Wednesday, February 06, 2013

On Loneliness, Part I: Seraphina

I have been in the same two books for weeks, and they're echoing off each other in thematically in ways that are so interesting that I've been writing a post about it.  I've been in the middle of the post for a while, picking apart the ideas of loneliness and society and materialism in Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed and contrasting that with the ideas of fear, privacy, and prejudice in Rachel Hartman's Seraphina.  It was a thoughtful, complicated blog post about themes and undertones and the human condition.

But then I was reading Seraphina, and I was so busy reading about her and feeling about her and worrying about her and looking around her that I completely forgot to look for themes.  I was too busy being swept away by the details of the winter celebration in her city, worrying that someone horrible would find out her secret, puzzling out the odd behavior of the dragons and humans around her, agonizing with her over her mistakes and aching with her for things she can't have.  I stayed up way, way too late last night finishing this book, because I absolutely couldn't put it down.

I'm a sucker for good, solid, fun worldbuilding, which is really the strength of this book.  Politics, geography, history, religion (the many saints, the many blessings!), dragon lore, personalities, music--it's intricately constructed and solidly based.  People make mistakes and love the wrong people and lie when they should tell the truth and tell the truth when they should lie.  But it works out, and you want to know what happens, and it's all as wonderful as you could hope.

Seraphina's loneliness is absolutely touching to me.  She has a secret that prevents her from being close to people--if anyone knew that she was half dragon, she would be in danger.  Even with her secret safe, she must be o guard to keep the signs hidden, and she knows she can never have a normal life.  This sadness, distance, and low-key fear are underscored by the extreme hatred of dragons and physical danger that exist in her world.

Her sense of personal isolation, of being alien and unlovable, really touched me, and the ways that the world revealed itself to her as she opened herself up to it were thrilling in that emotional, personal way that normal joys can be in really wonderful novels.

I know this book isn't flawless.  But my experience of reading it was that of being enthralled, and I'm incredibly sorry it's over.  That's five stars in my book.

1 comment:

Aarti said...

What a lovely post :-) I know what you mean about the world-building being so awesome (the politics! So great!) that you didn't even notice all the other stuff. But I too noticed just how isolated Seraphina felt and how sad it was for her - that scene where she goes to the toilet and tries to remove one of her scales - that one hurt.