Skip to main content

Seraphina

All I knew when I went into Seraphina by Rachel Hartman was that it was a book with dragons. Imagine my delight when I began reading and discovered that the book had plenty of other elements to love. Mystery. Political Intrigue. Awesome Heroine. Yes, this book has all of that. Plus the dragons.  I haven't read a high fantasy I enjoyed this much in a looooong time.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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.


The world building here is excellent. There are several countries being dealt with that have a complex history. They have a religious system (also complex) and an intricate class structure. None of this is explained to the reader, the story is simply rich with the details of the world the characters live in. There is a bit of explanation given here and there, but the way Hartman wove these parts into the story made sense in the narrative and worked for the characters. The concept at the heart of the story is unique and interesting. After years of war dragons and humans have a fragile peace that has lasted 40 years. The dragons take human form and are permitted to live among the humans. The rules are strict on this and some dragons are better at "passing" as humans than others. Some are so remarkably good at it they form forbidden ties with humans and no longer wish to assume their dragon form. The peace is a fragile one because many of the dragons who fought in the wars are, of course, still alive. And there are humans keen to stoke the embers of fear and hatred for the "beasts" who killed their grandparents in their fellows. There are interesting themes explored through this of what humanity is and it how it operates. I found the contrast between the dragons' lack of emotional connection, the idea that they were beyond such things and therefore above humans, and the human's belief that the dragons lack of emotion meant they were all heartless and bloodthirsty to be interesting.


Of course the important thing in all of this is the people it's affecting. Our characters, most importantly Seraphina. I really loved Seraphina's voice and empathized with her from the first. Her story starts out slowly and she is not forth coming with details. At the beginning of the book Seraphina is a girl in conflict. She has secrets she is ashamed of and must hide. She is lonely, and thinks alone is what is best, and yet she craves companionship. Her walls are up. As the story progresses and she begins to make connections with the people around her her story also opens up. The book really is the process of getting to know her. This one girl who is "prickly" (as the Princess calls her). There were many aspects of Seraphina's character I appreciated. She is not rash. She tries to think every situation through. She manages to avoid most unpleasantness by trying to tell as much truth as she can. At the same time she is crafty, using other people's assumptions of her and situations to gain the advantage she needs in to do what she must in the moment.


Seraphina comes with a whole host of fascinating supporting characters as well: her father, Kiggs. Orma, Dame Okra, Lars, Viridius, Abda, Estar, Princess Glisselda, Comonot, These characters are royalty, musicians, acrobats, dragons, and all interesting in their own right. To top it all off there is a fascinating villain and they are never sure exactly where or how he is operating.


The story is action packed and the last 100 pages or so are nail biters.


I do believe there will be more to come of this world and its characters. The end certainly seems to set that up. At the same time I would be satisfied with the questions left unanswered and the ending just as it is. Hartman struck the perfect balance here.


This is one of my favorite reads so far this year and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys good stories of intrigue or is looking for an inventive take on dragons.

I read a copy most excitedly received from the publisher via NetGalley. Seraphia is on sale July 10. 

Comments

Sarah Prineas said…
I cannot WAIT to read this one!
Charlotte said…
oh goodness my expectations for this are just getting higher and higher!
Brandy said…
Sarah and Charlotte: I hope both of you like it. I am always nervous when I really love a book. I will feel bad if you don't like it.
Chachic said…
I have heard nothing but good things about this title. It keeps popping up in everyone's list of 2012 favorites! I'm still disappointed that I was denied when I requested it on NetGalley but at least it's being released soon. I just hope local bookstores ordered copies of this.
Brandy said…
I hope you get to read it soon. I think you will probably enjoy it.
Charlotte said…
Having now read it myself, I came back to properly read your thoughs--I also loved how the book and Seraphina both opened up in tandem!
Brandy said…
I can't wait to read your review!

Popular posts from this blog

Shorter Musings MG Fantasy

Here are some shorter musings on recent MG fantasy reads. Anya and the Dragon   by Sofiya Pasternack This book is fun. It is a book full of adventure, an obvious bad guy, some more complicated morally gray area characters, and a strong, brave heroine. It is also a book about friendships, community, and fighting for what is right. All things that usually work for me really well. While I enjoyed this, I did feel it was a little overlong and there were certain plot points at the end I didn't love. However, there were things I thought were done really well, such as Anya's Jewish faith and the idea that power needs to be challenged. In the end it was a middle of the road read for me, but it is one I will certainly be recommending to dragon and fantasy adventure lovers I know! R is for Rebel   by J. Anderson Coats This is tough because I usually really like Coats's books. I had such a hard time with this one though on so many levels. It's difficult to get into because t

TTT: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by  The Broke and the Bookish  and now hosted at  That Artsy Reader Girl . This Week's Topic: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List From Most Recent to Least: What books have recently caught your eye?

Future Favorite Friday: June 2018

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments. Two Naomis  was one of my favorite reads of 2016 so I was understandably excited it's getting a sequel.  In this sequel to  Two Naomis , now that Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi E.’s dad are married, the girls have learned to do a lot of things together, like All-Family Sunday dinners, sixth-grade homework, navigating the subway system by themselves, and visiting their favorite bakeries. Until sixth grade in a new school presents a whole new set of surprises and challenges. Trusting her gut has worked for Naomi E. all her life, and she figures that it will be an asset to her role as a Peer Mediator—until she realizes how much of the job requires the Art of Compromise, which she’s only just starting to get used to at home. Naomi Marie i

The Reece Malcolm List

The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding surprised me. Enough people I trust enjoyed it so I knew I would like it, but wasn't expecting to like it as much as I do. It is a really great book that is fun and has real heart and soul too. Synopsis: Things I know about Reece Malcolm: 1. She graduated from New York University. 2. She lives in or near Los Angeles. 3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week. 4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon. 5. She’s my mother. Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much. L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love. But the

Ash & Bramble

I have established that I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. You know what else I love? Books written by Sarah Prineas. Both her MG series are great favorites of mine. When she happened to mention on Twitter long ago that she was working on a YA, I followed closely eager to read whatever the result was. Ash & Bramble  is a fabulous work of genius. (I consider Sarah a friend as well as an author I love, and she sent me the ARC I'm reviewing here.) Pin lives in the Godmother's fortress sewing clothes with the other seamstresses tasked with producing the beautiful one of a kind ballgowns the Godmother uses for her mysterious purposes. Pin has no memories of her life prior to the day she begins her work as a slave to the Godmother's will. Everything that came before is a blank nothing. While she has no memories, she is still a person with a will and a fierce defiance to live her own life. She gets a chance to plan an escape when she is used as a foot model for