Aug 112016

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman16085483

Synopsis: A half-dragon teenage living secretly as a human in a country that despises dragons must foil a plot to plunge the two races into renewed warfare.

Book Review: I have a well-known prejudice against YA, so I was initially extremely surprised when I showed up for book club and everyone referred to this as a YA novel. Because I loved it. After thinking on it for about five seconds I realized that yes, this is totally YA. But it is awesome!

The heart of this book is its characters. They pop in bold colors, and feel like real people. Interesting, expressive, often admirable, and always real. I fell in love with all of them.

Particularly interesting to people like me are the dragons, who are basically extremely-thoughtful, Aspergers-ish, geeks. They love math and applied game theory, and have trouble understanding emotions, and give off a bit of a Spock vibe. Seeing a society of such creatures, and the way they are hated by humans, warms my heart. Even moreso when Seraphina (the titular protagonist) starts to discover her own dragon-like tendencies. When she first enters a pub for dragonkind and finds other humans like her, who love to talk about math and are terrible at flirting and other social things, she finally feels like she’s found a home. She’s finding her geek family!! It’s YA for people like us! Sadly, this doesn’t get as much attention as maybe it should. The story focuses more on the Prince and Princess of the kingdom (well, queendom technically), who are very much the Popular Kid crowd. Yet I still related very strongly with the geekiness of Seraphina, and it was kinda gratifying seeing her find acceptance among the cool crowd too.

(Seriously tho, one of the dragons is investigating love, which has been striking some of his comrades, so that he can better understand and combat this malady that has been infesting some of their brightest minds! And he’s willing to face lobotomy as a consequence, to help his people overcome this scourge. How can you not love that?)

It has some fantastic humor based off of this geeky stuff too. When one particular musical instrument is played FAR too loudly near her, Seraphina says “my appreciation increased with the square of the distance separating us”. :D

I also love that much of the conflict is informed by her constant need to lie to everyone about herself. The world of lies she wraps herself in feels very close to home for me. I never feel like I’m being honest with the world, everything is a dance performed so I am not shunned, and Seraphina has the same problem. Her fear of being found out comes with far worse consequences than mine, and that made the story all the more compelling.

Finally, while it ends in a traditional “love triangle” situation, the reader ends up loving all three of the people within it, and more importantly – all three of those people care deeply for each other, and are very close friends! I strongly suspect that this is setting up for a polyamorous triad situation, which would just be the best coup ever for a NYT Best-selling YA series! Yes!! Make it so!

The one downside of this book is that the ending goes on forever. The denouement is 2-3 times longer than a good denouement should be. The final three chapters should NOT have been in this book – they should have been the first three chapters of the sequel. Or just hinted at. It felt very much like the sequel was started at the end of this book, and that’s just clumsy. Yes, we know there are lots of complications that arise due to the events in this book, and much will still happen in this world. We understand not ever thread can be tied up when there’s so much left to do. Don’t go starting the NEXT story within this book! Just finish up the one you have, and start the next story at the beginning of the next novel.

Still, that’s a small drawback to a delightful novel. Recommended!

Book Club Review: In general, I think YA has less to say that can really get adults talking. That was borne out again. While we did talk quite a bit about the things we liked, there wasn’t any deeper conversation that was sparked. Nevertheless, just seeing a YA book that is aimed directly at the growing-up-geeky demographic was so refreshing that I have a hard time saying one shouldn’t read this. I’m glad I read it, and so was everyone else at the book club, it got very high ratings from all. If you’re willing to have a meeting that’s less about theme and more just chatting about a fun book with lots of heart, this is a good one. Recommended in that case, but otherwise the most warm-feeling Not Recommended I can give.

  2 Responses to “SF/F Review – Seraphina”

  1. Once again I have only now gotten round to a book I added to my list many months ago when you reviewed it, and once again it has proven to be another solid recommendation from you. Thanks!

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