Book Review : Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Spoiler Alert! I am actually going to avoid spoilers to the best of my ability so you can discover this fun book for yourself.
The dragons and the people in the kingdom of Goredd have lived under an uneasy peace for the last four decades. As the anniversary of the peace treaty draws nigh, tensions run high as Prince Rufus has been found murdered in a suspiciously draconian manner. Seraphina Dombegh is gifted with a musical talent that is so beautiful it can bring people to tears. She has gone to court to be the assistant to the court composer against her father’s wishes as he hopes for her to be able to remain anonymous. Instead Seraphina becomes entangled in trying to solve the mystery of the murdered prince with his cousin, Prince Lucian Kiggs, who is abnormally observant. Seraphina finds herself caught between the dragons, the secret of her musical gift and the people she loves.
Adult Point of View
I have read countless books with dragons and I am delighted to report that Seraphina is unique and adds wonderful possibilities for dragon lovers. It is also amazing that Rachel Hartman is a first time published author. She has created a rich, authentic world which includes many countries, religion (loosely based on Catholicism), social classes, sub-species, language, factions, a new lore around dragons and great characters. Wow!
I have a few tidbits to share to try to illustrate the character of Seraphina without big spoilers.
1- The dragons are natural mathematicians and scientists relying heavily upon staying in “ard”, meaning order or correctness. They almost remind me of Vulcans from Star Trek. The leader of the dragons who helped to negotiate the treaty is the Ardmagar and he is named Comonot. The dragons are known as the saar, short for saarantras.
The quigutl is a subspecies of dragon which cannot transform themselves and reek.
2- There are a whole new pantheon of saints who live in a heaven of saints rather than with a singular deity. St. Yirtrudis is a heretic, and one might wonder how she can be a saint. Seraphina was meant to have this saint as her patron from the psalter but the priest intervened and instead declared that Heaven surely meant for her to have St. Capiti, the patroness of scholars.
3- Strange new words, that almost seem right, but not quite are included. Pygegyria is an acrobatic form of belly dance which directly translated means “bum-waggling”. There are other obscure words used such as, houppelande is a voluminous dressing robe which is worn belted and the oud is a lute-like instrument.
4- The diverse characters have interesting names and personalities. Josef, the Earl of Apsig made me cringe because he feels oily. Dame Okra Caramine is the Ninysh ambassador, and quite efficient in following her intuition. Princess Glisselda could easily be mistaken for a bubble brain. Orma is a conundrum, and makes some very surprising choices. Lars/Loud Lad is a tender soul and a genius engineer. The Sons of St. Ogdo are typical as a gang of thugs, but it is interesting how the author interweaves their actions for her purposes. Thomas Broadwick, one of the Sons of St. Ogdo, is chilling when he tells Seraphina that she almost had her head smashed on the ground, meaning that he almost killed her for her sympathies to dragonkind. Viridius, the court composer, was a wonderful eccentric, a bully to his musicians and free of prejudice when it really matters.
5- I like a lot of the characteristics of Seraphina (nicknamed Phina), she is not self-absorbed but is still reflective. She grows from disliking herself to self acceptance even though it is difficult. She has an amazing talent playing all kinds of instruments, like the flute, harpsichord and oud as well as singing, but she is not puffed up with pride because of her talent.
I’m rating this book so highly because of the writing talent, creativity and overall charm. I do need to issue one small warning, that Seraphina does refer to Kiggs as a bastard frequently.
4 out of 5 stars
– the Mother
The Teen has chosen to skip this novel. She is missing out!