January 6, 2013

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Title: Seraphina (Seraphina #1)
Author: Rachel Hartman
Release Date: July 12th, 2012
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Page Count: 451
Source: Borrowed from the New York Public Library
Rating: ★★★★★
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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

High fantasy is my absolute favorite. It has been since the first time I read The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. Only, I'm very picky about my high fantasy. Stellar world building isn't enough for me. I need MORE and Seraphina really delivers.

Let's break this down:

Even though I just said world building isn't enough, I still want to start with it because OH MAN I love what Rachel Hartman manages to create. The descriptions and the history and the philosophy and the religions and the monarchy... it's a full fledged society that doesn't require a million charts and family trees for me to keep track of (although the glossaries in the back are great - helps me keep the saints straight). I don't even need phonetic spellings for most of the names in the book. This book isn't trying to be unnecessarily clever or create a world you can't quite wrap your head around and I LIKE THAT.

Seraphina is also a character I can wrap my head around. She's scared and kind of alone, living between two worlds, feeling like she doesn't actually belong in either. Hi, relatable. But I think what's really great about Seraphina (besides for how relatable and brave and badass she is) is that she doesn't want to stay stuck. The whole book she seems like she wants to hide, but even from the very start you can just TELL based on the job she has that she wants to own what she is, she just has to find a way to do it.

As for secondary characters, I love 'em. Kiggs is just UGH. Seriously. He's so sweet I can't even. Not to mention Glisselda is mercifully and wonderfully un-ditzy. I also adore Orma and the half dragons. All of the character have the right motivations and behave in the way I would honestly expect them to, given their situations. Not to mention, each character has a purpose. No one's just there to be there, really. They come up in the beginning to establish the appropriate foreshadowing and then really make you feel like the book comes full circle at the end (even though there CLEARLY needs to be more because of all the romance and missing grotesques and impending doom and such).

Which leads me to the plot. I would say that high fantasy and mystery are two of my favorite genres, but they also happen to be two of the genres I'm pickiest about. It's remarkably easy to get confused and irritated by fantasy and bored with mystery, but this book really covers all it's bases. The first hundred or so pages are necessarily meaty to situate the reader, but it wasn't as if nothing happened during all that. I mean, the book opens with a royal death. That's a pretty big-freaking-deal. Although, strangely enough, considering that this death is the instigator of what happens for 450 pages, it's NOT the driving force of the story. It's important, sure, but the book has so many different plots and subplots and, amazingly, I never feel like any of them are being neglected at all. 

Also. Guys. THAT PLOT TWIST AT THE END. I can't say I'm always great at knowing how stories are going to end, but this time I really had no idea. And that's all I'm going to say on the matter. (Unless you comment or send me an email or something and then we can get all "!!!!!" over it together.)

And last, but oh so definitely not least, all of this - the world building, characters and plot - would not be possible if not for Rachel Hartman's amazing, fluid writing style. Honestly. The prose was just as magical and charming as the book. I absolutely cannot wait until book 2! 

The long and short of it?

Plot: Intricate and surprising - an absolute delight.
World Building: The high fantasy realm I didn't even know I needed.
Character Development: I choose all of you. Seriously. Let's all be friends.
Prose: Mellifluous (I pulled out a fancy word for this review, that's how good it is)
Would I Recommend This Book?: Absolutely. And while you're at it, pick up The Song of The Lioness quartet if you haven't read them yet and rejoice, for you have purchased GREAT BOOKS.


  1. I LOVED THIS BOOK. I felt like a cartoon character with stars in my eyes when I finished! I've been "cheating" on fantasy with contemporary novels for a while, but this was one of the fantasy novels that reminded me WHY I loved reading this genre so much. It was inventive, and beautifully written - and I need the sequel NOW.

    1. I've ALSO been cheating on fantasy with contemporary for a long time!! I definitely needed a reminder and Serahina was just perfect. And yesyesyes NEED sequel. Waiting is the wooooorst.


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