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.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is one of those “in the middle” books that are so difficult to put into words how I feel about. Quality writing, rich world building, main character that evolved throughout the course of the novel? Check, check, and check! All present. If I wanted to go the shallow route, I would even mention how fantastic the cover is — so completely refreshing and original from the majority of what’s out there in the YA genre. And yet…there’s something that held me back from completely loving Seraphina and from making it the favorite I wanted it to be.
I started Seraphina a few weeks ago and it took me some time to really get into it. I actually ended up putting it aside a few times, but I always returned to it because I was sure I was just in one of those reading moods that make it difficult to get into anything. Was that the case this time around? Both yes and no. There were moments when I thought, “Yes, I’m finally fully into this!” and hated that I had to step away from the book for real life things. However, those moments were also followed by others where I was removed from the story due to feeling bogged down by details. It’s great that Rachel Hartman created such an intricate world in Seraphina, but at times I felt that it slowed down the pace for me. Thankfully, she never failed to recapture my attention.
As far as characters go, I loved Seraphina. She’s layered, vulnerable, strong, smart, and passionate. This was very much a journey of self-discovery for her and it was so easy to empathize with her character as she faced many realizations and truths about herself and her past. Kiggs, Gisselda, and Orma made the core side characters and their dynamic with Seraphina was a definite highlight. Love interest and friendships, Rachel Hartman fully developed these relationships and, though I definitely had my ups and downs with the book as a whole, these characters were what kept pulling me back in.
Although there were moments when I wasn’t completely engaged with Seraphina, I do think Rachel Hartman has a lot to offer in her debut with her complex world building, layered characters, and rich storytelling. It’s a lot like the music Seraphina plays in the book: it gradually builds and builds into something truly magnificent and I’ll look forward to seeing how it continues in the next book in the series.
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