Friday, August 17, 2012

SERAPHINA


Review of SERAPHINA by RACHEL HARTMAN
(review based on an advance reading copy)

By the end of this book, I loved it. However, it took me over a third of the book before it had my attention. I wouldn't be much of a reviewer if I didn't at least try finding words that explain this paradox. At first I couldn't pinpoint it, but then I had my "Ah ha!" moment. The lead of this story, Seraphina, is half-human, half-dragon. She takes after her dragon half in the sense that she doesn't feel much; dragons don’t experience emotions in the same manner as humans. This made me realize that while I don't need to love a character, or even like her, to invest in her story, I need to understand her, especially her emotions. A character who doesn't feel...well, then why should I care? In perhaps the first third, Seraphina felt more passive while the world and plot moves around her emotionless (or at least emotion-numbed) mind. Then everything shifts. Seraphina starts feeling. That's when I started investing.

Of course, Seraphina’s earlier indifference only makes her unexpected vulnerability all the more pronounced. And I should mention that even before that point, she did make me laugh. I won't mention direct quotes, because I'm talking a sudden bark of laughter out loud and then some lingering giggling. I don't want to deprive someone else of the same initial reaction to a character who doesn't understand basic social conventions...especially tact. I almost labeled this seemingly unresponsive protagonist as a little boring before a handful of things that spill from her mouth made me frantically scrub that adjective out of my mental review.

The ending implies this is the first in a series, although I can’t find any information about future books. It wraps up by nicely closing two main plot threads (by my count; I'm sure exactly how many "main plot threads" resolve depends on your interpretation). However, other major ones hang open, especially regarding a possible impending war. Certainly the perfect setup for another book! The end also packed in a few unexpected twists. Hartman paced everything well enough that, even though the hints were there, I didn't even sort of call these final surprises.

Mini Review of THE AUDITION by RACHEL HARTMAN

Hartman has also released a short prequel to Seraphina, available on scribd. Short but sweet, as the saying goes. In this story we see how Seraphina earned her job as Princess Glisselda's music teacher. It's an amusing and entertaining peak at now familiar characters. I enjoyed more glimpses of Orma and his dragon-like, mathematics and logic over emotions and feelings mind. Although Princess Glisselda might have benefited the most from this story. We get a sense of her personality in SERAPHINA, but even this short story adds significant more depth to her character and endeared her to me. If there will be more in Seraphina's world, I hope Glisselda plays a big part, too.

1 comment:

  1. Oh now I certainly need to read this one, I've had my eye on it but you've provided the tipping vote.

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