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{end of messing around}

Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)

Seraphina (Seraphina #1)
Author: Rachel Hartman
Released: July 10, 2012
Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 467 (hardcover)
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
"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."


Fans of epic fantasy: looking for the story that can compare to the fantastical worlds of say, Graceling or Eragon?. This is it, booknerds. This is that book that meets your high demands of:

  • dragons
  • a medieval/Renaissance setting
  • long and foreign-sounding names 
  • enough historical background to fill a textbook
  • a trillion bajillion characters
  • royal/political intrigue
I had you at the dragons, didn't I?

Seraphina takes place in that oh-so-familiar medieval fantasy world, yet manages to be both deeply original and interesting. But the dragons of this world have a unique twist: they are highly intelligent. In this world, dragons are the leaders of mathematical and scientific advances.  However, their rational, mechanical minds are completely incapable of understanding human emotion and art. At the beginning of our story, the dragons and humans have been bound by a peace treaty with the kingdom of Goredd for 40 years. Dragons have been taking form as humans in order to walk among the people and study their perplexing ways, but an intense hatred for dragons still lives among humans. Meanwhile, Seraphina Dombegh is a seemingly impossible monstrosity: half-human, half dragon. After spending a lifetime hiding her secret, she joins the royal court as a musician and gets herself wrapped in a draconion/royal murder mystery, along with the curious Prince Kiggs. As the political plots thicken, Seraphina is dragged into a situation where the two sides she belongs to, the dragons and the humans, are pitted against each other. 

The setting of this book is absolutely fabulous. I'm pretty much blown away at Rachel Hartman's world-building in her debut (DEBUT!) novel. The kingdom of Goredd and the surrounding kingdoms of this fictional world come to life as if they actually exist, because the amount of detail put into this book is amazing. Fictional neighbourhoods, religions, holidays and cultures all pop out of the book as if they're coming into existence right before our eyes. 

Same with the mythology; the dragonlore is fresh and unique and fleshed out. Instead of being the animalistic beasts they usually are, these dragons are logical, highly intelligent, and to be honest, a heck of a lot more interesting than their counterparts. The other characters are similarly unique: Princess Glisselda is giggly but regal, Orma is an imperfect (but improving) father figure, and Kiggs is sharp and highly likable. 

Seraphina, on the other hand, I found hard to connect to at first. I don't really know what it was that made her seem so generic to me. Perhaps it was the fact that she is so similar to so many "strong" female YA characters: because she's so protective of her half-dragon self, she appears closed off and prickly and lonely. A very Katniss-like character (forgive me for the comparison) that feels a little overdone. BUT, as the book went on, Seraphina grew on me a lot and I found that her character definitely made sense for her predicament. I could empathize with her loneliness, plus, she's more likable once she begins making friends with Kiggs, Glisselda, Lars, etc. As this is going to be the first in a series, there's a lot of room for character growth, and hopefully by the end, Seraphina will be a little more sympathy-worthy but just as badass.

Rachel Hartman's debut novel is fantastically fantastical and wonderfully unique, and I'm sure that future books in the series will reveal an all-in-all epic and wonderfully crafted story. 

My Rating:
4.5 Brains.

Recommended if:
-you are a fan of epic fantasy (comme moi!)
-you liked Graceling or similar books set in a medieval/Renaissance time
-you like a little bit of mystery
-you have a thing for dragon/monster/mythical creature mythology

P.S. School started. Less time to blog. Less time to read. More time to study. I is confuzzled and sad.

P.P.S. If you have read Seraphina already (ONLY IF YOU'VE READ IT!) and haven't checked out the Seraphina Wiki yet, do! It's pretty fantabulous. 

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