Seraphs is book 2 in the trilogy of Thorn St. Croix, stone neomage in a post-apocalyptic era, where mankind has dwindled, seraphs from heaven come down to smite sinners, and demons do exist.
I read book 1 (Bloodring) and reviewed it here.
From this point on there may be possible spoilers for Bloodring.
In the first book we get introduced to the complex world – Thorn was hiding her neomage status because her kind is generally feared and hated by humans, and being raped and killed is a real possibility for her. I don't think I was alone when I thought that the reason for this wasn't clear, but in the second book, some history is revealed that explains this extreme hatred. By the time Seraphs starts, Thorn's identity is revealed and so Thorn must deal with the reaction of the townspeople, but she has some friends on her side too, and so there is an uneasy tension at the start of the second book. Meanwhile, the demons that live under the nearby mountain (the Trine) are constantly attacking and getting bolder, and Thorn is haunted by dreams of seraphs and a cherub still trapped with them. Thorn has already successfully fought the the demons, but that seems to be a mere battle in an ongoing war – they seem to have some plans that require capturing or killing Thorn.
Bad things: OK, I have to admit – I kept reading this series because I felt somewhat confused by the first book and I wanted to understand what was going on. Unfortunately, while a couple of things make more sense now (the strange hatred for neomages), others still do not (really what's with the mage lust?). I feel like I really had to make myself finish this book, because it felt like we were seeing the same thing happening in book 1 as in book 2 and I felt like I wasn't really getting anywhere in terms of seeing the big picture. What I saw was Thorn's limited viewpoint of this world – and since she never got a full education from her enclave, she doesn't know many things about her magic, so as in book 1, there is a lot of detailed descriptions of Thorn experimenting with different stones and discovering things, but this doesn't seem to really make the story progress. It got very tedious to read about every stone Thorn touched in great detail. Following this is one fight after another, again, not much progress – just because there's action doesn't mean that the plot is coming along. Finally towards the end do we get an idea of larger mechanations going on, both by Thorn's associates and by the supernatural creatures around her, but by that time I was dissatisfied by the slow progress, and it was too little too late. I felt like the mystery of apocalypse and the seraphs would be more delved into, but it seems like the author is content to leave that a mystery, at least in this book. On top of this, I found it a bit off-putting that it seems like Thorn was becoming this over-idealized woman – fighing the dark, saving the town, going through hell, but still men want her. The only ones not interested are the gay ones. But what's annoying - I sense that this isn't going to go anywhere anyway, so what's the point of it?
Good things: As I mentioned when I read book 1 – it seems like the visual details of the world are well thought out, as is the use of stone by Thorn in her magic. The strong points in the book would be the descriptions, I had a very clear idea of what was happening and a visual in my minds eye of many details (maybe too much sometimes – I'm not sure it was necessary to describe what every person was wearing to Thorn's trial). Also the creatures that populate this world are fascinating – the host of angels, terrible and beautiful, the half-human races and their limitations, the demon lord and his minions, the succubi and incubi.
Overall: It's a fascinating world, but the plot meanders slowly, and in the end, the second book felt much too much like "second verse, same as the first". It looks like I'm in the minority with feeling disappointed, because I see a lot of positive reviews, but it isn't working for me. I would probably bail from this series now, but I already have book 3, Host.