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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
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Seraphina (edition 2012)

by Rachel Hartman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,5081614,904 (4.16)140
Member:tortoise
Title:Seraphina
Authors:Rachel Hartman
Info:Random House Books for Young Readers (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 480 pages
Collections:Read in 2013 (Micah)
Rating:****1/2
Tags:fiction, fantasy

Work details

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

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Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
Pros: brilliant world-building, interesting characters, interesting politics, thought provoking

Cons:

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 |
Loved this book. I can't wait to read more of the beautiful and different world Rachel Hartman has created for this series. ( )
  BookaholicCat | Mar 4, 2015 |
I found this novel to be utterly breathtaking. It's clear that Hartman has a real talent for world building - Goredd was described in such detail that I felt as though I was actually there. I also loved her take on dragon lore. Although her dragons did remind me of Vulcans, they were a breath of fresh air to the high fantasy genre and fantastically memorable.

The characters were also brilliant. Phina was a fantastically strong character - making up for her lack of physical strength with intelligence and wit. The secondary cast was also well fleshed out. My personal favourites were Princess Glisselda and Orma as they seemed to get the most development as the story progressed. I was only really disappointed by the lack of Phina's father - he only appeared a few times and seemed to go through an entire story arc off page.

So, why the missing star?

Well, Seraphina was an very dense novel and sometimes the heavy world building seemed to get in the way of the plot. The first half of the story dragged a bit for me as the murder mystery did not really pick up until halfway through the book. Also, some aspects of the story took too long to be explained. I was really confused by the mind garden at first as it seemed to spring from nowhere and did not get a rational explanation for quite a long time.

Secondly, I did not buy into the romance between Phina and Kiggs. Although there were vague hints that Phina had a crush on him, his reciprocation came out of nowhere, mere pages from the end of the novel, and really did not have any impact on the novel at all. I felt that this could have been left out and the story would have lost nothing.

But, gripes aside, I really did like this novel and would recommend it to any fantasy fans. ( )
  ArkhamReviews | Feb 25, 2015 |
I didn't realize this was a new book. it's been on my list to read for months so I must have seen when it was still just being advertised. However it happened, I got my hands on it and decided to give it a try since it contained dragons and I've always been a big fan of dragons. In this case the dragons have a peace treaty with the humans and part of that treaty is that they must be in human shape when around humans. That comes with it's peril of developing human emotions, etc. That aspect of the book was very interesting, but only a backdrop to Seraphina herself and her story. I liked her and the bastard princes' interaction and reactions. The story started out a little slow but that was to allow the reader to really understand Seraphina. It was a very lyrical kind of book, language-wise and charming. The book don't blow my mind away but it was a good read. Recommended if you enjoy fantasy. ( )
  Kassilem | Feb 5, 2015 |
It's slow, but beautiful. I love world building, and Seraphina is amazing for that. I read it a while ago, and honestly can't remember that much about it, except for that I loved the simple, gentle, style. Hartman lovingly constructed a world and then took us on a stroll through it, letting us stop and start as we saw fit so that we could see what she'd created. Like a stroll through Seraphina's dream world, I want to know more about the world and the story, but it felt in some spots a little too slow. ( )
  ibugg | Jan 25, 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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:33 -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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