13 November 2012

Seraphina - Rachel Hartman

So I read The Night Circus and I didn't like it all that much. Then I read Seraphina, and I want to hoist it above my head and wave it about at infodumpy fantasy authors as an example of How Shit is DID.

It's clear that Hartman took completely to heart (HAH) the old advice of "show, don't tell," and carefully went through her manuscript to excise out all the telling. (It's that second bit that's tough, I surmise.) She expects you to pay attention, and if you do, you'll figure things out. But if you don't, that's ok - you'll get the story anyway and it will just be less subtle. Do you need to know what a houppelande is? NO! So she doesn't tell you until the (very funny) glossary at the end of the book. Was I - a textiles nerd - tickled that she used the proper word for a medieval tunic worn my both men and women, recognizable in such films as The Lion in Winter and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves? You bet your dagged sleeves I was.

Gratuitous Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter. Seriously,  how did anyone dare to do this play after she and Peter O'Toole took every actor anywhere to school? Ahem. I digress.
She also understands my soul, as evidenced in this sentence describing something that happens to me on a regular basis:

"Some sober part of my brain seemed to observe everything I did, clucking disdainfully, informing me that I ought to be embarrassed, yet making no move to stop me" (p. 324).
Definitely written by a woman who has had her share of I-swear-on-my-eyes-once-I-find-them-I-will-never-drink-again moments.

The world is beautifully realized, well-researched, and, in an unusual, why-didn't-I-think-of-that twist, the dragons are the clear, scientific creatures with an astonishing ability to create mechanical objects, and humans are the superstitious ones.

The whole thing is just charmingly imagined, and as we've established I have very little imagination but I'm very particular about reading the imaginings of other people, so you'll just have to trust me. Someone pass me the liquor.

9.5 out of 11 Medieval Villages Left Standing after the Dragon Scourge