Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Monday, February 10, 2014
Why I chose this book: I’ll be honest, I picked up this book back in 2012 when it originally came out and could not finish it. I made it thirty pages in and was overwhelmed. While I am slowly learning to love the fantasy genre, I still struggle with books that contain peculiar names, worlds, words, languages, etc., due to my dyslexia. Let me just tell you, this book is a dyslexic’s nightmare. Despite this, I noticed that this book kept getting awards and solid reviews. So at the beginning of this year I picked up Seraphina on audiobook and was pleasantly surprised. 


Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House Books
Publish Date: August 12, 2012
Format: Hardback 
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Buy: B&N || Amazon || Indiebound 

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 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. (Goodreads)
Things You Need to Know:

1. DRAGONS. These are not just any normal, run of the mill dragons. These are dynamic, exciting, emotionless, shapeshifting, completely logical dragons.  What I loved was that Hartman wasn’t afraid to build a world where dragons were more evolved than humans, and in some respects even more powerful. Because of this, there is a theme of racism that is prominent among the humans, creating a dragons vs. humans political environment that is intense and exciting. 

2. Every one has a weakness. While there are bigger plots occurring within the novel, Hartman sneaks in some heartfelt issues that can catch a reader off-guard. Every person within the novel is flawed, dragons and humans alike. While dragons are strong and highly intelligent, they see love and emotion as weakness. Humans are weak compared to dragons, yet because of their ability to empathize and love, they can create beautiful music that fascinates dragons. On top of this, there are “halflings” like Seraphina who are part human, part dragon. This small group of people, while containing the strengths of both species, are considered reprehensible and have to hide their existence. 

3. Fabulous female character development. Seraphina is a brilliant character to follow as she begins the book hiding her talent, abilities, and her very essence for fear of being “out” as half dragon. Throughout the novel, she learns to love who she is and realizes that her gifts have so much potential to do good in the world around her. I loved that I was able to see her evolve into this strong female character that grew a spine and never took no for an answer. 

4. World building that will knock your socks off. This is one of the best fantasy worlds I have ever encountered in a young adult book. Rachel Hartman does a killer job at creating a structured and believable world that contains details down to the very saint that Seraphina was christened after. This novel has its own unique religion, history, languages, and so much more. While there is so much detail, it is all given in a way that isn’t overwhelming and makes you interested all the more. While this was my biggest struggling point while reading the book, it was a delight to listen to. 

Final Thoughts:

I am so glad I gave this book a second chance. This is such an exciting and unique story that I would definitely recommend to fans of the fantasy genre. Even if you struggle with reading the book, the audiobook is excellent, something I rarely recommend.

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