logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: seraphina
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-02-20 03:35
Beautiful, moving, and brutal. You haven't read anything like this fantasy.
Seraphina's Lament (The Bloodlands #1) - Sarah Chorn

The author also took part in a Q&A with me over on my main blog that is one of the best I've taken part in (my part was so-so, her's was great!)

 

I just don't know that I can do an adequate job describing this book -- actually, I do know that I can't do an adequate job describing this book. But I can sort of explain things enough that you might get an idea if this book is for you. Maybe.

 

This takes place in some sort of Fantasy World, one rich in magic -- elemental magic. There are those with Fire Magic, Earth Magic, Animal magic -- and so on It's hard to tell just ow the various people use their magic -- but you get an idea that the world was full of a lot of magic that just isn't working any more. The planet seems to be dying and one of the first signs was that fewer people were showing signs of magic and those who had it couldn't use it has they could before. That right there is a great hook for a fantasy story -- but for this book, it feels like it might be the seventh or eighth most important thing to know.

 

There's a little bit of chicken and egg to this situation -- did the economic and political upheaval happen because of the dying magic, or is they dying magic a response to the upheaval? I don't think the book answers the question and I think I could argue for both positions (I've only read the book once, and I might be forgetting the one or two lines that definitively answer this question). The dynasty that had ruled The Sunset Lands was toppled by revolutionary forces -- collectivist rebels seeking to remake not just the government, but society as a whole. After the Revolution, the Premier ends up pushing the citizens into collective farms and mines to provide for the nation as a whole. This is met with resistance, counter-revolutionary movements and problems. As the world dies, as the magic that aided people in both industries fades, the situation gets worse and people are pushed to desperate actions -- and things that are even beyond desperation -- just to survive.

 

In the midst of all this we focus on a few people -- one farmer who lost everything, his home, his family, his hope. Seraphina, the title character, a personal prisoner of the premier, a slave that he spends years tormenting and crippling. Her twin brother, who escaped from the premier because of Seraphina's sacrifice. We also meet others who offer aid and succor to as many as they can -- food, shelter, assistance fleeing from the government's forces -- they're dubbed counter-revolutionaries, and while they might aspire to that, they basically just help people live a little longer. We also, of course, spend a lot of time with the Premier -- who can do nothing to prevent the collapse of his world and his society, but puts all his efforts into it. Lastly, we see the sleeping gods of this world awaken to watch the approaching end. I don't feel comfortable enough talking about the characters in any more detail than that -- they will grab your heart, break your heart, inspire and frighten you.

 

I've seen a couple of reviews that use the phrase "grimdark" to describe this book. Maybe I'm being restrictive in the way I use the term, but I don't see the book in that model. It's a different kind of dark, if you ask me (there's a torturer that I can imagine Abercrombie's Glotka accusing of going too far). This novel feels like it's a few steps beyond dystopia, when the status quo of unjust society, environmental woes, extreme poverty are looked back on by people in a sense of "remember when we still had a chance to turn things around?" One character prepares for death and thinks back on his full and happy life. My notes focused on that "happy" with an all caps, "HOW?" Yet somehow, and I wish I could give a reason for this, somehow the book never becomes burdensome to read, you're never thinking, "I've got to trudge through how many pages before we can get to some resolution?" You don't want to see more tragedy befall the characters you know, you don't want to face another interlude where you see the horrors that other characters face, where society breaks down further, where taboos disappear like a mist. But you can't stop reading this book, you can't help but read on.

 

This comes down to the way that Chorn tells the story, the language she uses to talk about the heartbreak, the horror, the tragedy, the atrocities, everything. So often, she'd be talking about life being pain, and death being the release in ways that elevated the idea, that seemed new and revolutionary, yet so true, so familiar that you intuitively related to the sentiment. It's not right of me to talk about this without examples -- but I have an ARC, so I can't quote from it (and even if I had a published version, I don't know that I could've picked just one or two examples -- I'd have had a hard time limiting myself to a dozen favorites). There's a lyrical, poetic quality to the language. There's a humanity that infuses every nook and cranny of this novel in a way that I can't imagine not appealing to readers.

 

Before I forget, I want to talk about this cover a little bit. Is that not one of the most disturbing images you've seen lately? When Chorn's publicist approached me about reading this book, I (mostly) jokingly said something about having to read this book just to get the image out of my brain -- like you have to listen to an earworm all the way through to get it dislodged from your brain. It's a perfect cover for this book.

 

This isn't a perfect book -- there were times I wondered if she'd gone to far with the depravity expressed by one character or another. The repeated uses of "closure" as in a character getting or needing "closure" or "moving on," seemed out of place for this world -- the same for "survivor's guilt." And honestly I have no problem with the conventional wisdom of a world like this having a concepts similar to those, but talking about it in the psychological language of late 20th/early 21st century seems odd to me. The Yeats allusion really struck me as unsuitable. (any of these might have been addressed in the final edits and might not appear in the final copy). None of these ruined a scene or a moment for me, but they did all cause me to take a beat and ask, "really?" It's nothing significant, but they all felt inappropriate in this setting.

 

Time and time again while reading this book, I was struck by how unique, how unusual this experience was -- I hadn't felt like this since I read Darrell Drake's A Star-Reckoner's Lot a couple of years ago. Which doesn't say much to most readers, because it's a criminally unknown book. So I stretched my memory some more and came up with N. K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms as having a similar impact on the way I thought about the story, and how unusual it feels compared to other fantasies I've read. The experience of reading this isn't something I'll forget any time soon.

 

Now, this is the first book of a trilogy, and I'm left totally unprepared for the second book. The middle book of a trilogy is where things are supposed to take a turn for the worse, leaving the reader wondering where the story is going to be able to take a turn for the better. I don't see how things can get worse from this point, how there's more chaos, more destruction, more peril possible. Which means that Chorn's going to have to cast off traditional story structure, or pull a rabbit out of her hat (well, probably a few nests' worth). Maybe both. I'm eager to see how she accomplishes book two.

 

But to focus on this book -- this is a special fantasy. Beautiful, moving, and brutal. Read it.

 

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the author, it didn't impact my opinion beyond giving me something to have an opinion about..

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2019/02/19/seraphinas-lament-by-sarah-chorn-beautiful-moving-and-brutal-you-havent-read-anything-like-this-fantasy
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-02-17 00:11
Dodge and Burn - Seraphina Madsen

Compelling magical realism.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2018-09-04 08:18
Reading progress update: I've read 10%. Here be dragons
Seraphina - Rachel Hartman

I've changed my mind and am reading this for the Cryptozoology square rather than the 2nd Incryptid book. It's a little long but it's a fast read and what's not to love about math-obsessed dragons who can take on human shape, even if they don't get the whole emotions-are-good-for-you thing?

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?