Seraphina

   
Seraphina

     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.

  Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

How Seraphina is different from nearly all the young adult novels out there, especially of the fantasy/paranormal variety:

1. There isn't a single moment in here where you'll want to a) throttle any of the main characters, b) stab yourself in the eye, or c) smirk at the cheesy dialogue.

2. You know all those books with dragons? The ones that seem either too clichéd or too different from what you imagined dragons as? Seraphina is about as far from those books as it gets. In fact, it's in another league altogether, one where dragons are cold, manipulating creatures completely independent of humans and humans operate under the misconception that they actually have some control over the beasts.

3. The world-building is exceptionally meticulous. There's no info-dumping going on here; the world is well-built and very well-executed.

4. The plot is largely unpredictable. Not the type of unpredictable that is synonymous with unbelievable, but the sort where you're left completely awestruck, with a little bit of embarrassment thrown in because you didn't see that coming at all, even though most of the clues were perfectly visible.

5. And finally, an enormous point in its favor is that Seraphina can be read and enjoyed by both genders and all age groups. The plot and story is complex enough for adults to appreciate, but narrated in such a lively and entertaining voice that even 11+ year-olds should be able to grasp the content and, best of all, identify with Seraphina.

I highly recommend Seraphina if most of the following apply to you:

1. You are sick and tired of TSTL heroines who always wait on the hero to take the initiative on everything.
2. You loathe love triangles, especially poorly-executed ones.
3. You're constantly disappointed with all the potential in young adult novels being unexploited.
4. You love fairy tales and specifically Mulan because she never lets anyone boss her around and knows when to take matters into her own hands.
5. You often feel that cliffhangers are a cheap, albeit efficient, trick to get people to buy the sequel.

The only problem I had with the book was that I never completely lost myself in the story and characters. The pacing was also highly irregular, being too slow at the beginning and too fast towards the end.

That aside, Hartman has created an unforgettably beautiful world in Seraphina, one I can't wait to visit again. While this can easily be a stand-alone novel, I'm delighted that it'll be a series instead because I'm not ready to say good-bye to Seraphina and Kiggs just yet.


3.5/5 stars

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