Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman

When I read a book that I love (and mean truly, madly, deeply love it, not just really like), I will find myself feeling like this:

*granted, this is not 100% accurate. But it is  disturbingly close!*

SERAPHINA is one of those books.

Let's talk about what I loved. Which was pretty much every dadgum thing:

1. The World Building: There's a tendency in YA fantasy books lately to be a little shoddy in the world-building department. I sometimes find myself saying, "What?? How does that work? What does that look like? Why is the world functioning in this way?"
Seraphina's world (and I am so sorry I can't give names for the kingdoms involved, but I listened to this on audiobook and I don't know how to spell them) of people living in an uneasy truce with dragons is fully drawn, perfectly realized,'s the kicker...believable. I'm starting to look askance at analytical, right-brained, unemotional types I know and be on guard for clues that they're actually dragons in human form.

2. Characterization!!!: Oh, the characters...I love their faces. Their complicated, fallible, lovable, scared, courageous, heroic, terrified, elated, incredibly REAL faces.

*Listen: if you google "I love your face gif" to try and find a perfect illustration for the concept of "I LOVE YOUR FACE!" which is something I say to my kids when I am overcome with how wonderful they are, you will instead find soooooo many beautiful people that it will distract you entirely from your original point, namely, talking about how outstanding a particular book was.*

 Seraphina is my favorite protagonist in a long time. She has weaknesses and worries and doubts, but underneath she's a strong, resilient young woman. She just doesn't know it when the book starts, and she has to grow and change to get there.

Let's take a moment to celebrate real character development:


By the end of the book, Seraphina has stopped being scared and I seriously think I may have cheered outloud when she told Kiggs the truth about herself and her feelings for him.
Oh, Lucian Kiggs. Sometimes when I get really attached to a main character in a book, I'll feel like the love interest isn't worthy of her amazingness.
Not this time. Kiggs is a wonderful character with his own insecurities and struggles to deal with. I cheered for him nearly as much as I did Seraphina.
Even the secondary characters felt like real human beings. Or dragons, whichever the case may be. Or half-dragon/half-human.

3.The writing. It's seamless. It's elegant without being showy. Gif-filled silly posts aside, I actually have a background in writing. Don't tell my former professors or editors about this blog and my incomplete sentences and tendency to ramble and gush and use the word "and" entirely too much. (Am I Walt Whitman over here? He was a big "and" fan, too.)
I guess because I'm a writer, when I find a really well-turned phrase, I get giddy with delight. And then envious.
This book had me both delirious with happiness and sick with envy. And I enjoyed every second of it.
Case in point: "bagpipes brawling" and "chuckling fountains."
See what a perfect adjective does? It makes you think, "Well of course bagpipes brawl and fountains chuckle. How could I have never realized this?"

In a word, the writing is delightful.

4. Plot: Y'all, the plot isn't just about Seraphina, her being a half-dragon and falling slowly in love with a guy she can't have (bonus awesome : no insta-love), there's also a murder mystery. And I didn't even come close to figuring it out.

I could go on, but I think you get the drift:


I don't think you have to be a fan of fantasy or dragons to enjoy this book. Just appreciate a well-told story with splendidly crafted characters, and you'll be good to go.

Anyone else read this? Plan to read it? Leave me a comment!


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