Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Seraphina

SERAPHINA (Seraphina #1)
Rachel Hartman
Paranormal Young Adult/Fantasy
464 pages
Random House Children's Books
Available July 10th
Received via NetGalley for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.


MY THOUGHTS
Seraphina is a grand, sweeping fantasy where a precarious truce between humans and dragons keeps war at bay, and while life among dragons is obviously something we can’t realistically relate to, the thread of prejudice running throughout on both sides is more than enough to yank us into the story heart and mind. The lack of understanding between both species is staggering, with neither human nor dragon deigning to learn anything significant about the other, instead both irrationally cling to a long-standing hatred perpetuated generation to generation. It’s this aspect of the story that anchors us amidst a sea of unusual and fantastical creatures, and it’s pleasantly confusing to try and sort through our feelings towards each group as we attempt to ferret out information on both species that neither group seems willing to research on their own.

While Seraphina’s world is a fascinating one, the beginning chapters tend to drag a bit (as is often the case when there's a significant amount of world-building), our connection to people and events held at bay as we’re bombarded with unfamiliar terminology and a rather large cast of characters given Seraphina herself has seventeen individual companions existing in her head alone. There is a glossary of terms in the back, though those with an e-reader will likely not benefit from it given the difficulty of trying to flip back and forth in a digital format, but inevitably those who have a physical copy will be grateful for the thorough description of both terms and characters. About a third of the way through however, the strange words and unusual descriptions lose their foreign quality, and the story quickly picks up as the leader of the dragons makes his way to the human royal court.

Seraphina is an intriguing heroine, not a young woman who leaps off the pages at us from the first chapter, but rather someone who takes her time garnering our favor, holding pieces of herself so close to her chest we can’t get a good look at them until she slowly starts to unfurl and lets us get a glimpse of the real girl. She’s highly intelligent and possesses an unexpected sense of humor that seems to pop up at random times to shock us into a laugh, and once we’re immersed in her world and learn her secret, we find ourselves fiercely protective of this young girl who has not once been accepted for the truly extraordinary person she is. She’s hidden herself her entire life due to her own fear as well as the rampant fears of others, and it’s hugely satisfying to watch as she starts to take pride in herself, flaws and all, and trust those around her to see with more than just their eyes and their preconceptions.

After a somewhat sluggish and disorienting start, Seraphina blossoms into an engaging paranormal murder mystery with a touch of light romance worked in, and we’re given a solid conclusion to the first installment with still a myriad of possibility for Seraphina and company moving forward. Those who are lovers of fantasy most likely won’t be quite as lost in the sea of unusual terms as the world is built piece by piece in the beginning, but I would encourage those who don't attempt fantasy often to keep reading and allow Seraphina’s subtle charm to work its not-insignificant magic.

Rating: 4/5

33 comments:

  1. I've heard wonderful things about this book. It helps to know that a book starts out slow but gets better. I have it from Netgalley and have read a few pages but haven't had the chance to finish it.

    BTW...you got Raven Boys at BEA, right? I have about 50 pages left and it is simply unbelievable.

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  2. It seems like so often we are reading the same books! My review goes up next week probably. Or later this week, I cant remember. I felt the same way as you with the beginning but thought it was partly me and my impatience. I also hope the final copy has a map, I would have liked one. But I loved the world and characters and the creativity and I forgave the slow start because we needed to be introduced to it all and the rest was gorgeous! I'm so glad you enjoyed it too!

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  3. EEEEEE JENNY! I've seen this book in a different cover (I think the UK cover) but the concept of dragons sounds really interesting! AND I'm a BIG FAN of Fantasy too! Can't wait to read this book when it's out :)

    Awesome review, Jenny! <3 Glad you enjoyed it!

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  4. Paranormal murder mystery?! Oh! I am SO THERE! And dragons! I will have to keep this one on my radar. :)

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  5. This sounds so good! I love every word you used to describe this book, especially "precarious"! I definitely want to check this boom out! I love murder mysteries.

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  6. Wow! Great review, Jenny! It's wonderfully written and I love how you describe this book and the main character. I haven't read much fantasies but this sounds very interesting. Gotta check this out soon. I'm so glad you enjoyed this. :)

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  7. Yay for an amazing fantasy book! I have to admit that it's the dragons on the cover that cued me in first, but then you said things like "a precarious truce between humans and dragons" and "an engaging paranormal murder mystery with a touch of light romance worked in" and I'm hooked! Thank goodness Seraphina is one of those heroines who think before they jump -- I was starting to think everyone was catching on to the fact that teenagers are mighty impulsive LOL :)

    Beautiful review as always, Jenny! <3

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  8. This is on my list to read and I glanced at your review only to get a sense of it (it's kind of hard to glance at books on kindle). I am intrigued and can't wait to start reading, this sounds like my kind of story!

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  9. Alison - The 17 people in her head threw me off in the beginning, I was super confused. Things slowly began to make sense though and I ended up really liking it. I did get Raven Boys, haven't started it yet. Can't wait to though!

    Candace - It's like we're the same person ;) I could have used a map as well, maybe the finished version will have one.

    Celine - Yay! Can't wait to see what you think of it!

    Amanda - It was the dragons that sold me as well. I can't get enough of them:)

    Rachel - It was a really interesting read, super different from anything I'd been reading and I loved that.

    Eunice - I don't read many fantasies either, but I always end up enjoying them when I do. I should probably read more of them:)

    Mimi - I really ended up liking Seraphina, she was a hard nut to crack initially, but she eventually drops some of her armor which was nice:)

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  10. Starr - Yay! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:)

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  11. That cover screams not something I would read, but the story sounds really good to me. I love the sound of the main character, Im digging all these independent tough chicks in literature lately....:)

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  12. Wow, this really does sound like an interesting read! I definitely haven't read enough dragon books. :) Glad to see you enjoyed this, despite the slow start!

    Thanks for sharing!

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  13. I'm a tad put off by this cover... Lol

    The only dragon books I've read thus far are the Firelight series, so I do need to broaden my horizons a bit!!!

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  14. I received a review copy of this the other day so it's good to know that despite a slow start this book picks up! I've already read so many great reviews so I'm hoping that I will like this one too! Fab review Jenny! :)

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  15. Tina - It's not my favorite cover. I love the illustration, I just wish it had a little more color:)

    Christy - Me either! The more dragons, the merrier for me:)

    Ashley - Yeah, it's not one that will stand out on the shelf. I wonder if they'll do a metallic ink or something to make it pop when it's printed.

    Jasprit - It just took some getting used too, and then once I figured out the people in her head, I could settle in and enjoy it:)

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  16. This sounds like the sort of fantasy I would really enjoy! Dragons, mystery, intrigue, romance... Great review!

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  17. I've been seeing this book around a lot lately and was pretty curious about it. Thanks for the review and the heads up that the beginning is a bit slow and involves a lot of background- sometimes that frustrates me, but it sounds worth it to stick with the novel, especially if you are a fantasy lover. Great review, Jenny!

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  18. I liked this book a lot too. I think you captured the conflict between the humans and dragons really well in this review!

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  19. You have a fabulous blog! I’m an author and illustrator and I made some awards to give fellow bloggers whose sites I enjoy. I want to award you with one of my homemade awards: the Magical Blog Award for all the hard work you do! There are no pass along requirements. This is just to reward you for all the hard work you do!

    Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.
    ~Deirdra

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  20. Yep... I think that is the problem with ereaders and epic fantasy. You can't suddenly flip to the glossary or the map often given with these stories. Well, you can do it, but usually not quickly enough. So... physical copy... check.

    This looks like the kind of book I would enjoy. Magical and musical. And as long as it moves forward after the major world building... I don't think it will bother me.

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  21. I have got to get this one read. I think that even though the world building drags the pace down a bit I will appreciate the detail on the world building because I am a stickler for world building. I am glad that Seraphina has an odd sense of humor. I am sure I will enjoy her witty comments!

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  22. Yay, I love fantasy so I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Jenny. I'm a bit worried about all the strange terms though since I feel like sometimes I'm a bit slow at figuring things out. Lol, I'm book smart; not street smart :)

    What do you mean when you say that she seventeen companions in her head? Are these imaginary friends or is she somewhat delusional?

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  23. Jenny, your reviews are always so helpful! I started this a few weeks ago and struggled to get through the start. I didn't realise it picked up, but now I am more than willing to give it another go. I do really enjoy fantasy so I can't wait to read the rest of the book. Great review, Jenny! :)

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  24. This has been on my wishlist forever. :) Unfortunately, Random House hasn't accepted my request on Netgalley (nor have I managed to get myself a copy elsewhere). :( Although it may be for the best considering the glossary of terms is on the last few pages. Brilliant review, Jenny! I'm so glad you enjoyed this!

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  25. Love this review Jenny! I love a good fantasy book so I think I may pick this book up. WOOHHOO!

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  26. I'm so glad you ended up enjoying this one, Jenny! I'm super intrigued, but am still unsure if it's a book for me or not. Hmm! I definitely enjoy some fantasy though, so I think it's one to go on the fantasy-to-read-list! I'll have to keep in mind the keep-reading part, if it seems to turn out to be too much! Great review:)

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  27. Hmm, not traversing into fanatsy, or high fantasy as this seems to be very often I might get bogged down. But you make it sound like it's worth the read. I'm really interested in the fact that Seraphina has 17 companions in her head?? That's a lot of people or things whatever they are to keep up with. I'll have to wait, but definitely going on the TBR. Thanks for the great review.

    Heather

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  28. I'm really excited about this one simply because of the dragons-I've been craving a story with them and can't wait to start this one! I can handle a slow read if there's a promise of something more exciting.

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  29. I don't think I'd heard of this one before, but I'm not surprised since I'm not really a high fantasy reader, and it's because of those dragging world building moments, but the heroine sounds mysterious and that intrigues me, plus, the bits of paranormal activity also caught my eye. Glad you enjoyed it despite the slow start.

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  30. I didn't really know this had dragons in this. I guess I should've realized this based on the cover! I just now really looked at it. I love the cover now that I've actually looked at it. Your lovely review makes me want to read this and to be honest, I didn't want to before this. Thanks Jenny. :)

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  31. Hm so I saw this one on NetGalley but.. the cover is so boring that I was not sure about the book! But. I love a good Fantasy and and you liked it!! And I totally want to meet Seraphina although she doesn't seem like the kick ass heroine I normally prefer. Still, you review made me put this book back on my wish to read list :)

    and.. dragons!!!

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  32. Now this one really sounds like something for me :D
    But I agree with above comment, boring cover

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  33. yeah, i've read that book. and i liked it. though many people on the czech blogs don't think anything nice about it and don't know what's so special about it.

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