Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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?
In this much-anticipated follow up to 2012’s Seraphina, Ms. Hartman flexes her extraordinary world-building muscles once again, surrounding us with rich foreign lands and enveloping us in the warmth of beautifully nuanced characters. We’re given considerable time to admire the skill of every stitch making up the tapestry of this dragon-filled world given this book's 600 page length, and though we sit in awe at the attention to detail, it does make for a slow read at times. The first half in particular is a touch tedious as Seraphina sets out to track down her fellow half-dragons, the hundreds of pages detailing her search and interactions with those she finds making us wonder if perhaps this section of the story could have been streamlined in a few places.
Though the sheer vastness of this world is responsible for much of the slower pacing in the first half, Seraphina herself also keeps us from settling in fully, the tension that came with her having to hide who she is now gone as she lives in the open, but it takes her until nearly the end to actually embrace the totality of who she is. She shows very few signs along the way of making progress toward dismantling the walls in her mind she set up so long ago (to be fair, it takes a while before she fully understands this is a necessary course of action), instead relatively content to leave things as they are even when she realizes she’s missing the mind-fire that’s so much a part of the other half-dragons.
Despite her seeming lack of growth and progress until the very end however, Seraphina is still someone with whom it’s easy to spend time, her various relationships with the half-dragons she locates fun to watch unfold given how distinct and unique each one is. Her friendship with Abdo is the main highlight however, their banter something we can cling to and use as an anchor as we’re swept from one city to the next.
The villain of this story is another highlight, Jannoula spectacularly infuriating in the subtlety of her villainy, able to appear vulnerable and utterly guileless one minute before showing her true colors the next. She’s the type of bad that masquerades as good, using the faith of those she seeks to rule as a stepping stone onto the pedestal she’s convinced herself she deserves, claiming divinity and then proving to be exceptionally convincing in that claim. Once Jannoula’s endgame becomes known in the second half, the pages start turning with far more speed than they did in the beginning, and while things wrap up a touch faster than we might expect given the length of the build up, our time with Seraphina ends with nothing but hope for her future and that of those closest to her.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.
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