Title: Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)
Author: Rachel Hartman
Rating: 5/5 Stars
In life we come across so many thousands of books - some of these books are ones we immediately connect with, others are ones we despise, while still others are merely enjoyable reads. Yet, the art of reading and the art of reviewing are so very different, for in life, there are only two types of reviews – those that come easily to us where the words flow seamlessly from our typing fingers to the page and those that takes days of hard thinking, hours of pondering, and more than a fair few minutes of brooding to write. Yet, it is always the novels which have touched me on a deeper level, affected me in a truly unique manner, and whose words will stick with me for years to come that honestly make me stare at my blank computer screen for hours on end. Seraphina was one of those few books – it touched my soul, spoke to my spirit, and connected with me in a way very few books have and for all of that and more, I love it and its story very dearly.
It has been forty years since peace was first established between humans and dragons – an unlikely alliance that prevents fighting, but also restrains dragons in their human form and keeps alive the constant distrust of each race. For Seraphina, a young seventeen-year-old half-dragon, this has meant that she has been forced to keep her identity a secret all her life for fear of execution. Now, during the very year in which the treaty of peace between human and dragon is to be re-instated, a member of the royal family is seemingly murdered by a rogue dragon. Seraphina, a court musician, unknowingly finds herself caught up in a web of lies, deceit, and court politics as she struggles to help Prince Lucian Kiggs find his uncle’s killer, all while hiding away who she truly is. Yet, as Seraphina will come to realize, sometimes the truth will be the one to set her free…
S for Strength
Seraphina is one of my favorite protagonists of all time. Since she is a half-dragon, she is forced to hide her true identity away for fear of being ostracized by society and killed. Thus, she is not only confused, but she is also torn over her place in the world. Is Seraphina a human, or is she a dragon? Is she a product of love between two races who seemingly hate each other, or is she an abomination? In all honesty, Seraphina herself doesn’t know, yet, despite her qualms and confusions over herself, she never once falters. Seraphina always holds her head high, her sharp tongue at the ready, and her quick wit by her side. I think her strength is one of the most remarkable qualities of this novel and it is truly inspirational. What makes Seraphina’s strength so beautiful is the fact that she herself doesn’t know she possess it – no one regards Seraphina as lowly as she sometimes regards herself, but she does have an immeasurable amount of strength, not only to see and do what is right, but to lead, live, and love. I admire her independence, self-reliance, and true intelligence and cannot wait to see how much more she grows in the sequel.
E for Emotions
It may not seem it, but emotions play a huge role in this novel. For one, dragons, even contained in their human form as they are, cannot feel them and consider them with pure distaste. Yet, as the novel unfolds, it becomes evident to the reader that feelings are not something to be ashamed of. Seraphina herself learns this through the repressed memories of her mother which have been passed down to her and tell her the tale of her parents’ love story. I think this emphasis on emotions, on having the courage to accept what you feel and act on it, is one of the many wonderful themes in this novel. Furthermore, emotions tie in not only to Seraphina’s beautiful love story with Lucian Kiggs, but also with her love for her dragon uncle Orma who she believes feels nothing for her. I think that relationship was the most heart-breaking of all although I adored it to pieces.
R for Relationships
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Seraphina’s relationship with her uncle was my favorite. Not only does she trust Orma more than anyone else, but Orma is also more of a father figure to her than her own father, who regards her with shame for how he attained her, is. Plus, Seraphina’s own feelings towards Orma are jumbled up and confused – does he love her? Can he love her? Should she love him, an uncle who can offer her no feeling in return? I love the growth and culmination of this heart-breaking relationship and her friendship with Orma is heart-warming as well.
A for Astronomical Friendships
While Seraphina believes she is very much alone in the world, which is not true. Her easy personality, while not realizing, makes friends with the most unlikely of people. Princess Glissenda, who Seraphina tutors, becomes one of Seraphina’s closest friends. I really liked seeing their friendship grow as Seraphina challenged her to broaden her mind and Glissenda rose to the challenge and took command of a situation with poise unknown to Seraphina herself. Either than Glissenda, there is another small cast of dear friends who I enjoyed meeting and seeing interact with Seraphina and perhaps my favorite, the music master Viridius. Not only was he an interesting and different character, but his short discussions with Seraphina really meant the world to her and you could see in what high esteem she held him. He too was almost like an elderly father figure to her as well which I adored.
P for Plot Twists
Yes, plot twists! I cannot tell you how many novels I’ve read where I have been able to predict the plot within a matter of chapters. Not only does it ruin the reading experience, but it is irritating as well. Seraphina on the other hand, kept me guessing till the last page! I loved it! Clearly, Rachel Hartman is brilliant! ;) I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out how all the little pieces fit together as Seraphina discovered the extent of her powers, abilities, and her purpose in life.
H for Heart
Seraphina and Lucian Kiggs hearts beat for one another – these two are so perfect that you cannot help but have a silly grin on your face whenever they come on the page together. While they first encounter each other as mere acquaintances, Seraphina and Kiggs form a close bond of friendship through conversation and a shared love of reading and philosophy. I enjoyed reading what I’m sure would have been considered “nerdy” discussions and their romance is slow-to-build and satisfying. While it is evident that these two have plenty of obstacles in their path, I am glad to see that they are prepared to overcome them together and alone. Seraphina never loses any of her spunk and kick-ass abilities when Kiggs isn’t around and even with him, she is self-reliant and independent. I love that Kiggs knows, accepts, and admires this fact as well, making their relationship one to die for.
I for Innovative
No, before you ask, there are no new types of technology in this book. Well…there’s one, but it doesn’t play too much of a role in this book…well…it kind of does. When I say innovative, I don’t mean technology, I mean new ideas. It is tough to write something wholly new and original in a genre so filled with dragon books since the beginning of time, yet, Hartman manages to do it. While her characters, setting, political scheme, and plot are all original aspects, I think the way she goes about writing is too. I loved the small flashbacks into Seraphina’s life which gave her more depth, I loved the manner in which every conversation was conducted, and I loved getting to understand both humans and dragons in the unique world. While Hartman’s writing is perhaps one of the most unique aspects of this novel, her ideas are even more so and her rich characters, well-developed setting with religion imbedded into it, and political conspiracies even further prove the innovativeness of this story.
N for Notorious Villains
Yes, there are notorious villains in this novel, and I loved their evilness. I think the reason this novel was such a success was also because of the political scheme involved within it. Much of Seraphina revolves around court politics and the politics of the treaty that lies between the humans and dragons. Thus, the villains too tie themselves into this political court setting which I love. I’m not one to pass up on a good political mystery and Seraphina thoroughly lived up. Furthermore, there were more than a few red herrings and court scandals to keep us occupied while the true villain revealed themselves and I’m telling you, the plot twists in this one are simply marvelous!
A for Amazing Author Debut
Yes, amazing author debut. Rachel Hartman has quickly become an author who I am eagerly planning on looking out for. I loved Seraphina because of its characters, rich world-building, and fast-paced plot, I can’t wait to see what she has in store for the sequel. Hartman’s fantasy is one that not only sucks you into its world, but it makes you relate to its characters as well and I am not ashamed to say that I shed more than a few tears while reading her tale. Furthermore, she isn’t afraid to broach tough topics, create flawed individuals, or write subtle, but important, themes. Seraphina is, without a doubt, one of my favorite debuts of the year and I am eagerly waiting to return to its beautiful world, for with its welcoming characters, it truly feels like home.