First of all, let me recommend Seraphina by Rachel Hartman to you all. Go read it. Please, go read it. It’s a book with a really interesting spin on dragons, music, magic, love and scales. Both the sort you play and the sort you get on reptiles and dragons.
See what I did there?
If you need a few more reasons to pick it up, how about these to start you off?
- There’s a fantasy religion with a boat-load of bizarre weird saints, which I believe to be taking the gentle mickey out of Catholic martyrs and all the strange things they’re portrayed with in paintings.
- There are dragons who aren’t going to be ridden on for once; they’re very much more like the Chinese depiction of dragons in that they can take human form, and they’re basically like Vulcans because they can’t process emotions and constantly get things wrong.
- It takes place in a period that is NOT the fantasy Dung Ages, for a change!
- There’s a fun, sarcastic main character who loses her temper a lot.
- There is so much deadpan snarking from everyone.
- There’s music, music, so many descriptions of music that are actually good.
- There’s great developing platonic relationships, no I’m not going to tell you who they’re between, go and read the book.
Now. Go and read it. Go, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
That being said, and here is where I spoil a plot point or two.
There was a certain stage where I was reading perhaps the second or third conversation between the title character and another character, Prince Lucian Kiggs – who happened to be the illegitimate grandson of the present queen, the Captain of the Queen’s Guard, and engaged to the princess/future queen, Glisselda.
Suddenly there came a great realisation upon me, and I do believe I said this aloud:
‘They’re going to fall in love, aren’t they.’
I’d got it in one, because what do you know? Seraphina spent the rest of the book feeling very torn up about keeping Lucian in the dark concerning various things – for some very good reasons, I might add – and there were various other ‘so obviously in love’ interactions.
And at the end, after the dust of the major climax had settled, they acknowledged their love for each other. But – oh the pain, the pain of it all! – they couldn’t be together, because Glisselda needed the support of her fiancee and tutor now more than ever, so for her sake they must hide their feelings for each other.
Did this really need to be in here?
Did this romance – in which the two participants appear to fall in love far too quickly – really need to be a part of the plot?
Did we really need a love interest that’s resentful about his illegitimacy, and also engaged to Seraphina’s pupil?
Did we really need Seraphina to be getting distracted about her musings on him, when there’s far more important stuff to be worried about? Admittedly she’s concerned about him just as much as a friend and ally, there is that, but still.
To begin with, I really didn’t understand why this engagement between Lucian and Glisselda even existed in the first place. He’s illegitimate. He’s an acknowledged bastard, but he’s still a bastard. Why would the princess be marrying her illegitimate cousin when she could be forming various alliances by marrying someone important from another country?
To add further angst, of course, what a big surprise.
But then I reasoned that they must be keeping the claim in the family, so that there isn’t the possibility of his rebelling against the throne, like the Duke of Monmouth. I will acknowledge that it did start to make sense…but the whole situation, engagement and all, still felt awkward and contrived to me.
And then I started feeling guilty about not really caring for this romance. After all, what do I know about romantic interactions? How could I judge whether Seraphina falling in love with Lucian so quickly was realistic or not? Was I not, by failing to appreciate a possibly gorgeously rendered romance, emotionally stunted and withdrawn?
Who knows the answer to that?
Nevertheless, I ended Seraphina’in a rush to escape Seraphina and Lucian’s noble declarations of self-sacrifice for Glisselda’s sake, wishing that it had ended on anything else. Anything at all. I like Seraphina, I sort of like Lucian, but together they left me cold and staring at a wall, wondering if this was a reflection on my appreciation of human relationships. Or perhaps a lack of the aforesaid appreciation.
Now that you’ve reached the end of my whinging – and good on you for putting up with me for so long! – I urge you again, go and read Seraphina. It’s a great book, with a well written story set in a very interesting world; there’s plenty of funny moments and a fairly new look at dragons. And just because a leaden weight settled upon my heart when I realised the inevitability of a story arc based around romantic love, it doesn’t mean the same will happen to you by any means.