Sunday, October 7, 2012

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: A Different Magical Story

Another book I bought in July and it just sat on the shelf.  I had heard rave reviews, and I hadn't read a good dragon story in a very long time.  Dragons are magical.  Can't be helped.  Good or bad, they belch fire, eat people, and always always have some kind of mystical power.  

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman had a lot to live up to when I first opened the pages.  I kept waiting patiently for that "gotcha!" moment, cause I could tell from the first few pages that it was coming--that moment when you settle into a story and know to the tips of your toes that it's going to wrap itself around your brain and not let go.  That moment occurred for me when Seraphina reveals her biggest secret to the reader.  I won't tell you what it is, but it comes early and explains Seraphina inside and out.  It also explains how not everything is black and white, and even if we so desperately want to tell the truth, sometimes a lie has to be told instead.  

Seraphina is a young teen girl living in the kingdom of Goredd.  It's a medieval type of place, full of cathedrals, alleys, and houses built across narrow cobblestone streets.  It is ruled by Queen Lavonda, a monarch who 40 years previously made a peace agreement with the dragons, led by their leader, Ardmagar Comonot.  The 40th anniversary of the agreement is rapidly approaching, and Comonot is coming to town to help celebrate.  Seraphina's extraordinary gift of music (you'll find out where this comes from) has put her in the palace as the assistant to the court composer--who suffers from gout and leaves much of the musical arrangements to her.  Her gift is pretty darn amazing, and it brings unwanted attention to her rather quickly.  On top of all this, the queen's son, Prince Rufus, was recently found murdered on a hunt--his head missing.  This is a clear sign of a dragon murder, and it starts stirring those who do not want peace with the dragons.  Can Seraphina, working with young Prince Lucian Riggs (whos grandmother is the queen) figure out what's going on before disaster strikes?  And how does she keep all her secrets, but protect those she loves?  

There are many themes in this novel:  keeping secrets, feeling abandoned, not having a mother to nurture you--and the conflicting emotions that brings up.  It's about standing on your own, being strong, and owning yourself.  Seraphina is an admirable young heroine, and Prince Riggs is the same--both are great role models for any young teen reading this book.  

I certainly enjoyed this novel.  It's not just a teen book--it's perfectly suitable for adults, too.  Anyone who loves to read about dragons, and how two races of beings  so different, yet sometimes alike--struggle to maintain peace and understanding while still remaining true to themselves.  It would make a great book group book for science fiction groups or teen groups--heck, a high school lit class would have great discussions on this!  And maybe inspire a future author...

Rating:  5/5 for originality, superb writing and characters, and a fierce young lady named Seraphina.  Can't wait to read the next one!
Available in hardcover and e-book format.

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