Friday, 14 September 2012

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Series: Seraphina, Book One
Publisher: Doubleday Children's
Format: ARC

Published: 19th July 2012
Number of Pages: 384
Book: For Review*
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Murder-Mystery, High Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction, Action-Adventure, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Swearing, Alcohol References
No Drug References
Author's Blog: Rachel Hartman

A fragile peace has been achieved in the realm of Goredd, and dragons and humans live together in harmony.
But the truce is shattered when a royal prince is brutally murdered – could dragons be to blame?
Seraphina, a talented court musician harbouring secrets of her own, is drawn into the investigation and uncovers a darker plot, one that threatens the very existence of the kingdom.  And soon her own life is in terrible danger as she fights to hide the secret behind her amazing gift…

Now I’m going to warn you before this review really starts: this is hard-core fantasy, meaning the emphasis is on the world building – and the world does so kick butt!  Ergo: there isn’t non-stop dragon-fighting action.  But even without a fight a second, Seraphina kicked plenty of butts.  It’s a must-read for you fantasy lovers!
"Prince Rufus was just murdered in a suspiciously draconian manner…"
For forty years, there has been an uneasy truce between humans and dragons in the land of Goredd.  Although the peace is shaky, it is peace all the same and is far better than the fighting before
The dragons, or Saar as they are also known, live among people in human form.  It's coming up to the treaty's fortieth anniversary when the Crown Prince Rufus is killed in a suspiciously dragon-like fashion. 
It's in the middle of all this that Seraphina enters the Royal Court.  Seraphina, who has a dark secret she must protect at all costs.  She even has to keep her phenomenal musical gift hidden, for fear of her family's safety. 
But can she keep her secret when she's pulled into the mystery surrounding the Prince's death, when she realises that the humans and dragons could be on the verge of war once again?
When she begins to fall for someone when she knows to love would be to reveal what she truly is...?
Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)
I adore fantasy books - maybe 'cause I live in my own imaginary worlds much of the time.  And Seraphina was a prime example of a totally kickbutt-amazing fantastical novel.  It's one of those books that puts you under a spell and just doesn’t let you go.  And I loved that even though it was an epic fantasy with dragons, it had so much heart and love.  But even more, I loved that it was a murder mystery and not a journey over a desert that takes a whole freakin' book.  Plus: dragons.  How can you possibly say no?!
The characters were brilliantly done - from the leads to the minor characters, those in the royal court to the ones in Phina's head.  Phina was a brilliant heroine, so instantly loveable.  She was brave, kind, bold and clever, and so not a damsel in distress.  I loved how socially awkward she was: she was just the perfect heroine!  Oh, and I have to mention the garden in her head: it was her way of keeping her “ard”, internal balance, in harmony and was inhabited by avatars she called “grotesques” – I mean, how cool?!  I also loved Prince Lucian: he was so clever and intuitive and witty and ironic.  He was, as Phina said, “adorable” – and loving and cute and noble and, well, kinda perfect!  And the Princess Glissenda was another brilliant, brilliant character: she could have been a brat so easily, but she just wasn’t.  I loved Gliss and her hidden wisdom and “mother hen” fussing!  Oh, and I loved the strange Orma too: he was so marvellously odd!  And the minor characters were just as brilliant too, just as three-dimensional and padded-out.  I just loved how all the characters were portrayed - the prince and princess weren't bratty or spoilt in the slightest, the girls were all girl power, the love interest was sexy but not withdrawn or broody.  They were all just perfect!
Serafina – Das Königreich der Drachen (Seraphina, #1)
I adored this writing: it was so beautiful, so lyrical.  I'll admit that it may be a little too tricky in places for younger readers to understand without assistance (some things I myself struggled with) but for me, personally, it didn’t take away from the beauty of the writing.  And the plot was admittedly a little slow in places, but nonetheless it was utterly addictive.  Hartman found the perfect balance between an exciting plot and not just throwing us in unaware, between keeping us informed and not overwhelming us with informative. I loved the murder-mystery side of the story and how everything kicked off towards the end - and how I couldn't guess the twists!  Maybe most of all, I loved all the emotions in this book, all the kinds of love.  How it was different from just YA romance, how the plot didn’t revolve around the romance side…  And there was more than just love-love, there was just so, so many different human emotions, some even felt by those who weren't even human...
And, man, this world rocked!  It was so rich, so vibrant, like I was really there.  Sure, it took a while to get the hang of, but isn't that so for all fantasies?  And all that really counted was how utterly amazing the dragon lore was.  And let me tell you: it was amazing!
I also couldn't help admiring the way Hartman drew parallels between the conflict of dragons and humans and the conflict between races in our past and present.  I know I'm probably reading too deeply into a kids book, but I can't help it: I just really liked the parallel and applaud Hartman for it – genius!
With magic, science, friendship, love, mystery, murder and dragons, Seraphina was one kickass fantasy book.  I loved it so much I couldn't put it down!  It just knocked my socks right off!  There was so much to love about the book and very, very little - next to nothing, really - to hate.  I can't wait for the next book - and not because there was some evil cliff-hanger!  My first YA book in ages to end without sendin' me crazy, yet leaving me yearning for more!  Yay to Rachel Hartman, and thank you for leaving me with my sanity!  I'll be eagerly anticipating Book Two!

Star Rating:
4¾ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
Happy Reading
* This book was received from RandomHouse in exchange for an honest review

1 comment:

Marlene Detierro said...

I've recently bought this book but I had my doubts about it, because I don't really read High Fantasy much, but from your review, it seems like a great book, so I'll definitely read it now :)

Marlene Detierro (Rogue River Country)