Review: Seraphina

Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman
Release Date ~ July 10, 2012
Doubleday Canada ~ Random  House
ISBN13: 9780385668392
E-galley received from Random House Canada/signed copy purchased

Goodreads Synopsis:
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 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 is a breathtakingly beautiful fantasy book. It simply sweeps you away into its own little world, and is a prime example of good fantasy. It's enchanting, reads like a dream, and leaves you pondering its story and characters after finishing it.

I would say, however, to be cautious with what you expect with this one. It may not appeal to every reader right away, and takes some growing into. But it's well worth it for the experience, as it slowly grows on you and steals your heart.

  1. A clever, intelligent heroine:

    One of my favourite things about Seraphina is that it features a heroine who's defining character traits include her cleverness and intelligence. There's so much more to her than just that, but it's clearly an integral part of her personality. And it completely shines through in everything she does - she's a little bit quirky, but totally brilliant. I love that we get to see a character like her, who is a bit socially awkward at times, but still fantastic in her own way. And the same thing goes for the love interest - we don't get constant descriptions of his eyes or body or overall good looks.
  2. A mysterious plot, full of unexpected twists:

    I really thought I had figured the mystery out. I thought I had solved it not even halfway through the book and was less than enthused that the characters hadn't figured it out like I had yet. So imagine my surprise when I was wrong - totally, completely wrong. There are so many layers to the plot, it doesn't seem possible to guess it all in retrospect. And I was so caught off guard. But I LOVE it when I'm wrong and the book surprises me.
  3. Bewitching secondary characters:

    I don't know how Rachel managed to do this, but she took cold, distant, emotionless characters (dragons) and somehow made them come to life. That's HARD to do, because of their (lack of) personality for the most part. But she succeeds. And not only that, but the rest of the cast of characters from Lars to Glisselda just lept off the pages for me. I couldn't get enough of Selda, and I was pleasantly surprised by how taken I was with her.
  4. Rich details and complex storytelling:

    This is one area where I think some readers may have a harder time with the book and it can take a little bit of getting used to. The world Rachel created for Seraphina is vibrant, and overflowing with details. It really takes on a life of its own. I found the glossary and cast of characters in the back of the book to be indispensible while reading. But this is what made the world really come to life for me, and made me fall in love with the book.
  5. Brilliant thinking:

    Seraphina is obviously intelligent. But I can tell that Rachel is, too. It takes a very thoughtful person to craft such a rich story, and I found myself questioning so many ideas and rethinking some standards I held to, and ultimately making comparisons to real life. I especially appreciated her twist on dragon mythology (nerd alert: I studied a little bit of this in some POLITICAL SCIENCE classes in university. I know, that sounds very odd, but it was incredible) and I could really tell that Rachel had researched this and had a solid background in it. Especially with the concept of hoarding. I LOVED that.
That's not to say that I didn't have a hard time with it, because I was completely confused at certain times. The book is rather long for YA, and there are so many characters and words that I just wasn't familiar with so it took some getting used to.

And there were a few instances where I found myself second-guessing my infatuation with Kiggs. He won me over, eventually, and I know it really wasn't fair of me to expect him not to struggle with a few things but I think I was really expecting better of him. And he did let me down once or twice, even though I know it's because he's flawed.

Seraphina is just another reminder of why I adore fantasy - I love it to the moon and back. You have no idea what I'd do for more books like this one (good thing Rachel's working on a sequel)!

Purchase Links
United States
Audible (audio book)


Isabelle said...

Honestly, I love it when I'm wrong about a plot. :) Most people like being right, but surprises are awesome.

Christina said...

It always fills me with joy when people love a book I loved. You're spot on about this one. I do think some readers will struggle with the writing and the slower pace of the novel. This isn't a fantasy where dramatic things are going to happen every couple pages. The focus is upon Seraphina's inter struggles more than anything else.

I liked Kiggs, but, yeah, he doesn't really handle everything as well as he could have. Still, let's be honest, I can't handle crises, so who am I to judge.

Andrea @ Cozy Up said...

Rachel Hartman did such a beautiful job on this book and I loved every minute of this book. I do agree that it was quite long for a YA book but I flew through it anyway. Love your review!

Bookluvr Mindy said...

Oh! My...I have a feeling that this might be one of those books that I have a feeling I will be constantly dying to read but will keep being pushed the back burner.

I will have to buy it next week so at least it will sit on my bookshelf.

Magical Urban Fantasy Reads

Addie R. said...

Your review made Seraphina remind me a bit of Shadow and Bone and I LOVED that book so I can't wait to read this one. And I'm just getting more and more into fantasy and the dragon aspect is just awesome! xD

Unknown said...

Love how you review books! Been hearing good things about this book. Thanks for the through review. I shall buy this book soon. New Follower here.


Jesse said...

I loved Seraphina! I also had a little trouble getting into it because some of the words confused me, but once I figured everything out it all just sort of added to the atmosphere of the book. I can't wait for the sequel!

Unknown said...

I loved Seraphina too. I found her character refreshing and something that was missing from the usual YA books, I love it when a character can catch up with things as fast as the reader does. And even though I found the first few chapters a bit confusing, with the new world and rules, Seraphina's garden and everything, I adore this book more than any other book this summer.

Jessica @ Books: A true story said...

I loved the dragon mythology in this book! I loved all the music history stuff and instruments in here, too. I could tell she did her research with that as well. Great review!

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