Kristin's Reviews > Seraphina

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
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Aug 06, 12

bookshelves: fantasy, family, read-in-2012, reader-s-advisory, self-worth, ya
Read from July 29 to August 06, 2012

Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.

I picked up this one because it's made it to several favorites lists, and it was very compelling despite including several things I hate: magical creatures, a glossary of terms and a cast that's large enough to merit a list. But... this isn't so much a fantasy story as it is almost a film noir. No dark streets or Sam Spade, but the protagonist has a secret and she's in danger at all times. The story also opens just after someone has been murdered, and Seraphina has been tapped to help find the truth even though getting involved with the law will likely blow her cover. And, if anyone learns the truth about her she is most certainly dead herself.

The protagonist and title character Seraphina is hiding something, and not just any old thing. She's half-dragon in a world that considers her kind to be an abomination and likely worthy of death. The premise of this book rests on a fairly recent treaty between a race of seemingly emotionless and logic-devoted dragons and humans. But the dragons don't merely exist in their basic shape. They can transform into humans and come and go among regular people at will as part of the treaty. However, distrust between these races continues, and this premise serves as a unique springboard for discussing race relations and even gender identity. You are forced to consider what it means to be human repeatedly in this story, and Seraphina isn't the only one who struggles with this concept.

While her narrative thread was interesting and I turned the pages easily I sometimes found Seraphina's voice to be a bit flat. She was an interesting character that was equal parts bravery and cowardice. She also had an excellent instinct for self-preservation, for better or for worse. I thought she was funny and analytical, but at times I wanted her to jump off the page just a bit more. A lot of self-analysis in this book, and some additional dialogue would have been nice. But it's not a huge flaw. It's an interesting concept, and the story really functioned well as a mystery. I found her supporting cast to be a bit dry as well. Her counterpart in the murder investigation Lucien Kiggs wasn't especially exciting, and I found Seraphina's relationships with her family members (dragon and human) to be more compelling in terms of what it meant to the story line. All in all though I enjoyed it. Probably for 8th grade and up due to mature themes and some mild sexual references that won't cause any lasting harm to unsuspecting middle school kids.
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