Monday, June 4, 2012

REVIEW: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review

Seraphina is about a girl struggling to protect her secret while she try to stop a war from breaking out between humans and dragons. Her secret may be the key to do so, but if she reveals it her secret may mean her death.

The story had around 115,000 words and leaned toward a slow pace. The plot did not drag but I would have prefer it to be shorter. A few things here and there could have been condensed to quicken the pace.

The Characters

+++ Seraphina, the protagonist

The story was told in 1st PoV from Seraphina's side, the character for which the novel is titled after. For most of the book, Seraphina played a passive role. She wasn't shy, she was antisocial — for a good reason.

As the blurb said, the discovery of her secret could mean her "very life." However, it didn't seem that "terrible" because there were a few others who shared the same secret and their lives were harsher compared to hers. I wasn't able to muster much sympathy for Seraphina. Despite a tragedy and a secret, she led a fulfilling life as a musician's assistant.

The story nettled me by how slowly it reveal Seraphina's secret to the reader because it didn't reveal everything at once. Not that I wanted to know everything at once, I just wanted it to hurry up. It nettled me more that it took Seraphina the middle of the story to use her secret to her benefit because her secret gave her a power no one else have.

Yet power or no, I didn't find her exciting to read about. Though to be fair, she was getting there near the end of story when she decided to take an active role in saving the world. I went "yes, finally, some feistiness." I didn't care about her power as much as I care whether she would do something with it.

+++ Prince Lucian, the love interest

The only reason he was the love interest was because he was the first dude who took a singular interest in Seraphina, a girl who lacked social experience — especially love.

Lucian was the worst guy she could crushed on because he was engaged to Princess Glisselda — a student and friendly acquaintance of Seraphina and one of the very few people who would be open-minded to Seraphina's secret. Plus, the fact that the princess was the future queen was an enormous bonus; their amicable relationship could mean the difference between life and death for Seraphina if her secret got out.

Seraphina, stop it. Stop making your life more complicated than it already is.

Though the romance was minor, I could have done without it. At least Lucian's interest in Seraphina was mostly about figuring her out than trying be with her.

+++ the Dragon race

The thing I loved most about the book was how hyper-rational the dragons were in comparison to the humans.
“Only your elders remember the war, but it is not the old who join the Sons of St. Ogdo [an anti-dragon terrorist group] or riot in the streets. How can there be deep-seated distrust in people who’ve never been through the fires of war? My own father fell to your knights and their insidious dracomachia. All saarantrai remember those days; all of us lost family. We’ve let that go, as we had to, for the peace. We hold no grudge.

“Do your people pass emotions through your blood, mother to child, the way we dragons pass memories? Do you inherit your fears? I do not comprehend how this persists in the population...
They reminded me of Dr. Brennan from Bones. Their characterization was magnificent. I recommend this author interview to see how she did it. The dragons were definitely the highlight of the book.

The Writing

Nothing I can complain about because it was smooth going. The imagery was in the right amount, not at all overwhelming. There were flashbacks, visions, and dreams (depending on how the reader interpret it) interspersed in the story — they too were presented in the right amount. Usually, I dislike those plot devices but they did not bug me once in this story.

The story was high fantasy, so no surprise that it had made-up words — all of which were listed in the glossary at the back of the book. Also included in the glossary were the characters. I never once flipped to the back for elucidation. The story did a superb job explaining everything on its own.

Overall, there was a clear competence to the writing. If I could describe the writing in one word, it would be "smart."

In Conclusion

I rate Seraphina 2-stars for it was okay.

It was 2.5 but I rounded down because of the mildly passive protagonist, her unrequited love, and her delay to put her power to good use. I would have like the story more if the stakes were higher and Seraphina's secret were actually that "terrible."

As An Aside

When I read Seraphina, its war-looming plot and slow-leaning pace reminded me of All the Paths of Shadow (I rated it 2-stars too). Between AtPoS and Seraphina, I enjoyed AtPoS more because AtPoS had a stronger heroine.

Amazon GoodReads

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