Seraphina

by Rachel Hartman

Hardcover, 2012

Call number

JF HAR

Publication

Random House Books for Young Readers (2012), Edition: First Edition, 512 pages

Description

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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member foggidawn
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is one of those books that I didn't just want to read; I wanted to curl up inside it and live there.

There is an uneasy peace between the humans and the dragons. Forty years ago, the human queen and the dragon leader forged a treaty that has allowed the two races to
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coexist. Now, on the eve of the treaty's renewal, prince Rufus is found murdered, and whispers are running through the castle and the town that the dragons are to blame. In the midst of the furor is Seraphina, the assistant to the court composer. Seraphina has a secret, and revealing the truth would almost certainly cost her her life: Seraphina's mother was a dragon. Seraphina's father insists that Seraphina do nothing to attract attention to herself -- half-breeds are an almost unheard-of abomination -- but Seraphina's love for music is drawing her more and more into the spotlight. Can Seraphina find love and acceptance in spite of what she is -- and can peace between the humans and the dragons be maintained by the renewal of the treaty? Seraphina's fate and that of her country are perhaps more closely intertwined than they initially appear.

Some books have a strong plot, some have engaging characters, some have a deftly crafted setting -- Seraphina has all three. This is one of my favorite reads of the year, and I'll be watching eagerly for more books by this author.
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LibraryThing member IAmChrysanthemum
I’m a bit torn about the rating on this one, struggling between 3 and 4 stars. While I enjoyed the world-building—which was chockfull of engaging details including an entirely original religious system, invented philosophers with ideas I’d quite appreciate in the real world, and utterly novel
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dragon mythology—I was not blown away by the plot itself. The storyline was overly convoluted and even unbelievable at times; for example, I found the fact that the royal family became trusting of and attached to Seraphina so quickly bizarre and unlikely. I also found the romantic side-plot incongruous with the rest of the text, though I am thoroughly supportive of the couple since they actually talked together a lot and have things in common! My biggest complaint concerns the rushed ending. There is not much resolution in this volume, so the overall effect of the story was like reading Part 1 of 2. Even if a book is arranged to be a series, I never appreciate feeling like I just read a Part 1; a book must stand alone. Technically, Seraphina stands alone, but the ending wraps so little up while introducing more problems than existed when we started.

Still, this was a captivating book and easy to consume in a few reading sessions. I previously mentioned my love for the worldbuilding, but I would be remiss to not praise the characters as well. Seraphina is a wonderful protagonist with a host of personal issues that provide ample discussion material (there are wonderful ethical issues here that bring to mind the controversy over interracial marriage and how racist people react to it and consider any resulting offspring). Lucian, the bastard prince, has similarish problems, which creates a nice feeling of congruity with Seraphina and some minor characters. I have high hopes for the sequel Dracomachia because now that the world is sufficiently built, the stakes are effectively raised, and the characters are properly introduced, Hartman will hopefully create a more gripping, better paced plot that will come to a full conclusion.

I think I’ll rate this 3.5 stars; I certainly enjoyed it, there is lovely writing and worldbuilding and blending of themes, but after closing the book, I find myself without much to say about it. Except for: I loved Orma!
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LibraryThing member andreablythe
As soon as I finished this book, I wanted to start reading it all over again (that doesn't happen often for me). There are many, many reasons why I love this book, but here are a few that stick out for me.

1. Seraphina herself is a compelling character. The dangers of her life are wrapped
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intimately with her sense of self (or lack of it) and the secrets she keeps, which is in direct challenge to her passion for music. She cannot let loose her music without drawing attention and risking revelation and danger. So she is trapped on a tightrope of life with nothing to do but ford ahead and maintain balance. But music is just about everything to her, and it's this passion that launches her into the series of adventures she finds herself on throughout the book.

2. The culture of humans and dragons is delightfully complex, as it should be in any world where a treaty between two previously warring societies are now at a fitful peace. Every character in this book, no matter how small has their own unique spin on the situation. There are humans and dragons alike who hate the treaty, humans and dragons alike who admire the treaty, and even more humans and dragons alike who are indifferent or entirely confused on the matter. Even if two human characters might together agree that dragons are terrible, awful, horrid things, it's clear that the motivation for their hatred comes from different sources.

Hartman takes the world further by showing how there are many societies of humans, who have previously warred, and are now also in alliance as well, because the of the human-dragon treaty. But again, even if two people are of the same culture, it doesn't mean they agree on things. It all make the world delightfully rich and real, and gives the side characters some meat.

3. This is the most compelling portrayal of dragon culture I've ever read. Really. One of the things that's great is that science and mathematics and complex machinery are dragon innovations. I love that the mythical creatures are the rational ones, but that their science and math are considered otherworldly mysticism. There's a little more uniformity of thinking for dragon kind (or, perhaps, there is illusion of uniform thinking), but this isn't because of a lack of divergent points of views, but because emotion is considered insanity among their kind, and any dragon who shows too much of it gets the equivalent of a lobotomy.

4. The romance is lovely and moving, all the more so because it grows out of a foundation of friendship. The man she falls for is very much a man — not because of some deep mysterious brooding and dangerous side (as seems to be so popular in many romances), but because he is so human, so flawed, while maintaining a strength built on truth and respect. This truth and friendship that grows between them unravels so naturally into love. They hit bumps in the road, times when they are angry or almost hate each other, but they come through it with forgiveness and new strength. This is what love should look like, because not once does either one expects the other to be anything other than what they are, they don't want to change the person they love. Instead they except the whole of them, and love them for their "flaws" all the more, and I think that's beautiful.

These things combined with a beautiful writing style that manages to both be poetic and perfectly capture Seraphina's voice are just some of the reasons as to why this book has made it to my all-time favorites list.

As a side note, the audio book version I listened to was lovely. There are several moments where the reader had to sing the lyrics of songs, and it made the book all the more wonderful.
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LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
Seraphina is a court musician, hiding a secret. She's half-dragon, her father and uncle try to keep that hidden from everyone, it could disrupt the calm and the treaty that's been between human and dragon for decades. The story opens with a royal prince being murdered, this drags Seraphina into
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politics and will change her world forever.

Although the almost vulcan dragons felt a bit cliched in the beginning, by the end of it the idea that they avoided emotions because emotions were unknown in dragon form but could cause a dragon to become trapped in the human body, made sense.

This isn't a perfect book, it does feel like a first novel, there are moments were things could have flowed better, where the world could have been less opaque. But it's a good first novel and for that I forgive it much.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
I heard about Rachel Hartman's Seraphina when Naomi Novik recommended it during my interview with her for LT; I thought surely if anyone can sniff out a good dragon book, it's her! And Naomi was absolutely spot on. Hartman's dragons are very different from Novik's: they can take human form and they
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generally are incapable of feeling emotion, for starters. But the two authors have both created truly original worlds in their stories, and I enjoyed reading Hartman's debut as much as I've enjoyed any novel so far this year.

Since much of the book's power and pleasure comes from the way Hartman slowly offers up tidbits of background and contextual information to complement and expand on the well-paced plot, I don't want to spoil it in any way here. I think it will suffice to say that Hartman's take on the standard coming-of-age story will surprise any reader. And if you like music, I suspect very much that you'll enjoy the way Hartman weaves musical knowledge, performance, and understanding into the text.

One of those books where I turned the last page and immediately wanted more.
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LibraryThing member Inkwind
Well, first of all, the fact that there were dragons in this book gave it an unfair advantage. My theory is that I am biologically predisposed to worship winged lizards. I am probably an alien. This makes the most sense.
Dragons are THE BEST THING EVER.
But this reviewer's psychosis aside, Seraphina
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is an excellent novel in its own right. The medieval fantasy world it develops is not particularly innovative, but Ms. Hartman's treatment of the world most certainly is. Dragons are neither wholly good nor wholly bad and Ms. Hartman's treatment of them is far from ordinary--they're mathmatically-minded, alien creatures reminiscent of Star Trek's Vulcans, and they have an uneasy truce with human beings in which both groups think that they're superior and violence happens more than it should. But what really stands out is Ms. Hartman's protagonist--Seraphina is a half-dragon so-called abomination desperately trying to pose as human while at the same time too talented and opinionated to keep her head under the radar. She is the most practical, capable, CALM (read: neither high-strung nor perpetually indignant) female protagists that I've ever read. She furthermore sympathizes (if reluctantly) with all those who, like her, don't quite fit in, and is all the more sympathetic because of it. It helps that she's a musical prodigy and slowly (and unwillingly) drawing together a circle of fellow half-dragons in order to protect both their peoples.
The characters around Seraphina are equally complex and well-written. I found myself surprised by how much I liked Prince Lucien, who was a great deal more than just a bastard with a chip on his shoulder, and I found myself gobsmacked by how much I came to like characters I thought I would hate, such as the childish, demanding (but really quite brilliant and loyal) Princess Glisselda or the allegedly indifferent (and utterly endearing) Orma. I only wished we could see more of the half-dragons like Lars, and hope that future novels will indeed present such; Seraphina spends a great deal of time avoiding these people in her attempts to preserve normalcy, and as such we don't get to really explore who the other half-dragons really are.
The plot acts a bit like classic fantasy married to a mystery novel--Seraphina and Lucien play the parts of amateur detectives trying to piece together all manner of political plots and keep everyone alive. Yes, the story has moments where it drags and yes, some of the political intrigue gets incomprehensible. Additionally, Ms. Hartman has some moments where she describes medieval architecture and dress very knowledgeably and in enthusiastic detail (and you'd probably like to have a dictionary open while you read, all things considered). But all of this is like a speck of dust when compared to a plot that is in no way commonplace and remains consistently enjoyable and interesting, following a narrator who will prove immensely sympathetic to anyone who has ever had to try and fit in where they don't belong. The ending is quite good too, and maintains suspense up until the last page, where it sets up for a sequel that I hope will be as phenomenal as this.
Overall, an excellent book. I eagerly await the next installment and encourage teens and adults alike to delve into this wonderful creation.
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LibraryThing member stefferoo
Know how I've always marveled and pondered the many ways authors handle the subject of dragons? Well, in Seraphina, they are intelligent, possess advanced technology, and have a magical ability that lets them take human form. The book takes place in a world where humans and dragonkind exist in a
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constant state of mistrust. After warring with the humans for time eternal, the leaders of the two races had finally come together to agree upon a peace treaty.

Now forty years have passed, and while dragons walk amongst humans at court and in their cities as scholars and ambassadors, bitter feelings still exist between the two sides. The tension reaches a fever pitch in the days before the dragonkind leader arrives to commemorate the treaty's anniversary, and a human prince of Goredd is found dead, his head missing--presumably eaten by a dragon.

These events hold terrible implications for our protagonist Seraphina Dombegh, a half-dragon hybrid who has struggled to hide her secret for most of her life. Circumstances draw her into the murder investigation, and she finds herself working with handsome Prince Lucian, Captain of the Queen's Guard, despite her position as the court musician's assistant. With the day of the anniversary celebrations fast approaching, they have limited time to tease apart a dangerous conspiracy plot.

The world-building in this book is phenomenal; as in, a lot of thought seems to have been put into every aspect of the setting. For example, its rich history adds a lot to the story, and to a certain extent, the reader has to understand the significance of past events to fully appreciate the impact they have on the present. Then there is the complex religion, which encompasses a fair number of saints to which the people of Goredd look to guide them. The religious aspect certainly isn't central to the book, but at the same time, it adds a layer of context to the story and characters, making them feel more refined.

Then there are the dragonkind and their culture. Let's just say when it comes to emotional suppression and denial of their feelings, the dragons in Seraphina make the Vulcans on Star Trek look like cuddly puppies. The idea that they can look like humans is also very interesting, if not wholly original, but what I found amusing are the dragons' general impressions on having to take human shape; I just wished there were more details on the magic involved during the actual changing process.

And speaking of magic, on the whole, the concept of it in this book is quite abstract. Seraphina, for instance, has to regularly "tend a garden" in her mind in order to control the debilitating visions that overtake her, thanks to the powers she inherited from her unusual parentage. If you're anything like me, it'll take some time to wrap your head around this bizarre idea, which really is more a part of Seraphina's abilities than a metaphor, which I know it sounds like.

So why am I not absolutely crazy for this book, like I should be? Unfortunately, some books that by all rights I should adore are diminished in my eyes by the characteristics of the main protagonist, and this was the case for Seraphina. Try as I might, I just couldn't connect with the eponymous heroine as I'm usually not a fan of the "wallflower-type" character. Granted, Seraphina has all the reasons in the world to be the way she is, but she's still a bit too far on the meek side of things for my tastes. It's true she displays moments of strength and determination, but then also wallowed in her self-pity one too many times for me to truly engage with her narrative.

Don't get me wrong, this book was a wonderful read and I'm glad I picked it up, but being able to like the main character is a biggie for me, and it was that one thing that prevented me from giving it a higher rating. Overall, however, Seraphina is an impressive debut featuring excellent world-building and very imaginative elements. It's classified as Young Adult, but a wider audience could definitely appreciate this.
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LibraryThing member Strider66
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member Aoifesheri
Got as far as page 79 and stopped just couldn't get into it. Tried.
LibraryThing member cygnet81
I didn't realize this was a children's book until I was 1/2 through and I searched online for other similar books to read (because I was already worried about the separation anxiety I would experience when I finished it). This isn't just a well written story - it has depth and emotional complexity.
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I would say its in my top three books of the year (and I'm at 76 right now). I'm hoping for more from Seraphina!
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LibraryThing member Pabkins
Dragons, Dragons, Dragons! Need I say more? Fine, okay – let me explain the wondrous thing that is Seraphina. Humans and Dragons were at war 40 years ago until the human Queen and the Dragon General signed a peace treaty between the two races. Since then that peace has been a very delicate thing
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indeed. Dragons can take human form allowing the races to better communicate and learn from one another. But dragons value logic, reason and science and they shun emotions, while of course we humans are a very emotional bunch. The dragons are capable of locking their emotions away with mental techniques thus denying themselves that particular part of the human experience. But 16 years ago a dragon fell in love with a human and from that union was born Seraphina, half human, half dragon.

Seraphina has lived her life in fear and loathing of what she is, but despite that she has carried on with life and has even landed herself a job in the palace as a music mistress. She heads the court’s musicians as well as gives the princess her music lessons. But troubles are brewing as one of the princes has been murdered in a very suspiciously dragon like manner. Somehow Seraphina constantly gets mixed up in situations that draw attention to herself and even some dangerous circumstances. She’s spent her whole life trying not to draw notice but now she seems to the center of attention much too often..

I thoroughly enjoyed the amount of character development that I witnessed take place with Seraphina. You really see her mature while still maintaining her stubborn prickly personality. She has a real habit of sticking her foot in her mouth and getting into trouble. You’d think with how much she needs to keep her secret that she wouldn’t be as bull headed as she is. Though, I have to say I really liked that about her.

With a good bit of political intrigue and mystery surrounding the late princes death, Seraphina gets to be quite involved with investigations that Prince Lucian and Princess Glisselda are doing. The closer she gets to both of them the more she discovers she wants all those things she never thought she could.

Looking at the cover it definitely isn’t your typical “pretty girl in a dazzling dress” YA cover. Which I was so thankful for. I believe this one has some great potential to appeal to adult Fantasy readers because of that but also due to the strong world building and mature personalities of the characters. In this world Seraphina is an adult, with a job, living on her own. So I think this has a good deal of crossover potential that it need not necessarily only be considered a YA book.

Melancholy, humorous and at times heartbreaking – Seraphina was a wonderful fantasy book that would be a shame to miss.
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LibraryThing member lisally
In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons live among humans as scholars and teachers. Although they are able to shapeshift into human form, the coldly logical dragons are still met with distrust after an uneasy peace following generations of war. As the kingdom prepares to celebrate the fortieth
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anniversary of the treaty with the dragons, a member of the royal family is murdered, threatening to spark a new conflict.

Seraphina Dombegh, the protagonist, tries to keep a low profile despite her notable musical talent and position as assistant music master to the court. Despite her efforts, she is inexorably caught up in the murder investigation and possible conspiracy to destroy the fragile peace between humans and dragons. At the same time, Seraphina must come to terms with the fact that she is of both worlds, human and dragon.

Seraphina is beautifully written, with an immediately engaging story and well developed world. It’s a new favorite, and definitely a must read.
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LibraryThing member slanger89
This is a great "escape your everyday stressful life" read. It does a good job of putting the reader in a different world; old world setting, with a fantasy element(my favorite). Seraphina also gives a very unique take on dragons. They aren't your dragon and rider type or the unpersonable
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"terrifying" kind either. Instead, the dragons in this story are intelligent and can change forms into human bodies, yet don't view emotions the same as them. Emotions to them are "weak".
The main heroine, Seraphina, is also very likable, being strong-willed, intelligent, kind-hearted, and downright stubborn at times(though not whiny which happens far too often nowadays). She also has a secret which weighs on her consience and makes it impossible for her to tell the truth at times.
Meanwhile, the peace between humans and dragons rides a thin line, and Seraphina finds herself thrown into the middle of the conflict.
Overall, this book has everything a good read needs; good setting, strong main character, characters with depth, a bit of mystery, and of course some romance.
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LibraryThing member hanner.da.nanner
I LOVED this book. It was so so great, and refreshingly different than some of the other YA/Fantasy books about dragons and such. Hartman's dragons are like none other that I have read before, and it was great!
The story really drew me in with the telling of Seraphina's past, and I found myself
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struggling along with her in her journey of accepting who she is, no matter what she is.
I also liked the way that the author wrote this - I didn't see the surprise coming, and that's always a good thing.
I can't wait to see how things turn out with Seraphina in the (hopefully) next book!
:)

I was also really impressed by the level of vocabulary used in this book, mostly because of its medeval like setting. There were some pretty big/rarely used words, folks! I loved it! I learned SO many new words from this book, it's not even funny. haha. It's a good thing I had my trusty Kindle Fire with me to help with the defining.

This was a very well written, and different read. I would recommend this book to any fan of the Fantasy genre, young and old alike! I also think that people who love stories with dragons in them will get some great enjoyment out of this book, I know I did!
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LibraryThing member stephxsu
The fortieth anniversary of an uneasy peace treaty between humans and dragons is approaching, and tensions are high as the kingdom of Goredd prepares for the arrival of the dragon leader. Even in their human shape, the dragons stand out in court, and the humans find it difficult to treat them with
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ease and respect.

In the midst of the racketed tensions, newly appointed court music master’s assistant Seraphina Dombegh struggles to main aloof in order to hide her terrible secret: she is half dragon, and if anyone found out. But it gets harder and harder for Seraphina to stay apathetic as she gets to know the royal family and discovers a shocking personal connection to a long-brewing plot to destroy the peace treaty.

High fantasy is my favorite genre, but it doesn’t mean that I’m an easy customer. It takes a lot for a fantasy to become a favorite of mine: in addition to nearly impeccable world-building, it also has to have empathic characters and enough action to satisfy the baser part of me. I had heard positive things about SERAPHINA before I was finally able to read it, but rave reviews often make me wary, worried that the book will never live up to the reviews’ promises. Happily, for me and the whole world, SERAPHINA is worthy of its high praise. Rachel Hartman writes with a sureness of hand and mind that sweeps readers into Seraphina’s complex and fascinating world.

In SERAPHINA, dragons and humans have made an uneasy peace treaty, but the social tensions are still apparent and painfully recognizable in its similarities to the prejudices that minority groups in our world still suffer. I love that “real” aspect of the book, and feel that the countless instances of anti-dragon sentiment in SERAPHINA are authentic as a result.

The social tensions aren’t the only thing that make SERAPHINA’s world-building so astounding. It’s clear that Rachel Hartman did research on her Medieval-inspired fantasy world, from the clothing to the instruments to the layout of court (physical and human). If an aspiring cable TV channel *cough HBO and Game of Thrones crew cough* were to consider adapting this story, they would have plenty to go off of.

Splendid world-building by itself isn’t enough to get me to love a fantasy, and that’s where SERAPHINA’s wonderful characters come in. Seraphina, Seraphina, you amazing protagonist. You’ve had such a rough life and it in no way is going to get easier after the events of this book, and yet you handle it with an aplomb that those twice your age cannot often claim as their own. Seraphina’s personality is the direct product of her difficult and isolated childhood, but it does not weigh her or the story down. The girl is resilient, ethical, intelligent, and determined…and she is not the only awesome character. Supporting characters are allowed a full range of thoughts and reactions, so that where we think we’ll find potentially stereotypical character roles—in the spoiled princess, or the love triangle—we instead find refreshment.

Debut authors like Rachel Hartman show me that literary talent is not in danger of being swamped by the mediocre hype-fueled masses. Hartman has the detail-oriented skills to be a fixture in the fantasy genre, and the understanding of human beings and society to make her mark in any other genre she’s interested in dabbling in. SERAPHINA was a heck of a debut, one that I sincerely hope marks the very beginning of a long and beautiful writing career.
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LibraryThing member Candacemom2two
This book really had everything I look for in a fantasy. First of all, absolutely fantastic characters that are incredibly brave and have a quality that stands out and personality that is memorable. This book is full of those kinds of characters. Not just Seraphina, but everyone around her.
The
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romance is of the EPIC sort. Epic and forbidden and very very sweet. I knew it was coming, the vibe was there straight away, but I just cherished those moments they were together and only wished that it may all be figured out.
The world building was phenomenal. It was a fantasy world I could imagine and see clearly. It was vibrant and full of life. I loved how everything worked, the tension between the dragons and the humans and everything with the court intrigue. It was fantastic!
The story line was brilliant. As I mentioned, there is a bit of court intrigue and at times was slow moving. Actually the first half of the book was on the slower side and I struggled just a bit, really hoping for some stuff to start happening. But when it all started coming together it had my full attention. I loved pretty much everything that went down and it was very unpredictable. I'd think I had it all figured out, but then would be desperately wrong. Even when I figured the author wouldn't make it obvious and would try to figure out someone less obvious, it really was different then I could have ever guessed.
All fans of fantasy, I highly suggest you read this book. It's got the elements, the beauty, the epic'ness we demand from fantasy. Just hang in there through the first bit as we're introduced to the world, because trust me, it's all important and once things start happening you won't be able to put it down!
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LibraryThing member BookAddictDiary
Sometimes, you just need a good dragon story. At least, that was my line of thinking when I picked up Seraphina. Sometimes, I just need a good ol' high fantasy novel about wizards, knights and dragons. Seraphina completely filled that high fantasy void and offered something even deeper and more
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amazing than I had anticipated.

Debut author Rachel Hartman offers a unique take on classical dragons, where they can shapeshift into humans and have a strangely logical side. And for decades humans have lived peacefully alongside these dragons, at least until now. Enter young Seraphina, a talented musician who gets wrapped up in the investigation of a murdered royal family member -that just might be pegged on the dragons.

Hartman weaves an elegant tale of secrets, mystery and fantasy, all based around the concept of dragons readers have never seen before. While Hartman's approach to dragons isn't entirely unique (I've heard about shape-shifting dragons before), it's incredibly refreshing in a cascade of dull fantasy that continues to clone itself. And Hartman's exceptional writing skills help balance out the many elements here perfectly -not one item felt like it overshadowed another, and their was the perfect blend of action, characterization and plot to keep things moving while becoming truly invested in the characters and their struggles.

I was a little surprised at the adult nature of this book. Sure, it's a YA (which tend to be fairly clean), yet Seraphina had a few unexpected moments that pushed the book more toward the adult side. This isn't really a bad thing (in fact, I think it helped make the story see more realistic), but I was a little surprised by it. The package and general marketing surrounding this book makes it seem like it's acceptable for even middle school kids when, really, it's not.

But don't let that scare you off. Seraphina is an incredibly well-written YA fantasy debut that you shouldn't miss.
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LibraryThing member usagijihen
There is so much to this book, it’s so hard to pin it down into one particular genre. Like a phoenix, it continually dies and burns and reinvents itself as the story progresses. “Seraphina” is a gorgeous new book to add to the YA epic/high fantasy canon. It’s a high fantasy tale, it’s a
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murder mystery, it’s a story of war and peace, it’s a romance, and it’s a coming-of-age tale. It’s all of these things, and Hartman weaves this all so skillfully that it’s hard to believe that this is her debut novel. If you’re looking for something wonderfully original this summer to sink your teeth into, make it “Seraphina”.Where to start? The worldbuilding. Hartman does a fantastic job with building this world from how it looks, to how the politics flow, to religion and race rivalries/wars, to music. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone in this book, and I really hope it isn’t a standalone – there’s a lot left unanswered, and a lot more worldbuilding still to be done with other cities and countries named but not really explained. Just like George RR Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” injects a little magic and politics into adult high/epic fantasy, “Seraphina” does the same for the YA genre. We get a real sense of the strained tension between humans and dragons, and the short history of race relations between them. We also get an internal worldbuilding experience with Seraphina’s mental garden of grotesques, and her own character arc of how she struggles with being a half-dragon in a dragon-hating world – something so complex and so well done that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before period, be it in YA or in adult lit. The religious aspect also really impressed me – we have saints, but no sense of a god or multiple gods. The dragons don’t have religious practices, but they do have mental grooming behavior that seems similar to Buddhism with its mental gardens and emphasis on meditation to get the mind under control. That was a particularly nice touch, and I hope to see more of that in more books (if they’re coming). Hartman’s use of sensory imagery and language is absolutely great – I could feel, see, smell, and hear everything she described, from the feasts at the palace to Seraphina’s scales, to the heat of dragons spitting fire in my face. It was wonderful.Damn, I wish I could write like that, is what I constantly thought while reading this book. I rarely think like that, and 2012 has been barraging me with books that have been making me think that. Everything about this book – characters, world, etc – was just simply rich with life.Then there are the characters – none had anything left to be desired – even the most minor of characters had a realness to them because they had their own histories, no matter how small or brief they were in description. Each main cast character has a transformation/journey arc, and this opens up a LOT of material for future books. Even though we see everything through Seraphina’s eyes (first person POV), we also see other characters on their own journeys, all eventually meeting up in the climax of the book (which I won’t reveal here). Seeing all of these threads woven together, seemingly unrelated at first, was really great. What was even better? Even though there is a budding romance within the book, it’s not the majority of the book. If anything, it’s a bit of a footnote until the end. It focuses on Seraphina and her journey to solve this murder, try to keep her own identity under wraps, and to figure out the people/world around her all at once. It was simply refreshing to read this within YA lit with a female MC, where romantic love doesn’t devour (pun not intended) the whole story. And all of the characters, no matter how big or small, annoying or awesome, were sympathetic. And all of that? That’s hard to do.On top of the combination of Holmesian mystery solving and high fantasy, Hartman also brings self-injury into the mix. Granted, this is not a large part of the story and it may fly over the heads of a lot of readers, but as a former self-injurer, watching Seraphina hurt herself hurt me, and I felt her self-loathing as my own. I won’t go so far to say it triggered me, but I definitely identified with those feelings and actions. I respect Hartman deeply for dealing with this the way she did – she didn’t put it in some YA contemporary sap about “tough stuff”, but rather something that comes about as a result of being overwhelmed about one’s own development as a person, an individual, and trying to balance all of that whilst still managing to function daily. This is a very small piece of the story, and me talking about it makes it seem bigger than it is, probably, but yes, it meant that much to me. And yes, Hartman did it all correctly.Final verdict? This one has everything for everyone – fighting, politics, dragons, romance, high fantasy, religious exploration, war – and I think it’ll appeal to all ages. “Seraphina” has a place on my best of 2012 so far list, and its place there is very well deserved indeed, joining Leigh Bardugo and Jay Kristoff there for awesome fantasy YA reads for the year. “Seraphina” is out now in North America from Random House Children’s, so be sure to check it out! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.[edit] Late in writing this review, Hartman through twitter confirmed there is a second book in the works, “Dracomachia”. Jazz hands for all! I can’t wait for this next book, guys!(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)
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LibraryThing member les121
I adored this book! It’s creative, intelligent, emotional, and gripping, and Phina is a wonderful heroine. Everything is beautifully done, from the writing, to the worldbuilding, to the supporting characters, and it has just the right blend of mystery, magic, politics, and romance. This is young
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adult fantasy done right. I highly recommend it.
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LibraryThing member kmartin802
This was a lovely, richly detailed, medieval fantasy. In this world, dragons and humans fought a war. The fortieth anniversary of the peace treaty is coming up but tensions haven't abated much. Many of the humans loathe and distrust the dragons. And there is a faction among the dragons who hate the
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dragon ruler who forged the peace treaty and feel that they could have won the war.

Into all this tension comes Seraphina Dombegh. Seraphina is a gifted musician who is the assistant to the court musician. Seraphina is also half-dragon, half-human. This makes her an object of loathing to both humans and dragons. Her very existence is a secret that has to be kept from everyone. Her mother died when she was born and she has been raised by her father who is a human lawyer famous for defending the peace treaty.

As preparations begin in the human court for celebration of the peace treaty and a visit from the leader of the dragons, tragedy strikes. Someone has killed Prince Rupert in a way that a dragon would. Seraphina becomes part of the investigation along with Prince Lucian Kiggs who is a bastard member of the Royal family and who is engaged to the Second Heir to the throne Princess Glisselda.

In this tale, dragons can (and must) take on a human form when interacting with humans. This is called saarantras. Seraphina has been taught music and about the dragon world by her uncle Orma who has been living in human form. The fact that they are related is a deep, dark secret from humans and dragons alike. In fact, Prince Lucian thinks that they are lovers.

There is fascinating world building in this story with a variety of customs and rivalries. The world is very realistic because of all this rich detail. But beyond exquisite world-building, this is the story of a young woman who has to learn to accept herself. Seraphina begins as someone who hates her dragon side. She sees herself as a monster. She feels condemned to loneliness for all her life. Gradually throughout the story this changes. The change comes partially from the friendship she develops with Princess Glisselda and partially from the love she feels for Prince Lucian.

The characters, even the secondary ones, are well developed with strengths and weaknesses. I think I fell a little into love with Prince Lucian too. I recommend this story highly for fantasy lovers and for lovers of romance.
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LibraryThing member michelle_bcf
Ideally I'd give this somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, but I'll go for the higher one, as I think my niggles are more down to individual taste.

Anyhow, I loved the actual setting and idea behind the book. It's set in a place and time where humans and dragons co-exist (and I love dragons!), but under
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a fragile truce. The dragons can change into human shape, but they are supposed to wear a bell, so that people still know who they are.

Despite the ability to change into human form, the dragons are rather different, as they don't experience emotions. In fact, emotions are seen as an illness, and those feeling or displaying them face consequences.

Seraphina is a young girl who has a dangerous secret, as she is actually half human and half dragon. She has memories and connections which can cause her to pass out, so she finds a way of mentally dealing with them, she creates a garden in her mind.. my favourite idea in the book.

This is a book for young adults, but would be enjoyed by adults as well. For me, it was a little too long, and moved slower than I would have preferred. I've seen another reviewer call it 'high fantasy', which is probably accurate - I found myself a little confused by the various names and characters. This is why I've marked it down a little, but I do think it will be popular and well received.
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LibraryThing member TheLostEntwife
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is making a splash in the book world, and every bit of that splash is well-deserved. This is a story for children and adults alike - with dragons, politics, war, intrigue, mystery, murder, and love.

I admit, I went into the book a bit biased toward loving it. The
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beautiful cover, the typeface, the idea of humanized dragons and a forbidden romance was enough to hook me - but once the story got moving Rachel Hartman's astonishing writing and the complexity of what I was reading took me over. You see, it was so complex it was almost simple. I thoroughly enjoyed the Seraphina's story as an adult and was able to appreciate the messages of acceptance, honesty, and forgiveness ... but at the same time I know my nine year old nephew would love the action and the idea of old knights who speak of times when dragon fighting was the norm, and hidden secrets by a young girl who doesn't know what to do with her life and the gifts she's been given.

At the end of the book there is a page which details what influenced Rachel Hartman while writing this book and with the listing of polyphony, irish music, and more, it all began to make sense. There's magic in this story. Dragons are treated here unlike any other fantasy I've read. At first I worried that it might come across dorky - like some mermaid books I've had the misfortune to read, but my worries were put to rest quickly.

This is a tastefully done fantasy, filled with everything one could hope for. If you try to steer clear of the hype on books, I advise you to ignore it and pick this one up on its own merit. If hype gets you, then trust me when I say the hype on this one is not wrong
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LibraryThing member thehidingspot
I never get tired of dragons, so I knew from the moment I read the description I wouldn't want to miss Rachel Hartman's Seraphina. I wouldn't necessarily call it a trend, but there have been a few successful YA titles dealing with humans that can shift into dragons, though I wouldn't group this
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particular novel in with those. While Seraphina is comparable to books like Firelight and The Sweetest Dark, Hartman's novel is most definitely fantasy, while the others are more paranormal romance.

While it might not seem like it'd make a huge difference, Seraphina features dragons shifting into humans. Which means that, at their core, these shifters are dragon, not human. And in this particular novel, dragons are very different than humans... in fact, they often have trouble blending in even when in human form. I found this element of the novel extremely interesting, especially since I wasn't expect that small detail to have such a large impact.

Unlike other popular books about dragon shapeshifters, Seraphina has political elements, which, in my mind, pushes it more towards the fantasy genre. These elements aren't overwhelming, but they're integral to the story in that they impact the attitude of the characters.

Still, like the other novels mentioned, Seraphina does feature a romantic plot line as well... a good one I might add. It's complicated and difficult, but oh so worth it. Seraphina doesn't think much of herself, but her love interest truly sees her, even though she's hiding a rather big secret about herself.

I can't wait to read more about Seraphina, Kiggs, and the rest of the characters from Seraphina. This entire first installment was action packed, but, if the ending of this book was any indication, the next book is going to be intense. I think I've found a new set of favorite fantasy books to add to my recommendation list!
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LibraryThing member titania86
The Kingdom of Goredd was once at war with dragons, but a treaty was forged between them to keep the peace. Dragons now take human form to be part of human society where they can make advances in the fields of math and science. Many humans still hate dragons and condemn the treaty as folly.
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Conflicts between humans and dragons are increasing and becoming more dangerous as the fortieth anniversary of the treaty nears. Seraphina Dombegh is an incredibly talented musician who works to hide the true extent of her talent. She wants attention as far away from her as possible because she is half dragon and half human. Recently hired as a court musician and apprentice to the court composer, she arrives on the scene just in time for a member of the royal family to be murdered in a suspiciously draconian manner: beheaded and the head missing. Seraphina stumbles upon the investigation when she observes suspicious behavior and wants to uncover the truth that may be tied to her own draconian family. Paired with the captain of the Queen's guard, Lucian Kiggs, she will try to solve this mystery while protecting her own secrets before the treaty is completely shattered and the humans and dragons declare war in earnest.

I was interested in reading this book mostly because of the different take on dragons and the inclusion of music. I am so impressed with Seraphina. Rachel Hartman's sentient and insanely logical dragons are so intriguing and different than any portrayal I had seen before. They abhor emotion and irrationality, kind of like extreme Vulcans, but are more susceptible to both in human form. Their society even go so far as to mandate brain surgeries for those too compromised by either. These cold and intellectual creatures hold science and mathematics in the highest regard. If they attempt to play music, which is possible since it is simple mathematics at its core, they lack the emotion to give it any sort of expression. Music played a large part in the novel and I couldn't be happier about it. A lot of YA novels have music in their descriptions or a character plays an instrument, but many times, this aspect is either downplayed more than I thought it would be or completely forgotten. (I'm looking at you, Hush, Hush.) In this book, music serves as a plot device, furthering character development, and making the book simply enjoyable to read. Rachel Hartman's descriptions of music is beautiful and sensory. I wish there was a companion music album to the novel to get an idea of what the music would sound like.

The world building is magnificent in this book, but the characters are what kept me reading. Seraphina is a rare female character in YA literature. It is so refreshing to see a YA heroine who is logical and not irrationally led by her feelings to do really stupid things. Her powers of perception and deduction are impressive and, paired with her good judgment and sense, they allow her to methodically find out what really happened. Unfortunately, she has to lie a lot to keep her parentage and half dragon state a secret, which gets in the way of her investigation and distances her from others. There is a small romance subplot, but it doesn't distract from the main plot and it doesn't turn Seraphina into a blithering, brainless idiot. It was also sweet and gave Seraphina a softer side without completely destroying the strong person she is. The minor characters are just as good and well written, particularly Loud Lad and Orma, her dragon uncle.

Every time I picked up Seraphina, I was insanely happy being immersed into this wondrous world. I wanted to prolong the reading as much as possible because I know I'll have to wait a while for the next book. This is by far the most unique and well written fantasy book I have read all year that included discussion on philosophy, art, music, dance, emotion, logic, bigotry, and love. There aren't enough stars to show how much I love it. Highly recommended for lovers of dragon tales and epic fantasy.
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LibraryThing member Kskye
High Fantasy! I went on this kick last year trying to find recent YA, high fantasy books, and it was much harder than I thought. Sometimes with high-fantasy I feel the book can drag on and on, but I didn’t feel that way with this book. Also as a plus there wasn’t an abundance of fight scenes or
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dream sequences that I usually associate with them. It is also neat that Seraphina is a musician and assistant to the court composer.

As for the world building there are a lot of customs and philosophers that are mentioned that just add to the book. It’s pretty cool when people ask who your psalter saint is, but what would you do if your psalter saint was a heretic? Another thing was that it would be best if you kept a dictionary near you while reading. Can you tell me what perspicacity means? I didn’t know and had to look it up, among other words…but that’s good, right?

If you are a fan of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey you might like Seraphina. It mostly reminded me of the same spirit as Dragonsong and Dragonsinger though.
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Awards

Boston Globe–Horn Book Award (Honor — Fiction — 2013)
Locus Award (Finalist — First Novel — 2013)

Pages

465

ISBN

0375866566 / 9780375866562
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