Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

25 Feb

Days before the dragon Ardmagar is due to arrive to celebrate 40 years of peace, the prince’s headless body is found, and the people suspect a dragon did it. With humans already on edge around dragonkind–even those in their saarantras, or human, state–the death of Prince Rufus creates more problems for the guards whose duty it is to keep the Ardmagar and dragonkind safe. Plots and rumors of assassination attempts abound, quietly dragging Music Mistress Seraphina into the foray.

A young woman wrapped in her own secrets, Seraphina together with Prince Lucian and Princess Glisselda work together to preserve the peace. Facing down dragons, a steely dagger, dancing, and a gossip-hungry governess, Seraphina stumbles through her history, her mind, and the mystery, to come to one conclusion: love is not a disease.

Perhaps one of my more cryptic summaries, but accurate nonetheless. I barely remember reading the back of the book when I found it in a discount bookstore–I picked it up after recognizing the title as something I marked “to-read” on Goodreads–and I loved the reveal of Seraphina’s secret after those first few chapters, not seeing it coming at all.

On my copy of the book, there are two recommendations from authors. One from Christopher Paolini, recommending it as well-written with interesting dragons–an opinion which, my apologies to any fans, I took with a grain of salt given my personal opinion of his books, which isn’t very high. The second was a simple one from Tamora Pierce stating simply, “I love this book!” which is enough for me to purchase any book at all, supposing it’s written in past tense.

Seraphina did not disappoint. I’ve picked up so many books recently that I haven’t had the concentration or will to finish, and this was like a breath of fresh air. Beautifully written with gorgeous descriptions of a wintry, magical castle scene. Sentences about music I could hear as if it played in my ear; luscious gowns, playful balls, the grit and grime of the exiled knights’ cave–all of which I could see quite clearly in my mind’s eye.

I was astounded by the characters’ ability to grow–particularly Princess Glisselda who I hated the first time I met her, and adored by the last page. Lucian and Seraphina herself change, too, but more subtly. I think several of the dragons in their saarantras form were always the same, but they allow a deeper view into their suppressed emotions by the end of the book.

As for plot–the author had me fooled. At least, pretty much. I followed the characters’ every thought, which is probably a pretty silly thing to do, but both Seraphina and Lucian were so rational and so correct for so long that–well, why wouldn’t I believe their hunches? I did have the perpetrator pegged as an accessory rather than a mere annoyance by the latter half of the novel, but still. I’m usually spot on and it excites me when I’m not.

My only real complaint is an issue of what may have been edited-out continuity. I’m not entirely sure Seraphina ever divulged certain information in her teacher, Orma. I’ll leave out the information in question as it’s the result of another sub-plot I think would be more interesting to find out on your own. But I felt this information should have been divulged. At any rate, the secret is out by the end and is mentioned to Orma, who–heavily sedated he might be–didn’t seem to blink an eyelash. Part of me wonders if I missed the revelation somehow–I was interrupted quite a bit around the section where Seraphina makes the discovery–but I thought it needed to be in there a bit more prominently if that was the case. Long, drawn out conversation. If any of you have read it and know what I’m talking about, please leave a comment and let me know if I need to go back and reread.

Realistically, though, that isn’t really part of the main plot, which I felt carried on smoothly, and, like I said, I was surprised by the end of it. This book ranks right up there with Bitterblue and The False Prince for me right now, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’d like something new to read. Luckily, the end is left wide open for a sequel, which I will have my eager hands on the moment it hits the shelves.

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One Response to “Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman”

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  1. 2013: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 26, 2013

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