08 November 2012

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.

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.
I have always loved dragon stories, and with one notable exception, I have never been disappointed.  Rachel Hartman and her work with Seraphina has reminded me in no uncertain terms why I love dragons and dragon stories.  She created a world so uniquely her own and wrote a story so full of detail and passion, I would've thought she were recounting something she herself had experienced.  From start to finish, this story captured me; I loved every moment of it.

Passion, I think, is something that a lot of writers nowadays lack.  Everyone seems to be writing books now, obscuring those few gems who write for the sake of writing and who, even if their stuff won't sell, will be writing because they have to.  Rachel Hartman wrote with a passion that makes me infinitely grateful that I didn't pass it by because of the disastrous cover, and gave the story a chance to stand on its own.  Seraphina's story connected with me on a personal level, but I think many audiences could see something of themselves in this tale, simply because everyone has something inside of them that they are ashamed of, and that they are afraid to show the world.  The fear of rejection is a universal feeling.  I loved the way Rachel Hartman captured that.

Seraphina was a fantastic narrator.  She's the kind that shouts, "Here, here, look at me!"  And then blocks your view when you try to look around her.  Her voice was steadily entertaining in a self-deprecating, sarcastic way that made her endearing rather than irritating.  Hartman highlighted emotions that are normally butchered or omitted entirely by most authors.  For example, Seraphina's reaction to a compliment: while she might feel the compliment is true, her thought process is such that I don't feel she's being falsely modest with herself.  Her vulnerability and shame, along with how she dealt with the ground shifting beneath her feet, made her a character that I instantly bonded with.

I also grew deeply rooted in Hartman's world.  It's almost as if the descriptions could've only come from someone who had the knowledge of a world that was fully realized, things that I didn't understand and yet the character clearly did.  Hartman set up a world that was uniquely her own, adding details to flavor (not bog down) the story in a style similar to that of Tamora Pierce, Christopher Paolini, and Cinda Williams Chima.  So when I set the book aside, the world still sat in my head like a memory palace and characters still deigned to play around.

The plot was amazing, though I could see how a reader might think it slow and sometimes aimless.  But the way Hartman just dove into it, I couldn't help but try and keep up.  I was so engrossed in the story, my mind stopped thinking about, "Is this predictable?" or "Could this have been better?"  The inner editor just shut off and I went along for the ride -- and loved every moment of it!

I recommend Seraphina to any fantasy lovers, but specifically to those who love dragon stories.  May it take your breath away as it did mine.

He did not know the truth of me, yet he had perceived something true about me that no one else had ever noticed. And in spite of that—or perhaps because of it—he believed me good, believed me worth taking seriously, and his belief, for one vertigi-nous moment, made me want to be better than I was.
The borderlands of madness used to have much sterner signage around them than they do now.
"Who will kiss you? Who will rock you to sleep?" His voice was slow, drowsy.

"You never did," I said, trying to tease him. "You were more father to me than my father, but you never did that."

"Someone should. Someone should love you. I will bite him if he will not."
Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 467
  • published - July 2012
  • publisher - Random House for Young Readers
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - library
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Seraphina
    • Seraphina
    • Dracomachia