Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

A book hangover, for those who may be unaware, is the inability to start a new book because you are still living in the last book’s world. This phenomenon happens often to book lovers, and I recently had the joy of re-experiencing this wondrous and annoying feeling again. The cause of my two-week-long book hangover? Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

Seraphina is a fantastical book about a world in which humankind and dragons  co-exist peacefully, thanks to a treaty created forty years in the book’s past by the human monarch and her dragon counterpart. In order for the dragons to function in human society, they possess the ability to ‘fold’ themselves into human form, often lending their intelligence to human universities. Although there is peace in the realm, there is great mistrust between the humans and the dragons.

Born during this peaceful reign, Seraphina Dombegh is a gifted musician who has reason to fear both species. Offered a position at court as the Assistant Music Mistress, Seraphina joins the court at an unfortunate time: a member of the royal family is found murdered in a suspiciously draconian fashion, which dredges up old hostilities on both sides. Drawn into the investigation, Seraphina works closely with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs – a dangerously perceptive individual. The more the sinister plot to destroy the peace is uncovered, the more Seraphina is forced to struggle to protect her own secret, one so powerful that it could mean her very life.

This book kept me turning the pages. I literally read this novel in a day. The characters are rich, intelligent, witty, and full of odd quirks that make them larger than life. Hartman’s writing style stands out from the typical Young Adult fiction writers. There is no dumbing down of words, no patronizing men who deal with a bland heroine, and a strong female lead who discovers her true self. Although Hartman writes in a way that makes you feel like you are missing important information without actually missing important information, everything is explained quite satisfactorily in the plot, keeping the reader from feeling too unintelligent.  This amazing story is a well-rounded mixture of genres, including fantasy, adventure, and suspense. This is a must-read for all fantasy lovers, and anyone who loves a well-written, well-developed novel.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 19, January 29, 2013.