Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Beautifully-written high fantasy about dragons. Credible, interesting characters, intricate but subtle worldbuilding and elegant prose - perfect for this reader. The pace is measured, slow even, again perfect for this reader but perhaps frustrating for some. Recommended by us for its sheer class.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: July 2012
Publisher: Doubleday
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0857531565

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

The Comonot Treaty is approaching its 40th anniversary but the state of play between humans and dragons is still parlous. The people in Goredd still revile and distrust the dragons who walk among them in human form. For the dragons, humans are like cockroaches - easily crushed individually, but surprisingly resilient when they band together. Humans are impulsive, emotional. Dragons are impassive, logical. It's not an easy fit and the fragile peace is at risk after the murder of a Goreddi prince. Dragons are suspected of the crime.

Picking her way through the politics is Seraphina, the court music mistress. Seraphina has a secret to keep so she avoids the limelight and when she is unwillingly pulled into the murder investigation, her life becomes more and more dangerous. She fears discovery but she also has people to protect - her father, the court lawyer; her teacher, Orma, a dragon; Prince Lucian Kiggs, the fiance of the heir to the Goreddi throne and someone who is out of Seraphina's reach, no matter how much she would wish otherwise...

I'm no particular fan of high fantasy or of dragons, but I absolutely loved Seraphina. It has an entire panoply of fully-rounded, credible characters and the minor cast members are as beautifully drawn as the central ones. Seraphina herself is fascinating and very sympathetic. She struggles with the duality of her nature and is at times cold and hard but at others heroic and self-sacrificing. And Lucian Kiggs - what a fantastic name for a character! - is so very likeable whilst not being perfect. The worldbuilding is intricate, delicate and rich but always subtle - there are no tiresome info-dumps in this book; you're shown the mythos, not lectured about it. The mystery plot is thought through perfectly. And the prose is just wonderful. Hartman writes with seamless elegance and is not afraid to push vocabulary. The dialogue is a particular delight - smart, funny, laconic. In fact, Seraphina is so beautifully written, I found myself deliberately slowing the pace of my reading, the better to savour it.

But perhaps the weight of quality here is a potential drawback for some. All the intricate plotting and worldbuilding, sophisticated prose and complex characterisation does take a toll on the novel's pacing. It is, by and large, relatively slow and measured, building tension gradually. For me personally, this is a good thing. I'm in no rush. But for readers who like a smart pace and no hanging around, Seraphina may prove a tad frustrating.

But for everyone else, it comes very much recommended by Bookbag. High fantasy. Dragons. Sheer class. Read it.

If dragons are your thing, then we can recommend Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye by Alison Goodman. Complex, vivid, and with themes of difference, it's a classy, classy read. With dragons! We also loved The Hidden Kingdom by Ian Beck - a poet prince finds himself thrust into a terrifying battle with the forces of evil in thrilling tale full of danger.

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Buy Seraphina by Rachel Hartman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Seraphina by Rachel Hartman at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Seraphina by Rachel Hartman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Seraphina by Rachel Hartman at


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