Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)
Holy cow, guys, this has been a good year for books so far. Each book I read is better than the last, and I suspect it's going to go on for at least the next book.
I've been sitting here for a few minutes now, trying to decide what was the very best part of this book so I could start the review with that, but I just can't narrow it down. So, in no special order:
- The worldbuilding: So often this is my favorite thing about a good book, and it was done so very well in Seraphina! While it was set in a fantasy world where dragons exist and often walk around looking like people, it couldn't have been more believable. I especially loved the religious system and how it worked itself into the world. Examples: When a baby is born, a book containing all of the many, many saints is dropped, and the page it opens to is that baby's patron saint. Also, whenever someone who died is mentioned, the speaker always includes a bit about the saint in the comment. "We lost dear dad last year, may his soul forever rest on Saint Whoever's hearth, and so all of us kids had to take over tending the farm." Just a short phrase, only part of a sentence, but it gave such an interesting glimpse into their religious system.
- The dragons: Really part of the worldbuilding, I guess, but they were a big enough part of the book that they deserve mention on their own. I 100% bought the dragons as both an alien species, fully different than people, but also individuals within that species. I loved the idea that they were able to walk around as human as well (though almost none of them could act convincingly human, they just didn't understand or value humans enough to learn how).
- The human characters: Gah! The main character was so believable and realistic, strong yet flawed. I loved her love interest, and the romance did not bother me even one tiny little bit (so rare in a YA book!). I bought every character, from minor to major.
- The writing: Wow. Rachel Hartman can write so well! I feel like I should be able to phrase that better "writes so well" seems so generic and boring. I had not one issue with her writing (again, so rare), and in the entire book only spotted one error (more of an editing miss than a problem with the writing). A section near the ending made me tear up and laugh at the same time -- I cannot remember the last time a book did that.
Plot-wise, Seraphina is the story of a post-war nation. Once humans and dragons were at war, but it ended and now both races are trying to move forward... except some are not happy about that peace and the idea of working together with the other race. Hm, writing that out here, it sounds kind of generic, but the plotline really works. The main character is caught in the middle of the two groups, and the focus is on her trying to navigate through it all.
I highly recommend this book!
Next up: Shadow Scale (Seraphina, #2) by Rachel Hartman.
Edit: This author did something I've seen before, though rarely. She often used the phrase "quit the room" as in "left the room". Is that a British-English phrase? I've only seen it in a couple other books.