When I say I don't read a lot of fantasy, that's an understatement. Especially, high fantasy– I can't remember the last one I read. But something about Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, drew me to it, or maybe I was just feeling open-minded. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I did because this is an exciting and amazing novel that has made me wonder if I need to give the genre more of a chance.
Seraphina, named after its main character, is Hartman's young adult fantasy debut but there is nothing novice about it. Everything, from the world-building to the writing to the plot to Seraphina herself, is strong and well-executed.
It's been four decades of peace between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd when Seraphina goes to court as musicial assistant. She's just in time for the murder of a member of the royal family; which appears to have been done by dragons. Dragons themselves can fold into human shape, but are usually forced to wear bells to distinguish themselves. And nothing can hide their silver blood.
As the celebration marking the fortieth year of the treaty approaches, Seraphina has her own reasons for wanting the peace between dragons and humans to be maintained. For one, she grew up with a dragon tutor who works as a scholar. Seraphina joins Prince Lucian in the search to finds out what's really going on– but as they come closer to the truth she has to work harder than ever to keep him, and the rest of the world, from knowing her own secret. One that could cost her her life.
Filled with delicious tension and riveting twists, there's really nothing to critique about Seraphina. I love that it tells such a complete and rich story on its own that I wasn't even sure it was a part of a series until the end. Like I said, it's not a genre I'm familiar with but from what I know these are some original and exciting dragons. The political tension between the dragons and the humans is riveting, and it can easily reflect some of what goes on in the real world between different racial, religious, or other cultural groups. The only difference is, the dragons do really have all the power in Seraphina, they are the strong ones, but the rest of the world seems to have dangerously forgotten it.
Prince Lucian was also a wonderfully well-developed and intriguing character. He's a bastard who never knew his parents, and that gives him a unique connection with Seraphina whose mother died in childbirth. I loved his honesty and his sensitive side, and felt like him and Seraphina were perfectly matched. The only problem was, he was already promised to another– Seraphina's friend and student, Princess Glisselda. Glisselda was also great, she had so much spunk and it was a perfect contrast to how serious Seraphina could be at times. On the surface they seem to have nothing in common, which makes the development and believability of their friendship all the more interesting.
Even though Seraphina is outside of what I usually read, I'm so incredibly glad I picked up this high fantasy debut by the talented Canadian author Rachel Hartman who combines sharp writing, a clever plot, and a rich cast of characters for an exciting and intense story. I definitely can't wait to pick up book two!
Release Date: July 10th 2012 Pages: 464 Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher Publisher: Random House Canada
Buy It: Book Depository