Monday, September 23, 2013

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

By Rachel Hartman
Published by Random House Children’s Books, 2012
480 pages (hardcover)

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. (from

This is a fun and creative fantasy novel (even for those who aren’t into dragons and such). Hartman’s writing is descriptive, warm, and somewhat sarcastic (hooray!). Additionally, at the end of the book she has lists of characters and phrases to help out the more human readers.

I am not sure if the author intended this, but I appreciated the over-arching narrative on diversity and accepting people (and dragons) for who they are and not just their background. UMS is ridiculously diverse and Hartman’s frank discussion of not being judgmental and prejudice throughout her entertaining novel gave it substance that some fantasy and science fiction books simply do not have.

Deservingly so, Seraphina won some awards because it is such an engaging and interesting book. Don’t be fooled by its length… it is a heart-felt and amusing story that will have you quickly flipping the pages to find out what happens next.

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