Saturday, September 8, 2012

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Title: Seraphina
Author: Rachel Hartman
Pages: 467
Publisher: Random House
Series: Seraphina #1
Released: July 10th 2012



The Story

"Forty years," interrupted Eskar. "We've had forty years of peace...Only your elders remember the war, but it is not the old who join the Sons of St. Ogdo or riot in the streets. How can there be deep-seated distrust in people who've never been through the fires of war?" (p. 26)
In a world where dragons can take human form, the kingdom of Goredd and dragonkind have been at peace for forty years. As the anniversary of the treaty draws near, tension between humans and dragons mount after Prince Rufus is murdered--and all evidence points to the work of a dragon.

Seraphina, a gifted musician living at the court, joins forces with the captain of the guard Prince Lucian Kiggs to try to find Rufus's murderer and uncover the plot to destroy the peace. But Prince Lucian is a shrewd investigator and Seraphina has her own secret to that could put her life in danger.

Our Heroine: Seraphina

"I present: Seraphina," Orma said.
Undersecretary Eskar looked down her aquiline nose as if checking human features off a list. Two arms: check. Two legs: unconfirmed due to long houppelande. Two eyes, bovine brown: check. Hair the color of strong tea, escaping its plait: check...Furious or embarrassed redness upon cheeks: check." (p. 28-29)
We find out early on into the book that Seraphina is a half-dragon. She is smart, bold enough to speak up to the princess when need be, has a passion and talent for music, is uncomfortable in crowds of strangers, and though she can be 'prickly' she is kind towards others. Seraphina was a well-developed, interesting, and strong heroine, yet flawed at the same time. I loved her!

Seraphina has scales on her wrist and back that she hides and despises, and she feels like she is a monster. Throughout the story she has this internal struggle of trying to accept what she is and not be ashamed of it, and I really like the way this was developed.

There is one scene that was particularly heart-wrenching where Seraphina tries to pry off one of her scales, and my heart just went out to her. But at the same time I could relate.Who hasn't wished that they could change something physical about themselves? I loved the theme of self-acceptance in this book!

One thing I wasn't too crazy about was Seraphina's 'mental garden' where she keeps her 'grotesques' (strange looking people who appear in her visions). She has to tend to them every night to keep them content so they don't cause her to have visions and black out. It was just really weird to me, and had an Alice in Wonderland feel to it.

Also, I love the name Serapina, it's so cool! But throughout the book the author has the characters call her Phina. Why give your character such an awesome name and then not take advantage of it??

Main Characters

  • Orma
"Orma had a scholar's exception from the bell, so few people ever realized he was a dragon. He had his quirks, certainly: he never laughed; he had little comprehension of fashion, manners, or art; he had a taste for difficult mathematics and fabrics that didn't itch...To the rest of Goredd, he was just a man: tall, spare, bearded, and bespectacled." (p. 16)
Orma was such a fun, interesting character! There were lots of funny moments with him that helped to lighten the more serious mood of the story, and you can't help falling in love with him. Dragons don't feel/understand emotions or sarcasm, so a lot of things went over his head which lead to giggles. He was one of my favorites in this book :]

  • Prince Lucian Kiggs
"I'd glimpsed the bastard prince across halls at court. He had a reputatin as a shrew and dogged investigator; he worked all the time and was not as outgoing as his uncle Rufus had been. He was also not as handsome--no bear, alas--but seeing him up close, I realized that the intelligence of his gaze more than made up for that." (p. 21)
 I really really loved how the romance between Lucian and Seraphina developed. It was very slow and natural, and I felt everything that Seraphina felt. I swooned. I ached. I yearned. One of the things that I really appreciated was how Seraphina fell in love with him because of his personality, not his looks. No insta-love! Thank you Rachel Hartman!

In fact, we only get a few snippets describing Lucian's physical appearance, and the only time he is described as beautiful is on p. 176: "His enthusiasm made him beautiful." Now to me, that is a thousand times more romantic that a hundred descriptions of how perfect and gorgeous a guy looks!

However, I was annoyed that the author gave him as sexy a name as Lucian but then throughout the book had the characters call him Kiggs. Why??

The Setting: The Kingdom of Goredd

"My eyes flicked invoulentarily toward the dragon ambassador and the goodwill contingent from his embassy, seated behind the nobility but ahead of the common rabble. They were in their saarantrai--their human forms--but were immediately recognizable by the silver bells at their shoulders, the empty seats around them, and their disinclination to bow their heads during a prayer." (p. 8)

 Rachel Hartman has created a very interesting, vivid, and well-developed world. I was wholly convinced that Goredd was a real place.

I loved the idea of dragons being able to take human form, like in Sophie Jordan's Firelight series, but these dragons are very different. Dragons don't feel emotions except for when they are in their human forms. They don't understand emotions and think they are useless, and are forbidden from letting human emotions take over while in human form. If they are suspected of being too influence by their emotions--like falling in love--then they are taken to the Censors who erase their emotions and the memories attached to them.

At times Seraphina can be confusing to keep up with because names of things/places/people are sometimes thrown out without explaining what they are. Thankfully there is a glossary at the back of the book which I took full use of, though sometimes it was annoying to have to stop reading to flip to the back to get more information.

One thing I thought was silly was some of the exclamations of the characters: "St. Daan in a pan" and "Blue St. Prue".  Wasn't too crazy about those x]

To Read Or Not To Read? 

Overall, Seraphina was a very interesting, engrossing read! However, sometimes the plot did get a little complicated/confusing to follow, and it seemed to stray off at times. The description is also misleading because Seraphina and Lucian don't really investigate Rufus's death as much as they try to uncover the plot to destroy the treaty.

In fact, I realized hours after finishing the book that though we found out who was behind everything, Rufus's murder was never fully explained. Though the loose ends still tied up well, this really frustrated me for some reason, I suppose because I thought this was supposed to be the main storyline of the book.

If you are a fan of High Fantasy or dragons, you won't want to miss out on Seraphina! Looking forward to the sequel :]

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5
Creativity/Originality: 5/5
Kept me interested: 5/5


  1. Hi! I love meeting new bloggers! And I've had Seraphina on my reading pile for a while now but I keep putting it off because I don't think I will like it. After reading your review I'll have to read it soon! I hate insta-love as well and I'm so excited that this novel has a romance that's slow and building instead of love at first sight. :P

    1. Its a really good book but it is also very long and can be confusing to keep up with, so I think that you would definitely have to be a fan of High Fantasy (or at least have an interest in trying it) to enjoy it. But there's no harm in trying it out :]


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