Book Cover
Title The Audition
Author Rachel Hartman
Cover Art ---
Publisher Free ebook - 2012
First Printing ---
Book Cover
Title Seraphina
Author Rachel Hartman
Cover Art Andrew Davidson
Publisher Doubleday - 2012
First Printing 2012
Book Cover
Title Shadow Scale
Author Rachel Hartman
Cover Art Andrew Davidson
Publisher Doubleday - 2015
First Printing 2015
Category Young Adult
Warnings None
Main Characters Seraphina, Orma, Lucian Kiggs, Glisselda, Lars, Abdo, Dame Okra, Comonot
Main Elements Dragons
Website Rachel Hartman - Official Site

Click to read the summaryThe Audition

Click to read the summarySeraphina

Click to read the summaryShadow Scale

I picked this up in the library because when it first came it out it had a fair amount of publicity and I was curious what all the fuss was about. I didn't really have high expectations, but having read it, it deserved any praise it might have gotten.

A beautifully written novel about a young girl on the verge of becoming a woman who has a terrible secret, one so awful it would put anyone who knew of it at risk. But unlike so many other young adult novels Seraphina never sits in a corner and mopes about crying "woe is me" and complaining that life is not fair. She deals with this secret she was born with. It keeps her apart, but she refuses to let it keep her from living.

In this world, dragons were at war with the humans, but some dragons thought the humans interesting enough that they should have peace instead, to share and learn from each other. See, dragons in this world are a bit like Vulcans in Star Trek, low on emotion and high on logic, and decided that they'd rather hoard knowledge than gold. Dragons can also take human form, which allows them to pass amongst the rest of us, though their eccentric behaviour tends to make them stick out anyway. They are also adept at technology, which is an interesting counterpart to their seemingly magical physical transformations, especially as the humans around them tend to shy away from any fancy tech.

I can praise this book in so many ways. I fell in love with the characters, I wanted to know them, to spend more time with them. I loved the worldbuilding, Hartman gave her land a history, different cultures and languages, religion, music and architecture. Also the setting it not your usual dragon story, which tends toward the medieval, this is more Victorian.

And if nothing else, read this book for the glossary. Yes, you heard me right. This is not a funny book, but the glossary was the most amazing and amusing one I'd ever read with entries like "Loud Lad - the noisy one" or "scrawny sackbut player - exactly as you imagine" or even "Regent of Samsam - the regent of samsam" since there wasn't much else to say about him, he didn't even have a name.

It drew me in from the very first page, and you really have to pay attention those first few pages, there are characters there you will learn interesting things about. I had to even go back and reread some parts so shocked I was by the reveals! Without hesitation I started reading the second book.

It was also excellent, though being at nearly 600 pages long I found by the end of reading the two books back-to-back it was getting a little much, even though I can't really point to one particular section and say it was too long and could be trimmed out. I did enjoy travelling to all the other regions of the world, it is an essential part of worldbuilding for me that the world feels real, that there are different cultures each with their own quirks (though the fact that some languages were clearly Italian-esque and others German-esque was a bit odd for me). And while you learn a lot more about the beings that people the world, about what is lost when you take what are essentially regular people and turn them into legends, and what they learn about Jannoula keeps you guessing about her motives right to the end because, well, if you are crazy because you were tortured, can people really hate you since it wasn't your fault? Are you truly evil if you were driven to it, broken and damaged? A tragic tale in some ways, and with a bittersweet ending. This certainly doesn't wrap up with a happily ever after, and things can never really go back to the way they once were. The road was never, ever easy, with each perfectly laid plan and ideal dream, foiled over and over again. I very, very highly recommend this pair of books, it covers a wide range of serious topics, and there never any easy answers.

Posted: February 2018


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