Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dragons and Danger: Seraphina

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (Seraphina #1)
Random House, 2012

In the mood for a young adult series with elements of high fantasy and a reimagining of dragons unlike anything you've ever seen before? Then look no further than Seraphina, the debut novel by Rachel Hartman.

For forty years, an unsteady peace has existed between the humans and dragons. They don't understand each other, but at least dragons can take human form and there are still ways of telling who they really are. But it actually only emphasizes that nothing is really as it appears, especially for Seraphina. An extremely gifted musician to the royal court, she works every day to literally cover up her worst secret: she is half dragon, and her very existence is illegal making it impossible for her to truly belong anywhere. When a well-liked royal is killed in a manner that looks highly draconian, Seraphina finds herself in the middle of a mystery as people search for dangerous truths.

Hartman has a strength for world building, and it is clear that she thought long and hard not just about the physical setting of the kingdom, but how all the seemingly insignificant details of this world are actually crucial to making it come together. There's a very clear culture among humans and a separate belief system among dragons. Values, appearances, manner of speaking all come into play. And this book also goes deep. While there are dragons, there are not wizards or spells or enchantments. There are, however, questions and mysteries on politics, ethics, and the nature that relationships and laws are never cut and dry, black and white. In the two days that it took me to read this 450 page tale, the blending of these elements was done in a way that made it clear to see what was important and what was on the line.

However, like I just said, at 450 pages this book is big one. There's a glossary to help readers keep track of the terminology that comes along with this world along with lists of who characters are. In that sense, the book was a bit heavy. This isn't to say I don't like to be challenged when I read - I do, I love it! - just that at times I had to stop the flow of my reading to think "wait, who are you again?" There were instances of the pacing being uneven, too, but things picked up towards the end setting readers up nicely for the adventures to come in book 2, anticipated to come out in in early 2014.

Overall, I really liked this book and will probably continue to check the series out from my library to see where it goes next. If you like traditional high fantasy with a twist, then this is a series you don't want to pass up.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Rachel Hartman's Website

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