Author: Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina #1
Publisher: Corgi Childrens, Random House Children's Publishers
Date: January 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
Quite honestly, Seraphina deserves nothing short of a glowing review! I absolutely adored it. I’ve never been much of a re-reader, but I can easily see myself picking up Seraphina again and again – in fact, I wanted to do just that, the minute I turned the last page.
I was attracted to this book after binge watching GOT – I was curious to actually read a book about dragons; creatures that I was so unfamiliar with but oh so very curious about.
The world building in Seraphina was incredible. Hartman has crafted the kingdom of Goredd, complete with its own rich and unique culture, religion, traditions and courtly affairs; as well as her own take on dragons, of course. I loved the intricate details of these elements and never felt overwhelmed or confused. However, if you have concerns about stepping into an epic fantasy novel, Hartman has included a full character list and glossary, which would come in handy if you’re unfamiliar with the dense world-building that comes with this genre.
We learn of the deep-rooted tensions between dragons and humans, resulting in suspicion and prejudice from both sides. The atmosphere oozed through the pages; it was so well developed and vivid. I loved the emphasis on knowledge, philosophy and musical talents; dragons and humans pursue the arts rather than gold and other material riches.
Embedded into the backdrop of the political affairs of Goredd, are themes of love and acceptance, which were equally well formed and compelling.
The writing was an utter delight; it has wit and an unforgettable charm. Hartman certainly has a way with words and managed to keep me glued to the story with such an engaging narrative. I was both eager to know more and reluctant to finish.
Seraphina, herself, is such a relatable character, in the sense that she is self-conscious and generally uncomfortable in her own skin. I for one can undoubtedly empathise with this feeling and I’m sure many others can, too. As we are faced with challenging experiences in our lives, we come to realise that our differences are special and unique, rather than ‘grotesque’. This is the journey that Seraphina has to tackle and which gently encourages her to feel empowered by her identity. Despite her inner struggles and the constant threat of persecution from those around her, Seraphina remained determined and adventurous. I loved the glimpse into her hybrid characteristics and her ability to negotiate between dragons and humans. I also enjoyed her relationships and the parallels that were made between her and Prince Lucian.
The remaining characters were just as wonderful and multidimensional as our main character and I grew fond of their unique personalities and quirks. I especially loved Orma, who was quiet and composed, with a passionate interior.
For me, the romance wasn’t completely unexpected; the telltale signs were there throughout the story, but that is by no means a criticism! I enjoyed the subtle hints and gradual build up of the romance, which I have found to be quite rare in young adult novels. The love felt very genuine and pure.
All in all, Hartman has created an engrossing story with characters who are sure to capture your heart. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Shadow Scale.