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Seraphina Paperback – December 23, 2014
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Amazon Best Teen Book of the Month, July 2012: In Seraphina, dragons and humans maintain an uneasy peace and for a woman who is both there is nowhere to turn for acceptance--not even within herself. Seraphina has spent her young life concealing the truth of her parentage and authentic nature, a task that proves ever more difficult when she is thrust into the spotlight of the royal court. Author Rachel Hartman’s dragons take human form but shun the messiness of human emotion by remaining “in ard” (a highly rational state of mind), while their counterparts cling to a dangerous assumption of species superiority. As the anniversary of the treaty between the two sides approaches, court intrigue reaches a fever pitch and hard-won truths, betrayals, and intricacies of the heart are laid bare. Seraphina is a beautifully complex fantasy that delves into the most basic of desires—to be loved, to belong, and to find peace in self-acceptance. --Seira Wilson
Guest Review by Tamora Pierce
Tamora Pierce is a best-selling author of fantasy books for teenagers. Her books, known for their teenaged girl warriors and wizards, have received critical acclaim and a strong fanbase. Her newest book, Mastiff, is the third book in The Legend of Beka Cooper series.
In Seraphina's world, coldly intellectual dragons can take on the shapes--and feelings--of human beings. Sometimes this results in a surprise. Seraphina's father married a beautiful musician, and discovered too late that she was a dragon. She died, leaving him with a daughter who confuses him and his new wife and children.
Now the half-dragon Seraphina is the assistant to the cranky royal music master. She is in charge of Princess Glisselda's music lessons; she books performers for the 40-year celebration of the peace treaty between dragons and humans, and she rehearses the rowdy court musicians. She has to hide the scales on her arm and around her waist, and she can never let anyone find out that Orma, her music teacher, is actually a dragon.
When she plays the solo for the funeral of the realm's murdered prince, Seraphina is suddenly raised into entirely new, visible levels of peril. People she always avoided are noticing her. She has to attend social functions, where she is caught up in court politics, between those who support the treaty and those who want to destroy it. She runs afoul of conspirators who want to start the war again--one of them may be her own grandfather. She even discovers that Prince Lucian, who is betrothed to Princess Glisselda, is not only very sharp-eyed but also very agreeable to be around. He appreciates her insights on intrigue at court and in the city and uses her as an unofficial investigator into the ongoing unrest.
The plot thickens. A new religious order plots riots and revolution. Exiled knights return to report an unregulated dragon flying near where the old prince was murdered. The dragons are trying to send Orma for corrective surgery--they think he's gotten too human and they want to cut those parts out of his brain. Seraphina fears that if she tells the prince and the princess what she is, they'll hate her forever, but their work to preserve the treaty celebrations is bringing them closer together. And all of them are terrified that the dragons will decide that humans are not worth the trouble, and will destroy them at last.
I loved this book even more the second time I read it than I did the first. The characters are interesting and engaging, and I love the new look at dragons. For all that she's half-dragon, Seraphina is a very believable human being, caught between different loyalties and just trying to keep everyone she loves alive. But don't take my word for it--read it yourself!
From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-For nearly 40 years, the treaty between the humans of Goredd and the dragons of dragonkind has held strong. Humans must not enter dragonkind territory and dragons, upon entering human lands, must take their human shape, or saarantrai. In Goredd, Seraphina's human father, a high offical, needs her to stay anonymous. The dark secret that she must hide is that her mother was a dragon. Because of her musical talents, Seraphina becomes Goredd's music assistant, helping prepare for the anniversary celebration. Layers of clothing disguise the scales on her arms and stomach, but unlike dragons, her blood runs red, not silver. Also, to keep from having fainting spells in which she relives her deceased mother's experiences, Seraphina must clear her head each night. She calls the figures in her vision grotesques, and each night, she must ensure all is calm in her mind-garden. When the decapitated body of Prince Rufus is found just days before the anniversary festivities, many humans are quick to accuse a dragon of breaking the pact. Seraphina's grotesques begin acting strangely, and the whole court is investigating the murder. When the celebrations are in full swing, all hell breaks loose as the rogue dragon that killed the prince enters Goredd in his dragon form and attempts to take control. Seraphina must risk revealing her true identity (and that of her fellow hybrids) in an attempt to save the kingdom. Hartman creates a rich story layered with intriguing characters and descriptive settings. Seraphina is a complex and fully developed protagonist. Although long, this unique novel (left open for a sequel) will surely appeal to fans of Christopher Paolini's "Eragon" books (Knopf) and wherever readers enjoy fantasies.-Lauren Newman, Northern Burlington County Regional Middle School, East Columbus, NJα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Digital edition.
Top customer reviews
Seraphina seems to inherit both the logic and the sentiment from her parents. She’s very practical, but she does feel love and affection for her father and for her dragon-uncle (her mom died giving birth to her). Seraphina is an amazing character, in fact she’s probably one of my most favorite female leading ladies ever. She doesn’t let herself be clouded by emotion, even if she feels it, she does what is best. She doesn’t let the guy who she feels attraction to, either distract her, or confuse her. So she doesn’t blush or act like an idiot every time he’s in the room.
The supporting characters are all wonderful, the love interest is quite deserving of being loved, her friends are all lovable, and her uncle is just badass and no matter how much he tries not to, he loves Seraphina with all his dragon heart.
The one issue with this book is the very slow pacing that absolutely drags sometimes, but otherwise the story is engaging.
It was the language of the book that made me love it. The prose is brilliant and moving, the metaphors are beautiful and quite often made me either smile or tear up. Just read: “I became the very air; I was full of stars. I was the soaring spaces between the spires of the cathedral, the solemn breath of chimneys, a whispered prayer upon the winter wind. I was silence,and I was music, one clear transcendent chord rising toward Heaven. I believed, then, that I would have risen bodily into the sky but for the anchor of his hand in my hair and his round soft perfect mouth.” (Seraphina) There were other beautiful quotes like this as well. The entire book is just beautifully written. It spoiled my eyes and tickled my brain.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to read beautiful prose or a great novel about dragons.
This book has reminded me why my not-so-young adult anymore self hasn't given up on it. This book made me realize just how much I love young adult fiction, and books in general.
Where do I begin? The beautiful writing? The exquisite food descriptions? The worldbuilding that completely swept me away, into a new world? The beautifully realized, complex characters? The pacing, which was breakneck from the beginning?
(Also, since I bought it, there's a huge section of stuff that isn't in the hardcover edition! SCORE!)
Seraphina Dombegh loves music. So much so that she auditioned for assistant musical director, and got in. But our lovely, spunky heroine has a secret that could be the death of her: She's half dragon. And don't even get me started on The Garden of Grotesques. (You'll see when you read it.) When deaths begin to occur, on the very anniversary of the peace between the peoples of Gorredd and its scaly, reptilian counterparts, Seraphina begins to suspect that something is wrong. Forced to team up with members of the royal family, she discovers that the killings may jeopardize the peace that has surrounded the land these four decades.
As I stated before, I loved this book. Probably everything about it. I am shamelessly fangirling and I am so HAPPY that I have Shadow Scale waiting for me on my Kindle Fire. The bottom line: A beautiful, gorgeous debut, Seraphina completely stole my heart. Next on deck: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman!
One great thing about this book is that the style and plot didn't drastically change in the middle of the book. It didn't suddenly turn into a romance. Seraphina didn't suddenly turn into a whiny, helpless heroine. We didn't suddenly learn about weird magics that solved everything and didn't fit in with the rest of the world. Mean people didn't suddenly turn nice, or vice versa, at least not without good reason. Seraphina stayed a musician and played music often and kept up with her duties and used her skills to help people.
Okay, the beginning (prologue) was weird. You could skip it.
One of the best parts is that Seraphina has this secret that literally could be life-threatening. She has to be constantly on her guard so that no one finds out what she is. She also has to work hard to earn any respect or power she does get because people are inclined to think less of her.
The dragons! I loved how they were portrayed and characterized. I can't recall reading about emotionless dragons before. Intelligent, academic ones, yes, and even ones that could take human form, but not about dragons that deny emotions. Almost like Vulcans, I suppose, except I wonder if these dragons CAN feel emotions at all when in dragon form. All the little details fit so well (ie, dragons have silver blood) and usually caused complications somewhere.
I was surprised, at the end, to discover this is the first of a series. Part of me is disappointed, since I worry the second book could not be as good. Part of me is excited.
(Update: second book isn't nearly as good, but it did have a lot to live up to.)
Writer thoughts: Hartman uses constant tension well in this book. Most of that is Seraphina's secret, but some of it is from the mysteries (Who is decapitating people in the woods? Do the dragons really want peace or not?). Some of it is from the convoluted relationships Seraphina gets into (her uncle might care for her, the princess might not be spoiled, the prince might like her, and her garden people might be able to find her).
There's always something going on (on many levels) that keeps Seraphina guessing and the reader at the edge of their seats.