Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman


That’s the secret to performance: conviction. The right note played tentatively still misses its mark, but play boldly and no one will question you. If one believes there is truth in art – and I do – then it’s troubling how similar the skill of performing is to lying. Maybe lying is itself a kind of art. I think about that more than I should.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is the story of assistant music director and musical prodigy Seraphina. Residing in the Castle Orison with other court employees as well as the royal family, Seraphina is complacent with her simple though solitary life. But Seraphina should not exist.

Seraphina Dombegh is a grotesque, a human-dragon hybrid. As far as the Queen – and entire land of Goredd – is convinced, abominations such as Seraphina do not exist. Cannot exist. But Seraphina is a human girl with dragon scales around her forearm and her belly, hidden away by layers of sleeves and invisible walls. She lets no one in, for fear of unveiling her dark, forbidden secret. But when she hears news of an impending attack against the royal family and dragon leader Comonot, Seraphina struggles with hiding her own secret and exposing the one that will destroy the world she as she knows it.

Seraphina employs head of the royal guard Prince Lucian to aid her in her attempt to thwart the assassination of Comonot. Yet as their relationship grows, she reveals more of herself that she ever expected. She is deeply torn between lying to maintain the life she knows, or revealing all so she can be done with the heavy burden the lie imposes on her.

The attraction between Kiggs – Prince Lucian – and Seraphina is an avalanche, starting small and friendly, but growing into something reckless and intense. Seraphina and Kiggs dance at the Treaty Eve ball, where Seraphina begins to let her guard down.

A feeling rose in me, and I just let it, because what harm could it do? It only had another thirty-two adagio bars of life in this world. Twenty-four. Sixteen. Eight more bars in which I love you. Three. Two. One.

 Their attraction, and the action of hunting the rogue dragon, keep the plot of this fantasy novel going. But the smattering of religious and musical details construct a thorough, almost contemporary world. Despite the existance of dragons and the other-worldly setting, the world of Goredd is believe. The reader has heard such prejudiced and intolerant language, albiet directed at humans and not dragons. Hartman’s commentary on acceptance  – both societal and self – is powerful.

Recommended for:
I had not even listened to 3 (of 11) discs before I was recommending it to my sister, coworkers, and library patrons. The audiobook, read by Mandy Williams, is a very appropriate way to read this novel. Williams’ not-quite-placeable accent lends a lot to the fantasy world created by Hartman. I believe any reader can and will fall in love with this book, but the elements of romance, poor body esteem (the girl has scales…you’d be cranky, too), and family situation may resonate more with teenaged girls and woman.

Full disclosure: I don’t read a lot of fantasy. But of the books I am familiar with, might I recommend Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Both female protagonists are content with the status-quo…that is, until the day they aren’t any longer. Taylor’s creation of Eretz.

5 Thoughts

  1. I was going to buy this book on my last trip to the bookstore but I didn’t think it was something I’d like. Your review just completely changed my mind. Definitely adding Seraphina to my TBR list! Thanks!

  2. Really? I may just listen to the audio but if I don’t I’ll be sure to keep the British accent in mind! 🙂

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