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Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina is a YA novel planted firmly in the fantasy genre. It’s a fantastic venture into the world of humans, dragons and tucked-away secrets.

Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

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seraphina by rachel hartman ya fantasy

Title & Author: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Genre: YA Fantasy – Dragons

Release Date: July 10, 2012

Series: Standalone?

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

How I Got the Book: ARC via NetGalley


“Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina’s tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they’ve turned the final page.”

Poignant & Political

Seraphina Dombegh isn’t what she seems. Although she just landed a prestigious job as the music master’s assistant, she’s terrified her secret will be discovered – one that will mark her as an outcast.

From the very beginning of the book, I could tell Seraphina wasn’t a typical YA novel. It didn’t focus solely on romance, but that was definitely present; it had a strong heroine, but she’s odd and grumpy…really grumpy.

In addition to all that, Seraphina is very political. Dragons are alive and well in the land of Goredd, and they can change easily into human form. But, there were serious wars in the past between dragons and humans, and the tensions between the races are high.

Seraphina’s father is a dragon ambassador, and her view of both sides is solid, as her tutor and friend Orma is a dragon. She has the benefit of understanding dragons and their strange ways and how Goredd-ians really feel about them.

Devil in the Details

What really made Seraphina a stand-out read were the details. This book is full of funny quirks and rich characters. Seraphina for example is called “prickly” by her friend. And that’s putting it mildly. She’s snarky and witty and eccentric. I loved that about this character because I think strength comes in different forms, and Seraphina’s personality highlighted that point really well.

Also, I loved how Harman positioned the dragons. In human form, dragons strive to be emotionless. The presence of feelings and emotions marks a dragon as being “compromised.” It means they’ve stayed too long in human form and have removed their ability to think rationally and clearly. *Enter foreshadowing here*

They’re also great at mathematics and terrible at playing music. Adorable!

I also really loved that Hartman didn’t shy away from complicated, difficult relationships…which pretty much describes Seraphina’s status with everyone in her life. There are no clear answers at times, but that’s the magic of the book.


Seraphina is rich with details, emotion and intrigue. I really enjoyed the quirky characters and strong fantasy elements in this book. Seraphina will not dissappoint – I strongly recommend this YA fantasy read.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.