn't have tattoos only she thinks are hideous that in fact are gorgeous body art with divine meaning. No, she has scales from her dragon mother and that's a bad thing because majority of both races--the dragons and the humans--would kill and quarter her on sight of them.

That gets us to the really interesting part of the story: The relations between the two races.

Dragons are logical, mathematically inclined and abhor all emotions but love especially. Now, there are two tangents I could go on here. I could emote how much the dragons reminded me of the Vulcans not only because of the fiery planet but because of the technological advances they granted the human race. Or could I detail how the premise of despising love is all too common in modern dystopias and how those authors should read a little more fantasy and scifi to find out how it's really done. But I already did that so I won't. I'll say this though:

I found the dragons significantly less logical than their race description implies on the basis of their persistent refusal to learn to understand humans and their emotions. Then again, it all makes perfect sense, because... Oops. Not spoiling this one. I'll just say one word and let you make of it what you will: Spock.

The little magic that isn't musical comes from the dragon-saarantras transformation. This allows dragons to change their appearance into something resembling human, and facilitated the peace talks four decades prior. Humans and dragons have co-existed for four decades, but just like dragons have their prejudges, so do humans. And the mix is boiling.

Somehow Hartman managed to sketch characters like Kiggs, Glisselda, and Viridius that are more than mere props to a well defined kick-ass heroine who, by the way, doesn't need to be saved every five minutes. Of course there were others like Orma, Eskar, and Ardmagar, but I'm hoping to learn more about them later.

Oh, I almost forgot. There was romance in this story too. A deliciously complex love-triangle I loved until the very last pages where I found the tone distinctly far too hopeful for my taste. I can only hope the second book will deliver in the gut-wrenching, heartrending, achy-all-over angst department.

For me, that's the greatest compliment alongside a well done you can get.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
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Reading Progress

05/15/2012
7.0% ""I was half lawyer; I always noticed the loopholes."" 4 comments
05/15/2012
20.0% ""I believe this is called bravado and is not limited to lawyers, or even men, although that combination makes it almost unavoidable.""
05/16/2012
21.0% "How was she planning to shame her father to let her play if she's always been useless at parties?"

Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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message 1: by Anachronist (new) - added it

Anachronist Sounds like a nice book I would like to read!


rameau It's a good book and the romance is to minimum for most of it. You'd probably like it.


rameau Thanks. I added a couple of links to it.


message 5: by Baba ♥♥♥ Tyler, Marcus, Archer, Dean, Tate, Dan & Hunter (last edited May 18, 2012 07:01AM) (new)

Baba  ♥♥♥ Tyler, Marcus, Archer, Dean, Tate, Dan & Hunter rameau wrote: "Thanks. I added a couple of links to it."

Don't worry, I checked them out. :-)


message 6: by Sandra (new) - added it

Sandra I NEED THIS!!!! Still no response from the publisher... I haz a sad!!


rameau Archer wrote: "Awesome review for an awesome book"

Thanks. Can't believe I'll have to wait a year for more.

Sandra wrote: "I NEED THIS!!!! Still no response from the publisher... I haz a sad!!"

It's coming out in June, so even if the publisher doesn't reply you won't have to wait very long. Believe me, it's worth it though.


Carina Olsen Yay! So glad you loved it. :) Although, I am not agreeing with you at the end. I don't want some awful heartbreak :D Don't want it at all :p Hih. :)


rameau Carina wrote: "Yay! So glad you loved it. :) Although, I am not agreeing with you at the end. I don't want some awful heartbreak :D Don't want it at all :p Hih. :)"

But think of how much sweeter all that lovely angst will make the pay off. Really. Suffering always makes everything better.


Carina Olsen rameau wrote: "Carina wrote: "Yay! So glad you loved it. :) Although, I am not agreeing with you at the end. I don't want some awful heartbreak :D Don't want it at all :p Hih. :)"

But think of how much sweeter a..."


True. I might be able to deal with some angst. I just don't want that part where they are apart for a loong time. :)


rameau Carina wrote: "True. I might be able to deal with some angst. I just don't want that part where they are apart for a loong time. :) "

I'm hoping there'll be enough plot to distract us from their separation.


Carina Olsen rameau wrote: "Carina wrote: "True. I might be able to deal with some angst. I just don't want that part where they are apart for a loong time. :) "

I'm hoping there'll be enough plot to distract us from their s..."


Hmm, yes. It might be okay if there is that. But there must be a lot of plot, then ;p


rameau Carina wrote: "Hmm, yes. It might be okay if there is that. But there must be a lot of plot, then ;p "

Judging by this book that won't be a problem.


Carina Olsen rameau wrote: "Carina wrote: "Hmm, yes. It might be okay if there is that. But there must be a lot of plot, then ;p "

Judging by this book that won't be a problem."


Yeah, that is true :D The plot in this book was really, really good. Excited to see what will happen next. :)


message 15: by Anachronist (new) - added it

Anachronist Suffering always makes everything better.

Yes, yes, I want this book!




rameau Anachronist wrote: "Suffering always makes everything better.

Yes, yes, I want this book! "


You really like that gif, don't you.


Helen *sigh* Now I'm not sure if I should read it.
See, I had an idea for a novel with human form-assuming dragons and half-dragons with music involved prominently. Now I fear that if I ever finish and publish it it will look like a knockoff.
Or that if I read this, I will be tempted to borrow some parts.

Still, no way to prove I haven't read it later on, so...I'm waiting for July. (That's when it comes here.)Hope it's worth it.


rameau Helen wrote: "Still, no way to prove I haven't read it later on, so...I'm waiting for July. (That's when it comes here.)Hope it's worth it."

If you're still deciding, these two are the best critical reviews I've read for this book. Beware of spoilers though.


message 19: by Helen (last edited May 19, 2012 12:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Helen rameau wrote: "Helen wrote: "Still, no way to prove I haven't read it later on, so...I'm waiting for July. (That's when it comes here.)Hope it's worth it."

If you're still deciding, these two are the best critic..."


Thanks! I saw one of those. (Though I skimmed through the spoiler-y parts, so didn't read them thoroughly.) I will give it a try...though not sure if I can dish out the money for the hardback. Might wait a little.


message 20: by Anachronist (new) - added it

Anachronist rameau wrote: "You really like that gif, don't you."

It used to be my beloved avatar :) I love those black-and- whte movies with Laurel and Hardy.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh, excellent review. This describes exactly how I felt about the religion and music aspects of the book.


rameau Madame X wrote: "Oh, excellent review. This describes exactly how I felt about the religion and music aspects of the book."

Thank you. I was pretty much speechless after I finished reading this book. When I can't speak, there's music, but I'm not that musical. I had to ask help for picking some of these pieces.


Blodeuedd Finland oh pooh, just saw a review and thought hm..then I find your review so no scoundrels for us then


rameau Blodeuedd wrote: "oh pooh, just saw a review and thought hm..then I find your review so no scoundrels for us then"

I missed this for some reason. We could still do a scoundrels read for this if the discussion format takes.


message 25: by Deyse (new) - added it

Deyse (Deyse Says) I have this book sitting on my shelf for so long ugh need to read this.


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