Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Posted November 9, 2017 by Amber in Reviews / 12 Comments



by Rachel Hartman

Series: Seraphina #1
Publisher: Random House on July 10, 2012
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Target Age Group: New Adult
Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

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.


Hiding in the shadows is not suited to Seraphina.

The young music mistress doesn’t rebel, not intentionally.  Music is in her bones and it calls to her soul.  When an emergency means she calls up her instrument to perform at a royal funeral, suddenly everyone knows her name and it gets more complicated from there.  But people can’t know her name because Seraphina can’t make friends, get into relationships… she has a dark and terrible secret and if anyone finds it out, she will surely die.

Meanwhile, the celebration of the treaty between humans and dragons draws near, and the mystery of the prince’s killer looms in the air over all of them.  Everything points to a dragon, and certainly many of the townsfolk and courtiers believe it’s so… but they need more evidence.  If it was a dragon, that would be devastating on the eve of the celebration….

Seraphina is loaded with gems and I love it.

From what I understand of discussion and reviews of this book, Seraphina is hit-or-miss with most people.  Personally?  I loved it!  I thought the character development was really well done and I thought that the discourse about racism and justice were really, really excellent.  Racism is an interesting subject to tackle in a fantasy novel without projecting our own world upon it.  Skin color plays absolutely no part in this racism – instead, it’s species related, and driven by stories and fear that is not unfounded, but is definitely poorly managed (by the characters!  not the author!).  I think it does a very good job at portraying the tension in our own society – from the blatant racists to those in denial of its existence.

I like the grey areas in the characters as well.  There was a character I thought surely was going to turn around and betray Seraphina, and she never did.  She was actually a shining light in the story and she was kind and good and sensible and just in the midst of a group that were led by unfounded hate.  While I love a good betrayal, this character was lovely that I’m glad she found her footing and maintained her values.  I WANT TO TALK ABOUT HER MORE BUT I WON’T BECAUSE SPOILERS.

There’s a little romance, but not so much that it takes over the story.  A lot of books aren’t this well-balanced, and as a plot before OTP person, I really appreciated this (also I ship Seraphina/Fruit Bat but I think he might be way too young and that’s creepy?  MIXED FEELINGS).  I had a lot of trouble gauging ages in this book and pretty much got the impression of old, young, and something in-between.  And that’s good because it’s SO FRUSTRATING when a character comes out as sixteen but behaves like an eight-year-old.

This book makes you angry, anxious, and happy.

I spent a lot of this book being really anxious for Seraphina and her secret.  I was 100% on her team and didn’t want her to die?  Or be tortured, or anything?  There were some places where I found her narrative a little boring, but for the most part I was charmed by her garden and her music.  Her music makes you feel. This feat must be doubly appreciated because this is a book, with no noise.  Even in the audiobook, there was no music.  And yet, the description is so real and vivid it pulls at your heartstrings.  I loved it!

You can’t help but be really frustrated with a lot of the people who behave erratically or irrationally.  The way some people in this novel behave is infuriating… just like in real life.

I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel, and adding this one to my hardcopy library.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★ 1/2
Narrator: ★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★


Have you read this book or anything by this author?  If so, did you enjoy it?  Tell me all about your experience in the comments!

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Bloglovin’ | LibraryThing



Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

12 responses to “Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

  1. So I remember loving this but also…I remember very very little about anything else.? I NEED TO REREAD!! And then read the sequel finally!! Ahhh! I’m really glad you like it though and everything is better with dragons. *nods*

    • Amber

      There are not enough dragons and not enough pirates in literature these days. I feel like this presents an excellent opportunity for a story that is about dragons who are also pirates….

      In all seriousness, though, such a great book. :). I actually got Tess of the Road from NetGalley about 2 days after finishing this and I nearly died of joy.

  2. I also listened to the audiobook of this! But I think that’s why I didn’t like it as much, because the voice actor has to be really good in order for me to pay attention to them, and I did not find that to be the case for Seraphina. Though you might think differently! Do you think you’ll pick up Shadow Scale now? I remember reading that and loving it more than Seraphina, so who knows maybe you will too!

    • Amber

      I actually did like the voice actor for Seraphina, but you’re right that the voice actor can ruin it. I have a review coming up for Life as We Knew It, and I nearly put that down because I did *not* like the voice actor… but she grew on me. That’s what usually happens for me, unless they’re utterly indistinguishable. I just get used to them! Unless the reading is just plain BAD.

      I’m definitely going to pick up Shadow Scale, but I’m not sure when. I have this rule about my TBR that I at least make efforts to go through it in the order that things were added, so it’s waaaay down near the end of the list at the moment. I do have Hartman’s new book, Tess of the Road, as an eGalley, and I’ll probably get to that one first. I’m pretty excited for it though – I really loved the world she created!