Petrik's Reviews > Seraphina's Lament

Seraphina's Lament by Sarah Chorn
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really liked it
bookshelves: owned-ebooks
Recommended for: Grimdark fans

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

A brutally remarkable and captivating Holodomor-inspired fantasy debut.

Seraphina’s Lament is Sarah Chorn’s debut and it’s the first book in The Bloodlands trilogy. For the purpose of targeting the right reader for this book, I'll start by saying that if you’re not a grimdark enthusiast, you might either want to skip this, or at least prepare yourself for some dark and heavy moments. As for its premise, check out the official blurb on Goodreads/Amazon, the author did a great job setting the stage without spoiling anything.

Starting off strongly with a cannibalism scene, the beautiful darkness in Seraphina’s Lament seldom lets up. There’s really no way around it, Chorn’s obsidian imagination shined through like a glistening black diamond, and I'm a sucker for authors whose passion for the story they have crafted can be truly felt from their writing. Darkness, magic, grief, and rage powerfully filled the pages of this great beginning of a trilogy. Extreme starvation, deadly violence, and horrible slavery; utterly vivid images accompanied the tense moments and as a grimdark fantasy fan, I honestly loved every moment of it. This, however, doesn't mean that there was no break from all the grimness. Beneath all the violence and injustice, Seraphina's Lament, to me, contained very strong and inspiring messages about love, hope, and second chances that were delivered magnificently through the characterizations and even channeled through the magic system.

"Love is the only thing that can kill a person, and keep them alive enough to feel that death at the same time"


The novel features a relatively small cast of characters for high fantasy. With, more or less, only ten important characters to keep track of, the character-driven nature of the story made it feel more intimate to read. None of the character's POVs were ever boring to read; Chorn did a superb job in giving the characters highly distinctive personalities and voices with complex, but realistic motivations. Most of them were morally grey, few of them can be considered truly “virtuous”, but I immensely enjoyed reading every POV and I was thoroughly impressed by the evocative prose (which I'll get into more later) that delivered each character's emotions with strong impact. Seraphina's Yin and Yang relationship with her brother, Neryan; Vadden and Eyad's love/hate feelings for each other; Neryan's poignant connection with his adoptive daughter, Mouse; Vadden's poignant friendship with Amiti; there was simply no dull moments reading about these characters' journey.

"Belief was a terrifying thing, he realized. Give a man a blade forged of purpose and another of belief, and he has all the justification he needs to do anything he wanted.”


One of the main driving forces of the narrative relies on the concept of "You must break before you can Become." Although I can't tell you what Becoming is, this is one aspect which I believe is much better for you to read and find out for yourself. I can tell you with confidence that it was superbly written. The hidden message I interpreted from this concept was incredibly inspiring. All the characters deal with severe pain (physically and mentally) and unforgettable baggage from the past. No living beings in this world are safe from pain. There had been—or will come—a day where any one of us will feel like there's no more hope in this world. Seemingly broken beyond any repair, "You must break before you can Become" showed that only when we're completely broken, we can eventually evolve to a much stronger self, at least that's how I found it.

The magic ability in the world Chorn has created is called Talent; fire talent, water talent, wind talent, earth talent, mind talent. Chorn's evident storytelling talent oozed as she juggled the elemental chain reactions and its users wonderfully. She has the ability to seamlessly fuse the world-building, magic, and action scenes into one tremendous sequence in the final section of this book. Built-up gradually, I ended up reading the last 30% of the book in one sitting; it was ridiculously compelling, fun, and wonderful to read. The multiple army-of-one converged in the climax sequence; battalion of elemental magic, Ascended’s manipulation reminiscent of Malazan's Ascendants, and a gorgeously climactic confrontation that took place within an eye of a cyclone. The magnitude of the natural disasters caused by the magic in this book was with temerity tremendously well-written. Surging tidal waves, thunderous cyclones, blazing conflagration, an army of bones combined with intensely palpable descriptions of pain and feelings; the conclusion was a brilliant pulse-pounding ride.

“It is a hell of a thing to kill a man,” he finally said. “To decide the value of a person is less than that of any other. You aren’t just taking a life, but snuffing out a soul, and once it’s done, that’s it. You can’t un-ring a bell.”


Even from the first page, it is highly likely that the first thing you’ll notice is how elegant Chorn’s prose is. I am honestly shocked that this is her debut. Written in multi-POV, her writing was lush and meticulous. Every paragraph trailed with beauty and at times, I was reminded of Staveley’s writing style; that’s saying a lot of how much I enjoyed reading Chorn’s terrific prose. Admittedly, I found that there were a few similar descriptions that felt a bit repetitive, and I also think the book would benefit from more details on the world-building, especially regarding the Ascended but there's a chance the author purposely left this out for the sequels, and I'm definitely intrigued to find out. This, of course, were just minor cons; the brimming positive quality totally outweighed this small gripe of mine.

Everything eventually comes to an end. Good things, bad things, famine, hunger, war; I truly wish this book was longer. Seraphina's Lament is a dark and enchanting debut bursting with passion, magic, and love. I have read and reviewed a lot of books. As the years go by, only a few incomplete series continued to have my attention. Seraphina’s Lament will linger in my mind, and now I wait for the continuation of the The Bloodlands trilogy with much anticipation. I seriously have no idea where the story will go from here, but I'm definitely excited to find out. I highly recommend Seraphina's Lament for character-driven grimdark fantasy reader.

Sidenote:
The artist—Pen Astridge—did a penomenal (awesome pun fully intended) job on the cover art.

Official release date: February 19, 2019

You can pre-order the book from: Amazon US | Amazon UK

The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
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Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)

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message 1: by Colleen (new)

Colleen Brilliant review, Petrik! This sounds like a powerful and unique story. It's intriguing that the author used an (unfortunately) less-known event such as the Holodomor and combined that with fantasy elements. And it sounds like it was handled well rather than being gimmicky. I am definitely intrigued!


Petrik Colleen wrote: "Brilliant review, Petrik! This sounds like a powerful and unique story. It's intriguing that the author used an (unfortunately) less-known event such as the Holodomor and combined that with fantasy..."

Thank you, Colleen! Exactly! It's an original take imo, I've never read any Holodomor inspired fantasy, I'm not too well versed om that part of history but the combination of famine and the fantasy element were great! :)


message 3: by Colleen (new)

Colleen Petrik wrote: "Colleen wrote: "Brilliant review, Petrik! This sounds like a powerful and unique story. It's intriguing that the author used an (unfortunately) less-known event such as the Holodomor and combined t..."

Honestly, I can't even think of any historicap fiction about the Holodomor let alone fantasy. This definitely sounds like an interesting combination!


Petrik Colleen wrote: "Petrik wrote: "Colleen wrote: "Brilliant review, Petrik! This sounds like a powerful and unique story. It's intriguing that the author used an (unfortunately) less-known event such as the Holodomor..."

Damn, now that you mention it... that's true! xD


message 5: by Zainab (new) - added it

Zainab I would definitely want to read this book. sounds like my cup of tea. thanks for the amazing and compelling review.


Petrik Zainab wrote: "I would definitely want to read this book. sounds like my cup of tea. thanks for the amazing and compelling review."

Thank you so much, Zainab! I hope you'll enjoy reading this book! :)


Lukasz I'm halfway through and you're right. I still try to figure out what's the deal with Becoming. Taub's chapters read almost like a (weird) horror story. And yes, Seraphina's Lamanent is dark and depressing in places.


Petrik Lukasz wrote: "I'm halfway through and you're right. I still try to figure out what's the deal with Becoming. Taub's chapters read almost like a (weird) horror story. And yes, Seraphina's Lamanent is dark and dep..."

Becomign will be clearer the more you progress into the book! I assume that you have read (view spoiler). It's definitely a dark story though, not for the faint of heart! I know you'll fare well with it though! Enjoy, Lukasz!


message 9: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael Great review as always, Petrik. I thought Sarah Chorn was a book editor until recently; obviously following in the footsteps of Laura Hughes by writing as well. Thanks for the heads-up on the nature of the story; Grimdark does seem to be something of a craze at the moment.


Petrik Michael wrote: "Great review as always, Petrik. I thought Sarah Chorn was a book editor until recently; obviously following in the footsteps of Laura Hughes by writing as well. Thanks for the heads-up on the natur..."

Thanks, Michael! Oh yeah she is! She still edit books and now she's a writer too. How cool is that!? :D


message 11: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Wonderful review! Also, what a stunning cover!


Petrik Hannah wrote: "Wonderful review! Also, what a stunning cover!"

Thank you, Hannah! I agree. So creepy! :O


message 13: by TS (last edited Jan 20, 2019 07:32PM) (new) - added it

TS Chan Great review, my friend!
Love the inspiring story behind the story too! (regarding the author, not Holodomor of cos)


Petrik TS wrote: "Great review, my friend!
Love the inspiring story behind the story too! (regarding the author, not Holodomor of cos)"


Thank you, my friend! Hahah I get what you mean. It would be insane to call Holodomor inspiring.... :O


message 15: by Christina (new)

Christina The review was written well and I haven't read the book. But I will say that fantasy novel that's "Holodomor-inspired" seems...off to me...considering the amount of people that died in this real world event and the fact that to a lot of people, tho not universally acknowledged, it was a genocide of a particular group of people...


message 16: by Petrik (last edited Feb 02, 2019 12:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Petrik Christina wrote: "The review was written well and I haven't read the book. But I will say that fantasy novel that's "Holodomor-inspired" seems...off to me...considering the amount of people that died in this real wo..."

Thank you, Christina. Yeah, no worries, your reasons are totally valid! It's the author's decision to write a fantasy novel inspired from it though, and I as a reader and reviewer (who's not well-versed about the topic, hence why I didn't talk about the inspiration in detail and how the book relate to it in my review) can only tell the reader what the book is about and what it's inspired from! :)


message 17: by Audrey (new)

Audrey I just got an invite to the launch party for this. But I’m really not a grimdark fan.


Petrik Audrey wrote: "I just got an invite to the launch party for this. But I’m really not a grimdark fan."

Ooohh really? So fun! if you do go to the launch party, mention me to the author! ;p


message 19: by Audrey (new)

Audrey Okay!


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