Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House U.K.
Publication date: 19th July 2012
My rating: 4 stars
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.
In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.
Seraphina had been a book which I had initially completely overlooked when I first heard about it. I’m not one typically one to pick up fantasy books and when I heard it was about dragons, I definitely thought it was not my sort of book. But then several praising reviews started coming in and I became quite eager to read a copy.
I instantly fell in love with the idea of living in a world where everyone is aware of dragons, I think everything else, vampires, and werewolves have been exhausted so much that I was looking for a refreshing change. And heck did I get one. I loved the premise of peace being acknowledged between dragons and humans; with dragons having the freedom to walk around and no-one could bat an eye. However Comonot’s treaty which was agreed on 40 years ago was still on shaky foundations, with some humans not liking the idea of dragons being around, this idea was further reinforced when prince Rufus was unexpectedly killed. With no immediate killer identified, some start shifting the blame on the dragons. What was already a fragile treaty begins teetering towards the edge.
The whole world that Hartman created was mesmeric. It was fantasy at its best, the detail and world building created was immense, it was a world I’d grown so quickly fond of that I didn’t want to leave it, this may have also been because I found myself so easily being able to connect with the characters such as Seraphina and Orma.
Seraphina was an instantly likeable character, she was intelligent, a respected talented musician and because of her secrets which she’d kept hidden for so long had a sort of fragility about her, that immediately made you want to defend her, even though she far from needed it. As she had such a tough outward appearance; such as she acted as if she was a pro at horseback riding even though she’d never ridden in her life and how she threw herself head first into a one dangerous situation after another. But I think because of what she had to hide, I wanted so much more for her, with her life constantly on the edge of a knife, she sincerely deserved it.
Orma; Seraphina’s mentor was a character shroud in enigma, which I think is what made me drawn to him more. At times he could easily leave you frustrated with his laid back attitude as if he didn’t care, but then at other times I was in complete awe of him. He was definitely a character which left me wanting more, I’m hoping we will have the chance to get to know his character a lot more in the next book.
Other characters such as prince Lucian Kiggs and Glisselda also hugely surprised me, I’d initially started this book not giving much thought to them, but their character development was likeable yet subtle that they quickly became favourites.
I also adored some of the unexpected humour which would crop up. I found myself at times so into the moment with the tense scene, waiting for someone to kick off, but then Hartman would intricately weave something so out of the blue, that several times I found myself in hysterics.
Some of the issues I had with this book was that I found myself struggling quite a bit with some of the terminology, I don’t know if it was only me but it took me some time getting my head around it, (it wasn’t until I was like halfway through the book that I realised there was a glossary at the back of the book, I think my reading experience would have been less of a confusing one if I’d realised this earlier on). Also it took me forever to grasp what was going on with Seraphina. I found myself several times going back to double check things and getting clarification on what was going on.
I also found that the beginning of the book was quick to capture my attention, but the middle was a bit lacklustre in places, I found my attention drifting elsewhere at times. It wasn’t until the last 30% of the book, which picked up dramatically enough that the feelings of excitement I had at the beginning of the book made a welcoming re-appearance.
Despite having a few issues with this book, I think Seraphina was a remarkable debut which fantasy fans will flock to get their hands on. I will definitely be checking out the next book to see how this story will unfold.