“Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman

I received a review copy of Rachel Hartman’s debut novel “Seraphina” from the publishers via NetGalley.  It will be released in July.  Based on the author’s blog, it looks like there’s a sequel in the works.

Dragons and humans were at war for much of history.  Forty years ago, dragons and humans signed a treaty which began an uneasy but mutually beneficial peace between the two races.  Dragons are able to take human form, but whenever they are present in human society they are generally forced to wear bells to prevent the people from being scared.  There is a lot of tension between the two races, which reminded me a lot of what racial tensions were like in the US prior to the civil rights movement.  Seraphina is half-dragon, and she wasn’t supposed to exist.  If anyone finds out, she’s likely to die a horrible death at the hands of an angry mob.

Seraphina has musical talent, which draws attention to herself even as she’s trying to keep her identity secret.  She ends up at the royal court right after a member of the royal family was killed by a rogue dragon trying to destroy the peace.  Seraphina must use what she knows of both human and dragon cultures to be a bridge between the two worlds and to save the peace.

Dragons are mathematical creatures and believe that emotion is a disease.  I liked seeing the awkward interactions between Seraphina and her uncle Orma, a dragon who has allowed himself to develop more feelings than is permitted in dragon society.  Orma’s amusing because even a dragon with emotions is logical and distant to a level that’s not normal in our own society.  Orma was easily my favorite character in the novel.

“Seraphina” is well-written and is a delight to read.  This book is being marketed toward YA audiences, but it would also be appropriate for an advanced younger reader.  All I can say is that more YA should be like this.  There is a minor love triangle, but it’s not obnoxious (minor spoiler:  Seraphina falls in love with the prince, and the prince is betrothed to a princess.  At the same time, he’s not romantically interested in the princess, so it doesn’t have the whole Hunger Games dynamic going on..  It’s more like an additional obstacle that they’re going to have to confront later on).  The story is imaginative and Hartman’s words are articulate.  She doesn’t talk down to her readers, which is something that I’ve always appreciated, even when I was far younger.  I’d highly recommend this book.


I read this book as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge and the Speculative Fiction Challenge.

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, YA | Tags: , , , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on ““Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman

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  6. Great review, Grace! I really liked Orma as well, even though he’s sort of a tragic character.

  7. I really liked the contrast between the dragons and the humans. And Orma was a great character – seemingly unemotional, but Seraphina can read him. I also loved the bit in the middle of the book where he acts like a concerned adult. It was amusing. 😉

    • Mhm. Orma’s reminds me of someone who claims to hate cats but then pets them and feeds them when nobody’s looking.

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  9. I have this. I really wish I had time to read it!!

  10. I’m going to have to pick this up. It’s been AGES since I read a good dragon-centric book. The last one I read was absolute rubbish – I don’t even remember what it was called, it was that bad. 😛

    • It was a very fun read, and I liked that it was imaginative and not just the typical cookie-cutter dragon story.

  11. I agree with Lynn – even if your review hadn’t made the book sound like an excellent addition to dragon lore (which it did – looking forward to seeing it on the shelves), I would have to buy it for the cover!

    • The cover is beautiful. I love it when SF/F book covers have paintings/drawings/etc. as their cover art rather than the current trend of photo manipulation. 🙂

  12. Me likey dragons. Love that cover also (which, fickle at all?) Really, this sounds right up my street and I’ve already read some good reviews so yours has just cemented the deal! Dragons, sigh……
    Lynn 😀

    • Dragons are a lot of fun, and I like how Hartman managed to give a new twist to existing dragon lore. 🙂

  13. This dos sound appealing. I haven’t read any dragon stories but I think there is a very famous one I saw reviewed a few times but now I have forgotten the title.

    In any case, this sounds good.

    • I’ve been on a sci-fi/fantasy kick lately because it makes for pleasant escapism. 🙂

  14. I agree with TBM – this sounds like it could be a good/interesting addition to the dragon lore already out there 😀

    • I liked that they were so mathematical/logical and the general way that she described their consciousness. It’s something I hadn’t seen done before.

      • Yeah – it sounds a little bit like Paolini’s descriptions of the oldest dragons and the sheer size of their memories.

  15. Oh this sounds cool. I love dragon stories. There is just something nice about falling for a book that takes you to a whole new world. Thanks for sharing. I’ll keep an eye out for this one.

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