Book Review: Seraphina’s Lament

It feels wonderful getting back into reading books. I’ve already finished half the number I did for the whole of 2018. I’m also returning to reviewing, and here is one of the best debuts in a long time for me.

This book is dark fantasy in its purest form, and it does it without the weaknesses a lot of grimdark novels suffer from: edgelord characters doing evil stuff for the sake of it. There is none of that in this book.

Yes, I might gush a bit about this in my review, but I really think it’s great and you should all give it a read. It debuts on the 19th February, and you can pick it up by clicking the link below.

It’s hard for me to say in words how much I enjoyed reading Seraphina’s Lament, but had I read it in 2018, it would be my Book of the Year. It’s leading the pack on books I have read this year so far as well.

Have you ever watched Threads? It was a BBC docu-drama in the 1980s, and perhaps the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. It did something no horror film could, and that was frighten me to the bone. It covers a nuclear attack on Britain and its catastrophic aftermath. Every person in the world should see it.

This book hit me on levels similar to Threads, on a form that few other books have achieved. There is a deep level of human suffering in the book. It’s heavily inspired by Stalinist Russia during his Five-Year economic plans, decisions that cost millions of lives. This is a brutal book that goes beyond the rest in many ways, but it does so in a way that made me keep reading. Not once did it annoy me or wind me up with things some grimdark books do. In a way this is historical fantasy at its core, but there is a powerful magic at heart in this book. I’ve never seen a novel that writes the destruction that is starvation so well. Hell, it’s even a character in this book.

The cast of the book is small with the number of dedicated POVs in the single digits. The story focuses on these select few and it does well. Having a focused character setup is a good thing for any fiction, and we really get to grips with the characters. There is a deep level of characterisation and development with all of them. They’re living, breathing works of art, not words on a page. Sometimes you don’t get that often.

The plot sounds simple at first. Remember what I said about Stalin? The main antagonist Eyad is a brutal man with plans to turn his realm into something breaker. You must break before you become and under such ruthless economic reforms, hatred and suffering are everything. His lover and rival Vadden leads rebels against him – and he is someone not of mercy. Magic begins to break into the world properly as Eyad tries to collect all those who can use it. When his favourite slave Seraphina escapes, it starts a destructive path that rebirths the gods.

While we have that, we also have a power struggle going on between Mouse, whose magic is growing out of control to the extend of her feasting on human souls to survive and the growing might of the Bone Lord, the manifestation of one man’s starvation and the breakdown of his gut instinct to survive.

I won’t say much more about the story because it’s really something that should be tasted yourself, like a really good meal. The prose is excellent without being too flowery and the world-building is well done, again without going over the top. It has great description of what’s going on, and teases you with more. I’m really looking forward to the next edition of Sarah Chorn’s work. I’ll imagine it’s not for everyone. There is a deal of dark themes explored such as cannibalism, murder and torture so if you don’t like reading it, you might want to give this a miss. Even if you get queasy, I still recommend giving the book a try.

Personally? I loved this book. It think it’s amazing, and one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

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