Seraphina

Seraphina - Seraphina is perfect. Rachel Hartman's beautiful writing is simply astonishing with her multi-layered world-building, an expertly articulated plot, sympathetic characters who possess distinguishing personalities and the ability to grow and develop, and three-dimensional antagonists with meaningful agendas and a sharp sense of purpose. I enjoyed the differences in cultural complexities between nations and species, and I laughed at a certain dragon's terror and wonder at experiencing human emotion for the first time. But in observing this I also found it heartwarming. It showed another side to his otherwise antagonistic character, acting as a vehicle for growth and completely changing my perception of him. I also felt the same way when an important dragon in Seraphina's life finally reveals all to her -that was a bittersweet moment, if ever there was one.As for my criticisms, there was a distinct lack of a map. (I thought they were mandatory for all fantasy novels). Its absence was noticeable as it impeded my sense of the lay of the land and the locations of the nations located therein. I was also perturbed at encountering the 'Cast of Characters' and glossary at the end of the book instead of the beginning. Not very useful there, now is it?There is a love triangle, albeit an unusual and tolerable one. We have a man engaged, facing an arranged marriage to his cousin with whom he'd been brought up, and is now falling for Seraphina. That's not your usual young adult love triangle set-up. In fact, every negative, clich├ęd and contrived trope you've come to associate with young adult novels happily do not exist within these pages. Hurrah! SO PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not dismiss this book on the love triangle alone, you may be pleasantly surprised. Had I known beforehand that this device had been used I would've avoided reading this great work, and I would've been all the poorer for doing so. I can only think of maybe one or two other authors who can create worlds as richly detailed and nuanced as Hartman (and in only one book too!) and I feel that anyone even slightly interested in Seraphina should take a chance and read it. However, although my emotions were aroused quite strongly and all of my senses were titillated throughout, and there were harmonious moments when I wanted to point to a particular section and say, "Yes. This," I cannot definitively say, "I'm in love with this book." I love it, but I'm not in love with it, though it pains me to make that distinction, and is the reason for my 4.5 star rating. I feel I'm somehow defective in my reaction, but I have hope I will have more love for the sequel. I would recommend this to those in their late teens and beyond, for those younger may find the language a challenge and may require a dictionary of some form at their side.*Fans of Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series may recognise many similarities regarding species interaction/interbreeding, the differing approaches to emotion, emotion as a sign of disease/madness, and rehabilitation involving the excising of emotions and memories.