Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Book review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

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.

Sometimes being fan of YA fiction is not easy.  There are a lot of love triangles, bad writing, weak female characters and just bad storylines to sort through before you get to the good stuff.  Then every now and then a book like Seraphina comes along and it makes all the effort worth it.
I was a little bit sceptical when I started it but by the end I was a like this:

That’s right I was wowing.  Because Seraphina is not just an amazing YA book; it is an amazing book period.  Everything about it is just glorious from its title and cover (which is utterly beautiful) to the pages of writing hidden within.  Seraphina is a work of art. 

This book is so different from most Young Adult books.  There is none of the predictably, no annoying characters and no clich├ęs at all.  It was so refreshing and such a relief.  Seraphina is proof that there is still some originality out there.

From the writing to the plot there is a lot to admire here.  Rachel Hartman has created a world so real and vibrant that I could almost smell the bustling city, could almost feel the dragon scales beneath my fingertips.  The writing is brilliantly descriptive and it is easy to get lost within the pages.

The actual story line is marvellous.  It was interesting from beginning to end and imaginative without being overdone.  I found it touching and at times funny, it could make me giggle in one moment then reduce me to tears the next.  It had a little bit of everything and I wanted nothing more.  The plot flowed along nicely, I was never bored and the action never felt rushed.
The most important thing in all fiction is characters and it is the characters in Seraphina that take it from a good book to an outstanding one.

Seraphina is a great lead character I literally cannot think of a time where she irritated me or I thought she was being an idiot (such a rarity in YA.)   She is smart, loyal, funny and brave.  She is also extremely realistic.  She loves openly, not just romantic love but love for her family and friends.  She truly cares and is willing to give everyone an equal chance no matter whom or what they are.  Despite this she is still tough.  She does not have an easy life and things do not always go her way but she shows courage  not only when facing danger but when facing a society that she knows will shun her if they knew what she was.  She is also far from perfect.  She lies, she cheats and occasionally she sulks and you love her anyway.  She gets under your skin and is impossible to dislike.

Next is Kiggs.  He is dashing, charming, smart and loyal.  He was never dominating, never brooding and not once possessive or irritating.  He is a great love interest because he is not overpowering.  You do not need to hear him wax lyrical about his feels every five pages to know how he feels.  He shows it in the way he is, in the things he does.  He does represent the touch of romance that is present in this book but he is much more than that and the romance is not overplayed at all.

Then there is Orma.  He is the second YA secondary character  I have utterly and obsessively fallen in love with this year.  First it was Kanin in The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa now it is Orma in Serephina.  I do not know where these characters are coming from but I hope authors continue writing them.   I loved Kiggs, he was totally worthy of falling in love with but he was no Orma.  Orma is a little standoffish, exceedingly smart and beautifully brave.  He is a bit of a nerd, wears a fake beard and is a dragon still I was not perturbed.  I adored him…probably too much.

I don’t know what else to say, I could go on and on and on about how marvellous this book is but this review is already 700 words long.  So I will just say that I LOVED this book and that you should not walk but run to get it when it comes out.  I am pretty sure you will love it to.

5 stars

Published July 10th 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers.  A free copy was provided for review. Image courtesy of Goodreads

Review by Kate Phillips


  1. Just started following your blog. Orma was my favorite character too. He's just awesome. I generally have a hard time with YA novels because of the love triangles and high school drama, but this book had none of that. It was perfect in every way. :D

    1. Hi, thanks for the follow! You are right this book was just perfect I really, really loved it. I love YA but tend to stay away from the school drama stuff, that is not my thing at all. I know what you mean though it can get very samey. I would recomend you read Code Name Verity, it is YA but is like nothing I have read in the genre. It is just amazing, I think you might like it.


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