Review: Seraphina

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: SeraphinaSeraphina by Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina #1
Published by Random House BFYR on July 10, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 451
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

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.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.

First Sentence: “I remember being born.”

Review:
Hey, party people! I know I’ve been super behind lately! I’m so sorry about that, because it totally makes me look really lazy, but I’ve just been really busy with life stuff, even though, usually, this mostly is my life. This weekend, I was in Pittsburgh for my step-grandfather’s hundredth birthday party. There were some open bars and excellent opportunities to hang out with family I don’t see much. I also got to finish some books, although not nearly enough since the days were busy, but I finished two on the way up and two on the way down, the first of which was Seraphina.

Getting through this book took me a while, only because of the life stuff. I could have read this in one intense sitting, although I would definitely have sobbed had that been the case. I was definitely fighting off tears while I was riding on MARTA. Anyway, I totally adored this book and I am so thrilled that I was chosen to be an Ambuzzador for something I truly appreciate so much. Even better, I have a copy to give away to one of you, so that I can share the magic with others, which I really love to do.

I have to start by talking about the dragons, because, ummm, dragons are freaking cool. Seraphina is pretty much what I was dreaming the book Firelight would be…only better. This one, too, has dragon shifters, but these are so much better thought out and so much more serious than Sophie Jordan’s. This isn’t about dragons just because paranormal’s in; Seraphina focuses more on social tensions, bigotry, and prejudice.

The dragons here remind me most of Vulcans. They live their lives based on logic and find emotions to be in bad taste. However, one of the most fascinating aspects is how shifting to human form can affect their brains, breeding improper emotions like love and hatred. There was also a scary aspect, since any dragon found guilty of undue emotion was likely to get his/her dragon brain wiped of all memories, so that the human taint could be removed.

As may be obvious, there is a lot of tension between humans and dragons (whether in human form or not), despite the treaty that has created a tentative alliance between the two species. These tensions are seriously close to erupting after the murder (possibly by a dragon) of one of the countries princes. An anti-dragon group , the Sons of Ogdo, is constantly gaining in adherents. Meanwhile, the dragons obviously view humans with some amount of contempt, both for their emotions and their brief lifespans.

In this world, humans and dragons (while in human form…there is no bestiality up in here) are forbidden from forming romantic attachments and, most especially, from procreating. Well, as with rules, this one has been broken. Seraphina discovers in her youth that she is half-dragon. Her father did not know, in fact, that his wife was a dragon until she died in childbirth, her silver blood spilling from her body. Seraphina has red blood, but she also has scales along her stomach, back and arms. She leaves her life trying to avoid notice, a lonely life with only her tutor and uncle, Orma, for a friend.

Despite her need for anonymity, she cannot keep quiet when she begins to suspect she knows the answers to some of the mystery surrounding the prince’s death. She finds herself having to choose between her country’s best interests and her own, between loneliness and love. Seraphina is an amazingly strong, wonderful heroine. I loved her for her faults as well as her skills and cleverness; she lies constantly, even when the truth might be better, and she has serious trust issues. She is, however, braver than just about anyone.

Seraphina was DAMN close to being a perfect five star read for me. The only aspect that I continually found jarring, even though Hartman did explain it and it did work, was Seraphina’s mental garden. This won’t really make sense if you haven’t read the book, but you’ll get it when you do. I personify things, including my brain, picturing it filled with disordered shelves covered in dust, often locked with now wayward keys. That’s probably a little weird, or even a lot. Seraphina’s relationship with her mind, though, makes mine pale in comparison. It was just a bit too weird for me, and the descriptions perhaps ran a bit long. It was the only part of the book that dragged at all for me.

This book seems to me like Firelight (for the dragon shifters) + Cinder (girl who has to hide what she is, affecting her relationships) + a whole lot more awesomeness that is all Rachel Hartman’s. The writing and the world building are both completely exceptional. I am already salivating for the sequel and the title hasn’t even been released yet. I declare myself to be, based on just this novel, a firm Hartman fan.

To enter to win a copy, fill out the rafflecopter below. US only. Also, please don’t lie. I regularly pick two or three winners before I choose someone who has actually done the thing their entry claimed they did. This makes me sad inside.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I was just chased through St. Willibald’s, and you know why? Because I was kind to a quig. I scrupulously hide every legitimate reason for people to hate me, and then it turns out they don’t need legitimate reasons. Heaven has fashioned a knife of irony to stab me with.’”

42 responses to “Review: Seraphina”

  1. Wow! What a review! I love your thoughtful insights and am so glad that you enjoyed this book as much as you did. I can’t wait to give this a read for myself, and pass the story on to my nephews and niece.

    As far as a favorite dragon… Falcor from The Never-Ending Story!! <333

    • Christina says:

      Awww, thanks dear. This one ended up even longer than the draft I hand-wrote at the airport. There is SO MUCH MORE I could have said, but that might have been spoilerific, so I settled for some of the awesomeness. I need someone to discuss this with!

      Good choice. I totally blanked on him. He’s great, though.

  2. lisseth says:

    OMG!!!Seraphina sounds like a great book and I like that it focused more on other aspects like prejudice than on the paranormal. And I dint know she was half dragon, I thought she was a full dragon & that when they shift there brains change which is pretty interesting. Loved the review and liked the quote u put at the end. =)

    • Christina says:

      Yes, I really love paranormal, but I like when they use that to illustrate some bigger point. It gives the books so much more depth.

      I suppose the half-dragon bit is a spoiler, but you find out early on and I didn’t think it was all that shocking, so meh.

      Thanks!

  3. poisnivyred says:

    I absolutely loved your review! It’s so thorough and really has me wanting to read Seraphina. Mu favorite fictional dragon is Saphira from the inheritance series.

  4. fakesteph says:

    Dude, I am SO DYING to read this. I’ve heard such good things about it. And my favorite dragon is… Eragon’s dragon? Although she’s a bit self-righteous most of the time. I’m not sure I can really think of any other dragons though. I loved Pete (?) the dragon as a kid though.

    • Christina says:

      Dude, pretty sure you will LOVE this book!

      I’m pretty sure it’s Pete’s Dragon. No clue what the dragon’s name is though! IMDB says the dragon’s name is Elliott. Totally now what I would have expected.

  5. Nori says:

    You know I completely agree with the weird mind garden scenes!

    I loved it too, but there’s something that bothered me a little bit more than it did you, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it till just reading your review. And it’s the slow/non-action packed plot. I feel like all other parts of this book were exceptional: characters, world-building, writing style, voice, ideas, etc. It just had such a predictable, not so outstanding plot. I wanted the murder mystery to be more suspenseful and less, “we guessed who did this in the first chapters and then there was no question and then we were right.”I just don’t feel like the plot aspect of the book matched with the perfection that was everything else.

    • Nori says:

      Oh, and I love Saphira!

    • Christina says:

      Hmm, I see what you’re talking about, but I read primarily for character and that was awesome. There totally was a twist, though, because even though you know who did it, you don’t know WHO they are. Which sounds ridiculous.

      I do have somewhat of a history of not being bored by books that don’t have super intricate plots. Certainly, people say nothing happens in Jane Austen all the time. Seraphina does spend a lot more time focusing on politics than on action. People are fighting mostly with their brains.

  6. Christina K. says:

    I love the sound of this book! I’m new to fantasy but I’m loving it now!

    I love how Seraphina is a musicians and it will be interesting to see how her two sides have to merge.

    The characters sound awesome:)

    Great review:)

    • Christina says:

      The characters are awesome. And the music part is fantastic. I really liked that element as well, although I didn’t fit it into my review. It’s nice when the heroine has a passion.

      Thanks!

  7. This sounds really neat — it’s only lately popped up on my radar, but I’m intrigued. And I love your review – definitely want to read this now!

    Favorite dragon … Hmm … I actually really like the dragon Smaug from the Hobbit :o) I’ve not read too many books where the dragons were fleshed out, so … :o)

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. I really have not considered myself a dragon lover, the books I think of that I liked which featured dragons are Robin McKinley books like The Hero and the Crown. But this story, about dragons who shift into men and infiltrate court sounds very cool. Because like you, Firelight just didn’t cut it in my opinion. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity:)

    • Christina says:

      Yes, thank you for agreeing with me about Firelight! Those were so poorly fleshed out (pun!) I thought, but Rachel Hartman’s are so cool.

      I need to read some Robin McKinley!

  9. Kayla Beck says:

    I’m not reading your review all of the way through yet (I’m not finished with my galley!), but I am sooooo glad to see that you gave it such a high rating. I’m loving it, and I am scared that it will drop off because Rachel Hartman’s world-building is massive. I shall return upon completion!

  10. Cristal says:

    Your review is very eloquent! I had heard of this book but I hadn’t read such a detailed review. You really made me want to read Seraphina, giving enough info to build interest without spoiling anything. I’ve been watching the show Merlin recently, and this book seems to explore some of the same themes. My favorite dragon is Saphira from the Inheritance series! Thanks for the giveaway!

  11. I’m worried that this one might be a little too high fantasy for me, but I really want to read it anyway. And I can be objective. Everyone I know loved/loves this book so I know I need to read it. I’m not going to read your review all the way through yet, but I will come back and read it for sure after I read the book. I’m glad you found a book you really loved as well!

    • Christina says:

      Well, it definitely is high fantasy and political drama. Still, there are certainly things I think you’ll like. You might find it a bit slow, but I think you’ll like the writing and the romance probably.

      🙂

  12. I have heard so many great reviews for this book and I can’t wait to read it!!! I would have to say that my favorite dragon would have to be Saphira from the Eragon series!!!

  13. Lilian says:

    I’m not a fantasy reader so the only dragon I remember is Saphira from Eragon…which I probably wouldn’t have remembered if I didn’t read the comment above mine. I went to the bookstore yesterday and my friend had to remind me Eragon was the guy and not the dragon (hey! Eragon totally sounds more dragon-like than Saphira!)
    I also saw Seraphina on the shelves and my friend said it sounded like Eragon. Then I remembered my experience with Eragon-I only lasted one and a half books, then I gave up.

    Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

    • Lilian says:

      And then I realized I didn’t even say anything about your review! *hangs head in shame*

      “Seraphina has red blood, but she also has scales along her stomach, back and arms.”
      If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is. I think of mermaids before dragons though.
      I am intrigued at the idea that dragons can be in human-form though and I am glad you liked the book so much!

    • Christina says:

      Haha, so, in essence, you don’t have a favorite dragon. I did notice the similarity between Saphira and Seraphina in the comments above yours. Funny that. I wonder if it’s a reference or a coincidence.

      I can see how that would make you think of mermaids. Thank goodness it’s not! I’ve had bad luck with mermaid books thus far.

      So good!

  14. Nikki says:

    I’ve been looking for something to read that is different from what’s been trending in books (i.e. vampires, werewolves, etc.) but still falls in the same realm. Thank you for sharing this review. It’s been added to my list of books to read. (^_^)

  15. Holly Bryan says:

    Oh. My. (Bleep). I don’t think I can express to you just how MUCH I would love to have this book!!!! Makes me wanna squeal to see a giveaway for it, so thank you SO MUCH!!! I have been reading about and loving dragons since I was in elementary school – no lie. I would probably say my first-ever dragon love was Falcor from The Neverending Story. I watched that movie over and over and over and over… you get the idea!! But as I approach my … ahem, let’s just say, as I get older, my favorite dragons by far are those in the works of GRRM, specifically the Songs of Ice and Fire series. (I have been reading him for YEARS, long before the HBO show was even conceived of, and I haven’t ever watched the show because I’m so afraid it will ruin the amazing awesome gorgeousness of the books!!) Anyway, those dragons are definitely my favorite – I think book 3 of the series is my favorite of all. Thanks again for this amazing giveaway!! I am soooo crossing my fingers and toes and whatever else I can think of!

    • Christina says:

      Yay! I am seriously loving the excitement! Seraphina is totally worth being excited about and I think you’ll love the dragons. They’re so unique but still dragon-y.

      I really, really need to read George R. R. Martin, but I might wait until the series is finished, since my memory is pretty bad, so I would have to find time to reread them every time a new book came out. :-p

  16. deasuluna says:

    I have been trying to find a good YA dragon book and Seraphina looks like it fits the bill. I have been wanting to read it after seeing so many great reviews. Thanks for the chance at this great giveaway!

    A favorite Dragon, I love Lockheed from the X-Men comics!

  17. Christina says:

    Yay! It’s a great dragon book!

    Ooh, a new dragon! I am not familiar with this one. I like that you have a unique answer!

  18. I am new to the dragon world and have heard great things about this book. Your review just made me really want to read it. Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂

  19. Christina says:

    Yay! I thought it was great…obviously!

  20. Desiree says:

    I read this through netgalley and loved it so much that I bought the hardcover on release day! Next I really wanna read Throne of Glass!

  21. Jaime Lester says:

    This one is FINALLY sitting on my shelf, fresh out of an Amazon warehouse, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to get through my have-to-reads so I can devour Seraphina. Seriously. As it is, I have been pulling it off of my shelf to admire the gorgeous cover at least 8 times a day. Very excited, and getting more excited with every new raving review I read.
    As far as being a little behind on the blog because of life stuff is completely understandable. Life stuff takes precedence sometimes, and no one, especially your followers, should blame you for that. Uh huh!
    If you like dragons, and haven’t read it yet, I have a recommendation for you. One of my all time favorite series. The Dragon Diaries by Deborah Cooke. That series is the reason that I love dragons now. It is awesome, from page 1 of book 1, to the last page of the last book.
    Thanks for the review of Seraphina!

    • Christina says:

      Awww, yay! So glad you finally got yourself a copy.

      Thankfully, I seem to have managed to sweep the life stuff into a manageable pile, and am trying really hard to focus on getting things done for Dystopian August!

      The Dragon Diaries books are new to me! I’ll add to GR! Thanks for the recc!

  22. I’ve been seeing this book around. Wasn’t very interested in it when I first saw it, as the cover really didn’t intrigue me. But after all these good reviews…I just might have to reconsider 🙂

    • Christina says:

      If you like high fantasy, then you should definitely check it out. The plot isn’t super quick-moving, so it really just depends what kind of books you like to read. I loved it though, obviously!

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