Saturday, September 29, 2012

Batty About Books - Seraphina 1 by Rachel Hartman

Dragons that can take human form. But hide their emotions. How cool is that? Welcome to the first of three parts wherein
Batty About Books

takes on

by Rachel Hartman
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012

Part 1 - pg 1- 153 (as always my thoughts in blue, Maria's are in purple)
This is my second reading of Seraphina and I must say it’s even better this time around.  In my first read, I devoured it in a day and half.  It’s wonderful to go back and savor Hartman’s sense of humor and way with words.  For most of the characters I thought her descriptions and word choice brought them to life so most of this focuses on some of the major characters introduced in these pages. Though, really, all I want to do is post quotes from the book!
Can I say that even though I am only a third done the book I’m already looking forward to a reread? That’s pretty powerful in a world where my to be read list is almost 300 books!
Kathy: Exactly! I have a lot of books to read but I couldn't resist visiting Hartman's world again.

Seraphina Dombegh
16 years old and yearning to be seen but forced to hide. “I barely noticed my loneliness anymore, it was my normal condition.” Despite all of that, her wit is sharp. “...not my most cogent explanation but I was unaccustomed to speaking with my face covered in blood.”
Yes! I love these quotes. I am so attached to Seraphina. I mentioned in my thoughts that she reminds me a bit of Spock from Star Trek. Except that Spock has chosen the Vulcan side of his heritage to hide within, and Seraphina has chosen her human side. More on Spock when I respond to your thoughts about Orma, though...

(Hartman’s description of dragons - who conceal their emotions and therefore don’t recognize the necessity for them in others - reminds of students on the autistic spectrum.)
“...he licked his lips as if gold was something he missed the taste of.” I love how Orma shows his love for Seraphina without showing his love for Serphina. Since he’s a dragon and that’s not permitted.  His memories of his sister and his family was stirring. “In the end...I don’t know what it was for.”
See, this is where I got a mixed Vulcan and Asperger’s vibe. Or maybe it is just Orma. He seems to have the feelings percolating under the surface (which makes me think more of Vulcans). You’re right about the majority of dragons not even seeming to know what emotions really are - and not being able to identify them in others. Yet I wonder if this is something they have cultivated over the years - their “ard” being the imposition of order on chaos... is there deeper chaos inside the saar than we have seen so far?

Prince Lucian - Captain Kiggs
(why do we call Royalty by their first names?)
The bastard prince - love that that’s his nomenclature.  He is dignified and bound by honor - “Let the one who seeks justice be just.” but seems to have a fun side too as she describes him going up the steps like a mountain sheep as well as when they debated what Seraphina should call him.  He seems young to be the captain of the guard. Did I miss where Hartman mentions how he got the job?  
I don’t remember seeing her describe how he got the job. I thought it was just because he was a bastard prince. It seems like that is the kind of job that “wrong side of the sheet” royalty tends to end up acquiring. I adore this character. The more Lucian appears the more I like him. I like how he recognizes the help Seraphina gave in convincing Glisselda to interact with the saar at the party. Bringing in some non-kid books, he reminds me a bit of Jon Snow from Game of Thrones (another bastard prince with a keen sense of honor).

“ if he were the Bishop of Gout Couch speaking ex cathedra.” He seems all mean but could he have a softer side? He’s been the comic relief for me, all blustery but loved.
Yes! I hope we get more of him as well. I like how he has shown that he has some tenderness for his proteges with the way he cuts Seraphina some slack when she is clearly exhausted and how he helped Lars find a way to build his instrument.

Princess Glisselda
“Can I attain that level of petty vindictiveness?” Hahaha! 15 years old. She’s funny but, like Seraphina, also smart. She spouts the words of Lady Corongi but I wonder how much she believes and how much she repeats to see what others will say?  “Evil always seeks to destroy the good that stands against it.” I can see her being interesting, if uncouth.  The way she talked about the saarantrai at the party. Also - saarantras - 1 and saarantrai - more than one = so cool!
I also like her character. She has that fear and loathing of the saarantrai - but it seems like she will be able to learn to move beyond it if she takes the first few steps. She seems to have a little sharp sense of humor as well. I find it amazing how Hartman has managed to round out even some of these more minor characters so well.

Amaline Ducanahan - Linn
“I believe this is called bravado and is not limited to lawyers, or even men, although that combination makes it almost unavoidable.” Could Seraphina have inherited her mother’s sense of humor? Though the dragons wouldn’t call it that. It is just an observation that Hartman delivers in just the right vein. She was close to Orma. Will be interesting to learn more about her through her memory pearls! Memory pearls - so cool!
The way Hartman handles the memories and music is something I found to be delightful. The pearls of memory followed by the “snowflakes” in her mental garden were amazing. Amaline - what little we have seen of her - gives me the same feeling Spock’s father does. He was a true Vulcan, but fell in love with with a human. Also, the story mentions that because the Saar have no souls their music can’t touch the heart, but Seraphina inherited her mother’s musical talent... I hope this continues to be developed.

Earl Josef Aspig (ass pig? love these names)
“...turned the full force of his handsomeness on me.” Oh, he’s full of himself and he has something against Lars? He freely admits to being on the hunt. Could he have been involved? Is he hiding something?
So very creepy... he’s definitely into something.

Queen Lavonda
As the co-author of the Treaty of Peace, I expected to see more of her. She seems formidable - dragging the saarantrai embassy to the party. But, that’s all we’ve seen.
Yes, but the focus of the tale is really on the younger generation. I hope that we’ll see some of her in the memories, or at least get an idea of why she was involved in the treaty.

Lady Corongi
“It astonishes me that a bungling monkey such as yourself is permitted to careen so freely up the corridors...Have you no keeper? Have you no leash?”  I don’t really have anything to say here, I just wanted to get that part in writing because it made me laugh!
Yes! What a perfect “British nanny” thing to say.

Counselor Dombegh
I love that he’s the Queen’s eminent advisor on the treaty. That he is so torn between his love for Seraphina and his love of propriety. In the prologue when he whispers to baby Seraphina “I have been unequal to this task...but I believe I can do better. We must find a way to be a family to each other.” I could clearly hear his love. Then later, when she’s older and she wants to “shame” him into letting her play music. “It broke with a sickening crack, like bone, or like my heart.” “Papa let the fractured instrument drop...and staggered back a step. He if the flute had been some piece of himself.
He seems to have dropped out of the narrative. I hope we get more of him as the story develops. His broken heart, his terror over being discovered, these are things I want to learn more about. I liked that he appeared in that memory flake Seraphina ate. That was a beautiful scene.

Sons of St. Ogdo
“Was it difficult to organize rioting? Did they have enough torches and black feathers?” Bwhahaha - I don’t know why this is so funny to me. But it is!
Yes! I loved that line as well.

Hartman has a way with words.  I love this book. It’s funny with a pinch of sadness. You feel for the characters and want to know more about them. Her description of the setting and the clothing sounds medieval. Just her whole take on dragons. Did I say I love this book? It was hard to stop reading.

A few other things - Belondweg is their epic song? It sounds like blonde wig! I want to know more about the Quigtol and the Broadwick brothers and why there is so much hate there.  Here are some other random quotes that stuck with me:
“His breath was tavern-esque.” 78
“You must have lived an impossibly long time thinking you were alone in the world. Oh no, I’m sorry, that’s me.” 115 Miss Fusspot
“Heaven has fashioned a knife of irony to stab me with.” 124
“...the borderlands of madness used to have much sterner signage...”128
“The looming buildings squeezed the sky down to a rapidly darkening ribbon.” 148

Yes! Again, I don’t want to dive into spoilers.... but the characters in her mental garden are amazing. I’m enjoying the way the story is falling into place at this point in the book. I’m so glad we decided to read this book together! It is helping me savor it instead of gulping it down.

Head over to Maria's Melange to get her take on Seraphina. She further delves into the Star Trek connection as well as a way to use the book teach about slavery. Don't miss it!

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