Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Where did you get the book: e-ARC from publisher
Release date: Out now

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.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina’s tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they’ve turned the final page.

*blurb taken from Goodreads*

I do have a soft spot for books featuring dragons, so when I saw this over at Netgalley it set my book tingly senses aflutter. Seraphina is a YA fantasy book that has left me feeling oh so delighted as a reader and as a lover of fantasy.

Seraphina has a very big secret to hide in a city where hatred and bigotry towards dragons is at an all time high. When the anniversary of the treaty approaches, things become even more tense and dangerous between humans and dragons when a member of the royal family is murdered. Seraphina must hide what she is at all costs as it breaks one of the biggest taboos in her city. With bigotry and hatred at an all time high against dragons in Goredd, Seraphina’s visions (memories passed on from her mother) start to become violent. The mental magical garden she created to hide away these visions is starting to crumble and change in ways that are new and frightening. Seraphina is caught between both worlds for she is both human and dragon, and as she gets caught up in the court of intrigue and murder, Seraphina has to come to terms with who she is and not get herself killed in the process.

Oh how I loved this book so very much. Seriously, a heroine who mentally and magically conjured up a magical garden to host her visions and avatars delighted me in so many ways. Not only is Seraphina a fantastic fantasy book where the world building matches up equally to the depthness of characters, Seraphina was also very heartbreaking with a young woman not being able to accept and love herself because of the bigotry of others.

I loved the dragons in Seraphina because they’re not the usual dragons you come across in paranormals and other fantasy books. In fact, for those who’ve read the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh, the dragons are a little like the Psy. They don’t like emotions and feelings because it gets in the way of what a dragon is supposed to be. Feelings and emotions are a weakness in dragons, and any dragon who shows this weakness is dealt with.

Seraphina is a heroine who I fell in love with from the start. She has to endure heartbreak and misery, and she’s had to live such a lonely existence despite working as a musician for the court. Her relationship with her Father is nearly non existent, and she’s had no friends to call her own. Even though the murder and the past of who Seraphina is plays an important part in the novel, Seraphina is about self acceptance and her journey of learning not to hate herself because of the hatred of others.

Mini spoiler.

[spoiler]There’s a scene in the book where Seraphina endures a violent moment of self hatred for her dragon side. She literally cuts off one of her scales as if she could get rid of her dragon half. It was such an emotional scene — and the whole book at times doesn’t make for easy reading. It shows the nature of humans in all different shades of light and dark where there is true ugliness and at times evilness in the actions of humans.[/spoiler]

There is a romantic sub-plot in this book and it does play a factor, but what I found great was that it’s not a romance where the hero is detrimental to the happiness and well being of the heroine. Seraphina is in charge of her story throughout the whole book. The romantic sub-plot with Lucian is not smooth sailing, and just a warning for romance readers, the ending doesn’t guarantee a HEA with them both. But what’s great is that there is a sequel to Seraphina, and I can’t wait to see how that story plays out. My only complaint in the book was trying to keep up with and remember all of the names and people that feature in the book. There are a lot of characters, and at times I found myself a little confused trying to remember who was who.

The ending of Seraphina is totally epic with fighting dragons and a satisfactory conclusion to the murder and intrigue. Seraphina learns that she’s not truly alone in this world. The scope of imagination and imagery in this book left me so giddy with excitement. Rachel Hartman is probably one of the most talented authors to debut this year, and I can’t wait to see more of Seraphina’s world and what Hartman has in store for us next.

I give Seraphina an A

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2 thoughts on “Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman”

  1. Great review! I also have a weakness for dragons (thanks Anne McCaffrey!) but somehow this book does not appeal to me. Perhaps because you describe them as without feelings and emotions.

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