Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Reviewed by Noelle and Maggie: November 2011
Published July 10, 2012 by Random House Children's Books
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Noelle: I would describe this book as part game of spies, part comedy of manners, and part Law & Order: Dragon Investigations Unit. Yes, it's as awesome as that sounds.
Maggie: The story is a lot to take in at first because you're hit with the worlds of Goredd (human) and Tanamoot (dragon), and the half-human/half-dragon world of Seraphina. Seraphina's world is as fascinating as it is confusing because it exists in her mind, created by memories left by her deceased mother. It's populated by odd characters that Seraphina names Fruit Bat, Pelican Man, etc.
Noelle: At first, I had some difficulty getting acclimated to the world because there seemed to be an almost overwhelming amount of characters to keep track of and to make it more confusing, some were referred to by several different names. Power through, my friends, because once you figure out who is who, there are so many awesome surprises. Nearly every character delightfully upends your expectations. There are no cookie-cutter roles here. I don't want to give away anything in my examples but the two main female characters are just amazing. I adored Seraphina. She's smart, quick on her feet, kind, gutsy, and for someone who is forced to lie nearly non-stop, SO true to herself. The hero is also a wonderful surprise. I also loved, loved, LOVED Seraphina's relationship with Orma (and her developing understanding of it). I could easily list five more characters that were absolute favorites. That's how well-developed even secondary characters are in this book. I also really liked the alien-nature of the dragons with their bafflement of human customs and emotions, their logical minds and fascination of how things work. The world building is awesome. The garden of grotesques was both creepy and trippy. Oh and the dragon made machines and trinkets were so cool.
Maggie: Rachel Hartman takes what could easily be cliche characters and plot and makes them compelling and intelligent. She doesn't dumb it down for her readers or make it easy for her characters. Princess Glisselda, the fiancee of Prince Lucian, is also one of the most likable characters in the book. Prince Lucian is an actual knight in shining armor, but Seraphina is more often than not coming to his rescue. That brings us to Seraphina, a brilliant musician who struggles with the legacy her mother left her. I'd be pissed about metallic silver scales too. But who has time to dwell on scales when Lucian and Glisselda's uncle has been killed and all clues (namely, the lack of a head along with the body) point to a dragon as the culprit. This murder just before the anniversary of the peace treaty between humans and dragons could tip the balance towards war. There's discontent on all sides -- humans who aren't happy living with dragons, dragons who feel they've given up too much to humans, knights who fought during the wars and were banished following the peace treaty. Assassinations are plotted and identities are revealed as the nation of Goredd plans to welcome the leader of dragonkind.
Noelle: Basically I really liked this book a lot and I am pretty sure you will too! Is there going to be a sequel or did I just hope that into existence in my head? Either way, I will definitely be keeping up with Rachel Hartman's future writing endeavors. Rating 4/5 stars.
Maggie: This is just the beginning (I hope!) of a series. I don't mean to keep using the word "intelligent" but Rachel Hartman writes characters that actually use their brains. Deductive reasoning! It happens! Seraphina reminded me a lot of The Thief in that as good as it was, I know the sequel is going to be even better. Nevertheless, this book stands very capably on its own. It is as much political thriller as it is fantasy, which I love. I also loved the discussions of parentage and the legacies, both beneficial and detrimental, that parents leave their kids. I can't believe this was a debut novel! It was so assured and entertaining. I definitely look forward to reading more of Rachel Hartman's work. Rating 4/5 stars.