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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina (edition 2012)

by Rachel Hartman

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1,6081654,518 (4.17)161
Authors:Rachel Hartman
Info:Random House Books for Young Readers (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 480 pages
Collections:E-Books, Fantasy, Your library

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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

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Description: 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.

Thoughts: I'm surprised it took me this long to read this! I guess I was ignoring it because of the hype, but the hype turned out to be pretty well deserved.

This new look at dragons in human form (and all the problems and possibilities that brings with it) was quite interesting and gave a nice fresh side to a court intrigue story that otherwise would have been very average.

Seraphina is a very likeable and sympathetic character, strong willed and determined to do the right thing even when it puts her in danger, but vulnerable and lonely because of all she has to hide.

The plot is nicely paced and thoroughly explored, with nice unobtrusive hints to the unraveling mystery scattered along the way. I very much appreciated a story where I could pick out some of the hidden details but was still surprised by some things in the end.

The romantic aspects were a little bit forced at the beginning but it feels much more balanced by the end.

As for the audio, Mandy Williams does an excellent job with Seraphina's voice and narration, and many of the other characters as well, but some of her male voices are hindered and too similar.

Rating: 4.08

Liked: 4
Plot: 4
Characterization: 4.5
Writing: 4
Audio: 4

http://www.librarything.com/topic/188600#5133963 ( )
  leahbird | Jul 20, 2015 |
Review: http://jenny-arch.com/2015/07/16/vacation-reading-and-july-tbr-check-in/


I believed in her like some people believe in Heaven. (Seraphina, p. 2)

"Maybe we can't reason our way out of our feelings the way you can..." (Prince Lucian to Eskar, p. 27)

"We are all pulled toward our doom in exactly the same way, by exactly the same force."
She meant gravity - dragons aren't good at metaphor - but her words resonated with me more personally. Invisible factors in my life would inevitably lead to my downfall. (p. 33)

I was half lawyer; I always noticed the loopholes. (p. 34)

"I scrupulously hide every legitimate reason for people to hate me, and then it turns out they don't need legitimate reasons." (Seraphina to Orma, 124)

...he believed me good, believed me worth taking seriously, and his belief, for one vertiginous moment, made me want to be better than I was. (174)

"Emotions are addictive!" cried the Ardmagar. "They have no meaning: they are antithetical to reason." (from a maternal memory, 201)

Was my head full of tinder, just waiting for a spark? (206)

"We hear well, but your auditory nerve connects to some emotional center - all your senses link to emotion, absurdly, but that one in particular...that's why you make music, isn't it?" (Comonot to Seraphina, 217)

"Sometimes the truth has difficulty breaching the city walls of our beliefs. A lie, dressed in the correct livery, passes through more easily." (Seraphina to Lucian Kiggs, 239)

I couldn't work out what to tell her. This had never happened to me before: I always knew which things were tellable and which were not, and while I had never liked lying, it had never felt like such a burden. (Seraphina with Glisselda, 288)

"Can you not see that it's no longer a question of dragon versus human? The division now is between those who think this peace is worth preserving and those who would keep us at war until one side or the other is destroyed." (Comonot, ch. 35)

"Love is not a disease." (Orma, ch. 36)

Once I had feared that telling the truth would be like falling, that love would be like hitting the ground, but here I was, my feet firmly planted, standing on my own. (Seraphina, ch. 37) ( )
  JennyArch | Jul 16, 2015 |
Young Reader Reaction: There isn't anything I didn’t enjoy about this story! Seraphina has quickly become one of my favorite young adult fantasy novels. It is much more than a superficial story with a love interest as the focus; it is a book filled with depth and complexity. Hartman encourages readers to look inside themselves and own who they are. I especially enjoyed exceedingly was the musical descriptions. I am not a music expert, and I was fascinated by the imagery of choirs and instruments. Every detail I could picture in my mind, which is not something that many authors can do for me. I also enjoyed the dragon lore, as it is rather unique compared to others. Though the book is not action-packed, it is highly enjoyable with its characters, setting, and build-up. This is definitely a book to pick up! Seraphina would be perfectly appropriate for someone as young as 12. Language and violence are minimal and sex is barely mentioned.

Adult Reader Reaction: Review pending.

Pros: A page turner of the first order! Vivid descriptions and wonderful characters immerse readers in Seraphina's world from beginning to end.

Read our full review and add yours at The Reading Tub®.
  TheReadingTub | May 3, 2015 |
In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons live among humans as scholars and teachers. Although they are able to shapeshift into human form, the coldly logical dragons are still met with distrust after an uneasy peace following generations of war. As the kingdom prepares to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the treaty with the dragons, a member of the royal family is murdered, threatening to spark a new conflict.

Seraphina Dombegh, the protagonist, tries to keep a low profile despite her notable musical talent and position as assistant music master to the court. Despite her efforts, she is inexorably caught up in the murder investigation and possible conspiracy to destroy the fragile peace between humans and dragons. At the same time, Seraphina must come to terms with the fact that she is of both worlds, human and dragon.

Seraphina is beautifully written, with an immediately engaging story and well developed world. It’s a new favorite, and definitely a must read. ( )
1 vote lisally | Apr 26, 2015 |
Pros: brilliant world-building, interesting characters, interesting politics, thought provoking


For Parents: no swearing, minor suggestive content, a few kisses, some violence, nothing graphic

Seraphina has a secret to hide regarding her mother. Her distant father warns her to avoid calling attention to herself, but her love of music makes it hard for her, especially when she becomes the assistant to the court composer. It’s a mere two weeks before the Treaty Eve festivities when the Ardmagar Comonot visits to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the peace pact between the Goredd nation and dragonkind. Not everyone is happy with the peace, especially since Prince Rufus recently died in a suspiciously draconic way. The Sons of St. Ogdo are stirring up the populace against the vile scurge even as members of the royal court make snide remarks behind the backs of the draconic embassy members. The depth of Seraphina’s knowledge of dragons and her willingness to stand up for them in the face of prejudice, brings her to the attention of Prince Lucian Kiggs, Captain of the Queen’s Guard, as more and more incidents occur. As the days count down both her secret and the peace pact are in danger.

This is a brilliant novel. The writing is top notch and the world-building excellent. It’s a pseudo-European world, but one that remembers there are other nations with other peoples, many of whom travel and have political and economic ties to each other. The religion is obviously based on Catholicism, with a plethora of interesting saints (including St. Ogdo the dragon slayer). I loved that the politics around the peace weren’t simple. The racism of humans to dragons and vice versa is covered (in multiple forms), as is the peace pact between the human nations that came about beforehand, which allowed the humans to present a united front to the dragons. I also liked that the book pointed out the uncertainty that people feel when forced to trust that their former enemy is trading in good faith.

The dragons are coldly logical, refusing to allow feelings to affect them. But when they take human form, they can have trouble dealing with the wash of emotions that come over them. Dragons that forget themselves face harsh punishments - the excision of those emotions and any memories that could revive them.

Seraphina is a wonderful character. She lies to protect herself, knowing that she’s hurting herself by doing so. I loved that many of her lies are uncovered, forcing her to face the consequences of her actions and make difficult decisions based on them. Lucian’s great, always asking questions and sometimes getting burned by the answers. Princess Glisselda was fun to read about, with her obvious intelligence and political savvy. It was refreshing to see a friendship develop between women that didn’t involve any backbiting or gossip. I also loved Orma, who tries so hard to appear human but doesn’t quite grasp all of the intricacies involved even as he often has to prove he has no emotional attachment to Seraphina.

The book has some great examples of how to stand up for yourself - and others - when facing bigotry. It isn’t easy and Seraphina sometimes does the wrong thing, but it’s great seeing examples of how to deal with bullying behaviour head on. It’s equally good that it shows the potential backlash and consequences that standing up for something can elicit.

I personally found the jump between the prologue and the first chapter very confusing. The prologue shows Seraphina’s birth, which made me think the book would progress through her life, but the first chapter jumps several years ahead, and you have to read a few chapters to understand how she got where she is now. Logically prologues tend to stand apart from the rest of the book so that was my failure of attention rather than a flaw in the text.

I loved this book. The characters felt so real and Seraphina’s loneliness so heartbreaking that I cried several times while reading it. The mystery is a little on the slow side, but I found the world and happenings so fascinating that I didn’t care. If you love fantasy, get this book. ( )
1 vote Strider66 | Mar 10, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rachel Hartmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, AndrewCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kolesova, JulianaIllustrator (Title Page)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palisi, HeatherCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memoriam: Michael McMechan. Dragon, teacher, friend.
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I remember being born.
I usually practiced smiling while I slathered my scales with goo, figuring that if I could smile through that, I could smile through anything. Today I really didn't have the time.
We were all monsters and bastards. And we were all beautiful.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375866566, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Teen Book of the Month, July 2012: In Seraphina, dragons and humans maintain an uneasy peace and for a woman who is both there is nowhere to turn for acceptance--not even within herself. Seraphina has spent her young life concealing the truth of her parentage and authentic nature, a task that proves ever more difficult when she is thrust into the spotlight of the royal court. Author Rachel Hartman’s dragons take human form but shun the messiness of human emotion by remaining “in ard” (a highly rational state of mind), while their counterparts cling to a dangerous assumption of species superiority. As the anniversary of the treaty between the two sides approaches, court intrigue reaches a fever pitch and hard-won truths, betrayals, and intricacies of the heart are laid bare. Seraphina is a beautifully complex fantasy that delves into the most basic of desires—to be loved, to belong, and to find peace in self-acceptance. --Seira Wilson

Guest Review by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce is a best-selling author of fantasy books for teenagers. Her books, known for their teenaged girl warriors and wizards, have received critical acclaim and a strong fanbase. Her newest book, Mastiff, is the third book in The Legend of Beka Cooper series.

In Seraphina's world, coldly intellectual dragons can take on the shapes--and feelings--of human beings. Sometimes this results in a surprise. Seraphina's father married a beautiful musician, and discovered too late that she was a dragon. She died, leaving him with a daughter who confuses him and his new wife and children.

Now the half-dragon Seraphina is the assistant to the cranky royal music master. She is in charge of Princess Glisselda's music lessons; she books performers for the 40-year celebration of the peace treaty between dragons and humans, and she rehearses the rowdy court musicians. She has to hide the scales on her arm and around her waist, and she can never let anyone find out that Orma, her music teacher, is actually a dragon.

When she plays the solo for the funeral of the realm's murdered prince, Seraphina is suddenly raised into entirely new, visible levels of peril. People she always avoided are noticing her. She has to attend social functions, where she is caught up in court politics, between those who support the treaty and those who want to destroy it. She runs afoul of conspirators who want to start the war again--one of them may be her own grandfather. She even discovers that Prince Lucian, who is betrothed to Princess Glisselda, is not only very sharp-eyed but also very agreeable to be around. He appreciates her insights on intrigue at court and in the city and uses her as an unofficial investigator into the ongoing unrest.

The plot thickens. A new religious order plots riots and revolution. Exiled knights return to report an unregulated dragon flying near where the old prince was murdered. The dragons are trying to send Orma for corrective surgery--they think he's gotten too human and they want to cut those parts out of his brain. Seraphina fears that if she tells the prince and the princess what she is, they'll hate her forever, but their work to preserve the treaty celebrations is bringing them closer together. And all of them are terrified that the dragons will decide that humans are not worth the trouble, and will destroy them at last.

I loved this book even more the second time I read it than I did the first. The characters are interesting and engaging, and I love the new look at dragons. For all that she's half-dragon, Seraphina is a very believable human being, caught between different loyalties and just trying to keep everyone she loves alive. But don't take my word for it--read it yourself!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In a world where dragons and humans coexist in an uneasy truce and dragons can assume human form, Seraphina, whose mother died giving birth to her, grapples with her own identity amid magical secrets and royal scandals, while she struggles to accept and develop her extraordinary musical talents.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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