Thursday, February 20, 2014

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman


Author: Rachel Hartman
Release: July 10th 2012
Genre: Fantasy, Dragons, YA
#1 in the Seraphina duology
Sequel: Shadow Scale (#2)


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.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page


What I expected from Seraphina: epic fights with dragons, battles and adventures, something along the lines of a survival story, epic fights with dragons, kickass warriors, battle strategies, epic fights with dragons...

What I got: court intrigue, intelligent but no kickass warrior characters, politics, human dragons, emotional bumbling...

However, I am not even mad. I expected something wholly different, but I still liked it. What does that say about me? About the book? Well, firstly, I got excellent taste in books (as if that wasn't obvious already) and secondly, this book is really, really good even if it is not an epic tale about dragonslaying.

I think what really made this book so spectacular in the end was its stellar protagonist, Seraphina. While I did have my issues with her every now and then, and how she was characterized, all in all, she did grow on me and I appreciated her very much in the end. She didn't utterly destroy dragons in fights, alas, but I still liked how intelligent and perceptive she was. 

The other characters crept up on me over time as well, I didn't expect to form any attachments at all, but especially Orma pleasantly surprised me. His characterization was simply brilliant, an excellent idea and then very wonderfully executed as well, I couldn't help but love him. Prince Lucian and Princess Glisselda also surprised me, above all the latter because at first she seemed so timid and ladylike, and just ... like a spoiled princess, but in the end, she was such a fierce young woman I think she really deserves a slowclap for her being so awesome and standing up for what she believes is right, and leading a country at only fifteen. And Lucian was also a very refreshing male lead and love interest, to say the least.

Which brings me to the romance, which was really sweet and very nicely done. It moved at a snail pace and is barely there, which added just the perfect sprinkle of cuteness on top of all of it, and won't bother anyone who doesn't like romance in books. I can definitely see Seraphina and Lucian's attraction and I was genuinely rooting for them, and I think their conclusion at the end was very nicely done, too. I can't wait to see how this is going to play out in the sequel.

Ah, the plot. We have a bit of a murder mystery going on here, which is something I always love. Nevertheless, the culprit becomes apparent pretty early on, which was a shame, and then it's just a matter of finding evidence, and then finding the actual deviant. So, it still contains some of that element that is finding things, putting them together logically with the help of a lot of deduction and drawing great conclusions like only great minds are able to, but not as much as it could have been. Still liked that one, though. Otherwise, I'm still not quite sure what the actual plot was besides this. There had to be one, right? This wasn't the only plot line, it might have been the main one, but I'm pretty sure there were others. Huh.

The writing, though! The writing. Prepare for extensive gushing. I can't find words that adequately describe how much I loved Hartman's writing style. It was just perfect for this type of novel, which is set in a medieval-esque fantasy world and I enjoyed every single word of it. The author seems to have a very broad vocabulary and is not afraid to show it, so that even I don't know every single one and have to look it up or deduce it out of the context. I love learning new words and expanding my own vocabulary, so this was a real gold mine. Thank you, Rachel Hartman. But besides being very informative, it was also crazy beautiful. Very, very nice.

World building was also pretty good, I understood how it all worked well enough, I just didn't get all the geographics exactly, but it's not that important anyway. And maybe there's going to be a map in the next book, I'm expecting one.

So, that bears the question: Am I going to read Shadow Scale? Definitely. Now, for this sequel, there is the promise of epic dragon battles and I'm sure as hell not going to miss that. All in all, I truly enjoyed this book even if it did not quite meet my expectations, which is very high praise. Usually, if a book doesn't live up to what I dreamed it to be, it's a catastrophe, so — there you have it. The only problem I have is that this was published in 2012 but the sequel will be published in 2015! 2015!

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