‘Seraphina’ by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina

by Rachel Hartman

Random House

Pub. Date:   August 28, 2012

Book received from: Publisher

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Genre:  YA Fantasy

Cover:  Perfect for the story; very neat etching-style artwork, which is very different from a lot of YA covers right now.

Characters:  Perfectly written and very likable

Worth the read?  Yes- if you love fantasy and dragons and such, or are looking for something a bit quirky

Favorite quote: 

“That’s the secret to performance: conviction.  The right note played tentatively still misses its mark, but play boldly and no one will question you.  If one believes there is truth in art- and I do- then it’s troubling how similar the skill of performing is to lying.  Maybe lying is itself a kind of art.”

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Seraphina is half dragon, half human, in a world where many still hold biases and ideas of what a dragon is.  Although a peace treaty had been signed years ago, there is still much unrest due to past violence and oppression.  As Seraphina struggles to hide her true identity, she is faced with quickly discovering exactly who she is, when murder of a noble occurs and the fourth anniversary of the treaty nears, and a meeting of minds is called.

What I liked:

This is a very different kind of fantasy involving dragons, as the dragons are able to take on human form so others are more comfortable with their presence.  There is a great deal of political intrigue, including racial and class relations and discrimination.  There is a lot of attention paid to the ‘others’ that are generally ignored or overlooked within fiction, such as those that live on the outskirts of society, like criminals, servants, and other ‘unseemly’ types.

What Hartman is able to achieve with her character and world building is actually quite impressive.  There is no character, no matter how small, that is overlooked.  Each and every one is given a distinct purpose within the workings of the community, and becomes understandable and very real to the reader.  Often, when there are so many characters within and unfamiliar world, the story becomes easily muddled and confusing.  The world of Seraphina is exactly the opposite.  It is rich and relatable and unforgettable.

There are so many stories and layers to the stories that are happening within the pages of this book that one may be easily overwhelmed, if it were not for Hartman’s ease of writing.  There is the material world, as well as a world within the mind of Seraphina herself.  There is the world of dragons, of humans, and that of half-dragons.  There is the story of the history between many of the characters, as well as the present issues they face.  It is simply complex and beautifully written, while being enthralling and exciting.

What I did not like:

There are times when Hartman has more than one name for the same character, and alternates between the two, making it a bit difficult at times to immediately realize that it is the same character being talked about (such as with Ardmagar Comonot).  With this, there is also a made up language, which requires a glossary for reference, along with a listing and explanation of  the myriad of characters.  While she does a fantastic job of explaining and connecting everything, it does, at times become a bit daunting.

Additionally, the world within Seraphina’s mind, which is a “garden” of characters to which she “tends” becomes confusing, to say the least.  These characters and the reason they are in her mind become very important and understandable by the end, but may lead to a bit of frustration until their roles and significance are revealed.

As a side note, I would have liked to have seen this story told without the bit of a love story involved.  I feel that is distracted from Seraphina’s growth throughout the story, and would have enjoyed the focus being fully on her self-discovery without a romantic connection.

In Conclusion:

Seraphina should not be passed by if you are a fantasy lover.  I have never read a story about dragons before, because I really have no interest in them.  However, Hartman delivers a beautiful world that is easy to understand, with a strong and perfectly-penned protagonist.  There is no way you will not fall in love with Seraphina by the end of this lush story, as well as many of the characters within.  I have never read anything quite like this, and there are many things that are impossible to explain without reading it for yourself.  When the world becomes a bit confusing, just stay with it, because it is all worth it in the end.  I really cannot wait to see what the next installment will bring.

 ‘Seraphina’ can be purchased at Amazon.com, as well as your local independent bookseller.

For more about Rachel Hartman, go to her website here.

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