Monday, September 22, 2014

Review - Seraphina by Rachel Hartman


Genre: Young Adult Fantasy 
Hardcover: 467 pgs
Rating: 5/5 
Add It // Buy It 

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

Last year when I read and reviewed this book I enjoyed it. I really liked it. I remember really good things about the book, but also that the writing didn't gel for me. I liked all the elements, but something kept me from loving it wholeheartedly. I can't even tell you what it was. I don't know if I just wasn't in the mood for it or if I was distracted, but I felt really detached from the book. I gave it a four stars and moved on thinking it was good, but missing something for me.

I call do over.

This book! This time I was blown away. I know this is the reaction I was missing the first time. I loved this! Hartman's writing is excellent. It is rich and engaging. Her word choices are atypical and I looked up a lot of definitions while reading this book. I liked that her phrases and approaches to writing were different than a lot of the young adult fantasy that I've read. Both times I read this book it was more than I was expecting.

Also as much as I love dragons, books featuring them sometimes seem very similar as far as dragons are concerned. A lot of the same mythology and beliefs are used over and over again. Hartman adds her own flourishes to these tired myths. I absolutely loved her take on dragons. The political and court drama also added an element I wasn't expecting when I picked this up. So many dragon books feature dragons as beasts or noble creatures. This story combines those two ideas and it is one of the most unique dragon books I've ever read.

Also I loved Seraphina and Orma quite a bit. I cried toward the end of the novel and loved their discussions. Overall, the characters felt complete and I identified with their struggles. I liked all the elements of Seraphina and could understand her struggles between staying distant for safety and needing company to curb her loneliness.

I'll admit that there is a lot of language to take in. Not only does Hartman use uncommon words, she makes up words too. There is a glossary in this book that was my best friend for the first few chapters. Language, religion, dragon politics and characters are all plentiful and complex. However, the extra terminology helps the world building immensely and adds to the story. I devoured the book this time around and I'm dying for the sequel.

Happy Reading! 

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