Having read Novik’s Uprooted, a YALSA Alex Award 2016 official vetted nomination (the year I was on the Alex Award committee as admin), I knew I have been interested in reading her other series, Temeraire about the Napoleonic wars + dragons. Today’s double-post is just a review of this title though it is adult and not YA. Enjoy over at Tynga’s Reviews!
Tag Archives: dragons
With the dragons in the midst of civil war, the kingdom of Goredd which borders the Tanamoot (dragon land) is preparing for the inevitable war. Having born the brunt of the conflict with dragons in the past, Goredd and its new Queen know they need allies to survive this time around. Seraphina, our heroine, is the one discharged by Queen Glisselda to gather allies since she also is secretly looking for her half-dragon kin, called ityasaari. Her other personal mission is to find her Uncle Orma, who may have been captured by dragon Censors and had his memory wiped. Phina fears for him, not wanting their relationship and love to be erased forever. While she is to be gone, Ardmagar Comonot, the former leader of the dragons, is trying to do his best to help Goredd with the dragons on his side.
Accompanied by Abdo and, for a time, Dame Olga, Seraphina journeys to the kingdoms of Ninys, Samsam, and Poryphry to find the other ityasaari who have inhabited her mind garden, hoping that when they all get together they can protect Goredd with a special ityasaari magic. However, one ityasaari continues to haunt her. Jannoula, the one she locked out of her mind, has been plaguing Seraphina since she was a child, and Seraphina fears running into her whilst searching for the other half-dragons. After two early successes, Seraphina finds Jannoula inhabiting another of the ityasaari and that she is starting to assault all of their minds. Though Jannoula says she is on Seraphina’s side in wanting to reunite all the ityasaari in Goredd, our heroine is wary of Jannoula’s trickery. As Seraphina meets more ityasaari and finds Jannoula’s influence everywhere, she begins to close herself off and lose some of the people closest to her. Even Abdo and Lars are not immune to Jannoula.
As Seraphina grows more and more desperate and the destruction of the southern kingdoms is imminent, she comes to realize only she can stop Jannoula’s deceit and chaos, but it comes at a heavy price as even those most dear to her are under Jannoula’s spell.
While the worldbuilding and epic adventure of this novel is amazing, there are a few things that just fall short of the first novel. First, Jannoula, perhaps by her very nature, attempts to overpower the novel, and even more of the action occurs in Seraphina’s head. Second, the romance and relationship building is sadly absent. We’re left in stasis from Seraphina’s secret love with Prince Lucian Kiggs, though we do witness them interact a little bit. As this was a big influence in the first novel, missing it in the second leaves us an unfulfilled gap in the otherwise rich storytelling. I loved the transformation for Seraphina in this book. In the first, she learned to accept her heritage. Here, she owns her gifts and uniqueness to help others though she is frightened of being different. Another thing I loved was how Seraphina began to really embrace diverse friendships and make them strong, like the bond she formed with Abdo. Diversity in this novel was subtle but there, an undercurrent that shows itself in small but impactful ways. We have Abdo, who obviously has a physical disability; Tiny Tom who has a mental disability; Camba who is transgender; and one key character who shall remain nameless but who is homosexual. Not to mention, Seraphina and all of her fellow ityasaari along with the quigs fulfill the diversity of race. All in all, while not quite living up to its predecessor, it is a solid 4 out of 5 in all other aspects. I couldn’t put it down despite it’s great length–608 pages!
In this new and fresh dragon fantasy, tensions between humans and dragons, or saar, are rising violently in the realm of Goredd as the 40 year peace treaty comes to an end and a Prince is murdered, looking suspiciously like the dragons’ fault, catching half-human half-dragon Seraphina in the middle. When her father, a lawyer and prime authority on the saar, met her beautiful musician mother, he didn’t know she was an exiled dragon in her human form (saarantrai). However, when her mother died in childbirth, there was no denying the silver blood that marked dragonkind. Seraphina’s very existence is forbidden and she will be put to death if discovered. Her whole life has been one of secrecy and fear as she tries to hide the peculiarities of her dragon heritage: the scales covering an arm and ringing her waist, an extraordinary musical talent that has landed her the job as the royal music master’s assistant and teacher of the princess, and visions that plague her unless she puts her mind “in ard” by keeping a mental garden of “grotesques”, or odd people and creatures.
With the prospect of important dragon visitors arriving to sign the new treaty, Seraphina finds it increasingly difficult to not draw attention since she is conducting elaborate concerts for the arrivals. When her tutor comes across a dragon beset by angry dragon-hating cult members, Seraphina meets Prince Lucien, the Princess Glisselda’s betrothed and the head of Goredd’s security, and sort of signs on to investigate the growing unrest surrounding Prince Rufus’ death since she is rather unbiased of either side and very smart to detail, a rarity in Prince Lucien’s eyes. She finds new revelations to explore: a possible assassination plot, her dragon heritage, about her grotesques, and her relationships with people who might reject her when they realize her true identity. For Seraphina, it is about the choice to save her kingdom and those she loves or the choice to save herself…
I really loved this story, and I really loved Seraphina! The story explores new paths in YA fantasy that are both unusual and interesting. But Seraphina is a hero almost anyone can grow to like, since she is not overwhelmingly feminine, she is a strong character, and she is immediately relateable because of her flaws. Prince Lucien is an important character as well, along with two male grotesques in her mind-garden, which might appeal to boys if Seraphina does not. This is perfect for fans of Jane Yolen, Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Shannon Hale, and Mercedes Lackey. Also, might have a larger appeal to younger (middle grade or upper elementary) readers because it is a clean read. I can’t wait for the second book, Shadow Scale releasing in March, description found below.
“Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.
The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.
As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?”