The DNF Files for September

The DNF Files is our monthly post of books that we couldn’t finish but still felt we wanted to do some sort of review or make a comment about – books that hit our own personal STOP buttons.  They’ll be a little shorter than our usual reviews, with the synopsis usually being limited to the one provided by Goodreads unless it’s either incorrect or insufficient.  If there are major spoilers, they’ll be hidden behind collapsible tags.We just have one book for the File this month and it was mine.  I’d first heard about Blood Song from another blogger this past summer and was so intrigued by it that I wrote the title down so I wouldn’t forget about it.  The author is Australian and the book hasn’t been released here yet so I bought it from a really terrific site called Fishpond that has free worldwide shipping.  The site I’ll be using again.  The book?  It’s gone to the second-hand bookstore for someone else to figure out.

Blood SongBlood Song (Lharmell #1)

By Rhiannon Hart
Publisher: Random House Australia
Publication Date: September 1, 2011Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

I wanted to turn but I was held captive by the song on the wind. I’m coming, I told the voices. Please, wait for me.

When her sister becomes betrothed to a prince in a northern nation, Zeraphina’s only consolations are that her loyal animal companions are by her side – and that her burning hunger to travel north is finally being sated.

Already her black hair and pale eyes mark her out as different, but now Zeraphina must be even more careful to keep her secret safe. Craving blood is not considered normal behaviour for anyone, let alone a princess. So when the king’s advisor, Rodden, seems to know more about her condition than she does, Zeraphina is determined to find out more.

Zeraphina must be willing to sacrifice everything if she’s to uncover the truth – but what if the truth is beyond her worst nightmares?

Goodreads Summary

I’d like to think I got what the author intended to do with this story.  There’s sort of a moody fairy tale feeling to it, something a little gothic.  The imagery is always full of contrasts – Zeraphina’s home is a barren, frozen wasteland but the north that she’s drawn to is hot, lush and teeming with people.  Her sister is girly and prone to falling in love easily while Zeraphina is boyish and more likely to get in trouble and argue with the opposite sex than anything else.  There are some very pretty descriptions of Pergamia where Zeraphina’s sister goes to marry Prince Amis and the majority of the story takes place and some equally dark ones for Lharmell, the land Pergamia is at war with and where Zeraphina and Rodden find themselves trapped.

The execution failed in several places for me.  I thought the characters were flimsy and childish.  I kept expecting Zeraphina (who is 17) to add, “so there!” to the end of every sentence, maybe with a foot stomp or a dramatic drop to the bed.  Rodden (who is 22) hates her on sight of course and contributes little to the story until the last fourth beyond appearing in scene after scene and telling her to get out of Dodge.  Their relationship made less sense to me than the one between her sister and Prince Amis who fell in love in one day.  There really are no secondary relationships to speak of – most of the book is in Zeraphina’s odd head with her disjointed and flat narrative.

I thought it was unfortunate that the fantasy elements were left so vague – it felt less like “use your imagination” and more like the author didn’t have a clear picture herself.  The Pergamians are at war with the Lharmellians but no one’s allowed to talk about who they are, why they’re at war or anything about the archers on the parapets at night.  It could have been mysterious but I ended up more bewildered.  It would be helpful to know about some sort of history of Lharmell, some reason for Zeraphina’s compulsion to go north all of a sudden and some better explanation or reason for what the Lharmellians are.  I have no idea who those people are and now I just don’t care.  There was some mishmash of stuff happening over in Lharmell that I couldn’t even figure out when I quit.  It made no sense and Rodden and Zeraphina’s motives for staying there made even less.

One last comment – I assumed this was targeted at a general young adult audience and there are obviously dark themes and some violence, particularly when Zeraphina and Rodden get to Lharmell.  I don’t know if it’s accurate or not, but Fishpond has a note that this is for an audience of 10-14 yr.-olds.  If I had to judge this strictly on a writing comprehension level I would say it should be fine for them but even with my progressive standards, there are things in here I’m not sure a 10 yr. old is ready for.

Barbara

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