Seraphina

Seraphina - Seraphina is…at once enjoyable and disappointing. And the only reason it’s disappointing is because it should have been more enjoyable, and I can’t quite figure out why it wasn’t. All the right elements were there. Everything that should have had me panting and coming back for more. In spite of that, though, I found it very easy to convince myself to do other things when I should have been reading. It just…didn’t quite come together.THE GOODOur main character, Seraphina. Oh, I really enjoyed her. I think a lot of her awesome came from how understated it was. The text didn’t set out to shove her in our faces and say “LOOK, SHE’S BADASS,” she just went about her life, being awesome. Ya know, like you do. The side characters were great. They managed to convey a lot of humanity (even the dragons!) in a matter of a few lines or scenes, and of course, the secondary characters got even more space to be fleshed out.The racism! I know, odd thing to praise. But I enjoyed (well, hated, but I was supposed to, so I enjoyed that?) how the managed to convey the frustration and stubbornness of this situation. It’s not directly applicable to real life – the breadth and nuance of our own racism is hard to portray – but the emotion of it is captured fairly well here.In fact, I really enjoyed a lot of the setting in this novel. It was fleshed out and had a real sense of life and passion to it. I’m not sure I’d grant it the adjective of ‘original,’ as it actually felt pretty familiar to me, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t excellent all the same. It managed to feel three-dimensional without getting bogged down in details and infodumps. The wonderful details were woven into the story.The romance wasn’t (quite) an instant thing. Seraphina had quite a few interactions with her love interest before she even started to think of him that way, and they had some real warmth and chemistry between them, a slow building of an actual relationship. Bravo! Sadly, my love for that subplot only lasted about halfway through that. Plots! Politics! Machinations! Assassinations! Intrigue! Spies! Pretty much everything you need for a solid adventure story. THE BADAll the elements of a good plot were there, but it never felt like a plot. It never felt like we were building up to anything, or like Seraphina had any actual goal or drive or desire throughout the book. Stuff just…happened. Awesome stuff, but still, it felt like “A Really Sucky Day in the Life of Seraphina.” There wasn’t a continuous thread to connect the book from beginning to end. In fact, most of what happens at the beginning gets dropped for new intrigue that gets picked up in the middle. Which, frankly, is pretty realistic. But not everything that’s real makes for a good novel.I have to admit: I skimmed and then straight-up skipped the last few pages of this novel. Once the climax hit and the major points were wrapped up, the last chapter was just gush and semi-philosophical babbling and pointless backstories. Honestly, it was quite a break in tone from the rest of the book. At least it didn’t get in the way or replace something more important.The ‘saints’ in this novel that are the basis of their religion…uh, felt more like gods to me. Maybe small, low-powered gods, which is kind of what you get when you have a large pantheon, but all the same. The term annoyed me.There were a couple plot holes that nagged at me. Like: why did the knights get banished? We’re told that they were all banished at the end of the dragon wars, but not the reason. ‘Knight’ isn’t like ‘vampire;’ you can stop being one if you’re no longer needed. We don’t take our armies at the end of ever war and make them go live on a deserted island. There’s some reference to someone influencing that decision, but no word on what form that took.The ‘intellect vs emotion’ theme introduced with the dragons bugged me as well. They claim that emotions are ‘irrational’ and just get in the way of study, but 1) that’s been clichéd for decades and 2) that doesn’t even make sense. If dragons really are that interested in studying the snot out of everything, hey, why don’t they study emotions? The book seems to imply that emotions are mysterious things that just pop out of people at random, but they follow patterns enough that we study them, so why not dragons? (And don’t you need at least some degree of passion to become a really accomplished scholar?)The second half of the love story. For all we got that nice, slow build up between the two lovebirds, as soon as any feelings are mentioned at all, it’s a matter of jumping straight into ‘love.’ Seraphina knows the boy for less than a week, and she jumps straight from “I think I might have squishy feelings” to “waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah I’M IN LOVE, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?” Girl, calm down. Add up all the time you’ve spend together, and it’s only been like a day. This is just another flavor of insta-love with a delayed onset. THE UGLYI can’t think of anything I found actually ugly in this book.