Catie's Reviews > Seraphina

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
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really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, for-review, read-in-2011, series, ya, lgbtqia

4.5 stars

Fantasy lovers, rejoice!

This is an amazing debut novel, and I feel confident that we have a new series to devour, covet, and hoard ARCs of in a cave somewhere. Not that I do that.

This is the story of two societies, diametrically different, but living together under a fragile peace treaty. The dragons are analytical thinkers who don’t understand emotion, art, or music. They view emotion and attachment as distasteful and are taught strict control. But the humans are interesting to them, in an intellectual sense, and so they begin to transform themselves - to take human shape and study human behaviors. And as any two societies who live side by side, the humans and the dragons collide, damage, and change one another irrevocably. Seraphina is the product of that change: a human/dragon hybrid born from a dragon mother who found that she could love passionately and couldn’t go back. Seraphina is an abomination, and can’t reveal her true identity for fear of violent intolerance.

This is fantasy at its absolute best: the landscape and inhabitants, customs, religion, language, and conflicts might be completely imaginary, but they are also so completely fathomable and rife with emotional honesty. Fantasy allows us to take up the role of outsider, explorer, looking in and discovering for the first time. But the amazing thing is that for all its foreignness, fantasy can gift us with so much real insight into our own society. It's as if, by acting as outsiders, we can see everything more clearly.

That’s what I felt when I read this book. This could very well be a book about civil rights, or women’s rights, or gay rights. Seraphina is born into an identity that she didn’t choose, and must deal with the shame, the lies, and a future without true connection to anyone. And just like in our own society, there are those who view any kind of novelty or change as a threat to their very existence.

This is a serious book, but it also made me laugh, sigh, and struggle with a lump in my throat. Seraphina is a completely inspiring heroine, beautiful in her vulnerability and naked bravery. The romance is a true meeting of the minds; I’m not sure that I even know what Lucian Kiggs really looks like. The writing is lovely (what a gorgeous opening paragraph!) and truly got under my skin in a few places. There were only a few times where I felt like a little bit less would have made more of an impact. But there is so much potential here; I suspect that this author will only get better.

And I will never, ever underestimate the seductive power of math.

Perfect Musical Pairing

Bjork – Joga

I kept returning to Bjork while reading this. Her new album is (like her others) highly experimental. She uses uncommon musical structure and even some brand new instruments that she’s invented. The album comes with a downloadable app so that listeners can “interact with” the music. After reading this book, I can only conclude that Bjork is a human-dragon hybrid.

This is one of my favorites of hers, and I think that the lyrics and the mood can relate so heavily to the dragons, in human form, and experiencing strong emotions that they can’t decipher.

”You don't have to speak
I feel
Emotional landscapes
They puzzle me

Then the riddle gets solved and you push me up to this
State of emergency
How beautiful to be”

Also seen on The Readventurer.
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Quotes Catie Liked

Rachel Hartman
“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.”
Rachel Hartman, Seraphina

Rachel Hartman
“He was laughing, silently, and then we were both laughing, and then something changed. It was as if I had been watching the world through oiled parchment or smoked glass, which was yanked abruptly away. Everything grew very clear and bright; the music burst forth in majesty; we stood still and the room turned around us; and there was Kiggs, right in the middle of all of it, laughing.”
Rachel Hartman, Seraphina

Reading Progress

October 30, 2011 – Started Reading
October 30, 2011 – Shelved
October 31, 2011 –
page 144
November 2, 2011 –
page 366
November 2, 2011 –
page 454
97.22% "I really don't want this to end."
November 2, 2011 – Finished Reading
December 24, 2011 – Shelved as: fantasy
December 24, 2011 – Shelved as: for-review
December 24, 2011 – Shelved as: read-in-2011
December 24, 2011 – Shelved as: series
July 11, 2012 – Shelved as: ya
December 26, 2013 – Shelved as: lgbtqia

Comments Showing 1-38 of 38 (38 new)

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Inoli So you have a copy of this too, huh? You certainly didn't waste any time. I just read Kat's review - or part of it. It's now on a list of release dates I'm waiting for.

Catie Hey Inoli - are you on netgalley? It's on there.

I really like it so far!

Maggie I just requested this too. :) Dragons! Should be interesting...

Catie I've always loved dragons...and the way that she's doing them is very very interesting. I am completely enjoying this book.

Inoli No, Catie. I haven't taken that step yet. Right now I'm inclined to wait patiently, as anxious as I am for some books. I don't write what can be called book reviews either, at least not at this point. I would feel obliged to do so if I had any kind of advanced copy. I'm sure they insist upon it too as that's probably what they're there for. Thanks for checking though.

message 7: by Flannery (last edited Nov 02, 2011 07:41PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Flannery "They view emotion and attachment as distasteful and are taught strict control."


Also, this makes me so happy. You, Kat and Jillian have given this the stamp of approval. Now I will go forth and read and love this. I already adore Rachel as a Goodreads friend. I am laughing thinking about how after I read it, I will look back and laugh at myself for asking if she wanted to come chill with a couple Goodreaders and me a few months back on my deck. Bahahaha, now she will become a celebrity:)

Catie YES. I loved it. It's like fantasy but with a bit of a sci-fi flavor. The beginning is a bit overwhelming with all of the new names and religion and customs and stuff, but just hang in there with it. I know you will. You're old hat at fantasy.

Flannery Yeah, that's par for the course in fantasy. You can't give up on any fantasy until at least 30 or 40 percent in. (not like I would give up on YA quasi-sci-fi dragon stuff anyway!)

Catie I know. I basically saw the words "DRAGONS" and "MATH" in the synopsis and I knew that I was in.

message 11: by Hira (new) - added it

Hira Catie wrote: "I know. I basically saw the words "DRAGONS" and "MATH" in the synopsis and I knew that I was in."

Dragons AND math? I have to read this! Great review :)

Catie I hope you like it Hira, and thanks!

message 13: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Great review, Catie. This looks really good.

Catie I loved it. It's up on netgalley right now! And thanks!

Henrietta I'm planning to get this one when it comes out... Thanks for the great review!

Catie Oh, good choice! Hope you like it.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard I love how the dragons and humans were different, but one was not "better" than the other (except in each side's mind of course). I feel like too often fantastical creatures are treated like their just humans with cool powers.

Catie Yes, I loved that too. They really were different, and I think she presented their point of view really well. They were different, but they were easy to relate to.

Aleeeeeza i feel like rereading the book asap due to this beautiful review :)

message 20: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Awesome review! I always feel like I'm in a class when I read your reviews. I love how you somehow get into the heart of a book without giving anything away. I tried to do more professional reviews but when I get done a book I run to the computer and bang out the review before getting to my next book. It usually just comes across as an emotional blabbering mess. Oh well we all have our place here but you are definitely my fantasy go to person.

Catie Thanks Aleeza! So do I, actually. This is an older review of mine but we put it up on the blog today because it's released tomorrow! Woohoo! I need to read it again.

Sam, I think I read an awesome review of this book somewhere that said something like "Seraphina is an amazing book that many people will not finish." And I agree with that. It does take a bit to get into the story and get everything figured out. Personally, that has never bothered me and I don't think it will bother most high-fantasy fans. But I know that a lot of readers really don't appreciate that. If you can get through the beginning I think you'll be richly rewarded!

Thanks Tom! I think there's something to be said for the "right off the cuff" emotional blabbering mess reviews. :) I know that I always enjoy reading them. I write them sometimes too, for sure!

Chachic Seraphina is the product of that change: a human/dragon hybrid born from a dragon mother who found that she could love passionately and couldn’t go back. Seraphina is an abomination, and can’t reveal her true identity for fear of violent intolerance.

I had a feeling this is Seraphina's secret - I haven't gotten to the part where it's been revealed. Great review, Catie. I'm glad I bought the hardcover, looks like I'll enjoy reading this one. :)

Catie I think you'll really enjoy it too Chachic! Hopefully that wasn't too spoilery!

Chachic Catie, I don't think it was! I saw it mentioned in other reviews and I came upon that section shortly after. :)

Catie Oh good!

message 26: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim Fabulous review, Catie! I am getting really anxious for my pre-ordered copy.;)

Catie You will really like this Jim! I can almost guarantee it. Hope your summer is going alright. SSaKR! :)

message 28: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim Thanks, Catie! I just checked, and it has shipped from Amazon and should be here in a couple days. Very exciting!

My summer is going okay, and I hope yours is too!

SSaKR! :)

p.s. I used that acronym on a review by s.penkevich today and got some great feedback!

Catie Haha, that's great! I love that phrase - it feels so apt for this summer. Well done! It kind of reminds me of this. It would be neat to make a poster with the whole phrase on it, in the same style as the ones from WWII.

message 30: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim Catie wrote: "I love that phrase - it feels so apt for this summer. Well done! It would be neat to make a poster with the whole phrase on it, in the same style as the ones from WWII..."

What a fabulous idea, Catie! Of course, I have no artistic talent whatsoever...

But please feel free to do whatever you want with the phrase and the acronym! It's all yours, to pursue down any avenue you like.:)

If you have any time and energy for it, that is.:D

SSaKR! Hahaha..

message 31: by AH (new) - rated it 5 stars

AH Great review, Catie. I loved this book.

Catie Thanks AH!

message 33: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 14, 2012 12:00PM) (new)

Excellent point about not knowing what Kiggs looks like - I hadn't noticed, he's so real and vivid, but you're right. Couldn't tell you his hair or eye color at all.

Catie Thanks! I thought that was really interesting and refreshing. It was nice to be able to fall for him based on who he was, not what he looked like.

message 35: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom A lot of pretty stars from a lot of peeps on this one. Is the ending cliffhangery?

Catie No, not really. It's a series so there are some things left hanging but it's nothing like Froi, haha.

message 37: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Okay thanks.

message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

I have this book sitting on my shelf for so long ugh need to read this.

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