Big Book,  YA


Rachel Hartman
seraphina hbFour 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 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.

Seraphina first captured my attention over a year ago while I was exploring Goodreads and compiling a list for our 2012 debut reading challenge. The unique woodcarving aesthetic of the cover (not pictured) hinted at the medieval world hidden within and the idea of dragons taking human form and living among us was immediately intriguing.
While I didn’t manage to include Seraphina in my 2012 reads, I was still curious enough to add Seraphina to my personal wish list. Recent award wins; increased media attention and the paperback publication pushed the book in to the forefront of my mind. So that when fellow UK blogger Raimy ( from Readaraptor) was reorganizing her bookcase, I jumped at the opportunity to rehome her hardback copy and endeavored to make it my next read.
Having been attracted to this book by the promise of the world building, I was delighted to discover a comprehensively constructed world. Without resorting to “information dumping”, pages of descriptions and explanations, Hartman was able to bestow The Kingdom of Gorred with it’s own monarchy, history, art, vernacular, belief systems and political and religious tensions.
The world building was so encompassing and felt so authentic, that in no time I was fully immersed in the story and had no difficulty suspending my disbelief and accepting that not only did huge fire breathing, head eating dragons exist, but that they are able to fold themselves in to human form, albeit uncomfortably, and walk around Hartman’s pseudo medieval world.
All of the characters, even seemingly minor ones were well thought out and three dimensional and I loved how Hartman challenged my expectations. A character I quickly and harshly labeled in my mind as vacuous and shallow, turned out to be a loyal friend with backbone of steel and innate poise.
I adored Seraphina. Although at times she is crippled by self-doubt and self-disgust, I admired her strength of character, intelligence and determination. Whatever muddle she finds herself in, by design or accident, whether she is filling in last minute at a concert or interrogating knights, she throws herself in to the task and gives 100%. It was a joy to follow her developing from socially awkward, self-loathing keeper of secrets to a confident and hopeful young woman.
The romantic element of Seraphina was beautifully done. While there is no doubting the connection between the characters there was no sign of the dreaded “insta love”, but rather a foundation of mutual respect and team work from which their relationship was allowed develop organically. Not that they don’t suffer from their own brand of angst. For one thing, Lucian is promised to someone else. For another, how do you reconcile a relationship between a girl whose very existence is protected by a veil of lies, and a boy who has pledged his life to the pursuit of truth.
I was completely enamored by the experience of reading Seraphina. I found myself in that wonderfully joyful situation of total absorption and enjoyment of a book while realising that I had over fifty percent to go. All too soon though, I’d raced through the pages and found myself staring at the final chapter. Sentimental fool that I am, I delayed reading the last few pages because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Gorred and it’s inhabitants.
Verdict: Reading Seraphina was an absolute pleasure. The countdown for the July release of Dracomachia begins.
Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Doubleday Children’s
Publication Date: July 2012
Format: Hardback
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Gifted
Challenge: None


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