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4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 6 May 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I hate dragons. I can only explain why I decided to read Seraphina by pointing out a dearth in the YA fantasy genre (where fantasy does NOT mean 'drooling over the sparkling undead') and being SO DEPRIVED that I took it, dragons and all.

And what a fantastic choice that turned out to be. I love a book so rarely. I have not loved a book this much since Kristin Cashore's Fire.

Seraphina is set in a world where an uneasy peace exists between humans and dragons. Forty years before, a non-aggression treaty was signed between the species, ending the war, and allowing dragons to live in human lands, folded into their 'saarantras', their human shape. The logic-driven, mathematical dragons are fascinated by humankind's peculiarities, especially art...and emotion.

The eponymous Seraphina is a gifted musician. Soon after she comes to court, the crown prince is murdered. His body is found - but his head is not. An almost trademark dragon-kill, it comes days before the fortieth anniversary of the Treaty, and the arrival of the Ardmagar, the dragons' king. Seraphina finds herself drawn into the events at court, and more dangerously, at the hub of many of them. She has a secret to hide, and never has it been more important.

The problem with giving a synopsis for Seraphina is that you can't really give one without giving away some of the fantastic and suprising plot-points, some of which unfold in the opening pages. So instead, this: why is Seraphina worth reading?

Sometimes, especially in fantasy, you have to make a choice between plot-driven vs. character-driven stories. Seraphina? BOTH, and SPECTACULARLY so. More so for having a mythology that was so thorough and compelling. Let me reiterate that I am no fan of dragons - and yet, I could not help being fascinated just by the *description* of a dragon 'folding' itself into a human shape. What fantastic imagery.

Secondly: textured characterisation and paced exposition. The central characters (Seraphina, Orma, Glisselda, and Lucian) are all introduced right at the start, but they are slowly unfolded, with their histories and character, throughout the book - almost a metaphorical opposite of the dragons, which I find absurdly pleasing and symmetrical and well-timed. The character-events are tied very organically to the plot, so neither plot nor characterisation ever gets in each other's way - in fact, the opposite. The one draws the other ahead with each taking turns. This is so pleasing I am almost bursting with the artistic mathematism of it all.

Thirdly, again, I don't want to give anything away, but I do so like romance being a back-burner topic than a headline. Angst is so overdone. We all like a pinch of romance, but when we say 'a pinch', WE MEAN 'A PINCH', not nine yards and then some, and goodbye fast-moving plot with sympathetic characters and general all-round character-assassination. Baad.

Seraphina is likeable and relatable because she's strong, tough, smart, kind, gifted, blackly funny - and uncertain. It's her uncertainty that makes her human. Her social awkwardness, her occasional insecurity and quiet humility are all a result of her uncertainty - about herself, how she fits into her world, and at its core, how what you are defines who you are. Her voice is one you wouldn't mind in your head, because it's the voice of a friend, or perhaps another self. The secondary characters have so much texture to them - again, author-thoroughness - and you really become very attached to all of them; Orma is perhaps the most fascinating. And they all change and are changed throughout the course of the book, and maybe this is a big part of why it works. I mean, just compare where you are when you start the book, to where you are at the end.

I had one small quibble with something near the end, but I can't tell you about that. You'll have to read it. And the rest of the book made up for it. I had decided by about page 30 that I loved this book, so it almost didn't matter what happened after that. The prose is so clean - elegant, thorough, and somehow musical, as if it is exactly what it means to be. This is a book that reads nothing like a debut - it is all the reasons why I will read anything Rachel Hartman writes.

I would recommend Seraphina to EVERYONE, but maybe a wee bit more so to people who enjoy books like Kristin Cashore's (Graceling,Bitterblue, but FIRE especially - there's something about Seraphina that is very evocative of Fire). I'm actually a little bit surprised that this is classed as YA - but perhaps that's the beauty of it, to have this cross-genre appeal. That can only be good.
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on 26 July 2012
I must admit, I read a lot of paranormal romance books but one of my true passions is a good ol' high fantasy - Princes, dragons, mystery and scholars and thankfully this book has all of that plus some. So yeah, this book was right up my street.

I really enjoyed Seraphina. I was very worried that the book wouldn't work, with dragons that can turn human there would be a lot of plot holes and I just couldn't see how such an ambitious idea could come together, thankfully it worked well and Hartman managed to create an original and beautiful novel that was an absolute pleasure to read.

For me, the highlight of this book was Seraphina herself. it's very rare that the main character of a book is the thing that I loved the most but I really liked Phina, she was spunky and brave and also capable of showing emotion, she's definitely a character that has the vulnerable/strong balance right. I also really liked Kiggs, he was a fairytale knight in shining armour, too bad Phina isn't a damsel in distress - I loved their relationship, I loved watching it grow and I loved their interactions.

At times I got a little confused by all the places and the people mentioned in the book, as with most fantasy books there are some long names and a lot of lands to introduce so I got a little mixed up at times.

Fantasy books aren't complete without a beautiful prose and Hartman's prose is just that. The words flowed so well, I felt like this book was a pleasure to read, the way the words knitted together really gave off a fairytale/fantasy vibe and the voice was very unique, I definitely loved reading this book and cannot wait to read more from this author.

I will be impatiently waiting for the sequel!

Overall Rating: A
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on 19 July 2012
Sometimes being fan of YA fiction is not easy. There are a lot of love triangles, bad writing, weak female characters and just bad storylines to sort through before you get to the good stuff. Then every now and then a book like Seraphina comes along and it makes all the effort worth it.

Seraphina is not just an amazing YA book; it is an amazing book period. Everything about it is just glorious from its title and cover (which is utterly beautiful) to the pages of writing hidden within. Seraphina is a work of art.

This book is so different from most Young Adult books. There is none of the predictably, no annoying characters and no clichés at all. It was so refreshing and such a relief. Seraphina is proof that there is still some originality out there.
From the writing to the plot there is a lot to admire here. Rachel Hartman has created a world so real and vibrant that I could almost smell the bustling city, could almost feel the dragon scales beneath my fingertips. The writing is brilliantly descriptive and it is easy to get lost within the pages.

The actual story line is marvellous. It was interesting from beginning to end and imaginative without being overdone. I found it touching and at times funny, it could make me giggle in one moment then reduce me to tears the next. It had a little bit of everything and I wanted nothing more. The plot flowed along nicely, I was never bored and the action never felt rushed.

The most important thing in all fiction is characters and it is the characters in Seraphina that take it from a good book to an outstanding one.

Seraphina is a great lead character I literally cannot think of a time where she irritated me or I thought she was being an idiot (such a rarity in YA.) She is smart, loyal, funny and brave. She is also extremely realistic. She loves openly, not just romantic love but love for her family and friends. She truly cares and is willing to give everyone an equal chance no matter whom or what they are. Despite this she is still tough. She does not have an easy life and things do not always go her way but she shows courage not only when facing danger but when facing a society that she knows will shun her if they knew what she was. She is also far from perfect. She lies, she cheats and occasionally she sulks and you love her anyway. She gets under your skin and is impossible to dislike.

Next is Kiggs. He is dashing, charming, smart and loyal. He was never dominating, never brooding and not once possessive or irritating. He is a great love interest because he is not overpowering. You do not need to hear him wax lyrical about his feels every five pages to know how he feels. He shows it in the way he is, in the things he does. He does represent the touch of romance that is present in this book but he is much more than that and the romance is not overplayed at all.
Then there is Orma. He is the second YA secondary character I have utterly and obsessively fallen in love with this year. First it was Kanin in The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa now it is Orma in Serephina. I do not know where these characters are coming from but I hope authors continue writing them. I loved Kiggs, he was totally worthy of falling in love with but he was no Orma. Orma is a little standoffish, exceedingly smart and beautifully brave. He is a bit of a nerd, wears a fake beard and is a dragon still I was not perturbed. I adored him...probably too much.

I don't know what else to say, I could go on and on and on about how marvellous this book is but this review is already 700 words long. So I will just say that I LOVED this book and that you should not walk but run to get it when it comes out. I am pretty sure you will love it to.
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on 1 August 2012
Seraphina is a YA fantasy book about a girl who is caught in the middle of an uneasy peace between the dragons and her kingdom Goredd after the murder of one of the princes, which gets worse with the dragons general about to arrive. Also in the mist of all this Seraphina has a secret which she has to hide or it could be deadly to her.

Seraphina is a really interesting book by Rachel Hartman which combines mystery, romance and action and also involves dragons which I love to read about although these dragons did have a bit of a twist as these dragons remind me of Vulcans from Star Trek.

I really like the action and mystery of this book as we the reader try to figure out who might have killed Prince Rufus and if there is an assassination attempt on Ardmagar Comonot, the dragons leader and general. However the romance in this book did not have the chemistry that makes a relationship believable but hopefully it will be better in the next book.

I really like Seraphina as she is a really likable character who acts in an understandable and relatable way. I also like the relationship between her, Lucian Kiggs and princess Glisselda and how it developed throughout the book.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend this book to people who like reading YA fantasy book about dragons.
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on 31 December 2013
Reading Rachel Hartman's Seraphina had me thinking about those ingredients of a story that appeal to me most, probably because her book pleased me so much. I really enjoy stories where people discover they have hidden talents or are finally able to reveal gifts that have long been kept secret, just like Seraphina, Hartman's main character. And in so doing we share her joys and pleasures as well as her difficulties if not nightmares at having such gifts.

Another facet of Hartman's book that pleased me is her exploration of the strange and how she weaves it into the story. Not a contrived strangeness trumped up for effect, but rather an unexpected shift in perspective similar to that born of creativity or humour. Who would think of wondering how a dragon would feel if trapped in a human body and the impact that could have on the uneasy cohabitation between humans and dragons?

Like many stories that feed on suspense, Hartman's book is driven forward by the constant threats that hang over Seraphina, but not to the extent that she wallows in unending pain and misery dragging down the reader with her. The author avoids having the reader cringe about what horrible plight will befall Seraphina next. Yet at the same time, the story is far from tame, which is often the fate of those that spare their main character the pain and suffering.

Perhaps the ingredient that delights me most in such a story is being privy to the blossoming love between two powerful but apparently unreconcilable characters, long before they are aware of the forces at play and then the delight when that love is finally perceived and shared by the two concerned. Succeeding such a progressive flourishing of love requires deft craftsmanship.

All in all, I immensely enjoyed this book and, although there were a few moments when my attention flagged, generally when the author grappled with introducing complex story elements, I can warmly recommend it.

Review first published on Secret Paths.
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on 8 October 2012
Rachel Hartman has created a rock solid world here, full of interesting nooks and crannies, as well as an endearingly crabby heroine and a plot which moves along at a 'must turn the next page' pace. There seems to be a great new crop of YA fantasy writers coming along - writing well-crafted prose and weaving excellent storytelling into plots which stand up to close scrutiny - RH is most certainly one of the best, along with Sarah J Mass's Throne of Glass and Leigh Bardugo's The Gathering Dark: The Grisha 1. I rarely write reviews - only for books I really like - and I'll be making this one of my books of 2012 on my Scribble City Central blog. I bought it because it was in the 'recommended for you' box on my Kindle, but I'll be buying it in hardback, because it's one I want to share with others. (That's what's REALLY annoying about the Kindle - not being able to share books with my daughter, but that's another story....).
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on 25 February 2015
I found this novel to be utterly breathtaking. It's clear that Hartman has a real talent for world building - Goredd was described in such detail that I felt as though I was actually there. I also loved her take on dragon lore. Although her dragons did remind me of Vulcans, they were a breath of fresh air to the high fantasy genre and fantastically memorable.

The characters were also brilliant. Phina was a fantastically strong character - making up for her lack of physical strength with intelligence and wit. The secondary cast was also well fleshed out. My personal favourites were Princess Glisselda and Orma as they seemed to get the most development as the story progressed. I was only really disappointed by the lack of Phina's father - he only appeared a few times and seemed to go through an entire story arc off page.

So, why the missing star?

Well, Seraphina was an very dense novel and sometimes the heavy world building seemed to get in the way of the plot. The first half of the story dragged a bit for me as the murder mystery did not really pick up until halfway through the book. Also, some aspects of the story took too long to be explained. I was really confused by the mind garden at first as it seemed to spring from nowhere and did not get a rational explanation for quite a long time.

Secondly, I did not buy into the romance between Phina and Kiggs. Although there were vague hints that Phina had a crush on him, his reciprocation came out of nowhere, mere pages from the end of the novel, and really did not have any impact on the novel at all. I felt that this could have been left out and the story would have lost nothing.

But, gripes aside, I really did like this novel and would recommend it to any fantasy fans.
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VINE VOICEon 16 October 2013
Format: Kindle Edition|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed Seraphina even though I was not sure what to expect when I picked it up largely at random.

The book is concerned with the intrigues between people, dragons and those caught part way between. The author manages to make the kingdoms and the dragons feel fresh and something different which was great and I enjoyed finding out more about their world and the history. The author does a great job of dropping in all sorts of intriguing details that created a really rich world but without bogging the book down in lots of backstory and explanation.

The politics and intriguing did feel a bit simplistic and the closeness of Seraphina to the royal family did seem a bit contrived but I didn't mind because the story flowed along so well and I loved the characters.

Generally the book was very readable and engaging although there were a few moments where I found the writing style seemed ever so slight off, especially in the first few chapters, but that did not spoil my enjoyment of the book.

As a first person narrative, the book stands or falls on whether Seraphina is a character who can carry the story. I think that she's a great character, well written who develops plausibly and in a way that makes you like her more. The joy for me in the story comes from her interactions with others and how that slowly reveals more about them. I particularly love Orma and the his interesting journey to becoming a hero and revealing what drives him. It would have been nice to have learnt more about some of the characters and for them to have the opportunity to grow more but that was really because they were interesting enough for me to want to know more.

I hope that there are further books planned and I look forward to reading them.
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on 5 July 2015
I'm speechless with admiration for the author and her world, as perfect, miniature and right as an antique clockwork pocket watch, everything fitting together, everything functioning, "all in ard" as the dragons would say. A beautiful garden of the mind with intriguing inhabitants, a perfectly realised faith complete with a pantheon of saints with exclamation and expletive to match. A book that will have the characters stay with you and pop into your mind at odd times during the day when you are not reading. A book that gives you the impression that it's world had functioned before you began to read and would continue without you when you closed the covers at last. Anyway I can't stop, I'm off to download the sequel and peep in on Goredd and its people once more. Do yourself a favour and do the same.
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on 14 December 2015
This is absolutely amazing, well written and an appealing plot. The dragons are portrayed in an interesting way I've never seen before and the main character is intriguing all by herself. Political alliances and terrifying enemies are in exactly the right places and I'm really looking forward to reading the next book!
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