Seraphina is the unique story of a girl cursed, or is it blessed, with the blood and scales of her mother's dragon form. It is a curse because of the uneasy alliance between the dragons and the humans and a blessing because her unique talents could help her to save the two races from going to war.I really liked this book it is different from every dragon story I have read to date. Although I have read books with dragons with the ability to take on the shape of a human before the stories were nowhere near as compelling.Seraphina was one of my favorite aspects of the story. She felt more real than most female YA protagonists tend to today. She was not overly brave, had flaws that made sense, and her sob story was sob worthy. I appreciated how she didn't complain about nonexistent flaws throughout the entire book, her scales were the only things she didn't like about herself and that seems to only be because they could easily reveal the secret of her heritage. She was a very likeable and relatable character.(
Out of the many topics and catchphrases that exist in the world of fiction, I must confess that the word “dragons” does very little to excite me. Actually, I tend to run in the opposite direction. Why do I do this? Absolutely no reason at all. I might blame Christopher Paolini, but I’m not sure he deserves that much credit. The truth is that I’ve never actually read a dragon novel that I disliked. Seraphina, then, is yet another case where I liked a dragon book against my inner self’s vehement protests of “No, I really don’t like dragon books!”
(I obviously need to have a talk with my inner self.)
Aside from the dragon bit, Seraphina is one of my favorite kind of fantasy novels—the kind where fantasy elements can be directly correlated to modern events and situations. I found that Rachel Hartman’s portrayal of the persecution of dragons (wearing special badges on clothing, living in a walled ghetto with a strict curfew) was extremely similar to the Nazi persecution of Jews and other groups. Perhaps that didn’t strike any other readers, but that connection was glaring to me, and when you take it in that light, this book takes on an entirely new significance.
The novel’s story is one of political intrigue and mystery. The titular protagonist, Seraphina, is an extremely talented musician who just so happens to be half-dragon. Being what she is, her entire existence is built on lies. This is all complicated when someone (probably a dragon) kills the Queen’s son just in time for a dragon delegation to arrive from the north. The resulting tangle of messy relationships, scandal, and racial tension is well-crafted and concludes on an excellent note, one that makes me eager for the continuation of Seraphina’s story.
Seraphina, overall, is an extremely intelligent novel, especially in terms of world-building. The set-up for the conflict between the human and dragon races makes sense, feels authentic, and, as I said, can be paralleled to situations in the “real world”. I, personally, really liked the idea of dragons being cold, methodical creatures who, due to their rejection of emotion, were unable to relate to their human counterparts. It makes sense, and Hartman executed their mentality and its consequences very well.
One big aspect of this book is Seraphina’s “mental garden”, which is basically a construct of her imagination that she uses to organize her thoughts and memories. I thought it was interesting, but not fully explained, and due to the lack of explanation, it seemed far-fetched. It takes intense concentration and lots of time meditating to be able to do this sort of mental architecture, but Hartman, I felt, breezed over it very quickly in a matter of paragraphs. I’m not quite sure that I bought it. However, I fully expect the wackiness going on inside Seraphina’s head to play a much bigger role in future installments—it would have to, what with the way things ended up in the final chapter. I look forward to that, as the concept is definitely intriguing.
Rachel Hartman, additionally, has a true talent with words. Her prose is expressive, with a depth and quality to it that is worth readers’ attention. I must confess that I was never fully hooked by the text, for whatever reason, but that doesn’t in any way change my estimation of Hartman’s talent. Because this author has talent, without a doubt.
The romance is worth commenting on also, though it’s a very minor presence in the book. Like most YA novels, Seraphina has a love triangle. I know, I know: you’re groaning, but there’s more. Seraphina isn’t torn between two love interests; rather, another character is faced with two love interests, and Seraphina is one of them. And all three legs of the love triangle are really good friends (for the time being). You have no idea how refreshing I found that to be. It’s so nice to get a different angle on the love triangle dilemma.
I had a couple of qualms concerning the book, but they were minor. First, the motivations and development for secondary characters, particularly the Princess Glisselda, didn’t quite make sense to me, though I could see the author’s intent. Second, the presence of the glossary allowed the author skip explaining some terms/vocabulary peculiar to her fantasy world, therefore forcing me to flip back to the glossary. I really don’t like to do that, since it ruins the momentum of the story for me.
But, while I’m talking about the glossary: it’s truly a thing of beauty. If you read Seraphina but skip the glossary, you are missing out on some of the most hilariously snarky material in existence. I’ve never seen an author poke fun at her own world-building in the way Rachel Hartman did, but it was wonderful.
At the end of it all, Seraphina won me over. My apathy toward dragon fiction is not at an end, but I was able to enjoy and appreciate this book. I did have reservations in some respects, and in other areas I was a bit confused. Mostly, however, I really liked this book.
Background: In the kingdom of Goredd, humans and dragons live together, however they are not necessarily the best of friends. For 40 years, they have lived together under a treaty of no war between the races.In this tale Seraphina Dombegh is unique; she has a secret which places her in both worlds, only she cannot let on to anyone, especially her employer in the castle. Through the story Seraphina comes to learn about herself and her past, as well as her mother’s past; all while trying to solve the mystery of who is out to murder the Dragon general and destroy the treaty and peace.
Review: This was a great read. Dragons and a mystery, really could anyone go wrong? I felt that the beginning of this story moved a little slowly but the redeeming factor was that the environments are wonderful to picture. Hartman paints a beautiful picture with her writing, the characters and towns are drawn up for you in a wonderful manner. Every detail is explained and there is even a list of characters for the lost in the back of the book (there were quite a few). Also, our heroine, Seraphina is a captivating character and I loved her every step of the way. I think that Hartman did a wonderful job combining mystery and fantasy with this tale, and that Seraphina is a very strong woman that others in literature should look up to.
What is there to like?
• Seraphina is a likeable heroine: brave, independent-minded, and compassionate--but not too much so.
• In so many stories with a female protagonist and a romantic rival, the "competition" is petty, unkind, easily dismissed. But Glisselda holds her own as smart, strong, and willing to learn, and is a genuine friend to Seraphina. I have my suspicions about how this will be resolved without serious harm to either side, but I think it's wonderful for women and girls to have a fair and humanizing portrayal of this kind of female relationship, rather than pitting the two against each other.
• The society Hartman has created, including prejudices, political dynamics between Goredd and Tanamoot, and social castes have satisfying depth and subtlety. Answers aren't easy, but this layering makes them seem worth pursuing.
• Likewise, the humans' and dragons' difficulty in understanding each other, simultaneous with their reciprocal fascination, is not only believable and "true" in the context of the story, but is the kind of exploration of the attractive and repellent power of differences and commonalities that makes literature--and YA lit in particular--important.
• Seraphina and her love interest seem well-matched; he makes a worthy object of her affection as shown through his actions and character, but neither is he a two-dimensional Prince Charming character.
• People of different races and orientations are included.
What's not to like?
• The book uses the "psychic gifts" trope, which I find to be rather tiresome/clichéd, and which I personally believe to be a crutch that authors use to manufacture situations and relationships that would otherwise be unbelievable--or just take longer.
• Seraphina is brave, but it doesn't seem believable that so many people would automatically put their faith in her as a leader, given her personality (see above criticism of "psychic gifts").
• People talk about "princess fatigue"--isn't it time to rethink the prince-as-love-interest as well? Kiggs is an admirable person, but still...
• Goredd's religious system is central to its culture, but seems rather thinly developed. This is perhaps intended to create some suspense for the next book(s), but it does feel either insufficient or deliberately obfuscated at times. (On the other hand, perhaps it only seems so in comparison to the detailed facets of the culture that Hartman has created.)
Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums
Fly By Night
What made me pick it up?
Lovely cover design and a rave Goodreads review from a youth services librarian friend.
Seraphina is a half-dragon. Now, you are probably wondering, how the hell do humans have children with dragons and not know about it (because her father didn't until she was actually born). Well, that's because dragons can change shape. They can appear human.
And yes, before you ask, Seraphina does have scales, and no, she does not breathe fire. She is a very interesting protagonist, and I loved to see her world through her eyes.
The language of the book was a little confusing, but not in a way that hindered my enjoyment or understanding of what was happening.
Seraphina is a half breed dragon/human. She has scales on her arms and around her torso, and so always wears long clothes so no one will know. She has a "garden" that she has to tend a lot, where she keeps strange creatures and she has to calm them down every so often.
But after seeing someone who looks exactly like one of the people in her garden, she wonders if it is all in her head, or if the people in her garden exist in real life. Then she discovers more secrets and finds out that she, in all her dragon/humanness, is not alone.
This is a very VERY good fantasy book that everyone should try whether they like fantasy or not (if you don't like fantasy, you might be rethinking that after reading this book).
- Interesting plot line
- Well-developed characters
- Good protagonist
- And pretty much everything else
When I first opened Seraphina, I was excited about the dragons but nervous whether it would be one of those cheesy type of dragon books. When I started reading, I was drawn into this magical world of Goredd, where humans and dragons live together 'peacefully'.
I love the idea of the dragons being able to turn into a human form, it was something I've never encountered before. I was kinda sad that we didn't get to see the dragons in there real form that much, but I guess that was okay in the long run, as they appeared more in the end.
I didn't really like the idea of Seraphina's mental garden and the connections she made through it. Seraphina's mental garden kinda creeped me out, it was a garden of people, not plants. You can't treat people like plants, not matter what they look like. I also thought how when she meet people that were in her garden in real life, that she treated them in a funny way. And when she meet the little boy, she acted like she knew him her whole life and knew everything she needed to know, and call on favours whenever she wants.
All in all, this book is pretty amazing. I love the majority of the book and I reckon that everyone else who reads it will love it as much as I do. It is brilliant!
-I love this new idea of dragons, truly amazing.
-All the characters were amazing
-The plot was so thought out, brilliant!
At first I was unsure about this dragon book, but by the end of the prologue I was completely enthralled and weeping with the beauty of Rachel Hartman’s words. Seraphina is a slow build; an intricate tapestry, punctuated with music, emotion, intellect, and magic. It continually took my breath away.
Seraphina has got to be one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across in a fantasy novel, and I very much enjoyed getting to know her. It felt like a privilege, being allowed to see the world through her eyes, and experience people the way she does. Each interaction with another being was delicate and meaningful. The romance in Seraphina’s story is such a gentle, sweet, slow development that it not only felt real, but it felt so right.
Aside from Seraphina, each other character held my interest in a different, yet similarly real way. This story was so well-crafted, the world so thoroughly developed, that even though there were many words that were unfamiliar, they felt familiar in context (and there’s a glossary!). I absolutely loved Seraphina and have not one compliant. Please, if you like fantasy, and you have the chance, read this book.
I’m quite glad I got the chance to be an Ambuzzador for Seraphina since I otherwise wouldn’t have read this amazing book. I’ve been burned by fantasy a few times before and had decided that I just didn’t like the genre. Seraphina definitely has me rethinking that, though.
The language confused me a bit at times, but it wasn’t confusing in a way that hindered my enjoyment. Plus, Hartman was kind enough to provide a glossary! I was afraid there’d be tons of made-up words and confusing imaginary creatures, but that wasn’t the case. There are a few creatures and words that need explaining, but Hartman does just that. She didn’t leave me hanging in the dark wondering what in the world I was reading about.
I love the subtlety of Seraphina. It’s possible that most of that is due to the historical setting in which it’s set, but no matter the reason I loved it. The humor is never blatant and mystery is one that slowly seeps into the story. I actually found myself laughing out loud at times!
The characters are all fantastic as well. I really felt for Seraphina. I can’t imagine what it would be like to hate your own body not because you’re “too fat” or “too skinny” but because you have scales! When she took a knife to her scales I could feel her pain deep in my bones but I completely understood her determination and likely would’ve done the same to myself. Not only did she find the look of herself ugly, but she was an abomination to both societies. And yet, she was a strong, determined woman with a loving and compassionate side. In short, I adored her.
Then there’s Kiggs. He’s so prickly at times, but I could see the determination and reasoning for his action so I respected him as a character.
And then there’s Glisselda. I really thought I’d hate her when I first started reading but she turned out to be a completely wonderful character!
The story itself is both quiet and dramatic. The action and intrigue is never thrust right in your face, but I also found myself to never be particularly bored.
The Nutshell: If you think you don’t like fantasy, you might want to give Seraphina a try. I was a self-proclaimed fantasy hater until I read this. The characters are wonderful; the story is intricate, beautiful and fantastic; and the fantasy elements are actually easy to understand and wrap you head around.