Monday, 30 July 2012

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

  Title: Seraphina
  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. 


  1. I'm so glad you liked this one, Jasprit! I have received this for review and have seen mixed reviews, but after reading yours can't wait to get started on it.

    And I love that there is humour in this! If a book manages to make you laugh out loud, it must be good! :D xxx

  2. I have been hearing such good things about this book, so glad to hear you loved it as well - lovely review! I can't wait to meet Seraphina, she sounds brilliant!

  3. I'm not much into fantasy too, Jasprit! And I did overlook this too when I first saw it. So I was also really surprised that a lot of people are loving this. I'm glad you end up enjoying this even with the minor issues you had. I'm also glad that Serphina is such a likable character. I'll have to meet her soon. Brilliant review! :)

  4. I had a hard time with this book. It sounded like something I'd love, with all the dragons and stuff, but I just didn't like it.. It couldn't connect with Seraphina, eventhough she was likeable indeed. So I'm glad that you liked it! :) And wonderful review.

  5. Great review. I recently reviewed Seraphina and couldn't stop gushing about it, lol. What you say about the tension is totally right, I loved that for the most part when things got out of control, and you think everything's about to explode, one character says or does something that kind of turns things around. It gave it such a wonderful balance I thought, plus when things do finally kick off you can really appreciate the full out drama because it's not been overdone in the lead up. So yup, with you on the talents of Rachel Hartman :-)

  6. "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."

    Yes! That's exactly what I loved about her too Jasprit! I thought she was an amazing character, and I can't wait to read more about her and Lucian in the next book. The world was beautifully depicted I though, not so many details as to be overwhelming, but just enough to allow me to picture this fantasy environment. Beautiful review my friend, we are very much on the same page with this one!

  7. Brilliant review, Jasprit! It seems like most people are being blown away by this so I can't wait to give it another go. As you know, I had trouble getting in to it at first, but I'm determined to try again later on. :) It's good to hear that there is some humour weaved throughout! I definitely like that in my books. :)

  8. Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one Jasprit, even though you had a few qualms with it. I really loved the way you described Seraphina and I have to admit that it's spot-on. I loved her strength, spunk, and even the fragility that surrounded her. Orma was one of my favorite characters as well and the relationship he shared with Seraphina was so bittersweet. I can't wait to see what happens in the sequel and can only hope it comes out sooner! Wonderful review, Jasprit! :D

    Ivy Book Bindings

  9. I am kicking myself for not having read this. I have heard that it takes a bit to get into this one and that the world building is extensive, it sounds like you had the same issues with that aspect. I am excited that there is fun humor and great characters, so looking forward to reading this one!

  10. Dragons aren't my kind of book either, but I've heard so many good things about this! Seraphine sounds like an AMAZING character! LOL, that's happened to me a few times! In books, they add a glossary, but I never see it until I've finished the book [facepalm]!

    Awesome review, Jasprit, thank you! :D

  11. I was so sure I wasn't going to read this, until you guys (and by you, I mean friends whose opinions I value) started posting your reviews. I love how detailed and intricate the worldbuilding sounds and that Seraphina is a character I can admire. I've had enough of whiny, self-centered heroines to last me a lifetime.
    Fantastic review, my darling!

  12. Great review. I'm not a huge fantasy fan either, but I like the idea of dragons...very unique. A friend of mine would probably LOVE this though.


  13. Amazing review like always, Jasprit! <3 I keep seeing everyone gushing about this book. Well, I don't think I can blame them! Dragon? WOW WOW WOW! Seems like an instant-buy for me! Remind me the next time I go to the bookstore, will you? ;)

    I especially love that Seraphina is instantly likeable! I love characters that are easy to like. Gotta meet her soon! <3

  14. So glad you liked this! My copy is waiting on my shelf; hopefully I'll get to it soon. I really want to enter this world. :) Great review!

    Randi @ Cardigans, Coffee and Bookmarks


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