Thursday, 18 August 2016

How to Grow a Garden inside Your Head (or Seraphina by Rachel Hartman)

There are some narrators you want to keep at arms-length. There are some narrators who keep you at arms-length. And then there are the narrators who could quite possibly be your best friend. Seraphina is the latter. My favourite thing about this book was her voice. It was brilliantly done. I liked her character too. She wasn't a warrior (or a witch or a tribute or any other sort of fighter), but that didn't stop her from being brave and, occasionally, reckless. And she was sarcastic. 

(All the best people are.)

The other characters - Kiggs, Glisselda, Orma, Lars, Abdo, etc. - all had their own little quirks too. My favourite was Kiggs. There's just something about a Prince who will geek out with an Assisstant Music Mistress over philsophers that's endearing. I also liked Abdo (because he was adorable) and Lars (because WAR-PIPES!).

The world-building was done exactly how I like it to be done - subtly. Seraphina's narration didn't include info-dumps. Instead, it read as though the reader already knew everything. One of the things that usually puts me off high fantasy is having to read pages and pages of exposition. Seraphina didn't have that, it was all weaved expertly in. There were dragons, yes, but they were a properly developed fantasy race. You will never have seen dragons done like this before, I promise you that. My favourite part of the world-building was probably the garden inside Seraphina's head.

Plot-wise, we've got some fantasy, some mystery, and politics. A lot of royal politics. Working at the court means that Seraphina is in the ideal place to observe these without being an active participant. I don't want to spoil it, so I won't say too much, but you will not guess the ending. As well as the main plot, characters like Seraphina and Kiggs ensure that there is a sideplot about belonging. I like that theme in a book.

Overall, I would say that, if you like dragons, you will love Seraphina.

Have you read Seraphina?