Thursday, February 22, 2018

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Title:  Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Genre: Fantasy

Format/Length: ebook, 530 pages

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books, 2012

My Rating:  ★★★★

A book featuring dragons that can take the form of the human body. Dragons that are logical, brilliant, and talented. A strong, independent, female protagonist with an awesome name. A world were humans and dragons live side by side, albeit not without prejudice. A monarchy in which the sovereignty is passed from one daughter to the next. Featuring political intrigue, a plot to disrupt peace and discredit a treaty. The power of music, love, memories. Secrets and lies. These are some of the wonderful, fantastical, enjoyable details within the pages of Rachel Hartman’s novel, Seraphina.

This book was a very fun read. The world building was interesting, immersive. I wanted to live in Goredd, walk the cobbled streets (I pictured it cobbled and Medieval). I wanted to hear Seraphina’s music. I wanted to study with dragons, live amongst them, understand them. I wanted this story keep going.  

The plot is fascinating and moves at a decent pace without sacrificing detail, characterization, or the development of relationships.

I also loved Seraphina’s voice. She is smart and interesting. She is strong, determined, loving. I enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes. The rest of the cast of the characters is also fun. From Orma, Seraphina’s teacher, Princess Glisselda, and her fiance Prince Lucian.

Told in Seraphina’s voice, the reader starts the story knowing Seraphina’s birth began with the unraveling of her mother’s secret; she is a dragon. Therefore Seraphina, unfortunately almost immediately motherless, is a half dragon. Her father, a prominent lawyer, quickly and carefully builds a false origin for his daughter. Fraternizing with dragons is prohibited and Seraphina's birth is not a blessing for their family, least of all for Seraphina herself.  

And so she grows up hiding the truth. She gets used to lying and living an extremely private life. She is as solitary as it would be acceptable to do so for someone who lives and works at a Royal Court.

Soon Seraphina’s carefully tended life is disrupted by events at Court; the suspicious death of a Royal Prince and a brewing political upheaval.

As Seraphina gets involved in the investigation of these mysteries, she learns to trust others, to rely on their strengths, and to slowly but surely be more open to everything.

The constant theme throughout this book is identity. Seraphina is a young woman trying to figure out who she is, all the while hiding a part of her heritage. She is also trying to create something separate from her secret; which she views as hideous and shameful. Seraphina is trying to find her place in the world. She longs to find a place to belong.

And I think Hartman was very successful in demonstrating this theme as well as that of longing and love.

Despite the adjectives I’ve heaped onto the review of this book, I need to say that the last scene was a bit of a letdown. In fact, I found it annoying. Of all the fun and enjoyment to be had in this book, the romantic aspect was my least favorite. Even though I like the characterization of Prince Lucian. Even though I want Seraphina to be happy, I just didn’t care whether or not they end up together.

I think this is about personal taste and not at all indicative of whether or not Hartman wrote a believable love story. In fact, she did. I just didn’t care whichever way it concluded.


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