{Book Review} Seraphina – Rachel Hartman

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seraphina takes place is a world where dragons and humans coexist; dragons can assume human shapes and interact in the human world. It is now forty years after the treaty for peace between dragons and humans was signed and tensions between both sides are running high. When Prince Rufus is found beheaded in the woods, the distrust escalates. Seraphina is a smart, gifted palace musician with secrets, who soon finds herself befriended by Prince Lucian Kiggs and Princess Glisselda after she plays at Prince Rufus’ funeral.

The characters were wonderful and not one-dimensional. There are some that still confuse me, some that are favorites (Dame Okra!) and some you thought you could read but turn out to be quite complex (for me, Glisselda is one. I can’t work out if she knows about Seraphina’s feelings), and some that you know will die in the course of the series (I think Dame Okra will be one).

I liked reading this book and its world. True, wasn’t absorbed into it but I did enjoy my position as observer from the sidelines. I probably would have been pulled into it if places and races had been described more succintly. A character list and glossary appears at the end of the book, which is quite useless and repetitive. We learn nothing new there, nothing that hasn’t been mentioned previously in the story. A map and a brief history/background of the nations would be more useful. A map would help readers envision this world much more than definitions of “very very far” or “a cluster of nations in the Southlands” could. What do the Southlands look like? Where are the mountains, oceans, rivers, cliffs located? How big are the nations? A brief history/background of the places/peoples would have been nice as well, instead of just “the Ninys” or “Goredd”.

The book is rooted in religion and philosophy, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This world has their own saints and philosophers and has an overall mocking tone for religion even as the lead character practices it. I wish this book came out when I was younger; I would have enjoyed it a lot more and would have delighted at the religious bits, would have enjoyed the feeling of ‘I’m not the only one who thinks this way, even if my friends looked at me like I was the devil for saying so’. I’d have loved reading about the discrepancies between religion and reason or what religion tells us to do versus what we actually do in a book, instead of observing and realizing it on my own in reality (like realizing that a person can go to mass every Sunday but boasts about doing it, and is still arrogant, selfish and mean; or realizing that a wide gap exists between ‘what religion tells people to do’ and ‘what people actually do’).

In the book, dragons are scholarly creatures, governed by reason but are arrogant, loner-type individuals. Humans are emotional and are capable of working together. When dragons take on human forms, they also experience emotions which they are taught to lock away in the recesses of their mind. We know this isn’t possible and we come to see the dragons’ success in this venture throughout the story.

Our capacity to love is what makes humans quite special, yes, but I hope the leads don’t succumb to the strength of this feeling and lose all reason–especially when they themselves have seen and felt the ramifications of throwing everything away just to follow the ideal-movie-version of love–the ‘romantic-I-will-throw-everything-away-because-of-my-feels!!!!’ version. Love is a choice, not just a feeling. Seraphina repeatedly says that ‘her’ Lucian could not behave “shabbily” and still remain ‘her’ Lucian (meaning that if he compromised beliefs that essentially made him himself, he would not be the Lucian that she loved). It reminds me of Michel de Montaigne’s If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, because I was I. Going off on a tangent here, but I love that observation–would you be friends with your friends if you aren’t the kind of person you are and they aren’t the kind of person they are? Probably not; it’s why you’re only acquaintances with a lot of people and friends with others.

Love stories are exciting but I hope the rest of the series focus more on adventure, war, mystery and discovery than yearning love or love triangles. This book was a refreshing read–the author’s take on dragons and their powers were cool to read about. I’ll definitely follow the series.

[There’s an error in the book: The Knights describe a dragon they saw as having a perforation on its right wing (p. 139, location 2128-2129 in ebook version). Seraphina then recounts this conversation later on but says that the perforation is in the left wing (page 158, location 2409). They were trying to identify a dragon so this was a huge mistake, since the perforation was the only description they had. I wondered if it was a deliberate mistake and would play out later–it didn’t. I’ve only read the book once, so it’s surprising that the author and editors didn’t catch this. I thought it (the perforation) was going to be an important detail later on in identifying the dragon but it didn’t figure into the plot again.]

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One thought on “{Book Review} Seraphina – Rachel Hartman”

  1. I just recently finished Seraphina and very much enjoyed it myself! I’m eager for 2013 to get here so that I can begin the second book already. I will be sad if Orma dies — he proved to be one of my favorites along with Eskar… Eskar and her few yet brief appearances.

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