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Book Description (From Amazon): Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
Soundtrack: “Ave Maris Stella”~ Otto Olsson
So much of the book revolves around Seraphina’s relationship with music, and this gorgeous choral piece came to mind immediately.
After reading about this book in a recent issue of “Shelf Awareness,” I was beyond excited to snag a copy from the library.
In a country where there is an uneasy truce between humans and dragons, Seraphina has spent her entire life attempting to hide her true identity. Turning her considerable musical talents to a position as the assistant to the court composer, she is unable to evade notice for long.
When a member of the royal family is killed, and the murder appears to have been commited by a dragon, Seraphina finds herself dragged into the investigation and forging unlikely relationships along the way.
It is not exaggeration to say that I LOVED this book. Seraphina’s character is so richly imagined that she practically leaps off the page. The reader sharply feels her turmoil at reconciling her public and private lives. She’s a very typical young woman, wanting to feel beautiful and valued but believing herself unworthy of those things. Seeing her explore her unique talents and realize that what makes her different also makes her remarkable is fantastic.
While Seraphina herself is reason enough to read this book, I can’t do it a disservice by neglecting to mention the supporting characters. Each of them is challenged in some way by their role in society- Prince Lucian is contracted to marry his cousin regardless of his personal wishes, Orma finds himself fighting his very nature when it comes to loving his niece, and Seraphina’s father is an expert in the law despite having broken it himself long ago. The mythology is developed to a wonderful degree. Ms Hartman developed a unique class of dragons, with their own quirks, emotional characteristics and habits. She’s given the human residents of her world their own caste rules, prejudices and religious system.
In the case of this book I would even be tempted to break my own rule regarding YA series. Though the ending resolved the plot well, I wouldn’t have been opposed to spending a lot more time with Seraphina and following her as she and Kiggs move forward and prepare for a potential war between the humans and the dragons. I didn’t do a great deal of searching, but if I were to read that Rachel Hartman was planning a sequel, it wouldn’t cause any gnashing of teeth on my part. There’s music, there’s romance, and plenty of intrigue to keep you turning pages until the end.
Five out of Five Ivory Flutes.
Book Description (From Amazon) :
Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.
Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.
Soundtrack: “I Won’t Give Up”~ Jason Mraz
When we saw Deborah Harkness at her author signing, she made a remarkable point. The first book in the All Souls Trilogy was about the ease with which Diana Bishop and Matthew fell in love, arguably the easiest part in most relationships. The second book is about their life together, and learning to stay in love, which is where the true magic lies.
Best Enjoyed With: Something rustic and primitive. A giant turkey leg and a stein of beer, perhaps.
A completely unexpected side effect of being in training is that – get this- the trainer actually ENCOURAGES us to read during the many breaks that we get during the day. With a training class of over 30 people, there are constantly questions and technical difficulties, so I’m suddenly finding myself getting a ridiculous amount of progress made on the books that I’ve chosen to bring. For example, I pounded out roughly 200 pages of Shadow of Night over the course of the day yesterday. Apparently my fears of losing my reading time were totally unfounded. (Thank Gawd!)
Also, there are FOUR girls in the group currently reading the Fifty Shades series. I can’t help but find it adorable.
I feel no reservation in proclaiming this the book of the summer- the anticipation for it was just huge after the ending of “A Discovery of Witches,” and if the turnout for Deborah Harkness’s book tour is any indication, women are craving something a little more sophisticated than Ana Steele to enjoy on their summer vacations. Sophisticated does not mean “less fun,” just “far better written” and “actual steamy sex.”
“Shadow” begins immediately after “A Discovery of Witches” ends, with the result of Diana and Matthew’s timewalk to the past. I loved how Deb Harkness set this up, with an enoromous wink and a *HINT HINT* toward their eventual destination, that had me finishing the book with a huge grin. Rather than feeling like a cliffhanger, it simply built enormous anticipation for the next volume in the trilogy, while still feeling oddly satisfying as a stand-alone novel.
I’m going to try to discuss this one as spoiler-free as possible, because while there are many out there that have finished it already, there are lots of you who are still eagerly awaiting getting your hands on a copy. Unfortunately, most of the book could be considered a spoiler for the ending of ADOW, so if you haven’t read that one please stop now. Otherwise don’t get pissy with me if I ruin your fun.
With the help the Bishop house and various and sundry creatures, Diana and Matthew have decided to timewalk to the past to guarantee their safety from the Congregation and to help Diana explore more of her magical powers. They’re also going to attempt to locate Ashmole 782 intact, before its secrets are disguised by whomever tore out some of the alchemical illustrations and before its donation to the Bodleian library.
One thing that Diana does not anticipate fully is the implications of being married to a vampire who has been around for hundreds of years. She has experienced present-day Matthew, but not Matthew in the context of the 16th century. From the moment they arrive in Elizabethan England, she is rubbing elbows with the members of the School of Night, including Christopher Marlowe (a demon) and Walter Raleigh. She’s also forced to contend with the many differences between modern society and the “normal” of the past. She immediately stands out with her height and her American accent, and it quickly becomes clear how much work she’s going to have to do just to blend in.
The other thing that they didn’t exactly take into account was that they were planning to arrive in a time where witch hunts were just beginning to heat up (pun intended) across the European continent. It is not a safe time to be a witch, much less a witch with Diana’s unique capabilities.
The plot takes off right away, as Matthew is summoned to Sept-Tours by his father Phillipe. From that point on, the action slowed very little as we follow Matthew and Diana on their quest to track down Ashmole 782 and increase Diana’s knowledge of her talent. It’s evident that Deb Harkness is in her element writing about the time period that she studies, and took great pleasure in bringing her scenes to life. Once again the text was full of wonderful sensory allusions of smell and taste, coloring the reader’s impression even further. From the streets of Prague to Matthew’s lodge at Woodstock, the settings are rich and varied, and the cast of new characters introduced is fascinating. Her delight in populating the pages with historical figures shines through in each interaction. The depth and complexity of the plot is greatly satisfying, as the world that was introduced in the first book and the interesting caste system of the three supernatural races is embellished upon. In this case, creating a mixture of historical fact and reference with the fictional world is very successful.
The reader learns a great deal more about Matthew’s role in the past and his motivations, for better or for worse. Much like Diana, we’re forced to see Matthew in a new light, deal with his imperfections and decide whether he’ll continue being the epitome of the perfect man. For the most part, he does not disappoint.
Once again, I’m left impatiently awaiting the next and final installment of the trilogy.
Four and a half Venison Pasties.
Book Summary (From Amazon):
When Will Besting approaches Fort Eden for the first time, he knows something isn’t right. With more terrifying secrets at every turn, he discovers a hidden fear deep inside himself, a dark mystery a thousand years in the making, and the unexpected girl of his dreams. But can he save everyone from the dangers of Fort Eden before it’s too late?
Soundtrack: “Pour Some Sugar on Me”~ Tom Cruise
This seems that it would be a logical addition to the mp3 player tucked into Will’s backpack, which featured other classic hits. Plus, Tom Cruise, who would be right at home in the freaky atmosphere of Camp Eden. Because, yanno. Scientology.
Will Besting has been sent to a remote wooded retreat with a group of six other teenagers. All of them have crippling phobias that their therapist has deemed untreatable, and all are willing to take one last chance on a cure. From the moment they’re dropped off in the middle of nowhere, Will’s “spidey sense” kicks in, leading him to abandon the group and run off into the woods.
The story is entirely told from Will’s point of view, as he hangs back and plays observer to the events that transpire at Fort Eden. He manages to sneak into one of the outbuildings, which affords him a unique view of the “cure” process that the other teens are experiencing. What he sees makes him seriously doubt whether they were brought to the isolated fort for their own good, or for some darker purpose.
Oh Dark Eden… you showed such promise. I’d heard good things about you, really. It’s very possible that ANY book that had to follow in the wake of Divergent and Insurgent would prove to be a let-down, but I really had trouble forcing myself to care about any of the characters and the eventual outcome. I almost ended up giving the book a DNF, but figured that it was short enough that I should power through to the conclusion.
In some ways I’m glad that I did that, because there were some unexpected twists that I definitely didn’t see coming. The exploration of the teenage characters, who were basically textbook teen personalities and could easily have been anyone, and their fears was pretty interesting from a psychological point of view. Seeing the correlation between their crippling fears and what had actually CAUSED them as fascinating, and the cure process is truly what kept me turning the pages to the end.
Will’s point of view is extremely clinical and bland, and I had an extremely difficult time getting attached to him as the narrator. His observation of the whole process is dry, and mostly self centered, except for totally random bits of romantic attachment for one of the other characters. I was able to call out one of the novel’s big twists about halfway through, which definitely dialed back some of the emotional impact on that reveal.
I think that Patrick Carman waits a bit too long to spring the “big reveal” on the reader, perhaps leading to the apathy that I felt for the plot itself. Everything is explained in a series of appendices, which are beautifully thought out and contain some stunning symbolism and wonderful literary references. The “good doctor” Rainsford is deliciously twisted, and I would have loved to get a taste of it earlier in the story.
But THEN?! Just as I was willing to finish the story feeling satisfied, guess what Carman had to go do to me?
That’s right, gang. It’s the FIRST OF A SERIES.
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. This book falls squarely in the camp that should NOT be continued in future installments, because we are basically told all that we need to know in the epilogue.
Pet peeve city, up in here.
Two out of Five Cliff Bars.