“He hated his husband as much as he loved him. This tear down the center of his soul held a universe in it.”
When I sat down to write this post, there were several books in my mind. I’m sure that is the case for most readers, different books that have meant different things at different points in our lives. I could’ve gone with Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey, which was my first real introduction to SFF; or to the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce that convinced me that girls could be knights. Or Lord of the Rings that gave me a world outside my own to escape into when things went to hell. All those books have shaped me, and hold their own special places in my heart. But really when it comes down to it there was really only one book that I could choose as the book that changed things.
Seraphina’s Lament by Sarah Chorn.
Sometime back in 2018 when I was just starting to plunge back into reading SFF, I was listening to the Grim Tidings Podcast and came across the Ladies of Grimdark Panel. Sarah Chorn was on that panel, and at that point Seraphina’s Lament hadn’t been released, but there was something about hearing her talk about the book and writing, that made it stick in my mind. In 2019 I revisited that episode and decided to go looking to see if it had been released and finding that it had, I ordered it at once.
25th July 2019. My copy of Seraphina’s Lament landed on my doorstep, and I immediately started reading. I got to the end, and went straight back to the beginning and read it through again for a second time. I pretty much did nothing else that day. Since then, I have reread this book more times than I can count (my first copy is a little dog-eared now as a result), but I’ve never forgotten that first and second read and the storm of emotion it had provoked.
‘She walked over to the bed, her limp heavy, her back bowed, leg dragging, pain still shining in her eyes. It was an effort, with or without the cane, but at least the cane seemed to make it easier. She turned and flashed him a determined smile. “It’s not a cure, but it’s mobility. I can walk more, and with far less pain. Oh Vadden, I feel as though you have just truly given me my freedom.”’
Here was a book where I felt seen.
That year was the first one when I’d had to use a cane on several occasions, and where pain was becoming more and more of a constant in my life. And here in the pages of this book, I found a character who was vastly different from me and yet so similar, and in the quiet moments free of flames and revolutions, I could be there on the page. There is a power in that, and it’s why I revisit this book again and again on the bad days, or when I need a reminder that there is a strength and beauty in those broken moments.
That alone would be enough to make this a book that has shaped me.
But then there was the writing.
Sarah Chorn has a way of wielding emotion as ink, weaving a story that is felt as much as it is read (and this is true in all her books). Seraphina’s Lament though was the first time that I felt that I was living and breathing the emotions flowing across the page, and where that wonderful combination of lyrical beauty and emotional experience is not only embraced but set loose with brilliant and devastating effect. Through reading Seraphina’s Lament and riding the gauntlet of emotions that are brought to life on the pages (and this book is a ride in so many ways, hopeful and hopeless, fury and calm, sorrow and joy, love and hate, and so many other threads of emotion woven in between), it made me realise two things.
One that there are different ways of writing stories, and that sometimes taking a venture off the beaten path will deliver an experience like no other.
Two, that if I could write a story that could conjure even an iota of the emotional response I had to this book, then I would be overjoyed.
This book kept me writing. It’s given me comfort and the fire to keep going on the bad days. It’s a book that’s left an indelible mark on my heart.
A book, that gave me so much more than a story.
Rowena Andrews spent her childhood searching for Dragons and talking to animals and started turning that into words when she was bored in class. She wrote her first book at fourteen and while it lives forever in the bottom of the sock drawer, the encouragement from her English Teacher meant the writing bug took hold and never went away.
Rowena has a BSc in Geography and a PG Diploma in Coastal and Maritime Societies and Cultures. She moved to Scotland for University, fell in love with the place and never left, and now lives and works on the east Fife coast.
When she’s not writing or reading, she’s hoarding dice and playing Dungeons & Dragons, and submitting to the whims of a demanding cat and dog duo.
Read Rowena’s Blog Here