Seraphim by Michele Hauf
(Luna, $13.95, PG) ISBN 0-373-80206-4
The place is France, the time close after the death of Jeanne d’Arc. Seraphim d’Ange’s family and their household have been brutally massacred by the de Mortes, five brothers known as Demons of the four directions of the compass and the Dragon of the Dawn. Accompanied only by Baldwin Ortolano, another survivor of the massacre, who serves as squire, Seraphim has set out on a mission of revenge. The black knight – so called because of the dark armor – has beheaded two of the brothers in battle. Seraphim is not, however, the late lord’s son but his daughter. Sera herself was violated, her throat slashed by Lucifer de Morte. She barely survived.

Sera and Baldwin come across a man in the moonlight. Contrary to Sera’s wishes, Dominique San Juste joins the small party. Baldwin is glad to have another male accompanying them on their journey in these dangerous times.

The meeting with Dominique was not accidental. He has been sent by a mysterious being, the Oracle, to meet up with Seraphim. He does not know exactly what his directive is – to guide or destroy her. Dominique is not human; he is faery, a changeling left in his mortal parents’ cradle. Oracle will provide him with information about his true faery parentage in return for this service.

Sera hates faery folk because her baby sister was stolen by faeries and a hideous changeling who died soon after left in her place. The shock crippled her loving mother.

As the three travelers journey from one fortress to another heading inexorably to Paris and the most powerful brother, Lucifer, they will encounter danger, enchantment, and new truths.

This is the first in a new fantasy series by Michele Hauf. It’s dark in tone with little respite – even the day Seraphim and Dominique take time to “play” is shadowed by the grim days ahead.

There are few characters in the story, but most of those never become fully developed beyond representing the forces of good and evil. There is an ongoing question of what exactly are Seraphim and Dominique. The who remains largely unexplored. The most appealing and multi-dimensional character is Baldwin, Seraphim’s sidekick, her Sancho Panza. He begins as a low-class bumbler but grows to nearly heroic status. It’s inevitable that Sera will fall for the handsome Dominique, but it’s Baldwin who has the most charm.

After a strong introduction, the pace of the story slows to a plod, not unlike the pace of the trio as they journey through the winter’s snow on the way to Paris. Sera and Dominique spend a lot of time reflecting on each other, on their particular circumstances, on their inevitable parting even further retarding the narrative’s progress.

Readers who enjoy fantasy fiction filled with supernatural beings and surreal action may want to check out Seraphim. Those readers who aren’t strong fans of fantasy will most likely find little to interest them.

--Lesley Dunlap

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