Review Detail4.4 12
I have to start by talking about the dragons, because, ummm, dragons are freaking cool. Seraphina is pretty much what I was dreaming the book Firelight would be...only better. This one, too, has dragon shifters, but these are so much better thought out and so much more serious than Sophie Jordan's. This isn't about dragons just because paranormal's in; Seraphina focuses more on social tensions, bigotry, and prejudice.
The dragons here remind me most of Vulcans. They live their lives based on logic and find emotions to be in bad taste. However, one of the most fascinating aspects is how shifting to human form can affect their brains, breeding improper emotions like love and hatred. There was also a scary aspect, since any dragon found guilty of undue emotion was likely to get his/her dragon brain wiped of all memories, so that the human taint could be removed.
As may be obvious, there is a lot of tension between humans and dragons (whether in human form or not), despite the treaty that has created a tentative alliance between the two species. These tensions are seriously close to erupting after the murder (possibly by a dragon) of one of the countries princes. An anti-dragon group , the Sons of Ogdo, is constantly gaining in adherents. Meanwhile, the dragons obviously view humans with some amount of contempt, both for their emotions and their brief lifespans.
In this world, humans and dragons (while in human form...there is no bestiality up in here) are forbidden from forming romantic attachments and, most especially, from procreating. Well, as with rules, this one has been broken. Seraphina discovers in her youth that she is half-dragon. Her father did not know, in fact, that his wife was a dragon until she died in childbirth, her silver blood spilling from her body. Seraphina has red blood, but she also has scales along her stomach, back and arms. She leaves her life trying to avoid notice, a lonely life with only her tutor and uncle, Orma, for a friend.
Despite her need for anonymity, she cannot keep quiet when she begins to suspect she knows the answers to some of the mystery surrounding the prince's death. She finds herself having to choose between her country's best interests and her own, between loneliness and love. Seraphina is an amazingly strong, wonderful heroine. I loved her for her faults as well as her skills and cleverness; she lies constantly, even when the truth might be better, and she has serious trust issues. She is, however, braver than just about anyone.
Seraphina was DAMN close to being a perfect five star read for me. The only aspect that I continually found jarring, even though Hartman did explain it and it did work, was Seraphina's mental garden. This won't really make sense if you haven't read the book, but you'll get it when you do. I personify things, including my brain, picturing it filled with disordered shelves covered in dust, often locked with now wayward keys. That's probably a little weird, or even a lot. Seraphina's relationship with her mind, though, makes mine pale in comparison. It was just a bit too weird for me, and the descriptions perhaps ran a bit long. It was the only part of the book that dragged at all for me.
This book seems to me like Firelight (for the dragon shifters) + Cinder (girl who has to hide what she is, affecting her relationships) + a whole lot more awesomeness that is all Rachel Hartman's. The writing and the world building are both completely exceptional. I am already salivating for the sequel and the title hasn't even been released yet. I declare myself to be, based on just this novel, a firm Hartman fan.