‘Seraphina’ is a Wonderfully Fresh Take on a Classic Dragon Tale

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In a world where dragons can shrink themselves into human shape, a treaty was forged between the humans and the dragons so their various races could mingle in peace. Still, in the almost 40th year of this treaty, mistrust abounds between the races (particularly humans towards dragons). A tenuous peace is kept, but not without struggles, racism, and hatred.

Seraphina Dombegh is in the middle of this conflict. She’s an extremely talented musician and has begun working for the royal court right at a time when one of the princes was killed in a way that reeks of dragons. Inadvertently pulled into the investigation, she works with new friend (and cutie captain of the guard) Prince Lucian Kiggs to discover the truth. But the more they learn the more dangerous knowing the truth becomes — and the higher the risk of Seraphina’s deepest secret being revealed, which could easily end her life.

I was only seventy pages or so into this almost 500 page book when my roommate inquired about its contents. I took almost a half-hour explaining the intricacies of the plot, the amazing character development, and the unique world. When I told her how much I had read her eyes got huge and she couldn’t believe the amount of detail in such a short span of pages. That really got me thinking about the awesomeness that is Seraphina and even more so of its author Rachel Hartman’s writing. You’d think dragons and medieval settings would feel boringly over-done with nothing unique to offer. Applying that logic to this book would be wrong. Everything about this story felt refreshingly different, even things that were familiar. That’s the gift that Hartman has with creativity.

The personal struggles of Seraphina were wonderful to behold. When I was reading this I saw that Christopher Paolini blurbed it. I shared with him that I was enjoying its oddness immensely. And odd really is the appropriate description of some elements of this book. At the beginning strange mental gardens with complicated characters living in Seraphina’s mind are presented to us. With no idea who they are and why they are haunting her we find out slowly what these mental struggles really mean for Seraphina. But wow, until the truth is revealed I felt like I was on some sort of trippy fantasy ride every time we entered into her mind. It was deliciously weird and really had me wanting more as it propelled me forward.

Another wonderful thing about this book is the familiar elements of a story that make it beloved intermingled in with this distinctive world. There’s lots of personal growth, introspection and struggle for both Seraphina and many of the secondary characters. The fact that people like her father, her uncle, and her potential love interest all had demons of varying degrees made them feel much more real. And the way that Hartman ties them together, whether it be through common history like with Seraphina and her family, or common understanding as with her Prince, was done in a lovely, seemingly effortless fashion.

I love love LOVE this book. I felt lighter somehow when I finished it, and yet I was definitely fat and happy on the crumbs of a perfect story. This was one hell of a great first novel, and I cannot wait for the next book in the series. Seraphina has become one of those books I know I’ll pick up and re-read over and over again.

Seraphina hits shelves today, July 10th, 2012.

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