I shall start this review by shouting DRAGONS! You see, the cover and the promise of dragons is what initially attracted me to Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Y’all, Seraphina has dragons in spades. For real, if you are craving female centered, medieval-esque setting fantasy, Seraphina is your ticket.
Goredd is a medieval kingdom where there is a treaty of peace between humans and dragons. Yet, the treaty is hardly indicative of human dragon relations – you see, humans are quite mistrustful of dragons. The dragons have this ability where they can take on human form to study and such. A murder of a prince causes people to look upon the dragons with suspicion.
Seraphina, star of the story, is beyond talented musically. She is the assistant to the court musician — she is in charge of the concert for the treaty anniversary celebration. However, Seraphina is then sucked into the murder investigation, assisting Lucian Kiggs, a prince who is ENGAGED to someone that is NOT Seraphina.
Cue a dramatic OH NO right here! And friends, Seraphina has a secret — she is half dragon, which FYI is FORBIDDEN! I KNOW! Christ on a cracker, did I love Seraphina’s character arc. She’s very much an other trying to hide her outsider status and pass for 100% human. We see her struggle with who she is. Yet, Rachel Hartman does a great job of painting the path to self-acceptance as being a slow, arduous journey and not something that happens over night.
Another thing I loved about Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina is the fact that the world Hartman builds HAS RULES. Like no one is in a perfect situation. The dragons are not fans of having emotion and think love is a sign of weakness. Humans are physically weak compared to dragons, yet have the ability to be creative beyond perfect technique. Then there are the halflings – half human and half dragon like Seraphina who have to hide what they are because the idea of their existence is reprehensible to both sides. So, it seems nobody has it perfectly and the societies within Seraphina have rather rigid structures — which is something that enhances my personal sense of story and place.
Rachel Hartman’s debut is rather impressive and never takes the easy route for the characters involved. Seraphina is filled with multidimensional characters, surprises, lovely prose and a fantastical murder mystery. As I reader I was unable to immediately finger the killer, which rocks. Straight up, if you like dragons and kissing and well-built worlds, I absolutely recommend Seraphina to you.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley.
Other reviews of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman:
Life After Jane – “when what you feel is just a big ball of love and light with no words”
Young Adult Anonymous – “part game of spies, part comedy of manners, and part Law & Order: Dragon Investigations Unit”
Bibliophilic Monologues – “The magic of Seraphina is in its approach to the story”