Rachel Hartman's Seraphina Finds the Dragon in Us All
Fantasy and dragons seem to go together like milk and cookies, so it’s understandable that one of the most buzzed about YA debut novels of the season is a fantasy novel with... you guessed it, dragons. These dragons in the fictional kingdom of Goredd are different, though. They walk among humans. They can take our shape, mimic our appearance, even feel our emotions. For the more experienced dragons, they blend in seamlessly to human society, as they should; since the treaty between humans and dragonkind forty years ago, it’s illegal for a dragon to appear in its natural form. But even so many years after the treaty was signed and dragons and humans have lived in peace, there is tension. Some aren’t happy with the treaty and don’t believe that humans and dragons should live side by side.
Seraphina is a talented musician working in the royal court. She has a unique perspective on the dragon-human relations; because her music teacher, Orma, was a dragon, she knows them better than most. Seraphina also hides a dark, terrible secret, one that could change everything if it was revealed. Because of this, Seraphina tries to fly under the radar, making sure not to draw any attention to herself.
But all that changes when a prince of the court is murdered. When rumors start circulating that it was a dragon, the already tense relations between humans and dragons become even worse. Along with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs, Seraphina takes it upon herself to learn the truth behind the prince’s death and find out what is really happening between humans and dragons.
You may be wondering why in the world a court musician decides to take on the politics of the kingdom, and you’d be right to wonder. It’s difficult to explain without giving anything away, but it’s not really something you question while reading the book. Whether Seraphina likes it or not, she seems to be at the center of events (which is predictable, given that her name is the book’s title), and her curious nature ensures that she can leave no stone unturned. Seraphina is a great character, though the secondary characters (mainly Kiggs and Griselda, the princess) are a bit two-dimensional.
The world that Hartman creates in Seraphina is pretty amazing. It’s just so different; whether you’re interested in the story or not, if you love creative fantasy worlds, this is a must-read. Some of the politics of the court are a little immature (in other words, it’s clear that this is a YA novel and not one aimed at adults), but the book is definitely worth spending your time and money on, regardless of your age.
It’s obvious that Seraphina is the first novel in a series (or a trilogy, since that seems to be THE THING in YA these days), and it will be interesting to see how Hartman further develops this world and her characters. The nice thing about YA fantasy is that, while the stories and characters are rich and layered, it tends to be a bit easier to read than, say, the doorstop that is your typical Game of Thrones tome. If you’re looking for a fantasy novel on the lighter side that’s still complex and interesting, Seraphina is definitely a book to pick up.
What did you think of Seraphina?