Modern Fantasy · Review · Young Adult

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

SeraphinaSynopsis from Goodreads:

In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, “Some of the most interesting dragons I’ve read in fantasy.”

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.


In a world where dragons and humans have managed to live in peace – mostly – for the last four decades, discontent is brewing between the logical dragons in humans’ clothing and the bigoted zealots of St. Ogdo. To make matters worse, how can half-dragon Seraphina keep her ancestry secret?

I liked this, and I got through most of it during BookTube-A-Thon. Leaving the book alone for a few days, I found slight difficulty getting back into the story line. I’m not sure why there is a cast of characters because I never saw a need to refer to it, and I don’t understand why it is in the front and back of the book.  The vocabulary is beautiful and unexpected; it helps show the time period and Seraphina’s education.

There is a lot of character development for Seraphina and several other characters.

Seraphina assists Goredd’s music master, and she has a gift with all things musical passed down from her dragon mother. I find it interesting how talented Seraphina’s mother was since most dragons don’t understand art. Seraphina relates many of her observations on life and humanity to music.

The romance between Seraphina and Kiggs is muted. This doesn’t strike me as a romance novel. I’m glad to see a heroine who isn’t as focused on a romantic relationship. It’s refreshing.

The world building is excellent. I love the written languages and accents. I liked that Hartman stuck with the dragons as beings ruled by logic. The only thing I would change in regard to this is some description of Seraphina’s original psalter saint. I want to know why the saint is a heretic, but maybe that will be explained in the next book. Was the saint a dragon lover? Did she have a dragon lover? Was she a half-dragon also?

Like other novels of this type, the racism is quite common and building up to a war, and this is never helped by having to deal with the trouble brought on by half-breeds. In this case, her status as half-dragon, half-human is unknown, which makes it difficult to explain why a human would know so much about dragons – using mentor (Uncle) Orma as an explanation only works for so long. I’m surprised how each person, including Seraphina, reacts to the revelation of the existence of dragon-human hybrids. One peculiarity of Seraphina is that she creates a special type of mindscape to maintain ard (the dragon word for “order,” a virtue for dragons). She attributes different parts of her mind and self to avatars in her head that she must check on every day.

One theme is that while the truth can be painful, it will set you free. One instant of this is at the very beginning when she breaks her promise to her father to never show her musical talent to the public. I don’t believe this clued anyone in to the family secret.

There is nothing wrong with ebook. It includes page numbers!

I recommend this dragon fantasy to all who read fantasy and YA.

Genres: Fantasy YA

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars


2 thoughts on “Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

  1. This sounds really interesting. I might need to check it out. I love when ebooks have page numbers because it just makes everything so much easier.


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