Beautiful, haunting, damning. Grimdark poetry.

You’ll have to bear with me, my computer has crashed and I’m writing this review on my phone. Yes, I could wait until my PC is up and running again, but that could take years and I’ve already been sitting on this review for a few days while I figured out what I wanted to say about this book. Well, I’ve figured it out so I’m writing the review here and now.

Seraphina’s Lament is in some ways the epitome of what I consider to be grimdark. It’s set in a crapsack world that is literally dying, taking all life with it as it does. People are starving, eating each other, killing each other. And at the same time the kingdom is ruled by a maniacal tyrant who is strangling the population for everything he can take, and he sees spies and subversive elements in every shadow. BUT!!!! But the story is about hope. It says it from the very first chapter, lays it out for us in those first words. This story is about hope. The hope of saving a dying world.

There’s a lot of points of view for quite a short book. 8, I think. Possibly 9. But most are pretty integral to the plot and it never really gets confusing. The story is about these characters coming together, breaking down, being reborn so they can maybe, possibly, hopefully bring that same rebirth to the world. It’s messy and painful and heartbreaking in equal measure.

So the thing is, this book is beautifully written. It is poetry. It is poignant. It’s the sort of book where you find yourself rereading lines multiple times to truly appreciate not only their meaning, but how they flow together. It’s not for everyone, but if you enjoy poetic prose written with care and meaning and emotion laid bare, then it’s probably for you.

It’s not a perfect book. This isn’t epic fantasy, it’s poetic, emotional fantasy (I have no idea which subgenre to put it in). The world building is scarce, and there are more questions than answers. I also struggled to really connect to any of the characters. This is a personal issue. From the get go every one of the characters in hanging on by the barest of scrapes and we know from the beginning things are gonna get worse for them. Rather than help me connect to them, I think it made me close off a little, cauterising the wound early.

Seraphina’s Lament gets a solid 4 stars from me. It’s heart-rending, gorgeous, bleak, and poetic. A tough journey, but one well worth taking.