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Lyrical, imaginative, and wholly original, this New York Times bestseller with 8 starred reviews is not to be missed. Rachel Hartman’s award-winning debut will have you looking at dragons as you've never imagined them before…

In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons and humans live and work side by side – while below the surface, tensions and hostility simmer.

The newest member of the royal court, a uniquely gifted musician named Seraphina, holds a deep secret of her own. One that she guards with all of her being.

When a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive—and dashing—Prince Lucien. But as the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina's struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult… while its discovery could mean her very life.

530 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 1, 2012

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About the author

Rachel Hartman

15 books3,838 followers
Rachel Hartman lives and writes in Vancouver, BC.

Her first YA fantasy novel, Seraphina, was published by Random House on July 10th, 2012. Here are some things that are already being said about Seraphina by some fabulous authors:

“A book worth hoarding, as glittering and silver-bright as dragon scales, with a heroine who insists on carving herself a place in your mind.” — Naomi Novik, New York Times bestselling author of the Temeraire series.

“Seraphina is strong, complex, talented — she makes mistakes and struggles to trust, with good reason, and she fights to survive in a world that would tear her apart. I love this book!” — Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author.

“Just when you thought there was nothing new to say about dragons, it turns out there is, and plenty! Rachel Hartman’s rich invention never fails to impress — and to convince. It’s smart and funny and original, and has characters I will follow to the ends of the earth.” — Ellen Kushner, World Fantasy Award-winning author.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,662 reviews
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.3k followers
November 21, 2011
What does it take to inspire someone to read a book?

Is it enough to give a heartfelt plea to the book's worthiness?

Maybe a meme? Or jazzhands? Will jazzhands convince you?

Turtle meme doing jazzhands. Your mind is blown.
I know, a meme about jazzhands! Admit it! This is pretty damn irresistible!

Okay, well, if you're one of those strange people who would choose a convincing, well-informed review over a meme of a tiny turtle doing jazzhands then...

More jazzhands
Are you sure I can't convince you with jazzhands? Maybe throw in a shuffle for you?

Seraphina is half dragon, and not because her father struggles with the basic nuances of the English language.

I said slay, not lay!
Well, maybe a little bit...

In this epic fantasy by debut author, Rachel Hartman, Seraphina is an abomination who must hide her true self from everyone lest she and her father are killed for heresy. Dragons have the ability to fold themselves into human bodies and have maintained a strenuous peace with the human kingdoms. Seraphina's life is put into jeopardy when court intrigue and mystery implicates that the treaty between dragons and humans is in danger.

Hartman's novel is almost flawlessly executed. The novel, whilst long, is easily readable. Hartman doesn't rush her narrative, but neither does it seem to drag or falter.

Aside from a few brief flashback sessions, the story is carried entirely by Seraphina who may be half human and half dragon, but she is all brilliant. She is the equivalent of some kind of bear/dragon hybrid. Like, a bear/dragon hybrid that can breath fire. Yeah, that level of coolness.

Bear/dragon hybrid breathing fire
Well, what do you know? They have a meme for that!

Often in novels, the female MC will profess to be extremely smart but, much to my chagrin, behave agonizingly stupidly and prove to have the mental faculties of a gnat. Seraphina is the total opposite of TSTL. She is brilliant, charming, ballsy and brave. All the while, she is also tactile, honest and fully-developed. Actually, I can not think of a single character in this book that I could argue as being two-dimensional or aggravating.

In fact, I absolutely loved the portrayal of strong female characters in this book. It was done with such grace and humanity that I found myself respecting most of the women in this book. Glisselda and the Queen were fantastic characters whom I absolutely adored.

Kiggs, as the love interest, was believable, endearing and wonderful. His character, so eccentric, so insightful and honourable, completely won me over. His relationship with Seraphina was genuine, subtle and romantic. The best thing? He wasn't any over-developed Romanticized Alpha Male! Thank goodness! He rocked it without needing to bully, oppress or corner Seraphina in any way!

The pacing is excellent for a lengthy novel. I gobbled it up and only at the very end did I feel any desire to speed things up. It is also beautifully well-written. The imagery alone was breath-takingly beautiful. The prose were polished and elegant. It was a pleasure to read. This novel was so full of emotion, beauty and poetry that I was honestly startled because I expected none of it.

I must confess that I am an acquaintance of Hartman here on GoodReads. I had grown a healthy respect for her opinions and expression, so I entered into reading Seraphina with a certain amount of skepticism and trepidation. I wonder if Hartman felt a similar trepidation when she saw that I had applied for her ARC and decided to read it! Because, let's face it, I'm not exactly known to be the most generous of reviewers. That's probably actually an understatement.

If you think that my opinion of this book has been swayed by my association with the author, then feel free to make your own mind up about it. I'm sure more reviews will be popping up soon.

But, to be honest, I didn't know what to expect when starting this novel. I've read work by friends before and had to put them aside, with embarrassment. This time is different. When Seraphina is released, I will buy this novel and treasure it. I will probably read it again and again when I need a laugh, or a romantic story or something to relax to. In fact, I loved this novel so much that I want to recommend it to everyone. I want to go get everyone I know and make them read it. This is the kind of novel that deserves to be published, that deserves to be successful. We need more of this out there. Not another trashy teen YA. This is the good shit. Right here.

So, my question is, what will it take to inspire you to read this book?

This ARC was provided to me by Random House publishers. No money or favours were exchanged.*

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Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,404 reviews11.7k followers
July 30, 2012
Sometimes you read a book, agree with all positive reviews of it, but it just doesn't work for you. That's the case with Seraphina and me.

Whatever you've read in 5-star reviews here, on Goodreads, is all true. Seraphina is an intelligent fantasy set in a well-realized medieval land of Goredd which is celebrating 40-year anniversary of its peace treaty with the nation of dragons. The dragons are conceived with a lot of originality. They have an ability to "fold" into human bodies (weredragons anyone?) and are beings of high intelligence and logic. (I saw someone on GR draw parallels with the Vulcans, and I agree, the dragons' internal conflicts about the acceptability of strong emotions are very much in tune with Spock's in the latest incarnation of Star Trek, oops, I stay corrected, EVERY incarnation of Trek.) The mystery that sets the whole story in motion is clever and wrapped up in an interesting political intrigue. As the celebration of the truce is approaching, Goredd's heir is killed and it looks like by a dragon. The main character of the novel, Seraphina is the one who is to untangle this mystery, but not without some help from Prince Lucian Kiggs, the captain of the Queen's Guard and the fiancee to Princess of the land Glisselda. This task is not easy though, as Seraphina has a secret of her own, she is a half-dragon and, by all laws of Goredd, an abomination. And, yes, as every fan of this novel says, Seraphina is a resolute, resourceful, brave heroine.

If I am to point at any flaws, on the plot level, I don't have much to complain about. Really, besides the naming of two prominent secondary characters Orma and Okra that creates a bit of an unneeded confusion, a couple of info-dumpy conversations that should have been mixed into the narrative better, and the unclarity of why human/dragon hybrids would be in a possession of extraordinary mental powers that are foreign to humans and dragons, my only major qualm is the romance, which is a but hasty and intense within the time frame of this novel. It's kind of an odd experience when Seraphina, after just a couple of conversations with Kiggs, suddenly realizes that she is in love, and intensely and irrevocably at that. The romance becomes a tad more grating when an unexpected jealousy subplot is introduced, but this jealousy is not just silly and mostly baseless, but misdirected as well. You see, Lucian suspects that Seraphina's secret dragon uncle Orma is her lover (for no discernible reason), while the fact that Lucian himself is engaged is forgotten for almost the entirety of the novel.

However, all these issues can be overlooked with ease, if you are enjoying the writing and Seraphina's voice. And here, unfortunately, where Seraphina and I are at an impasse. It is a matter of personal taste to be sure, but I feet the novel lacked a little something to keep me engaged. A special oomph, X-factor if you will, something to carry me forward through the rather sluggish first 100 pages or so and uninteresting to me passages about music, philosophy, saints and Seraphina's mind garden. I never connected with Seraphina, who didn't, IMO have a charisma, and that was what mainly prevented me from enjoying the novel. I appreciate the quality of Seraphina, but it is not the book I would personally return to read again and again.
Profile Image for Regan.
457 reviews110k followers
June 9, 2023
I wanted to love this but I didn't and it makes me sad
Profile Image for Shannon.
3,096 reviews2,383 followers
April 27, 2017
I'll admit it: I was incredibly worried about this one. I'm always a bit wary when an author seems nice and friendly and everybody likes them on here. I know, that seems like a stupid thing to say, but it always sits in the back of my mind that ... maybe people are giving this book five stars because they like the author. Rest assured: THIS IS NOT THE CASE. I mean, sure, people who liked the book probably like Hartman too, but it's not the only reason. This book deserves its five stars; it deserves ALL the stars.

This is definitely a meaty book. There is talk of philosophy, love, art, religion, the importance of music and dance, what it means to be human (and dragon,) as well as many other themes: especially acceptance (being accepted and accepting oneself.) I was excited to see such a smartly written book intended for young adults that wasn't dumbed-down in the least. Have your dictionary ready though (this is where a Kindle is helpful) because the vocabulary used within is not for the faint of heart. I'll admit that I was a bit annoyed that some things were never fully described (Seraphina's oud only gets a description near the end) and that all of these new words were thrown out at lightning speed, but, that's epic fantasy for you. You just have to go with it and rely on the story-telling to fill in the holes.

I'm going to completely forgive the beginning; it was bumpy and disjointed and chock-full of short, declarative sentences. I don't care any more. I was nit-picking and high-lighting and tsk-ing and then ... something shifted. Hartman hit her stride and things just started to flow magically and nothing could stop me from enjoying the story.

Oh, and the characters. I loved Seraphina from the start. I loved how cranky and emotional she could be, how loyal and headstrong and brave and foolhardy and loving and kind she was. She's a fantastic character and one I can't wait to read more about.

And then there's Prince Lucian and Princess Glisselda. I want to separate the two of them and yet I can't bring myself to. These two were the best friends and confidants Seraphina could ask for. Glisselda was bright and sparkling but never annoying or ditsy. Lucian was witty and charming but never controlling or mean. Don't get me wrong, the whole book isn't super happy fun times for everyone, but the characters are incredibly multi-dimensional. They laugh, they cry, they throw temper tantrums, they question and judge, and it's all wholeheartedly believable.

The side characters and villains are equally as fantastic as their main counterpart. Fruit Bat, Imlann, Orma, The Earl of Apsig, even Basind: they all carried their own weight and breathed life into the story. It's been a long time since I've read a tale with such a fleshed-out cast.

I could easily go on and on here, but I think you can find what you're looking for in other reviews if you haven't already figured out that I loved this book. It's an excellent entry into the epic fantasy genre, and the young adult category should feel gracious that Seraphina appears upon its shelves, and if you're a fan of either you owe it to yourself to check this book out.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley - thank you.
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 256 books408k followers
November 8, 2013
Think you've read everything about dragons? Think it's a worn-out concept? Seraphina will make you think again. Our heroine of the title lives in a human kingdom that is about to celebrate forty years of a peace treaty with the draconian race, but old prejudice dies hard. When the ruler of the dragons comes to the capital to commemorate the treaty, many factions on both sides wish to sabotage the fragile peace. Hartman's dragons are fascinating. They are part Vulcan from Star Trek -- logical beings who assiduously suppress their violent emotions -- and part Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock -- high-functioning sociopaths who can do trigonometry in their heads and tell you exactly how many people are standing in a crowd, but who don't understand the concept of music or shaking hands (or sometimes even wearing clothes). The dragons can take on human form -- saarantrai -- which only makes things more complicated. Needless to say, dragons and humans are forbidden from falling in love, which doesn't mean it never happens . . .

A great YA fantasy with plenty of intrigue and romance and several intertwining mysteries that will keep you reading.
Profile Image for Tamora Pierce.
Author 106 books83.5k followers
August 10, 2012
This is one of the most unique dragon books you'll ever read. (I read it twice, and it isn't even out yet!) You see, in Seraphina's world, dragons are able to take human shape--and messy, sloppy human emotions. Seraphina's father fell in love with a beautiful singer and musician, and married her, and got a surprise. Now Seraphina is the assistant to the royal music master, struggling to keep her birth a secret, and caught up in the tensions that surround the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty between the dragons and the humans after a long and bitter war.

You see, not all humans want to preserve the treaty. They think they can win over huge flying creatures that spout flame. And not all dragons want to preserve the treaty. This is bad news when they can take human form and go unrecognized as spies and assassins.

Seraphina, her musician uncle Orma, Princess Glissanda (the heir and Seraphina's music student), and Prince Lucian (in charge of security for the capital) stumble across multiple plots to destroy the treaty in the wake of a prince's murder. Can they stop a new war?

You'll have to read the book. You won't be sorry!
Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,261 reviews8,753 followers
February 7, 2018
2/7/18 - ON SALE for $1.99:


Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

4.5 stars

The oldest of my three younger sisters loves books as much as I do, but doesn't have nearly as much time to read (b/c reasons). Fortunately, I know her well enough to keep recs to what I know she'll love, so she can make the best use of the time she does have, not begrudging me my surplus of time--b/c otherwise, who would weed out the mediocre books?

The most recent book I knew she'd love is this one, but I was rereading it before Shadow Scale is released next month, and I couldn't remember if she'd already read it (b/c my memory is crap), so the day after I finished it:

Me: Hey, did you ever read Seraphina?
Sister: Sarah-what?
Me: Se-ra-phin-a. It came out like 5(ish) years ago. It's about this girl who's a half-dragon--
Sister: Ooohhh . . . I wanna be a dragon.
Me: Half dragon.
Sister: Or a half dragon.
Me: Would you really want to be a dragon?
Sister: Depends . . . Would I lay eggs or have normal babies?
Me: Eggs if you were a dragon, babies if you were half dragon.
Sister: Then I want to be a dragon.
Me: o.O
Sister: Whatever, being a dragon would be awesome. Flying around, breathing fire, hoarding treasure--
Me: Actually, the dragon leader guy outlawed hoarding treasure, so now they hoard knowledge.
Sister: So I get to hoard books?!
Me: Yep.
Sister: Could it be any more perfect?

NO. No, it could not.

As I said previously, Seraphina (the MC, not the title) is a half dragon. As such, she belongs no where and to no one. Yes, there has been a tentative peace between the two races for the past fourty years, but humans are notorious for hating that which frightens them, and these dragons are rather Vulcan-like in their views on pesky emotions.

Vulcans don't marry outside of their species (unless political reasons *squints at Spock, Sr.*), and they definitely don't marry for love.

Neither do dragons.

And humans are so horrified by the concept that they have half a dozen Saints encouraging medieval reactions to any cross-species dalliances. BUT they're not too worried about it, b/c like that would happen anyway--everyone knows they should be killing the dragons (b/c dragons).

So Seraphina lives a solitary existence, in constant fear of discovery.

That sounds rather morose, doesn't it?

Without undermining the relevant points being made, I will tell you that it absolutely isn't.

In fact, it's quietly hilarious. When Seraphina begins coming into her half dragon-ness as a preteen, she begins to have seizures brought on by strange visions of even stranger creatures she's never seen before. He uncle, on the dragon (or saar) side, asks that her father hand over the reins of her education:

"To you," sneered my father. "And what will you do with her? She can't go two hours without these infernal visions giving her seizures."
"We could work on that, to start. We saar have techniques for taming a rebellious brain." Orma tapped his own forehead, and then tapped it again as if the sensation intrigued him.
Why had it never struck me how deeply peculiar he was?

And once he has those reins:

He answered even my most impudent questions. Yes, dragons could smell colors under the right circumstances. Yes, it was a terrible idea to transform into a saarantras right after eating an aurochs.




Saarantras is a dragon's human form, so you can see why it would be a bad idea to downsize so dramatically after aurochs consumption. *snorts*

Stuff like this is also why I believe in dragons, fyi. I mean, really . . . a dragon is basically a winged dinosaur:


That may or may not have breathed fire . . . not exactly a huge stretch . . .

So the plot is fantastic. What about the characters?

ALSO fantastic.

My favorite after Seraphina herself is Lars, a blond giant, a foreigner, and a fellow musician. I would love him for his (not-so-vaguely German) accent alone:

Lars glowered defensively, as if he anticipated a scolding or a profession of love. Yes, that was it: he thought I meant to proposition him. He wore a closed expression, as if rehearsing a speech in his head, a way to let me down gently after I stripped off all my clothes. Sorry, Seraphina, I dondt like grausleiner thet can put their voices in my headt

Orma, the dragon uncle, is wonderful as well. He gradually changes from the typical rude and insensitive dragon, to a . . . less rude and insensitive dragon. *snickers* Both versions are highly entertaining:

“I’m attracting small children,” Orma muttered, twisting his hat in his hands. “Shoo it away, will you?”

And when he allows himself to feel the things he's so long denied, he is helpless to express them:

“Who will kiss you? Who will rock you to sleep?" His voice was slow, drowsy.
"You never did," I said, trying to tease him. "You were more father to me than my father, but you never did that."
"Someone should. Someone should love you. I will bite him if he will not."

And finally, the princess, who is a bizarre yet winsome, combination of oblivious and ridiculous:

"Two Knights came to the castle today!" She could barely contain herself; her hands fluttered about like two excitable small birds . . . "They claim to have spotted a rogue dragon, flying around the countryside in its natural shape! Isn't that awful?"
Awful enough to have her grinning ear to ear. She was a strange little princess.

While still somehow managing to be highly intelligent, and on occasion, even wise.

Ultimately, Seraphina is one of those books that never really goes away. Along with Poison Study , it was one of the first YA fantasies that I read and loved as an adult, so once again, I was worried about whether or not it would live up to my memories . . .

I should not have been. It was every bit as clever and amusing, as pertinent and thought-provoking, and as lovely and bittersweet as I remembered. Highly recommended.

Jessica Signature
Profile Image for Limonessa.
300 reviews509 followers
November 17, 2011
I hate it when I have the impression that I am reading a different book from other readers whose opinion I value. Hate it. But it happens and unfortunately, it happened with this book. I've read some really glowing reviews but, alas, I can't just - partially - share the love.

Objectively, Seraphina meets all the requirements to become the next epic fantasy series: it has an original take on a fairly exploited theme - dragons -, an amazing world-building, a well formed, strong main character, a 5-star-worthy writing style.

But let's go in order:
The story is set in a world where two species exist: dragons and humans.
Dragons, powerful creatures, mathematical minds, able to take human form (saarantrai) to interact with people, reject all emotions as weakness, to the point of excising them from their brains.
Humans, constrained in their fragile bodies, fear dragons above all else and despise them, even in their human form, to the point of racial discrimination. These two species have been at war with one another for the longest of times, except for the past forty years when a rather unstable truce gave apparent peace to the world. Now it's the time to renew the peace.
So, dragons. And humans.
And then, there's Seraphina. She is the unthinkable, a half-dragon. It is imperative her identity remain a secret, but when the Prince of Goredd is found brutally murdered and all fingers point to the dragons, Seraphina becomes the unwilling protagonist of an investigation to unveil a plot that is threatening to jeopardize an already unstable peace and which will oblige her to face her most dreaded nightmare: the truth about herself.

Sounds awesome, doesn't it?
Dragons that can take human form, that speak their own language (Mootya), that are organized and regulated by an Ardmagar and a council of Censors. I found it fascinating. In fact, the world-building is extremely well developed and detailed. To be honest, I haven't read that many books about dragons, and I'd say this is probably on the same level as Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, as far a world-building goes.

Seraphina is an amazing character. Caught in the middle between two worlds, neither here nor there, she has been taught to despise a part of herself, to keep it secreted. She lives a lie and will never be accepted by either worlds. She is an abomination.
I loved her passion for music, her witty personality, her intelligence and self-deprecating sense of humor. I loved how she grows during the story, how she comes to term with her feelings, how lies do not belong to her but have only been inculcated in her, how she is fundamentally honest. Even the love story, which could have been a potential love triangle, comes out as believable, growing and sweet. Lucian is a bit too much the perfect guy for me, too good through and through, but still very likable. I found much more interesting a whole set of bizarre side characters: Madame Okra, Abdo, Viridius, Orma, Basind. They had me laughing most of the time and were truly what MADE this book for me.

Hartman's writing is what I'd define sophisticated and recherché. I had to look up a fair amount of words, my favorite probably being houppelande. There are no doubts about the quality of her writing and truly, there isn't much more to say about it.

But I have to defend my 3 stars.
I'll sum it up in one word: pacing.
Despite the fantastic world-building, the amazing characters and the luscious writing, I had such a hard time getting through this book, I considered abandoning it on more than one occasion. The quantity of information to take in in the first, say, 150 pages of the book is massive and not always explained in a way to make it crystal clear. Some things are just thrown there and then explained 50 pages later. There's a whole universe of saints to digest that... really, were they necessary? And there is barely any action up until - I marked it - page 168.To be honest: too slow for me, sometimes it really could not keep my attention.
I had a hard time wrapping my head around Seraphina's "garden" and her grotesques, I felt the need for a bit more physical descriptions - of the Quigutl, for example - and a MAP. I really, really wanted to see a map. How is this world? Where is the Tanamoot? How many other kingdoms are there and where are they in respect to Goredd?

So three stars. I enjoyed it because I was stubborn and kept reading and was finally rewarded in the second part but I'm not sure everybody would get through those first 100 and odd pages. Or maybe it's just me, other readers seem to adore it.
I'm looking forward to seeing the cover for it and I will surely pick up the sequel to this adventure with dragons, hoping that, with the infodump out of the way, I will find it a bit more fast-paced.

Find this review and and more at The Nocturnal Library
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,605 reviews5,988 followers
March 14, 2015
I wanted to love this book, because..dragons!!

It's not a bad book and it's well written. I just don't think high fantasy may be one of the genre's that I can really get into.
Too many weird words and names. I mean Orma and Okra?

I tend to be a lazy reader and if I have to work for it by remembering odd words and names I get to where I just want to put the book down and grab another.
My little requesting finger requested the second book in this series from Netgalley and it sounded so good and the ratings for this one are through the roof...so what did I do? End up not caring much for the book. I'm sorry all you Seraphina lovers.
I'm shelving it for now and I may try it again later.
Profile Image for Dija.
413 reviews230 followers
May 4, 2012
How Seraphina is different from nearly all the young adult novels out there, especially of the fantasy/paranormal variety:

1. There isn't a single moment in here where you'll want to a) throttle any of the main characters, b) stab yourself in the eye, or c) smirk at the cheesy dialogue.

2. You know all those books with dragons? The ones that seem either too clichéd or too different from what you imagined dragons as? Seraphina is about as far from those books as it gets. In fact, it's in another league altogether, one where dragons are cold, manipulating creatures completely independent of humans and humans operate under the misconception that they actually have some control over the beasts.

3. The world-building is exceptionally meticulous. There's no info-dumping going on here; the world is well-built and very well-executed.

4. The plot is largely unpredictable. Not the type of unpredictable that is synonymous with unbelievable, but the sort where you're left completely awestruck, with a little bit of embarrassment thrown in because you didn't see that coming at all, even though most of the clues were perfectly visible.

5. And finally, an enormous point in its favor is that Seraphina can be read and enjoyed by both genders and all age groups. The plot and story is complex enough for adults to appreciate, but narrated in such a lively and entertaining voice that even 11+ year-olds should be able to grasp the content and, best of all, identify with Seraphina.

I highly recommend Seraphina if most of the following applies to you:

1. You are sick and tired of TSTL heroines who always wait on the hero to take the initiative on everything.
2. You loathe love triangles, especially poorly-executed ones.
3. You're constantly disappointed with all the potential in young adult novels being unexploited.
4. You love fairy tales and specifically Mulan because she never lets anyone boss her around and knows when to take matters into her own hands.
5. You often feel that cliffhangers are a cheap, albeit efficient, trick to get people to buy the sequel.

The only problem I had with the book was that I never completely lost myself in the story and characters. The pacing was also highly irregular, being too slow at the beginning and too fast towards the end.

That aside, Hartman has created an unforgettably beautiful world in Seraphina, one I can't wait to visit again. While this can easily be a stand-alone novel, I'm delighted that it'll be a series instead because I'm not ready to say good-bye to Seraphina and Kiggs just yet.

Absolute favorite quote:

3.5/5 stars

For more reviews, visit my blog.
Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
December 22, 2011

Actual rating: 4.5 stars

Oh yes, Rachel Hartman. YES!


I usually don't pick up many high fantasy novels. For example, I hate Lord of the Rings. Don't flame me! It's just that it's not usually a genre I mesh well with. In fact, I think aside from Seraphina I have read a grand total of two high fantasy books this year: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn and Eona: The Last Dragoneye. Coincidentally, all three have dragons in them. Hmm...perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something there.

Dragons?! Yes, dragons. I know what you're probably thinking. So, let me help you.

Who's a good boy, Toothless? I could watch him chase that little light all day. But, no, not those kinds of dragons.

Burn, baby, burn. Now, that's more like it.

Sixteen-year-old Seraphina Dombegh lives in a world where dragons have the ability to transform their bodies into humans and walk amongst mankind. Previously, dragons and humans have warred against one another, but for forty years there has been strained peace thanks to a treaty. The time arrives for the peace treaty to once again be signed and a member of the royal family has been found murdered. What's even more interesting is that it appears to be the work of a dragon. With Treaty Day swiftly approaching, Seraphina finds herself in the midst of the investigation, assisting Prince Lucian Kiggs in discovering the murderer, all the while trying desperately to hide her own secret: being half dragon.

A few things I LOVED about Seraphina:

The World Building:

I really have to commend Hartman because this is a brilliant debut and I feel very fortunate to have read it months before the release. She has created a very believable society and I can just imagine all the research she put into this crafting the religion, clothing, races, philosophers, customs, ect. Initially, when I first started I felt a bit overwhelmed because of the names and culture. It's just that rich. But once I got into the story, I was just amazed at how well constructed the world building was.

The Characters:

I have to say, I was not once irritated at the main character, Seraphina (BTW: awesome name!). She is very headstrong and determined. When she first discovers a plot to disrupt the peace, she does not hesitate to get to the bottom of things even if that means doing things herself. This, of course, is her strength and her weakness. Having to hide her secret her whole life has left her unable to trust easily. This directly impacts her relationship with her partner in the investigation, Prince Lucian Kiggs. But as the novel wears on, we see a growth in Seraphina and her ability to trust and rely on her friends.

My favorite character has to be a toss-up between Princess Glisselda and Orma. For secondary characters, I felt they were very well developed throughout the novel. It's kind of ironic that they would come to be my favorites since in the beginning I didn't really care for either one. They possessed qualities (or at least I thought they did) that I found ugly (rudeness, apathetic, tactless, and uncaring). I suppose this is just another cool point for Hartman's writing style and character development for changing my mind completely before the novel's end.

The Plot and The Pacing:

Simply brilliant. The best way I can describe it would be to say it's like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and dragon lore fantasy. I found the novel's length to be perfect for the pacing, giving just the right amount of time for relationships to develop, the mystery to be solved, and ending realistically.

The Ending:

Very well done! I never saw the ending coming and was left completely satisfied with it. There are some series where the installments feel more like a part one or part two of a story, but then there are others like Seraphina that could stand alone just fine. While I know Seraphina's journey is not yet over, the immediate threat in the novel is resolved. I really appreciated that. This novel speaks for itself and doesn't need to rely on a cliffhanger to keep a reader interested in a sequel.

Seraphina is definitely a book you should look out for in 2012. I, for one, cannot wait for the sequel!

Disclaimer: An ARC was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes and while Rachel Hartman is a GoodReads friend of mine, these are my honest thoughts on the book.

More reviews and more at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.

Please DO NOT click the spoilers in the comments. They are real and will ruin the book for you!
Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 81 books168k followers
January 7, 2013
I talked about this one on NPR (http://www.npr.org/2012/12/22/1675627...) when I was highlighting the best 2012 YA fiction I'd read IN 2012.

Here's what I said:

My relationship with high fantasy — fantasy set in another world — has always been tumultuous. Actually, I'd like to refer you to the first item on this list. Everything I said about historical fiction also applies here. Which is why, despite multiple recommendations, I let this debut novel about a half-dragon, half-human girl sit unread on my desk for five months. I'll admit I very much wanted to remain a curmudgeon, but the thorough world-building and specific characters won me over. This city of austere dragons and emotional humans felt complete, as if I could turn down any number of alleys and never find the seams showing. At 480 pages, the novel is satisfyingly plump with politics, religion and prejudice — and a restrained but edifying measure of love. It also has a healthy dose of music (I was unsurprised to discover Rachel Hartman was a fellow admirer of medieval polyphony), and I find I'm very interested to see what Hartman writes next. Teens and adults alike will love to creep down the magical streets of Seraphina's city. I certainly did.
Profile Image for ♡ ⊱ Sonja ⊰ ♡.
2,731 reviews448 followers
January 20, 2022
"Serafina - Das Königreich der Drachen" ist ein Buch, bei dem es mir schwerfällt, meine Meinung in Worte zu fassen. Ich habe es gelesen, und zum Teil war es toll und hat mich mitgerissen. Ich konnte in die Geschichte eintauchen und alles andere vergessen.
Aber dann gab es auch wieder Abschnitte, durch die ich mich fast quälen musste, denn sie waren einfach langweilig. Es passierte nichts, und meine Gedanken schweiften immer mehr ab. Ich musste oftmals Zeilen mehrmals lesen, weil ich mich gar nicht mehr auf den Inhalt konzentrieren konnte. Leider überwogen die zähen Abschnitte, so dass ich nur zwei Sterne vergeben kann. Dabei mochte ich die Figuren richtig gerne! Serafina, Glisselda, Kiggs und Lars sind mir besonders ans Herz gewachsen. Der Schreibstil ist recht poetisch und bildhaft, was mir auch gut gefallen hat. Und trotzdem konnte mich die Geschichte leider nicht überzeugen. Schade!
Profile Image for Vinaya.
185 reviews2,090 followers
November 18, 2011
You know, the internet is a strange place. You meet so many people, and they influence your life in so many ways, and yet you might spend an entire lifetime without ever once seeing the face of the person you count as a friend. And yet, they are friends. Maybe not the kind you can call at one in the night to cry about your cheating asshole of a boyfriend, but the kind you'd like to meet for a drink, and chill out with and have fun, stimulating conversation with.

And so, with prolonged internet interaction comes this weird feeling of knowing someone. I think this may be even more true of people on Goodreads, because I feel like we put so much of ourselves into our reviews, and then we just send it out there for the world to see. Little bits and pieces of our souls, just floating around on the interwebs.

So, to get to the point (and yes, there was a point in there. Somewhere.) I've been 'friends' with Rachel Hartman for a while now. And I adore her to bits. She's smart and she's freakin' hilarious and she's talented. So talented, she can draw pictures in your mind with one sentence. But despite the friendship and the internet-based intimacy et al, Seraphina took me completely, totally by surprise. Not in its awesomeness, because awesomeness was pretty much guaranteed, but in the method of its awesome.

I was expecting this book to be witty and self-deprecating and obscurely erudite. And it was all those things. But it was also sharply poignant and touching and introspective. It was a book about dragons, and dragons are made of win, of course; but it was also a book about growing up and finding yourself and accepting yourself. It was a book about how no (wo)man is an island, and it was a book about how Shrek thought Fiona was so much more beautiful as an ogress. It was a tribute to the beauty of being flawed, and it was a tribute to the age of honorable men.

This book takes the serious, makes it absurd and then makes you think beyond the absurdity. Look into the heart of things, and Fruit Bat will become more than just a cute nickname. Seraphina is the heart of this book, but its in the supporting cast that the book finds its soul. Little bits of soul, floating through the pages. Almost like real life.

And Uncle Orma. Uncle Orma was my absolute favorite. How could I help it?

It's Spock with scales!!!

And Kiggs. Kiggs was so awesome. A man in a million, with his honor intact, and so beautifully human and flawed. Screw you, alpha males, a real man gets angry, gets scared, gets stupid. They can't all be (insert standard Twilight insult/reference here) perfect sparkling marble sculptures!

And, saving the best for last, Seraphina was ADORABLE. She's all the things I want my characters to be. Smart? Check. Believable? Check. Real-as-all-hell? Check. Annoying and amazing in turns? Check. Pay attention, you YA writers, this is how it's done!

The only thing that drove me nuts about this book was a little conceit that was so peculiarly Rachel, I couldn't help but forgive her for it. The story is full of (totally made-up) references to random philosophers, a shared point between Kiggs and Seraphina, sure, but one that totally excludes the reader. The characters talk about these philosophers and their philosophies like we've already read all of their writings and are just coming into the middle of a perfectly-comprehensible debate about them, but the truth of the matter is, you're mostly left scratching your head and wondering what the eff they're going on about. It felt like Rachel was trying so hard to make sure the connection between her characters was as much intellectual as emotional, that she went a bit overboard with it all.

But. BUT. This book will rock your socks off, if you have any interest at all in interesting, well-written fantasy. It's not the fast-and-easy kind of read; rather, it is full of the unsaid and the unwritten, things that you have to think about, ideas that you have to process, emotions that you have to absorb. But in the end, so completely, totally worth it in a way I can't even begin to express.

Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 46 books128k followers
October 7, 2013
For a dragon book (SO OVERDONE AMIRIGHT?) this was so lovely and charming. A real fairy tale written now. I loved the characters and the world building, the story was touching and the main character relatable and believable.

The last half was a BIT more draggy, but still,really lovely, YA appropriate, reminded me of Graceling actually.
Profile Image for Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky).
256 reviews441 followers
April 21, 2017
“We were all monsters and bastards, and we were all beautiful.”

This book deserves all the stars.

I loved it. Loved it.

Beautiful message, sophisticated plotting, sweet and believable romance, awesome main character who managed to be both ordinary and believable while also being the "brave hero".

Read in one 7 hour sitting.

So what was so wonderful about this book?

“The world inside myself is vaster and richer than this paltry plane, peopled with mere galaxies and gods.”

Seraphina addresses self acceptance in a way that felt relatable. Self acceptance is a BIG DEAL in the YA genre. In fact, self hatred and an obsessive fear of social rejection is pretty much how you know you are reading another bloody YA book.

“I barely noticed loneliness anymore; it was my normal condition, by necessity if not by nature.”

But it is handled so well in this novel! A social system is built into the world of the novel where Serephina's fear makes sense. The plot question isn't "will she get validation thru the hot love interest, finally proving how hot and cool she is". The plot question becomes- will Serephina survive a dangerous situation in which her body, her basic genetics, could betray her.

And this is nicely balanced with faith in herself. She has real skills which she has honed over years of practice. She isn't falsely modest about her strengths. But she is deeply afraid of connection and the complicated dangers of risking exposing herself.

“That’s the secret to performance: conviction. The right note played tentatively still misses its mark, but play boldly and no one will question you. If one believes there is truth in art – and I do – then it’s troubling how similar the skill of performing is to lying. Maybe lying is itself a kind of art. I think about that more than I should.”

As a result, the novel perfectly melds this cliched theme with believable setting and character. I'm not ashamed to say I had a lump in my throat when Hartman resolved this thematic arc. It was incredibly poignant.

“Love is not a disease...I cannot let them cut you out of me, nor her either. I will cling to my sickness, if it is a sickness. I will hold it close to me like the sun.”

The novel explores intimacy and isolation, dishonesty and truth-telling and how we all grapple with our own prejudices. It surprised me. The book managed to be both a familiar story and a surprisingly deep exploration of self- understanding.

“I felt lighter when I had finished, and for once emptiness was a sweet relief and a condition to be treasured.”

It is heavy on politics, and for readers unfamiliar with the genre it is perhaps a steep learning curve, but regular fantasy readers will enjoy the well thought out world and stunning, evocative language.

It is rare these days for me to feel a lot of emotion about a book, I don't know- maybe I read too many… if such a thing is even possible. But often I see the author's hand behind the story and I say to myself, "yes very well done, I can see what emotion you are evoking here"… but I don't really feel it- like kick in the gut feel it.

I did with this one. And even better- even with all this heavy shit going on I laughed. The dialogue is witty, the commentary has this very dry, amusing tone.

Again this book surprises by managing to pack an emotional punch while also knowing what it is- a light hearted fantasy about dragons.

Recommended for: anyone who enjoys more cerebral fantasy (it is heavy on diplomacy and light on sword and sorcery), people looking for wholesome story telling that isn't fluffy, and anyone for a hard on for dragons of the Temeraire style (His Majesty's Dragon).
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,920 followers
November 6, 2012
I have so much love for Rachel Hartman and this book! My five-star ratings are few and far between, but I’d give Seraphina ten if I could. It was so easy to get lost in this world of humans, dragons and those in-between – I still haven’t found my way back.

Hartman’s dragons are magnificent creatures, full of intersting paradoxes. On a physical level, they produce fire, but on an emotional level, they’re cold and tightly controlled. They go to great lengths to remain emotionless, even though their saars (human shapes) are more susceptible to emotions. They have ways to excise these unwanted emotions from their brains and they keep close watch on dragons suspected of harboring human emotions.

Dragons used meditation and what Orma called cognitive architecture to partition their minds into discrete spaces. They kept their maternal memories in one room, for example, because they were disruptively intense; the one maternal memory I’d experienced had bowled me over. Emotions, which the saar found uncomfortable and overpowering, were locked away securely and never permitted to leak out.

The world Hartman created has a distinctly Medieval feel, but with many exceptions and liberties that were quite unimaginable in the Middle Ages. She took the time to build this world, which resulted in somewhat slower pacing, but I didn’t mind in the least. I find that I’m willing to suffer through almost anything if that means I’ll end up with a complete and well thought-out world. Fortunately, Hartman’s intricate worldbuilding didn’t come at a price. From the very first sentence, Seraphina had me entranced. I took my time reading it and I appreciate that it allowed me to do that. The best books aren’t those that practically force you to turn pages. True works of art permit you to enjoy them slowly, at your own pace, and it takes a great author to achieve that.

As for Seraphina, oh my! If there was ever a heroine one could admire with no doubts or hesitations, a heroine whose every action is an inspiration, it’s Maid Seraphina Dombegh. Half-human and half-dragon, she isn’t even supposed to exist, and yet she finds a way to live so fully despite her need for secrecy. Phina has the best of both worlds: quick logical thinking and problem solving typical of dragons tempered with inherently human warmth and loyalty. I think these words directed to her by Dame Okra, another half-dragon, describe her better than I ever could:

Whatever else may be true of you, you do things your own way, with a refreshingly self-assured pigheadedness. I like that!

Over time, Seraphina falls deeply in love with Prince Lucian Kiggs, queen’s bastard grandson and fiancé of Princess Glisselda, heir to the throne. Kiggs is the captain of the Queen’s Guard, competent, fiercely intelligent, and loyal to a fault. When she first meets him, Seraphina thinks of him as plain, but the more time she spends with him, the more beautiful he becomes in her eyes. They share so much, these two – their curiosity and love for philosophy, but above all, their loyalty to Glisselda, which makes it impossible for them to be together. Such bittersweet, well-written romance would be my favorite part in any book, but in Seraphina, the competition is hard. Singling anything out would be unfair to all the other parts I absolutely adore.

As soon as Dracomachia gets a cover, I’ll pre-order a copy. I don’t pre-order books with no covers, it’s just another one of my oddities, but this one almost made me break my own rule.

I hope my friend Catie will forgive me for stealing her line, but I simply couldn’t resist:
Fantasy lovers, rejoice!

Profile Image for Argona.
169 reviews259 followers
December 16, 2016
Buddy read with my dear friend, Roya! You can read her wonderful review here.

As a fan of High fantasy and dragons, I really enjoyed reading this book. Like most High fantasy books, the beginning is rather slow but it’s well executed and didn’t drag or bore me to death. The setting of this medieval world is well-developed and interesting. Both humans and dragons have their own histories and way of thinking.

I love dragons and Hartman’s version of dragons as a species capable of shifting into human form is quite well-thought and original. They are highly intelligent and are rather similar to “Vulcan” species from “Star Trek”, especially when it comes to their way of thinking, their social interactions or their internal emotional conflicts. They love science, especially math, and follow logic. They find emotions destructive and have trouble understanding it. They believe in a concept called “Ard”, an ethical and physical rightness imposed on the chaos of the world, which they use to organize their memories and thoughts or even lock away emotions. Once they used to hoard gold, but after their truce with humans, many of them have come to hoard books, which is their way of hoarding science. Adorable!

Most of the story takes place in the human city of Goredd. Goredd is governed by monarchy, queens in particular, and people are quite religious. Hartman has actually developed a religion for her story, with quite a number of saints that are assigned to infants as patrons, some of which have very entertaining or creepy descriptions. I found it quite curious that humans in this book were so afraid of oddities or anything they might find abnormal and yet, they worshiped such bizarre saints. I can't help but wonder if there is something behind the whole thing.

I found Seraphina's character peculiar and adorable. She is grumpy and reclusive, avoiding contact with others as much as possible and preferring her own isolated space. There is a reason for this and her true character, hidden under the insecurities, is revealed as the story develops. She is also geeky, in love with science, music, math and intellectual pursuit. She is constantly facing internal conflict, a conflict that sometimes takes a magical form or hits her in the form of visions. Hartman uses imagery to describe both complex emotions and music, and in my opinion, captures the essence of both successfully.

As a female character, she was actually strong and smart, loyal and brave. She didn’t annoy me and did not make me think of different ways of murdering her, which is really something. Many female characters manage to awaken my dark side and the desire to off them in painful ways. I think this book actually succeeds in portraying strong female characters, something that many authors try to achieve but fail spectacularly.

The romance was perfect for me. I don’t like instant love. Seraphina’s relationship with her love interest develops gradually and in a meaningful way, with very good chemistry between them. The story did not focus on him at the beginning, and he was not described in details, making it obvious that he is indeed The One.

The relationship develops as the characters are forced to interact, forced since Seraphina tries to socialize as little as possible. The two of them have much in common and actually spend time discovering each other, pulling out the layers one by one. HE is eccentric, open-minded, insightful, and just as geeky as Seraphina, with his own adorable peculiarities.

Most of the other characters of the book were also well-developed and memorable, with depth, background and unique personalities of their own. They acted realistic and I wasn’t rolling my eyes through most of the story, wondering why the stupid characters didn’t see what was right in front of them.

Orma, Seraphina’s uncle, was specially my favorite and I found him very entertaining and adorable. He has his own inner conflicts and his transformation from a cold and insensitive uncle to a loving, caring and protective one was quite beautiful and lovely.

The plot was quite engaging and well-thought. But I think this book is not merely about a mystery that surrounds a certain death and finding the murderer. It is actually about coming to terms with one’s identity and embracing it. It is about facing an unfair world, cruelty of your own people, prejudice and racism. It’s about standing up for yourself, finding a purpose for your life and trying to change the world around you for the better. It's about finding freedom and love.

I am not saying this book is perfect. There were some changes of heart that felt a little rushed. There were also a few things that were left unexplained, probably to explore in the second book. This book does not end in a cliffhanger but the story is clearly unfinished. The ending is realistic and bittersweet, leaving the reader with hope for a better future.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I think Seraphina is a fantastic, thought-provoking fantasy. I believe I actually gained more than entertainment by reading this book and that it managed to affect me in a positive way.

“We were all monsters and bastards, and we were all beautiful.”

Profile Image for Elle.
587 reviews1,402 followers
March 14, 2022
Okay here I go writing the probably dozen or so reviews I have let pile up over the past month and a half! she says full of misplaced optimism

I was not expecting to enjoy Seraphina as much as I did, which is probably indicative of my own biases towards, let’s say, ‘vintage YA’. But it had so many of the ingredients I love in a fantasy novel—a compelling and determined protagonist, unique magic system, expansive world building, dragons—so I’m happy to admit my mistake here. Additionally, I’m not totally sure if it’s necessary to read Seraphina and its sequel before Tess of the Road, but I guess I will be thorough!


The dragons themselves are one of the more inventive takes on the popular fantasy staple I’ve seen. They have an almost Vulcan-like approach to empathy and humanity, as well as being excellent foils to the human characters even when they aren’t antagonists. The Saars (the predominant dragon breed) have the ability to shift into human form and live amongst the common people, as long as they’re able to keep a low profile. The animosity between those two populations, and the smaller, lower-status dragons called quigutls, effectively reflect real-world xenophobia as well as can be expected for a story where the oppressed population(s) are dragons.

I think some of the things that keep me from enthusiastically recommending this book have more to do with the era it came out in than anything inherently wrong with the storytelling. The choice to use a dragon race as surrogates for marginalized communities might in and of itself be fine, but paired with things like the use of the term “Daanite” to refer to gay characters but never directly saying they are gay, feels like the author is trying to talk about serious subjects without really addressing them. And I’m putting the specifics of this next part of the plot under spoiler tags because it’s a huge reveal, but I really can’t get around mentioning it. There’s a trope near the end of the book that could be interpreted as transphobic, though I will say on behalf of Rachel Hartman that she apologized for it several years ago and was not aware of the trope at the time.

My read is that it’s a result of naïveté rather than prejudice, and her later books do feature more LGBTQ+ characters. This market and genre have evolved a good amount in the decade since Seraphina’s publication, and some things that would have been unremarkable then would rightfully be viewed through a more critical lens if they came out today. I can understand people wanting to avoid the book for that reason, but I’m not going to hold it against the author.

Also worth mentioning is that this story lacks some of those punchy, exciting action sequences that help propel forward a lot of Young Adult fantasies. There’s a good amount of walking around the castle….and walking around the town…..then back to waiting in the castle, etc. We follow Seraphina on a journey of self-discovery more than a fantasy adventure, but for readers that expect the plot to involve a lot of, well, plot, this may not be the story for you.

I am very excited to see where the new book takes Seraphina and co., though. I double checked the synopsis before posting, and unfortunately there’s not many specifics I can say about this book or the next one that wouldn’t be considered spoilers for people who haven’t read either. But the world-building of Seraphina has already provided a sequel, Shadow Scale, plus a second spin-off series that stars a minor character from the first series, Tess of the Road, so I think it’s safe to say there’s a lot more left to explore.

**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!
Profile Image for A.G. Howard.
Author 18 books8,762 followers
October 13, 2017
I only wish I could give it more than five stars. Gorgeous storytelling, characterization, and masterful world-building. Plus, really cool and unique dragon lore! What's not to love?
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews945 followers
December 1, 2011
Review contains the slightest of slight spoilers...

“Scattered and peculiar- some of us were sceptical and bitter- we were a people. And I was at the hub of this enormous wheel. I could bring us together. In a way, I already had.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
I liked it better than I thought I would, which says a lot for a fantasy-phobe like me.

High Points.
Seraphina. The world- It was beautifully constructed. Dragons. ORMA. Courts. Concerts. Parades. Emotions. Scales. Dreams. “Tending the garden” . Fruit bat. Mrs Fusspots. Gavotting. Intrigue. War. Gold. Trinkets. Secrets. Knights. Jongleurs. Memories.

Low Points.
See love interest.
Also, there were huge chunks of the story where hardly anything happened. I found myself flicking back to see if I’d just missed a major battle scene or something.
But I hadn’t.
When things happened it was great but, unfortunately, these parts were few and far between.
It’s clear that Ms Hartman is extremely skilled in world building and wow, what a world she built. It was so dense and intricate that you could imagine walking through the town. I just wish she had used some of those writing skills to add a bit more plot.
Now, I’m not the biggest fantasy fan (I’ve never even got through LOTR films. I know, I know. Smite me down, fantasy fans!) and I don’t mind admitting that it’s probably because of a mix of not finding it interesting and not understanding it.
I found Seraphina interesting and I probably understood most of it but I just really wanted more to happen.

Strong. Resourceful. Passionate. Loyal. Determined. Not whingey.
I loved Seraphina, she’s my kind of heroine.

Minor blips when boys are around but I can let her off in exchange for moisturising tips.

Love Interest.
My dislike for poor Lucian Kiggs is all my own fault.
Because I’m silly and I kept calling him Lucian Griggs as if he was some kind of cousin that Jonah just never talked about.
And then I was like… no, Jo, it’s Kiggs, Kiggs.
So naturally I started calling him Lucian Giggs, like he was some kind of cousin that Ryan just never talked about.
(Him being Ryan Giggs’ cousin would make more sense because Mr Giggs (not Kiggs) is Welsh and everyone knows that’s where 83% of the world’s population of dragons dwell.)
But his name aside, I wasn’t sold with either him or Seraphina’s attraction to him.
I didn’t think there would be a love story in this book so I was kind of put off by the fact that there was. I had gotten it into my mind that it was going to be all about Seraphina being brilliant on every page. I would have been quite happy for it to just have been left out or even better, developed more slowly so we had an idea why the two of them liked each other at all.
I just didn’t believe in it.
I’m sorry, I really tried, but I just couldn’t.
As a fun note: You should have seen the other love interests Flann and I were inflicting on poor Seraphina throughout our readalong.

Oh mate, I loved this guy. Although I know he’d probably give me a cold look if I told him that or stab me in the side if I tried to hug him.
But that’s fine, because that’s why I loved him.
He was so hilarious and he came out with some absolutely stellar one liners (I highlighted them all but my favourite was “I’m attracting small children, shoo it away won’t you?”) and he’s the epitome of emotionally unavailable man.
And who doesn’t love an emotionally unavailable man?!
Bravo, Ms Hartman, for creating such a fantastic and interesting character.
Now for your next trick: make him real.

Theme Tune.
My favourite part of this whole book was Seraphina’s struggle with her identity and how she was supposed to fit into a society where everyone thought she was a monster.
I know that most people reading this book won’t know what it’s like to be a half-dragon and the emotions involved in that, but I truly feel a lot of people reading it will be able to relate to Seraphina’s battle to come to terms with herself and how to fit in when she was so different.
Ms Hartman perfectly depicted these emotions in a raw and harrowing way that will undoubtedly have a lot of resonance with a lot of readers.

So with the explanation out of the way, this song is for Seraphina.
Rootless by Marina and the Diamonds.

Sadness Scale.
7/10. As I mentioned in the Theme Tune section, Seraphina’s emotions and trying to fit into either world were extremely well-written and extremely affective.
Also, quick mention because I’m tiptoeing around spoilers as I would a dragon’s lair, I loved every conversation between Seraphina and Orma. They made me so happy and ache with sadness at the same time.
Did I mention I liked Orma?
Do I need to write Part 2 of my love for Orma?



Recommended For.
People who like epic fantasy books. People who appreciate brilliant world-building. People who like strong heroines. People who think that dragons are misunderstood. People who wonder whether Jonah Griggs has any cousins. People who love Orma.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher.

You can read this review and lots of other exciting things on my blog here.
Profile Image for Jillian -always aspiring-.
1,821 reviews203 followers
October 23, 2015
Fantasy is my favorite genre, but oftentimes I find that fantasy tales are often too simplistic or too pretentious for my liking. Fantasy authors have the burdensome task of creating worlds and cultures that feel real and somewhat familiar but nonetheless offer a sense of danger, wonder, and excitement that few of us experience in our day-to-day lives. In the end, many fantasy novels don't sustain that balance of normalcy and humanity interwoven with the threads of fantasy...but Seraphina remarkably did.

Seraphina is a tale of dragons and intrigues, music and emotions, humanity and prejudices. Forty years prior, the age of knights battling dragons ended with a peace treaty between the queen of Goredd and the king of dragons. Now, dragons shift into human skins and live among humans...but the animosity between the two kinds is far from forgotten. Seraphina Dombegh copes with this world and keeps to her music even as she tries her best not to be noticed, for the dragons aren't the only ones with secrets to keep...

In the vein of novels from Gail Carson LevineMegan Whalen Turner, and Tamora Pierce, the kind of fantasy represented here sings of both our world and another world quite different from our own. Religion here acts as either a comfort or simply tradition to the people who receive patron saints at their christening ceremonies; analytical minds respect studies and knowledge but have much to learn as far as the study of the heart goes; and bigotry leaks into actions due to lack of understanding and an overabundance of fear. Goredd is a well-realized fantasy world comprised of many flaws from our own societies yet many of the same fascinations as well; it's not hard to fall into the imagining that perhaps this place exists in another space and time.

Strong and believable world-building aside, the novel's finest strength lies in its namesake heroine, who ties the themes and emotions running throughout the novel all together within her own existence and journey. Seraphina is by no means perfect or "too good for her own good": she has flaws and makes (sometimes mortifying) mistakes. But she isn't the kind of character who remains stagnant or oblivious to her own shortcomings. Rather, she learns from them and grows because of her experiences. If anything, more heroines should be like Seraphina, whose growth over the course of the novel is anything but superficial.

Last but not least, the story is honestly enjoyable. It's not the kind of fantasy where you feel like a mere observer but rather an unseen companion to all the goings-on within Goredd. There are moments ripe for smiles and laughs, for surprise and gasps, for melancholy expressions and contemplation...and all of it is done in a straightforward yet thoughtful narrative that can't help but play with your heartstrings. Seraphina was all that for me and more, and I hope other readers will find treasures of thought within its pages just as I did.

I must offer fair warning, however: the ending is bittersweet in its own way...but mostly for the fact that, with Seraphina's release date of spring 2012, the wait for the sequel will be long indeed.

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,107 reviews6,570 followers
June 22, 2018
I cannot get into this book for the life of me. I hate the writing and it’s so weird that I can’t even understand what’s happening :/
Profile Image for Helen 2.0.
408 reviews909 followers
June 16, 2016
4.5 rounded up - crazy well written.

Seraphina deserves every YA award for which it was nominated. The core objective of the book is to teach young ladies to accept their minds and bodies and grow into natural self-confidence.
Seraphina, the heroine of the story, undergoes a huge amount of character development in learning to love herself. She goes from:
"How dare the world be beautiful, when I was so horrifying?" (accompanied by self-hate and self-harm)
"We were all monsters and bastards, and we were all beautiful."
Seraphina isn't the only one with character growth. Orma and the dragon king learn to cope with human emotions without shutting them off. Prince Lucian Kiggs comes to understand that dragons aren't inherently evil, just different (and accepts his own past in the process).
Rachel Hartman gave all her characters, in the foreground and background, journeys with valuable lessons the reader can take away after finishing.

I didn't give the audiobook my full attention 100% of the time so I might have missed some aspects of the story, unfortunately.

I'm reading Shadow Scale next month. Hopefully it measures up to this one!
Profile Image for Maggie.
432 reviews429 followers
July 11, 2012
I can count on one hand the number of fantasy books I've enjoyed, but after reading Kat Kennedy's glowing review of Seraphina, I was intrigued by the promise of smart heroines, dragons, and jazz hands. Really, who can turn down jazz hands?

With that in mind, I eagerly started this book. Then I got to mentions of saarantrai, houppelande, and quigutl.

Remember, amateur fantasy reader here. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm scared off by double letters and words that start with Q.

Another thing that's kept me away from fantasy: the world building. I get that it's a necessary evil part of the genre, but... a pain in the ass to read -- especially since I am not a skimmer and I re-read things I don't understand. Quigutl? Yeah, I had to go back for that, only to find out that it wouldn't be explained til 50 pages later.

The story is a lot to take in at first because you're hit with the worlds of Goredd (human) and Tanamoot (dragon), and the half-human/half-dragon world of Seraphina. Seraphina's world is as fascinating as it is confusing because it exists in her mind, created by memories left by her deceased mother. It's populated by odd characters that Seraphina names Fruit Bat, Pelican Man, etc.

I gave myself 100 pages to decide whether to keep reading this book or not. I'm so glad I stuck with it.

Rachel Hartman takes what could easily be cliche characters and plot and makes them compelling and intelligent. She doesn't dumb it down for her readers or make it easy for her characters. Princess Glisselda, the fiancee of Prince Lucian, is also one of the most likable characters in the book. Prince Lucian is an actual knight in shining armor, but Seraphina is more often than not coming to his rescue. That brings us to Seraphina, a brilliant musician who struggles with the legacy her mother left her. I'd be pissed about metallic silver scales too.

But who has time to dwell on scales when Lucian and Glisselda's uncle has been killed and all clues (namely, the lack of a head along with the body) point to a dragon as the culprit. This murder just before the anniversary of the peace treaty between humans and dragons could tip the balance towards war. There's discontent on all sides -- humans who aren't happy living with dragons, dragons who feel they've given up too much to humans, knights who fought during the wars and were banished following the peace treaty. Assassinations are plotted and identities are revealed as the nation of Goredd plans to welcome the leader of dragonkind.

And this is just the beginning (I hope!) of a series. I don't mean to keep using the word "intelligent" but Rachel Hartman writes characters that actually use their brains. Deductive reasoning! It happens! Seraphina reminded me a lot of The Thief in that as good as it was, I know the sequel is going to be even better. Nevertheless, this book stands very capably on its own. It is as much political thriller as it is fantasy, which I love. I also loved the discussions of parentage and the legacies, both beneficial and detrimental, that parents leave their kids. I can't believe this was a debut novel! It was so assured and entertaining. I definitely look forward to reading more of Rachel Hartman's work.

Noelle and I review this book on Young Adult Anonymous.
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews907 followers
April 1, 2017
An unsolicited Advanced Reader Copy was provided by the publisher for review. Quotes have been pulled from an ARC and may be subject to change.

Seraphina is a half human, half dragon sixteen year old who lived in Goreddia. Humans must show their dragon counterparts that they’re superior so they tend to dominate over their scaley friends. The war has ceased, brought on by the Queen with a treaty. The Ardmagar makes the decisions for these dragons, and is basically in charge.

Seraphina has these grotesque visions that haunt her, which she aptly give nicknames to. (I had an affinity to Fruit Bat!) As for the wonderful secondary characters I liked Glisselda immensely. Kind and friendly she always defended Seraphina and was loyal to her as any sister. Lucian Kiggs, Captain of the guard was just as wonderful. Good through and through, he did the moral thing in a world where deception was the norm. His friendship with Phina was cute and sweet, and you can tell why she likes him so much.

In a novel, where world building is done well, and there are so many characters to keep track of, a list of character’s and who they are is extremely helpful. I took lots of time trying to memorize some characters names so I didn’t have to check it. Do I think dragons can be the next trend? Well maybe. It’s been trending for a long time and Seraphina’s dragons are the ferocious and vicious ones nightmares are made of. And I for one can’t wait until book two comes out so I can join her on her adventure.

Beautifully written, Seraphina will whisk you away to a world where dragons are as ferocious as anyone thought they could be.
Profile Image for Misty.
796 reviews1,230 followers
September 22, 2013

And then:
Alright, let's just get this out of the way: Seraphina is one of my favorite books I've read this year. Hands down, without a doubt, straight-up adored it. And I'd say it's my single most-pushed book this year; I've been pushing it on everyone. Obnoxiously. And I'm going to try to tell you why, and I'll do my best to avoid spoilers, but if you take nothing else from this review, understand that I want you to pick this up. Find out why HERE.
Profile Image for May.
Author 11 books8,596 followers
March 13, 2016
Soy incapaz de pasar de la página 100. Se me estaba haciendo muy muy pesado y he decidido dejarlo.
Profile Image for Nikoleta.
693 reviews275 followers
April 27, 2016
Ένα υπέροχο παραμύθι με δράκους, που συνδυάζει όμορφα και το αστυνομικό στοιχείο. Ποιος δολοφόνησε τον βασιλιά Ρούφους; Ποιοι προσπαθούν να σπάσουν την ανακωχή ανάμεσα στους δράκους και τους ανθρώπους μετά από 40 χρόνια ειρήνης;. Ποιος ο ρόλος του χαμένου επί 16 συνεχή χρόνια δράκου Ίμλαν; Δεν είναι όμως όλα αυτά που κάνουν το βιβλίο για εμένα τόσο ιδιαίτερο. Δεν είναι η πλοκή, αλλά ο τρόπος που την διαχειρίστηκε η Χάρτμαν. Είναι το μυαλό της ηρωίδας, αυτό το πολύπλοκο δημιούργημα. Δεν μπορώ όμως να πω περισσότερα, για αυτό αρκεί να το διαβάσετε. Κάτι ακόμα που αγάπησα είναι ο ρόλος της μουσικής και του ρυθμού μέσα στην αφήγηση, που ήταν ενεργός. Περιγράφει τους ήχους και τους ρυθμούς τόσο γλαφυρά, τόσο ζωντανά που μπορείς να τους ακούσεις. Οι γκάιντες, το ούτι, το φλάουτο, συνθέτουν μια εξαιρετική συμφωνία. Και τελικά νομίζω ότι αυτό είναι αυτό το βιβλίο, μια συμφωνία που σε καλεί να λικνιστείς στους ρυθμούς της. Χορέψτε λοιπόν στον ρυθμό αυτής της εξαιρετικής μουσουργού Σεραφίνας και δεν θα χάσετε. Νομίζω ότι την αγάπησα αυτή την ηρωίδα.

«Αν μπορούσα να κρατήσω μια και μοναδική στιγμή για πάντα, αυτή θα ήταν η συγκεκριμένη στιγμή.
Έγινα αέρας, γέμισα αστέρια. Ήμουν τα κενά ανάμεσα στους οβελίσκους της μητρόπολης, η μοναχική ανάσα των καμινάδων, μια ψιθυριστή προσευχή στον χειμωνιάτικο άνεμο. Ήμουν η σιωπή, η μουσική, μια διάφανη, υπερβατική συγχορδία που ανέβαινε προς τον ουρανό. Εκείνη τη στιγμή είχα την αίσθηση ότι θα μπορούσα κι εγώ να ανέβω στον ουρανό με το σώμα μου, αν δεν με κρατούσε σαν άγκυρα το χέρι του πάνω ��τα μαλλιά μου και το στρογγυλό, απαλό, τέλειο στόμα του πάνω στο δικό μου.
Αυτός ο ουρανός είναι ο μεγαλύτερος από όλους!»

«Είμαστε όλοι τέρατα και μπάσταρδοι, και είμαστε όλοι όμορφοι.
Σήμερα το δικό μου μερίδιο της ομορφιάς το πήρα και με το παραπάνω. Αύριο θα έδινα λίγο πίσω, θα φρόντιζα να αποκατασταθεί και να ομορφύνει ο κόσμος.»
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