I was thrilled when Harlequin announced its initial Luna Books line-up. As described, these were going to be books with tough women finding magic, adventure, and love. So far I’ve read three of the offerings and not one has hit it out of the ballpark, much to my chagrin. Case in point: Seraphim, a book I wanted to love. Instead I found myself experiencing almost as many lows as I did highs.
In 1433 France, Seraphim d’Ange has remade herself as the Black Knight. Seraphim’s family was murdered by Lucifer de Morte and she was left for dead. Now Sera will not rest until Lucifer and his four evil brothers are wiped off the face of the earth. Though she battles alone, Sera journeys with a faithful (if somewhat inept) squire, Baldwin. And after the death of the second de Morte brother the duo gains the assistance of a mysterious stranger, Dominque San Juste.
Dominique joined the Black Knight for reasons of his own. The oracle who sent him promised information about his past if Sera completes her quest. After coming to know the woman inside the armor, he starts to fall for her in a big way. Suddenly his need for information doesn’t seem so important. What is important is keeping Sera alive. If he has to break the agreement he made, so be it.
Okay, sounded perfect to me. Warrior woman out to avenge her family, a mysterious man with a secret past, and evil to vanquish – all elements guaranteed to make for a good story. And yet they don’t. At least not a terribly exciting one. This book is 400 pages long and yet very little of it is action. Dominique joins Sera and her squire on their quest. They travel to a castle, conquer the de Morte living there and move on, occasionally stopping off at Dominque’s small house to regenerate and gaze longingly at each other (Dominique and Sera, that is). Then they decide they love each other, say so, think about it for a while, and move on to the next castle. Each time Sera engages one of the de Morte’s she does so with remarkable ease. Sure, she faces challenges to reach them, but once there the fight is over in a matter of pages.
In the introductory paragraph of this review I mentioned highs and lows. The battles were one of the lows; another was the writing style. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have guessed this was a debut book. Too purple at times and too much like reading a thesaurus at others. Where one word would do, there are never less than two. And nothing is black or white when it can be ebony or ashen. Dominique has something a little extra and so he drops glitter wherever he goes, but he never just sprinkles glitter, he coruscates. Don’t know what that means? I didn’t either, so here’s help: “Coruscation (noun) – 1. a sudden or striking display of brilliance 2. the occurrence of a small flash or spark – synonyms: glitter, sparkle.” I understood the use of the word initially, but it is used over and over and over. And no description of any event or happening is simple. Nothing like “and still it snowed,” instead there’s:
And still it snowed tumescent, gentle flakes that packed like goose down on a bed, thick and frothy, making it difficult to gain purchase. ‘Twas like a veil of newness laid over their tracks, at once concealing, then urging forgiveness and absence of mind.A little of that goes a long way. A lot goes an extended, lengthy, stretched, protracted way. And one final caveat – a bad (and to my mind unnecessary) thing does happen near the end of the book that will put some people off.
I spoke of highs. And there are some. Dominique is a wonderful Beta hero. He supports Sera, will protect her with his life, but never tries to dominate. A mix that works well for the emotionally and physically wounded woman. Sera’s been hurt badly. And while Dominique manages to draw her away from the edge of rage and madness, he never tries to change her. When Sera learns Dominique’s secrets I was grateful for the maturity she showed. These are adults and they act like it. I ranted a bit about the writing. Strange thing is, sometimes Ms. Hauf gets it just right. When Dominique tells Sera that he’ll do as she commands, Sera demands: “Why must you leave it to me? Why can you not just sweep me into your arms and have done with it?” That is a perfect sentiment for this strong woman who wouldn’t mind having someone share the burden. And I smiled with delight when Sera wanted to know how he would like living with a woman who has beheaded villains. Dominique replies: “Perhaps sleep a bit more peacefully. A man cannot do all the work.” Nice.
All in all the ideas were better then the execution, but the appealing protagonists and those nice moments almost made up for that fact. Let’s hope next time Hauf gives a few more of those “highs.”
|Review Date:||May 23, 2004|