Travel: because I actually really liked the majority of this book where Seraphina is just traveling from one city to another, trying to do her thing
Wow, people really don’t like this book. I, on the other hand, squandered a perfectly good sleep head start to the week to stay up and finish this book and was nigh inconsolable afterwards because [WHAT IS ORMA’S MIND PEARL TRIGGER???? IS IT IN THE NEXT BOOK (Tess of the Road??? I NEED TO KNOW].
So if I address the issues people had with this book in order:
1) the romance between Seraphine and Kiggs and the resolution
2) the “travel quest” plotline which takes up most of the novel
3) the villain and their introduction
4) the resolution to the book’s main conflict
1) I…still sort of agree with my contention after the first book that Lucien makes for a less than engaging romance lead. I never quite understood why Seraphina, who has about a thousand things on her mind, was so enamored of him (although he did get a beard midway through, and I share her delight with facial hair). He was…okay? To borrow the immortal words of Roy in the season 2 opener of Ted Lasso: “He’s fine, that’s it. Nothing wrong with that, most people are fine.”
I wish their romance hadn’t been a plot driver, and honestly I would have been all over a different romance plotline that was hinted at and then over in a heartbeat [I am referencing, of course, Glisselda’s last minute admission of teh gay which tbh gave me a little pause–a bit too self sacrificial, a bit too stereotypical (she always loved Seraphina, a very straight girl, and then tosses her hat in the ring just because and then gets over it and marries her beard)]. I don’t think I minded the romance as much as some people did but I could have definitely done without it.
2) Maybe this is just me expressing my love of checklists and well-defined workstreams but I LOVE me a good “gather the x” quests. Sometimes they are bad (see: the new Star Wars trilogy). Sometimes they are great (the quest for the Horcruxes, which I maintain did a good job of showing how even in the midst of desperate battle the hard work has to get done). I found Seraphina’s quest through the various sister-kingdoms to be interesting and a great way to show some world building as well.
The ways in which the various kingdoms dealt with dragons and their integration was super interesting to me. It’s only been forty years of peace and the memory of dragons as fire breathing city destroying monsters isn’t that far off. How dragons are viewed by each set of people is directly influenced by how affected they were by them. It’s Game of Thrones lite, in a sense.
3) The ultimate villain in this book might have a physical form in Jannoula, one of the half dragon grotesques that Seraphina dealt with in the prior book, but the real enemy here is prejudice and haste and stubbornness, which create a mess in every skirmish. It’s not super deep, it’s literally right there on the surface. I didn’t think that the slowly growing powers of Jannoula came out of nowhere–the seeds are there in the first book, and they grow and mature in a truly frightening way in this book. Jannoula’s influence is felt and grows and infects everything it touches–much like the “real” enemies I pointed out earlier.
4) I mean, come on. This is a book about half dragons who each have special powers and you go most of the book knowing that Seraphina has somehow, of her own volition, locked away her powers. What do you think is going to happen at the end? Nothing comes out of nowhere–there are x half dragons in her mind, and you know you’re going to find all of them. You shouldn’t be surprised if one that has yet to show up…suddenly shows up.
That numbered list aside, I really did like this book and I’m glad that it was recommended to me! I wish there were more of Seraphina, and not a different character related to her/in the same world, and I DEFINITELY NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO [ORMA]. I’ll read Tess of the Road at some point, but probably not for a bit.