by Rachel Hartman
It couldn’t come at a worse time – the celebration in honor of the treaty‘s anniversary is nearly upon the two races. Uneasiness is running rampant.
In the middle of all this intrigue and drama is Seraphina. Who is just trying to assist the Court’s musician for the celebration. And keep her own, dangerous secret safe.
You might be asking: “Kell. That’s, like, the broadest, vaguest description ever.” And I would say: “Yes, dear reader. Yes it is.”
And for good reason. First and foremost, this book is HUGE. A touch more than 450 pages, there is A LOT going on in this book. Second, it’s the first book in a – you guessed it! – series. Well, at least it has a second book already lined up.* Points one and two add up to this: there is A LOT of information dispersal in this opener and I’m not ambitious enough to condense it down into a super descriptive description. I wouldn’t do the story justice.
And, really, rightfully so. Hartman is world-building here. A complicated, multi-dimensional, layered world. That has lots and lots of characters. And, like many fantasies written on a grand scale, there’s the larger, over-arcing story (which is what I was trying to touch on in the description above) and the single-book story (this is more the “what’s Seraphina’s secret and how she hides it” storyline). And this world building is glorious in all its detail.
However. And it’s a big however for me. The pacing of Seraphina was really off – at least in the beginning. Between the intensive world-building and a noticeable lack of action for more than 100 pages, I put this one down numerous time. But, in its defense, I kept picking it back up.
And, admittedly, it did get better. The action picked up by a zillion percent. The infodumps became smaller and more spread out. The tension between humans and dragons became more and more palpable. I sped through the last hundred pages (and groaned at the cliff-hanger-ish ending) – a pretty drastic difference from the first 100.
But, thanks to the putting it down/picking it up manner, I had a hard time keeping things straight with all the intricate details. Specifically I had issues keeping track of all the minor characters, which ended up being kind of an issue towards the end.
Between the characters and the world dynamics and the sort of magic side of things (which I haven’t even MENTIONED yet – that’s how much is going on here), it was a lot for the reader [read: me] to juggle.
This review, so far, probably sounds like I really disliked Seraphina and I would be lying if I told you I loved it or hated it. I think it had issues – but not everyone has had these issues. Hartman’s writing is gorgeous and involved and, most importantly, she expects her readers to keep up with her plot. Which, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I love. I want to read books that challenge my comprehensive skills. (I’m sure there’s some study that proves it will help me remember where my glasses are in 30 years.)
I just really expected to ADORE this book and series. So it was a touch disheartening to struggle with it so early on and for so long. Then experience the Lagging Hangover of Confusion. (Those with better memories than I may never have experienced this phenomenon, but it’s a thing. I assure you.)
I’ll be picking up the sequel, though, (and crossing my fingers Hartman/the publisher decides to include a brief recap of Seraphina) and, as usual, that obviously says something.
Published by: Random House Children’s Books
I was able to read this book because: the publisher provided an egalley.
*GoodReads also appears to have a link for an exclusive prequel, The Audition, if you look on the Seraphina series page.