Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Seraphina

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman. The GoodReads summary:
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.
So for some reason (the cover, maybe?), I was expecting this book to be more of a middle grade. But it wasn’t. Which admittedly made me happy since I prefer YA to middle grade any day of the week. The reason I bring this up is to illustrate one of the many ways this book was better than I expected. I really have no idea where I got such low expectations of this book from, though I suspect a lot of it came from the fact that the book sounded like something I would really like, so I just went ahead and braced myself for disappointment. Maybe not the best way to approach books, but I’ve found myself doing it more and more often recently. Anyway, back to “Seraphina.”

There are so many things that tag this book as my kind of book. First of all, dragons. I mean, come on, let’s just go ahead and admit that dragons are awesome. I’ve loved them ever since way back in the way back when I read Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles. And the dragons in “Seraphina” are fascinating. The book begins at the 40th anniversary of a peace treaty between dragons and humans. These dragons can take human form, but they’re definitely still not accepted by humans despite having representation in the palace. And the dragons in human form are supposed to conform to this philosophy that essentially makes them emotionless, but some of them slip . . . It just makes for some really interesting dynamics is what I’m saying, and I really enjoyed the world that Hartman created.

So we’ve got the dragons, which is a point in the book’s favor, and then on top of that we’ve got palace intrigue, which is another way to guarantee my liking of a book. Seraphina’s just the assistant court composer, but with her special insight into dragons, she quickly gets caught up in the difficult relationship at court between the dragons and the humans, which has been made even shakier since it appears a dragon has killed the prince.

While none of the main characters particularly grabbed me, they were all adequate enough to keep me interested. Though actually, I feel like there were quite a few periphery characters that would’ve grabbed me if I only could’ve gotten to know them a little better, characters like Seraphina’s father and mother, the queen, and Seraphina’s tutor. All these had so much potential, but since the book was about Seraphina and her friends, these older-generation characters didn’t get much page time. So would it be too much to ask for a prequel? Especially about the queen in her younger years?

Although as I reader I tend to be oblivious to plot holes and inconsistencies, upon finishing this book I was left with a slight nagging feeling that some things didn’t quite add up. Like why the prince was really killed. And how exactly some of Seraphina’s powers work. And why, despite living in a world that has sufficient technology to have long distance transmitters, they still use outhouses. I just wasn’t clear on some things.

Overall, a much better book than I was expecting, and one I enjoyed quite a bit. I’m not usually big on series, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading this one.

Rating: 4 / 5


  1. I really loved this book-it was my second favorite book of 2012 and I'm glad to see that someone else loved it. So excited for the second part!

  2. I was so attracted to the book cover! Thanks for the review!


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