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Thursday, 2 January 2014

Review: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Genre: Fantasy
Release date: UK Paperback 3rd Jan 2013 (the edition I read was the hardback with the cover shown)
Target audience: 12+
Publisher: Doubleday

Seraphina is a rich fantasy novel. It has a vastly detailed dragon mythology and a musical twist.

Seraphina has always tried to do as her father instructed and not draw attention to herself. Her secret threatens to disgrace her family. When she is appointed as the music assistant at court, suddenly she is thrust into the spotlight with her musical talent. But at a time when the great treaty is under threat, she must ensure no one ever discovers her secret. A world where the treaty ensures dragons and humans co-exist peacefully should be a sacred, worshipped one but not everyone is in favour of a harmonious future. Some believe that the truce should never have been accepted.

I really enjoyed this book. The characterisation of Seraphina with her intimate secret made me instantly sympathetic to her cause. Her belief that she is an abomination makes her easy to like. Her teacher Orma is also hugely endearing. Though he lacks emotional warmth, his dragoness is rather entertaining.

However, I did find it hard to follow the vast cast of characters which inhabit the realm of Goredd. At the back of the book there is a guide to who’s who and I wished it had been put at the front. I also found it hard to visualise in my mind’s eye what the dragons looked like in their human guise.  And just where did their human bodies come from? I was having trouble getting my head around that. The other difficulty I had reading this book was understanding the many musical references. I have absolutely no understanding of music and very little of instruments so the “spinet” device completely baffled me.

The part of the novel I found most interesting was Seraphina’s mind garden. The mystery of the inhabitants of her garden was intriguing and gave her even more challenges to overcome. The plot is complex, dynamic and certainly kept me turning the pages. I did read this book in just two days. So even though I couldn’t understand certain aspects of the “fantasy”, the events of the story gripped me.

Overall, this was a beguiling story. Seraphina’s predicament of belonging to both the human and dragon world was compelling. The romance of the story and the philosophical references also gave it a gentle charm. If you enjoyed Pegasus by Robin McKinley, you’ll enjoy this richly detailed read.

Source: Gift

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