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TPG Reviews: Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

March 18, 2015

A masterpiece.

In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons and humans live and work side by side – while below the surface, tensions and hostility simmer.

The newest member of the royal court, a uniquely gifted musician named Seraphina, holds a deep secret of her own. One that she guards with all of her being.

When a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive—and dashing—Prince Lucien. But as the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina’s struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult… while its discovery could mean her very life.


My rating: 9/10

Well, here’s something I wish I’d gotten to sooner. I first bought this novel several months ago, only for a pair of mediocre dragon books (which I’ll get to another time…maybe) to temporarily put me off. I finally got to it a couple of weeks ago and I’m glad I did, because Rachel Hartman’s debut is nothing short of amazing.

In the world of Seraphina, dragons and humans live alongside one another in an uneasy alliance. These dragons can take human form, with several working as teachers and scholars within human institutions.These dragons are fiercely logical creatures, with little space in their minds for such unscientific things as art of love. But with a human form comes human emotions, as turns out, complete with all the complications one might expect.

Seraphina is a half-breed, born to a dragon mother, with scales on one arm and along her back. A gifted musician, she joins the Goreddi royal court at a young age as an assistant composer, but must forever keep others at arm’s length – or so she thinks.  When a Goreddi prince is murdered in a highly dragon-like manner, Seraphina quickly finds herself drawn into the investigation – all the while struggling to keep her true nature hidden.

The story that unfolds is nothing short of immense, with numerous different plot threads weaved together seamlessly. There almost always seemed to be something of note going on in this novel, and it was a rare occasion in which I didn’t want to read at least one more page (or ten, for that  matter). It did take a while to get going, admittedly, but once it did I was utterly hooked.

Seraphina herself was easily the highlight of the novel for me: her struggle to accept herself made for truly compelling reading, and I found myself wanting her to succeed very early on. Lonely and shy, it takes Seraphine quite some time to truly open herself up to others. Seraphina is quite vulnerable in many respects, but her inquisitive nature proves vital in the intrigue that unfolds

Seraphina is in many ways the ideal strong female characer: well-constructed and determined, with her fair share of flaws. She isn’t the only strong female in this book, either, with girly-yet-imperious Princess Glisselda and the grumpy (and also imperious) Dame Okra Carmine counted among her allies.

This isn’t to say the male characters are handled any worse, mind. Seraphina soon finds herself investigating alongside Prince Lucian Kiggs, a dashing young man just a little too sharp-minded for Seraphina’s liking. Her uncle Orma, meanwhile, provides her main link to the world of dragons – as well as letting readers see how humanity can change a dragon over time.

This isn’t even getting into the writing itself, which is nothing short of superb. Really, it’s difficult to find something I didn’t like about this particular book. It’s tense, original, at times heart-breaking and at times heart-warming. That it manages to make dragons fresh again is just the icing on the cake. Highly worth your time.

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  1. Wonderful! I’m repeating myself from my previous comment here, but I’m really glad that you liked Seraphina. 🙂 And I agree with you on all of your points, including that it takes a little while to get into the book.

    • Yeah, it’s definitely not the quickest book to get going, but I’ve seen much worse in that regard. Plus, I’m guessing Shadow Scale will begin a lot faster; really looking forward to reading that, now.

      • Yes, it does. I’m reading Shadow Scale now, and IMO the beginning is much less bogged down than the first few chapters of Seraphina were. SS is a beast of a YA fantasy, though – close to 600 pages, just so you know.

  2. This certainly sounds awesome. I love dragons, though, but…hehe. I will have to see if this book is at my library.

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