Sunday, 7 April 2013

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Review

Mention dragons and my must-have-buy-now obsession goes into overdrive. Add this alluring cover, and well . . .  I'm toast. I read Seraphina in two days, unable to put it down. Now the long wait until 2014 for the sequel. Sometimes I really hate series  . . .

Seraphina's plot is pretty straight forward. For forty years, dragons – which can shift into human form - and normal humans have shared a fragile peace in the land of Goredd. That's about to change. On the eve of the anniversary of the peace treaty, a member of the human royal family is murdered in draconian fashion. Seraphina, a talented court musician with a lethal secret, is drawn into the investigations of the prince’s death. Together with the Captain of the Guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs, she exposes a plot to destroy the Goredd royals and the leader of the dragons who had signed the peace accord. In doing so, she is forced to reveal her own terrifying secret. 

Simple enough. Now enter the dragons!

Rachel Hartman's dragons are not described in images of gloriously coloured scales, sinister eyes and grasping talons. No, that's not the strength of this book. Hartman takes us into her dragons' cold, analytical minds while they are in human form - known as saaranta. This made them more real to me than if she'd provided photographs! Brilliant characterization. 

Seraphina - tutored by a dragon maned Orma (my personal favourite) - also shares a wealth of highly original dragon-lore with us, creating such a believable world in which dragons are not just possible but are absolutely real. I came away utterly convinced. The human characters are also beautifully sketched. I really like Seraphina - even with all her flaws and insecurities. 

As can be expected, there is some love in this book, but I wouldn't call it a romance. It's more of a mystery/adventure. Given the sophistication of the writing - beautifully descriptive prose - I would say this book is less of a Young Adult and more of a cross-over. That, coming from me, is strong praise indeed. I usually hate descriptive passages because they bore me to death. I'm the kind of reader who scans the page looking for dialogue! (It drives my editor crazy because she keeps telling me to add more description to my own writing. Blah!)

Anyway, back to Seraphina. I really loved this book. Because I read it so fast to get the story, I know I will go back to it soon to savour every morsel. I can't wait. 

I give this book five razor-sharp dragon talons.


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