Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Published July 10th, 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers

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Cover photo and synopsis from the Goodreads book page.

Synopsis:

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina’s tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they’ve turned the final page.

Rating (out of 5):
Review:

Wow, wow, and just wow!  Normally I am a bit apprehensive about reading debut novels because they tend to be either hit or MASSIVE miss.  Since there is no previous work to compare public reaction to, unless I am very interested in a book and hear good things about it, I won’t risk it.  I already have a massive pile of books that just keeps getting higher every day to bother with something that may or may not be good!  But after hearing so many rave reviews about it and seeing some reviewers whose opinions I highly value thinking it was amazing, I knew I needed to check this out.  And all I can say at the end is wow. Now I present you, reasons I loved this book:

First, you have an absolutely compelling cover.  The dragon flying over the village with the faint red splatters on the image.  Admittedly I almost had a panic attack that I had stained the cover somehow, until I noticed that is how it was supposed to be.  The cover was beautiful in its own way and makes you want to read the story.  I am also intrigued with dragon stories, so I’ve been looking for a good one.

Second, you have the way this book is written.  It was lyrical and magical.  The language in this book is beautiful.  I was unsurprised to learn that the author was inspired to write this book by music.  You can almost hear the music as you read.  As a great lover of classical music, I loved this aspect so much. Music is also a vital aspect to the plot so that was a lovely plus as well.  I also have to comment on the vocabulary in this book.  It is classified as a YA book, but the language is not nearly as elementary as a typical YA book.  I loved that, it made the book feel like it was anticipating its audience to be intelligent individuals and won’t talk down to them.  That’s nice.  But if you are not the most vocab rich reader, you will still love this book but there may be a few times that you need to reach for a dictionary.

Third, the characters and world building in this book are superb.  The world is so deeply detailed that you can imagine yourself walking through the streets and see the characters in your mind.  The characters are delightfully detailed and all of them have flaws and talents and their own unique personality.  Seraphina was a character that you can love and then be annoyed with all at the same time.  I found myself yelling at her in pure frustration a few times, but being moved to tears by her at other times.

There were only two things that kept this from a perfect five stars.  I suspected the red herring for the villain a bit too quickly. It felt like it was being shoved in my face “THIS IS THE BAD GUY!!”, that rather quickly I started to think, no this isn’t the bad guy at all. I didn’t have any idea who the real bad guy was but I knew it wasn’t that one!  And the romance.  While at first I liked the unique aspect of this “love triangle” and appreciated that it didn’t come off like a typical love triangle, the way it ended in the book really pissed me off.  I just sat there dumfounded that the hero would suggest something so stupid and selfish!  And further dumfounded that Seraphina didn’t promptly slap him in the face for suggesting it!  Hopefully that will be resolved in the sequel because as it stands this left a bad taste in my mouth for the end of the book.  Two things that prevented me from giving this a five star rating, but ultimately I loved this book and am eagerly anticipating the next one.  If you are looking for something fun, well written, and unique then you might want to give this one a try.

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