This isn’t just my first Cannonball Read, it’s my first book review, ever. I’m the type of person who won’t purchase a thing online unless I’ve looked up every review on the interwebs and if there’s one negative review in a thousand, I will find that review and pore over it, determined to find out what, exactly, is going to go wrong. The Cannonball Read is, for me, a way to help make a charitable donation by doing something I’d be doing anyway: Reading all the books I can get my grubby little hands on. It’s also a way for me to stop being such a mooch about reviewing things and give a little back.
Rachel Hartman’s debut novel is a smart, well-written YA fantasy set in a world where humans and dragons share an uneasy alliance. Humans hate and fear dragons and dragons are a lot like Vulcans – coldly intellectual and both confused and horrified by emotional displays. They are able to assume human shape and live, treat with, and even mate with humans, much to the disgust of everyone not doing the actual mating. Seraphina is the product of one such mating. Her dragon parentage is kept secret and she lives a quiet, lonely life until BLAM!! She’s in the middle of a murder mystery and there is a handsome guy and a cranky, but well-meaning tutor and a cute kid and mysterious goings-on are happening all over the place.
It started out really well. Hartman is a solid writer, sophisticated and smart – I even had to look up a few words. I love when that happens and it happens so rarely in YA novels. Hartman’s version of dragons was great- the good ones are hilariously confused (like Spock in The Voyage Home! So funny!) and all the rest of them are creepy or frightening. Another group of characters called the grotesques are wonderfully imagined and I’m looking forward to reading more about them in the sequels. Seraphina is less likable. Her self-imposed isolation is reiterated so often, and used as an excuse for so many stupid decisions that after a while, I stopped caring about her sads and just wanted to get on with the story.
The most disappointing part of the book was the end. It’s set up for a sequel but for all that, the ending feels rushed and thrown together. It’s like the author wasn’t sure if she’d be able to write a second one so she just sort of tidied up the ending of this one and called it a day. Things that were made out to be Very Big Deals are wrapped up in a paragraph or two in the last chapter. It’s startling and annoying.
Hartman has created a fascinating world filled with interesting people in Seraphina and while the novel can stand alone, I’m glad there will be sequels to look forward to.