Title: Seraphina (Seraphina #1)
Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 10, 2012
Summary: In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, “Some of the most interesting dragons I’ve read in fantasy.”
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.
I’ve heard a lot about this book for a while, and I’ve been dying to get my hands on it. But once I finally did, it was so hard for me to get into. Maybe it was just because I finished The Blood of Olympus only a few hours before I started Seraphina so I was distracted by that, but I found the beginning of this book slow. Not bad or anything, just slow. I didn’t find myself becoming intrigued with the story or characters very much until I was a good way into it.
The characters in this book were great and very fun. Seraphina herself was the kind of heroine I like, stubborn, independent, clever, and maybe a little prickly. I really enjoy female characters that aren’t necessarily “bad-ass”, as in they can’t scale a wall to sword fight a whole gaggle of baddies, while executing perfect gymnast flips and throwing out sassy one liners. I like that a lot, who doesn’t, but I also find it refreshing to get a character like Seraphina who uses her smarts and guts to get her out of sticky situations. And I liked that she had had a lot of heart. She surrounded herself with people she loved, even when she knew she shouldn’t because she thinks she is a monster, but she still can’t help but want to belong. I found Seraphina’s struggles with herself really sad, self hatred makes me get all emotional and angry at authors for putting their characters through that.
I also have to have a decent amount of respect for any book that doesn’t heavily rely on romance to carry the plot, or doesn’t have a dreaded love triangle. I have to say, I’m really on a roll you guys, this is like the fourth book in a row that I’ve read without various young men fighting over the heroine. I have no idea why I’m so lucky right now, but I have a terrible feeling it’s about to end (I’m planning on reading Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburn next and I can almost smell the love triangle brewing between those pages). Anyways, Seraphina and Lucian Kigg’s romance was never a main part of this book, and I loved that. It’s a bittersweet romance, that’s for sure, and I can’t hope but feel like it will turn out okay. Kiggs and her are both so smart and to the point, so they get that they don’t really have time for a romance, no matter how they feel, and they agree, without one of them declaring their life over, that they should not pursue each other yet. I think my jaw dropped in shock. Two young adults in love and actually remaining mature about it? Unheard of!
As for the other characters, Glisselda (my god, what an awful name) was sweet and spunky, and I liked how she contrasted with Seraphina. She really stepped it up in the end, which made me immediately like her a million times more, and she’s actually someone I’m most excited to see more of in the next book. Besides her, Orma was the only other secondary character that I really loved. His love for Seraphina was so sweet and fatherly, even if he didn’t quite know what to do with it, and I absolutely adored their relationship. He is definitely out of place among dragons, but maybe not as much as you think at first once you start meeting a few other dragons later on in the book.
The plot was the one think that I had a problem with. While it did keep my interest, I found it hard to follow. If I’m interested in a fantasy series, I have absolutely no problem following the different names and races and countries and all that jazz. But I just couldn’t get a hold of it in this book. It was kind of like, later in the book I’d see a word or a name and couldn’t quite remember who or what it was, and just kind of shrug and hope they told me again because I couldn’t be bothered to go back and look. That’s a bad sign. And the plot itself, with the murder of Prince Rufus and everything, wasn’t quite interesting enough to carry this story. The thing I found most intriguing, to be honest, were just the close calls of people nearly finding out what Seraphina was. The last chunk of the book is great though, I flew through that, but everything else before was a little bland.
What I did really like about this plot was the idea behind it. Dragons being able to be humans, such a great and original idea. I loved watching the differences between dragons and people, how they set themselves apart and how dragons react to feeling “illogical” emotions. I like that study of what makes humans human and what are our strengths and weaknesses. And I also really liked visiting Seraphina’s mind garden and how the author teased us with little clues about the other inhabitants. I found that to be very mysterious and interesting, and would like to learn more about it.
Overall, I felt like this book didn’t live up to the hype, which unfortunately happens sometimes. While I did enjoy most of the main characters and appreciate certain elements of this book, I felt like the plot and world building suffered a bit. Perhaps that’s just on me not being able to focus and if I ever reread this book, it might be different. But the slow pace in the beginning made it hard for me to get into. However, once things started picking up the pace, I didn’t want to set the book down. I am planning on reading the next book when it comes out, but I don’t think I’ll be buying this one.