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Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

Songs of Seraphina by Jude HoughtonIn this unique, engaging novel, three teenage sisters move from America to the English countryside to stay with their eccentric grandparents after the mysterious disappearance of their mother. Through a series of strange and magical events, Charlemagne, Cairo, and Penny Agonistes discover that their grandparents and the other local residents are time travelers from a lost age and civilization. Each sister experiences flashbacks that link her to a life and identity in the world of Seraphina, where class and religious differences are threatening to boil over into mass annihilation. Meanwhile, in the present, the girls discover a mysterious “aunt” locked away in their grandparents’ house and danger stalks Cairo in the form of multiple foes.

Jude Houghton’s story is a remarkably imaginative piece of fantasy, constructing a whole universe of conflicting cultures and richly developed individual characters. Hamquist and Crakes, a pair of vengeance gods from the old world brought into the present, are a perfect example of Houghton’s complexity. They have murderous intentions, but also hilarious dialogue about their anachronistic wardrobe, providing much appreciated levity. Houghton does share a flaw with many other fantasy writers wherein his vision may be too vivid, crafting a world so complex he delves into elaborate rituals, games, dances, and other details that are irrelevant and cause a lull in the action. Readers with patience for these detours will be rewarded with a smart and wildly entertaining journey.