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review 2018-09-07 15:48
"Seraphina - Seraphina #1" by Rachel Hartman for the Cryptozoology square
Seraphina - Rachel Hartman

Seraphina lives in a world where, for the past forty years, dragons and humans have lived in an uneasy truce, facilitated by the dragons' ability to take on human form.


Now that truce is under threat by an older generation of dragons that cannot set past wars and enmities aside and are willing to to stir inter-species fear into hatred in order to return to open conflict (Is it just me, or would this cast as dragons Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson and the other right-wing English nationalists who want to reject forty years of peace and prosperity in the EU to pursue dreams of Empire and reestablish a feudal England with themselves at the head of the patriarchy? Yeah, that probably is just me).



Seraphina, in her first few months at the human court, finds herself positioned to influence the outcome of this plotting if she places her own future at risk.


This is a light, fast, fun read that satisfies as long as you accept a Young Adult Fiction paradigm. There is a pervasive innocence in worldview across all of the main characters, all of whom are young and none of whom have experienced or cannot really imagine the mundane evil of hate-driven violence and cruelty.


The main players are young enough to be on the edge of creating their own identities. They are all special in their own way. Shame-based secrecy turns Seraphina into a liar, which frustrates her desire to be herself and limits her ability to see who she really is.


The book tackles some interesting themes: the role of emotions (human) and rationality (dragons), the fear of the other, the slowness of change, the apparently transcendental power of love, the role of music in bringing together rational structures to express emotions. Perhaps more daringly, it tackles Seraphina's own dysmorphia and her acts of self-harm, the potential that comes from mixed races, provided that the mixing isn't hampered by prejudice and shame and the isolation of being a bastard in a world of inherited power. 


It has some interesting ideas about the impact on dragons of having to live in human form, about knowledge as a hoard of treasure that dragons would lust after, maternal transmission of memories and the practice of memory excision to maintain an ordered dragon mind. I loved the sub-species of dragon techno-geeks who make devices for the fun of it.


It does not examine or challenge the society's use of royalty, rank and privilege but does substitute a matriarchy for patriarchy although it's really just women behaving like men.  

If you accept what the novel sets out to do and put your mind into wishing our heroine well, then this is a fast, fun novel with good plot twists, strong world-building and some original ideas.


I had fun because I was mostly able to do this. My enjoyment was limited by the fact that the naive romance dragged a little for me and asked me to spend attention on it when I'd rather have known more about the effect of music on dragons but that's a minor niggle.


cryptozoologists Mike Finn Halloween Bingo Card-018I read this for the Cryptozoology Square in Halloween Bingo

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review 2018-09-07 04:20
Tess of the Road - Rachel HartmanĀ 
Tess of the Road - Rachel Hartman

Woah. I will try and write something more reviewish after time  to reflect. For the time being there is nothing about this book that isn't fabulous.


Amusing coincidence: the author photo shows Hartman in an orange blazer. The author photo for Naomi Novak, who has also written a bestselling series about dragons, shows her in an orange blazer. Orange is my least favorite color, but clearly it works for some people.


Library copy 

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text 2018-09-06 18:00
Reading progress update: I've read 321 out of 544 pages.
Tess of the Road - Rachel Hartman

I'm going to be sad when I finish this and don't get to read it anymore. Fortunately, I have other books ready to steal my attention.



Updating my spreadsheet gave me a moment of concern, that I wasn't reading quickly enough. Somehow it escaped my notice that I have 40 days in which to read 25 books. No, I look down and there are only two read and PANIC! because of course I would.



Now I'm going to spend a few minutes looking over my list and planning what to read on Kindle. And since the planning is such a huge pleasure to me, I've already come up with my reading theme for November: Women in Science Fiction. Because I got a lot of ideas to pursue from The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction by Justine Larbalestier. Then December will be all holiday-adjacent books because nothing says Winter Holiday like The Santaland Diaries.

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text 2018-09-05 23:55
Reading progress update: I've read 221 out of 544 pages.
Tess of the Road - Rachel Hartman

Tess is really starting to enjoy the only freedom she's ever had from societal expectations, and we're getting more back story. I am really enjoying the journey too, and the scholarly adventure of pursuing the truth behind a creation myth. 


My only disappointment is that I don't remember more detail from the first two books.


Edited to add: why is it so hard for me to remember to tag my Bingo posts? Every single one I've had to fix after posting.  Doh!

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text 2018-09-04 14:15
Reading progress update: I've read 24%.
Seraphina - Rachel Hartman

This is original enough to be interesting, YA enough to be driven as much by emotion and the need to do right rather than a more jaded view of politics and makes a tantalizing use of music as a potential bridge between mathematical rationality and an emotional truth that reaches past words.

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