We’re used to reading about dragons and watching them on the big screen. They breathe fire, they guard treasure, and they are inevitably defeated by brave and valiant knights (or dwarves and hobbits). Well, in Rachel Hartman’s book Seraphina, you will have to forget everything you think you know about dragons. This book is exciting and fast-paced, filled with adventure and mystery, along with a little romance and some political intrigue. The book has been getting some phenomenal praise. Here are just a few quotes that decorate the back cover, but if you search the book on Google or check out Goodreads, you will see a whole host of similarly positive reviews.
Christopher Paolini, the author of Eragon, wrote: “Beautifully written, well-rounded characters, and some of the most interesting dragons I’ve read in fantasy for a long while.”
Naomi Novik, who penned the Temeraire series, wrote: “A book worth hoarding…”
Tamora Pierce, author of a slew of fantasy novels for readers from 8 to 17 years old, wrote: “Seraphina is strong, complex, talented – she makes mistakes and struggles to trust, with good reason, and she fights to survive in a world that would tear her apart. I love this book!”
Those authors have gotten in right, in my opinion, but I feel I must add my resounding enthusiasm to that crowd of impressive reviewers, because when you read a book that sparks your imagination this much, you want to share it with as many people as possible. So here goes nothing…
Seraphina, the title character of the novel, lives in a world of uneasy peace. Years ago, a war between dragon-kind and the citizens of Goredd threatened to destroy everything, but for forty years, there has been peace between dragons and humans. Dragons, able to take on human form, are still feared and looked at with suspicion, and the humans who are friendly with dragons are also eyed warily. As the novel begins, the tenuous peace is threatened after the Prince of Goredd is found murdered and headless in the woods, leaving many to think that the dragons are getting ready to betray the treaty.
Seraphina, a talented musician, finds herself caught in the intrigue at court. Gifted with a sharp mind and a special understanding of dragons because her childhood tutor is one, she finds herself increasingly relied upon by the captain of the Queen’s Guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs, and Princess Glisselda, who will one day rule Goredd. But Seraphina has a secret, one she must guard very carefully, because should anyone discover it, she could very well be killed.
Rachel Hartman builds this world very skillfully, careful not to overload the reader with too many details at once. She took the same care with her characters; they are complex and realistic. Seraphina is a great example of a multifaceted protagonist. She is weighted down by the secret she keeps, but her sense of what is right and wrong is more powerful than her sense of self-preservation.
This is a fun fantasy novel that can appeal to more than just fantasy buffs. It’s a well-written page-turner (the very best kind!), and while it is the start of a new series and there are some things left open-ended, there is definitely a feeling of satisfaction when you turn the last page of this book. Even if you don’t think fantasy novels are for you, give this one a try; this book just may convince you to rethink your position.