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Summary of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Forty years ago, the war between humans and dragons ended with a peace treaty. Now, despite the good intentions behind the treaty, humans and dragons are still wary of each other and human religious zealots are stirring up old hatred of dragons which could drive both humans and dragons back into battle against one another.

Seraphina is a young talented musician who recently arrived to court where the mistrust of dragons is steadily rising. When a member of the royal family is found murdered with his head ripped from his body—the preferred killing method of dragons—Seraphina is drawn into the investigation as she tries to uncover an evil plot to destroy the shaky peace between humans and dragons. As she races to find the prince's killer, Seraphina must also guard her own secret for fear of losing everything.


Review

Seraphina, Rachel Hartman's debut novel, was published in 2012. I remember seeing it in Barnes and Noble and jotting the title down on the back of a receipt I found in my purse. I placed a hold on the book at the library and patiently waited for it to work its way through everyone else ahead of me on the hold list. When it did arrive, it came at the same time as about five other books for which I had been waiting. I was also at university at the time, and I was in three different literature classes at the time.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Three.

Lit.

Classes.

I do not know what I was thinking when I planned my schedule.

The amount of reading I did for school that semester was insane. Needless to say, I didn't have much time to read for fun. So, I returned Seraphina to the library without even opening it once. I hate returning a book without reading it.

So, here I am, three years later, and I've finally read the book! I am so glad I found the time to return to it. The world building was fantastic, the plot was engaging, and the characters were diverse and endearing.

World building can make or break a novel, especially when it's your first novel. Writers have a tendency to want to explain everything to their readers to make sure they understand it. Hartman, in a refreshing change of pace, lets readers figure out Seraphina's world on their own. She knows that readers are smart and enjoy discovering new information alone. I enjoyed piecing together the various tidbits of world building spread throughout the novel to gain a better view of the world and culture Hartman created.

In addition to the excellent world building, the plot of Seraphina made for an entertaining read. The more I write, the more I appreciate a well-plotted novel. Hartman threw in plenty of red herrings so that I didn't know who the killer was until the big reveal. Whenever Seraphina solved one problem, another was thrown in her path. The secret Seraphina struggles with throughout the novel also kept me on edge.

Reading Seraphina reminded me of Sharon Shinn's books because of the wonderful characters, especially the strong female protagonists. I'm a sucker for a strong female character. What I love so much about the main character Seraphina is that she isn't your stereotypical bow and arrow wielding female BA but is still strong in her own way. Don't get me wrong. I love those bow and arrow wielding female BAs as much as the next girl. I also like to see characters who are diversely strong. Seraphina is not skilled in combat. She's a musician who seeks to teach those around her tolerance and acceptance of differences. She's daring and brave. She lies but always has a good reason to do so. Much like Shinn, Hartman created characters who were strong in many different ways which I love because that's how women are in real life. We're all strong in different areas.

Seraphina is not the only strong female character in this novel. Princess Glisselda, at first glance, appears to be a flighty young girl who loves to flirt and dance. As the book progresses, Glisselda grew on me as a character because I got to know her better through Seraphina and watch her grow into a leader. Another female character I enjoyed reading about was a foreign ambassador named Dame Okra Carmine. She is a cranky woman whose stomach tells her where to be at the exact right moment.

I don't want to spoil the rest of the book, so I'm not going to go into much detail about Seraphina's  love interest. All I'm going to say is that my response to Seraphina's struggle to keep her secret and deal with her feelings for her love interest went something like this: akdfjldslakmf! From a reading standpoint, I kept thinking "Hartman, why can't you let Seraphina be happy?" As a writer, I applaud Hartman for all of the tension the situation created.

Ultimately, I recommended Seraphina to my sister, which is pretty high praise coming from me. My sister and I have a similar taste in books, though she's usually able to see plot twists coming before I do, so I only suggest books when I particularly enjoyed them and think she will too.

And if my sister likes a book, you'll probably like it too. She has good taste.

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3 comments

  1. Oh, I keep seeing SO MANY amazing things about this book! Which is why I bought it at a book fair not so long ago. I seriously LOVE the sound of it, because of so many reasons.

    I love that Seraphina is not "conventionally" strong because I fear that female MCs in YA need to completely battle worthy to be deemed "strong", when that is true to an extent but in all reality there are a multitude of different types of strong. So I cannot wait to 'meet' Seraphina as a character :D

    It sounds like the author did a great job of weaving world building throughout the novel, rather than just info-dumping it on readers, which is fantastic. And a mystery that stays a mystery til the end is rare, and awesome.

    Lovely review! ^.^

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Chiara. I hope you enjoy Seraphina as much as I did!

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