Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book reminded me a lot of Kristin Cashore's Graceling Realm series. This is a story of self-discovery, adventure, intrigue and love.
I read it less than 48 hours and I loved the DRAGONS!
Yes, I think this is what I really enjoyed the most. A refreshing new/old fictional being. Words are escaping me right now, so I will postpone this review for later. I just wanted to write down my first impression with this smile on my face. Will expand this later
Okay, here it goes:
Dragons, yay! I am still swooning about them.
Seraphina lives in a world where humans and dragons have made a very fragile truce and are both enduring amicable relationships, but this is mostly darkened by hateful resentments and prejudices that both have against each species. This is an interesting immersion through everyday life of a fantasy realm of mythical creatures...tainted by bigotry and intolerance (But dragons are so cool, you say, I know, I agree... what's wrong with this kingdom?).There was a war between dragons and humans, and a treaty was signed by the current Queen and the dragon ruler issuing a state of peace and understanding between them. However, it is described at the beginning of this story that not all humans feel comfortable with the actual status-quo of this agreement... and perhaps some dragons share similar feelings too.
Dragons have the capacity to take human form and interact with us, acting as dragons in a human body. I have to admit that I'm still waiting fir a clearer or a bit more detailed explanation of how this transformation is achieved, since it was a bit vague (but maybe my human mind is just too simple for this). Dragons have this very peculiar way of behaving. They are stark, serious, lack much sense of humor and are described as being devoid of feelings and human emotions. They have a hard time learning human nuisances and are very strict with their rules. When they spend too much time in human form, or if some of their rules are broken -which rarely happens- dragons will be submitted to a procedure that strips them of all memories, giving their mind in a clean dragon state. This behaviour reminded me of Vulcans (yes, I am a Trekkie at heart). Specially the questioning of ways of the world and how emotionally devoid they are. I liked that dragons are characters to interact with, no pets or secondary companions, part of a rile playing game, powerful beasts to be slain because they are just angry, or to prove love to a damsel in a forgotten castle.
Seraphina is a girl who is half dragon and human and has to hide this from the world she lives in. We follow her path of self discovery, starting this chapter of her life by learning about her love of music, as the new assistant of the court's composer, Viridius, she has the task to perform a solo (stepping into the shoes of the ones scheduled) during prince's Ruffus funeral. We get a quick advanced course on Phina's worries and thoughts. She is very lonely, being a unique human who holds both worlds' (dragon and human) in her body. We follow the complications of the kingdom and specially how difficult the truce and politics are affecting the inhabitants of this place. Specially after the unexpected assassination of the prince.
Seraphina is a very complex and interesting main character. She has to keep constant watch on herself to maintain the secrecy of her dual being. Phina loves music, philosophy, cares deeply for her uncle and father and is very loyal to her queen.
As a book it takes you into this wonderful story of the revelations and tensions which are very cleverly conceived and wonderfully tangled up. We have the mystery of prince Ruffus death which occurs at the first pages of this book. Who killed him? Why? Then, we are introduced with a dragon, the unique Orma, who has been Phina's music instructor and mentor. Then we have these tense relationships between her, her father, the royal guard in preparation for the visit of the highest dragons, the outburst of violence against dragons and the outcome of Seraphina's first chapter's musical performance in Ruffus funeral. As a member of the court and inhabitant of the palace Phina will become involved in these political turmoils. There is a mystery, and Seraphina is set to help resolve it.
Why you ask? If I were a dragon, I would have made no comments or wonder about the cause nature if her behaviour. But I'm not (not even a bit!), so the answer is simple: Seraphina needs to understand her role in life and how everything that is happening cannot be avoided. She is one of this wonderful skilled main characters who will capture your heart and imagination.
I liked about this book that women have an important role in court: the decision makers are the queen and princess. Seraphina is also a strong female lead and will not disappoint much in her choices. A good example of her strength lays in her actions, not in her words.
At this point it obvious this book proved to deliver all the wonders you expect from it. You will not regret picking it up.
I simply enjoyed this tale. However I have to admit that I felt that the romance was not what I would expect and not what I liked the most. I believe it was not necessary for this story. I know, we all want some romance, right? Well, I sensed that I have already read this similar romantic plot many times before, and was not very creative. But fear not, what this love story lacked in originality made up brilliantly for its setting. There is so much richness in this book it is inconceivable that this other world does not exist, specially its details: history, treaties, gadgets, festivities, all of Seraphina's wardrobe, rituals, education, architecture, lands, colours, sounds.... it's an infinite list. Everything is very thorough.
In sum: please treat yourself and immerse in this world where dragons and humans interact. You will have visited a wonderful place.
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