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Why Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is a Must-Read for Dragon Lovers

27th January, 2017

Book Review : Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

In a world where dragons and humans co-exist, Seraphina Dombegh, a talented musician faces a personal crisis of identity and loyalty. Set in a pseudo- Rennaissance Europe, in the country of Goredd, Seraphina is a coming of age story in a world of bigotry. Seraphina is the first book in a duology.

In Brief

Humans and dragons have lived in harmony for many years, thanks to a treaty of peace signed between them. Dragons are no longer monsters and have taken human form and dwell among humans. As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, unexpected events occur – the crown prince is murdered and anti-dragon sentiment is on the rise. Seraphina is a gifted musician who discovers secrets about herself that are too grotesque to be shared with anyone. Her growing friendship with the princess and the princess’ betrothed, her musical abilities and her lessons with a dragon, lead her to accept herself and be at peace with her secret. Slowly she learns to stop alienating herself from the truth and stand up for what she thinks is right.

Talking about the book, the following are the aspects that stand out in the book :

Dragons

Of course! This book is all about dragons. The dragons in Seraphina’s world exist in human forms and are called saarantras. In Goredd they are required to wear a bell that distinguishes them from human kind. However scholarly dragons are exempted this rule. Though dragons have eased into the human world and accepted their culture, food and clothing, they keep their dragon-minds and see emotions as a weakness of the spirit. The dragons who fall into the clutches of emotions are taken away to have their memories erased, a cruel punishment to teach them never to be carried away.

World Building

Rachel Hartman’s world is studded with details. She gives perfect explanations of political hierarchy in the world where dragons and humans co-exist. Another important world in the book is Seraphina’s mind-garden. When she realizes the truth about her birth, she is plagued by black outs, fits and uncontrollable overlaps into memories of strangers. She learns to be in control of her mind by keeping a walled mind-garden called ‘garden of grotesques’. She has a daily ritual of tending the garden and visiting the grotesques that helps her keep the black-outs in control.

Book Review : Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Character Development

The character development is excellent. The secondary characters are well defined. Even though there are seventeen or so members in the garden (mostly in the form of animals, each given a name by Seraphina herself), the plot does not get confusing and there is just the right amount of build up for each character.

Being Different

Seraphina is different. When the realization strikes her, she is terrified and tries to retreat into a cocoon of loneliness. Prince Lucien, betrothed to the princess, is a bastard. He has to carve a place for himself in the royal society. Orma, a dragon, has fallen under the spell of knowledge and struggles not to be a slave of emotions. Quigtl, who live in unhygienic, smelly ghettos, are detested by dragons and humans alike. However there are secret pubs run by quigtls where the revolutionary minds of all species meet for a drink.

Prose

I love the new words Hartman has invented for the book. I felt a Tolkienisque vibe in words like saraantraas (dragon in human form), saar (a way of addressing dragons), ityasaari (a half- breed who isn’t accepted in society); but I might have just thought that way because the words remind me of Tolkien’s Smaug. The writing captures your attention from the start to the end.

Music

Music is an integral part of the narrative. Seraphina finds solace in music. Her music consoles her, moves those who listen to her and redeems her. Music and its importance is woven into the narrative throughout the book.

Book Review : Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Orma and Books

Orma, Seraphina’s teacher (and uncle) is a scholarly dragon. No review is complete without a mention of Orma. There is a scene where Orma sits upon stacks and stacks of books, much like a dragon guarding treasure. This is one of the best scenes in the book. Wouldn’t everyone love a dragon who hoards books instead of trinkets?

Final Verdict :

It is amazing how we can connect so many incidents that happen in Goredd to the hate spreading in today’s world. I felt like reading one of those stories we read as a child that has a moral in the end. The moral of Seraphina must be acceptance – acceptance of self and acceptance of those who are unlike the majority, because it is not your fault if you are different nor is it something that you can change. I loved this read. I could not stop reading once I read the first chapter. There is a clever interplay of excellent world building and beautiful language with a historical backdrop. I would highly recommend the book to fellow dragon lovers and to those looking for fantasy reads.

Title : Seraphina (Seraphina #1)
Author : Rachel Hartman
Publisher : Corgi Books
Published : 2013
Language : English
Pages : 359
Rating : 5/5

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Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)
This Post Has 43 Comments
  1. I LOVED “Seraphina” <3 I still haven't read the sequel, but I've heard many negative reviews of it so I'm quite scared
    I put "seraphina" next to the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron on my shelf because dragons

      1. Ok thanks! I guess I won’t then! There’s too many great books waiting for me, don’t want to be disappointed on purpose x’) maybe one day if I spot it at the library!

  2. Part of me still doesn’t think of myself as a dragon lover, but Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series suggests otherwise. If the dragons are like Temeraire (and many of the other dragons in the series) then I am totally a “dragon person”. I’ve just finished rereading the first volume for the fourth time and still enjoyed it just as much. Your review is the third which has urged me towards Hartman’s stories, but your description of the books (Temeraire loves books too) has me hooked. Now, I simply must give these a try!

    1. I have heard so much about Naomi Novik’s series. I didnt pick them up because there are so many books in the series. You have made me curious about Temeraire. I hope you will pick up and enjoy Seraphina. I must warn you the sequel does not live upto the expectations. But Seraphina is amazing.

  3. Oh Goodness! I am truly kicking myself in my cubicle right at this moment! I recently un-hauled some books from my home library and Seraphina and the sequel went with to the library:( tbh I have not read a single review for this series by book bloggers since I started blogging in May 2016. I love all things dragons but i’m not sure why I un-hauled them now smh. I am def going to find the e-books now, I loved your review! i’m especially intrigued by the connections you made with the current state of the world. Thank you for renewing my interest, great review! 🙂

    1. Oh dear! But on the brighter side, now you know Seraphina is a good book. Don’t bother finding a copy of Shadowscale because it is everything Seraphina is not. I hope you will be able to read Seraphina and love it as much as I do

  4. I loved this book so much! Hartman’s writing is brilliant. Loved the character development and world building so much. I’m so happy to see you enjoyed this one as much as I. I was also really let down by the second book. I think part of the reason is I waited so long for its release and had already reconciled in my head what I thought had occurred next for these characters. I’m still really interested in what Hartman writes next. Great review!

    1. I completely agree with you. I loved Seraphina but I disliked Shadowscale so much. The sequel did not make sense at all. You are not the only one. And yes, I think Rachel Hartman has a lot of potential.

  5. Oh this sounded so good, I went and ordered it, as well as the sequal…Breaking several of my self-imposed rules, but I’m super excited to read this soon!! A self-discovery book AND dragons?!!? Sign me up! Great review, keep up the good work! -Sam. x

  6. *raises hand* I AM A VERY AVID DRAGON LOVER!!! I also really truly adore Seraphina. <3 And I haven't read Shadow Scale yet, but it's like one of my top priorities of this year to re-read Seraphina and then get onto SS because there are honestly the bessst dragon books ever. Plus music!!! Like I LOVE MUSIC THIS IS ALL MY DREAMS COME TRUE.

    1. I am so glad to hear that you are a fan of Seraphina as well. It is one amazing read. I could not stop reading after I started the first page. I was grossly disappointed with Shadowscale. It had nothing that made me love Seraphina so much – the romance was forced and there were so many characters that made it confusing. I will however wait for your thoughts. There are readers who loved Shadowscale. I hope you fall into the category of those who enjoyed it.

  7. Great review. It has been a long time since I read Seraphina but I remember loving it. I know the pace was slow and it took me a while to get into it but I loved every page once I did. I still need to read the second part of the duology but you have reminded me why I loved it in the first place.

  8. I haven’t read Seraphina before, but I keep hearing wonderful things about it so I’m glad your review confirms what I’ve read. I’ll definitely be putting this on my TBR because I do love dragons and I also like the idea that music plays such an important role in the story.

  9. I enjoyed Seraphina – and sequel – very much. I agree, character development and world building are superb! I hope you’ll enjoy Shadow Scale as much as you did this one. Nice review! 🙂

  10. Acceptance of differences and learning to accept and love who you are and your uniqueness are big themes in this one. There are some deep, painful moments in this book that I’m sure many could relate to, some are expound upon in the second book.
    I also love Orma and his love of books and his awkwardness in expressing his emotions and such.
    “Seraphina” makes me wonder why book lovers aren’t called book dragons instead of book worms. I mean many of us hoard books, so might as well be book dragons, right?

  11. I quite enjoyed this novel. At first, in the beginning I had a bit of difficulty really connecting with this story and understanding what was going on. But when I hit halfway, I hardcore fell in love. I adore this book! I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, because that ending had me wanting more.

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