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Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (@jessicadhaluska, @_rachelhartman)

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (@jessicadhaluska, @_rachelhartman)
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Published on: July 10 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 512
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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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.


The oldest of my three younger sisters loves books as much as I do, but doesn’t have nearly as much time to read (b/c reasons). Fortunately, I know her well enough to keep recs to what I know she’ll love, so she can make the best use of the time she does have, not begrudging me my surplus of time—b/c otherwise, who would weed out the mediocre books?

The most recent book I knew she’d love is this one, but I was rereading it before Shadow Scale is released next month, and I couldn’t remember if she’d already read it (b/c my memory is crap), so the day after I finished it:

Me: Hey, did you ever read Seraphina?
Sister: Sarah-what?
Me: Se-ra-phin-a. It came out like 5(ish) years ago. It’s about this girl who’s a half-dragon—
Sister: Ooohhh . . . I wanna be a dragon.
Me: Half dragon.
Sister: Or a half dragon.
Me: Would you really want to be a dragon?
Sister: Depends . . . Would I lay eggs, or have normal babies?
Me: Eggs if you were a dragon, babies if you were half dragon.
Sister: Then I want to be a dragon.
Me: o.O
Sister: Whatever, being a dragon would be awesome. Flying around, breathing fire, hoarding treasure—
Me: Actually, the dragon leader guy outlawed hoarding treasure, so now they hoard knowledge.
Sister: So I get to hoard books?!
Me: Yep.
Sister: Could it be any more perfect?

NO. No, it could not.

As I said previously, Seraphina (the MC, not the title) is a half dragon. As such, she belongs no where and to no one. Yes, there has been a tentative peace between the two races for the past fourty years, but humans are notorious for hating that which frightens them, and these dragons are rather Vulcan-like in their views on pesky emotions.

Vulcans don’t marry outside of their species (unless political reasons *squints at Spock, Sr.*), and they definitely don’t marry for love.

Neither do dragons.

And humans are so horrified by the concept that they have half a dozen Saints encouraging medieval reactions to any cross-species dalliances. BUT they’re not too worried about it, b/c like that would happen anyway—everyone knows they should be killing the dragons (b/c dragons).

So Seraphina lives a solitary existence, in constant fear of discovery.

That sounds rather morose, doesn’t it?

Without undermining the relevant points being made, I will tell you that it absolutely isn’t.

In fact, it’s quietly hilarious. When Seraphina begins coming into her half dragon-ness as a preteen, she starts having seizures that are brought on by strange visions of even stranger creatures she’s never seen before. He uncle, on the dragon (or saar) side, asks that her father hand over the reins of her education:

“To you,” sneered my father. “And what will you do with her? She can’t go two hours without these infernal visions giving her seizures.”
“We could work on that, to start. We saar have techniques for taming a rebellious brain.” Orma tapped his own forehead, and then tapped it again as if the sensation intrigued him.

Why had it never struck me how deeply peculiar he was?

And once he has those reins:

He answered even my most impudent questions. Yes, dragons could smell colors under the right circumstances. Yes, it was a terrible idea to transform into a saarantras right after eating an aurochs.




Saarantras is a dragon’s human form, so you can see why it would be a bad idea to downsize so dramatically after aurochs consumption. *snorts*

Stuff like this is also why I believe in dragons, fyi. I mean, really . . . a dragon is basically a winged dinosaur:


That may or may not have breathed fire . . . not exactly a huge stretch . . .

So the plot is fantastic. What about the characters?

ALSO fantastic.

My favorite after Seraphina herself is Lars, a blond giant, a foreigner, and a fellow musician. I would love him for his (not-so-vaguely German) accent alone:

Lars glowered defensively, as if he anticipated a scolding or a profession of love. Yes, that was it: he thought I meant to proposition him. He wore a closed expression, as if rehearsing a speech in his head, a way to let me down gently after I stripped off all my clothes. Sorry, Seraphina, I dondt like grausleiner thet can put their voices in my headt.

Orma, the dragon uncle, is wonderful as well. He gradually changes from the typical rude and insensitive dragon, to a . . . less rude and insensitive dragon. *snickers* Both versions are highly entertaining:

“I’m attracting small children,” Orma muttered, twisting his hat in his hands. “Shoo it away, will you?”

And when he allows himself to feel the things he’s so long denied, he is helpless to express them:

“Who will kiss you? Who will rock you to sleep?” His voice was slow, drowsy.
“You never did,” I said, trying to tease him. “You were more father to me than my father, but you never did that.”
“Someone should. Someone should love you. I will bite him if he will not.”

And finally, the princess, who is a bizarre yet winsome, combination of oblivious and ridiculous:

“Two Knights came to the castle today!” She could barely contain herself; her hands fluttered about like two excitable small birds . . . “They claim to have spotted a rogue dragon, flying around the countryside in its natural shape! Isn’t that awful?”
Awful enough to have her grinning ear to ear. She was a strange little princess.

While still somehow managing to be highly intelligent, and on occasion, even wise.

Ultimately, Seraphina is one of those books that never really goes away. Along with Poison Study, it was one of the first YA fantasies that I read and loved as an adult, so once again, I was worried about whether or not it would live up to my memories . . .

I should not have been. It was every bit as clever and amusing, as pertinent and thought-provoking, and as lovely and bittersweet as I remembered. Highly recommended.


And there’s also an excellent and short prequel novella that you can read for FREE here: Seraphina: The Audition (Seraphina 0.5) by Rachel Hartman
Was this review helpful to you? If so, please consider voting for it on Amazon or like it on Goodreads!
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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.



  1. A dragon book that’s… GOOD? That’s really rare. I NEED to read this immediately. Also, those quotes are pretty funny, hahaha. Great review, Jessica!
    Marianne recently posted…Review: A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

    • I actually like dragons, but that’s mostly b/c I read a couple of really great MG fantasy books when I was a kid. I can admit that the more recent offerings had mostly left something to be desired. This one, however, is excellent. It’s fantasy, but it still tackles relevant real life issues. 😉

  2. Wonderful review Jessica, I managed to pick this up but haven’t delved into it yet. You did a wonderful break down of Seraphina’s character, the secondary characters as well and they sound really excellent! I have to read this sometime, it sounds like the dragon book I’ve been waiting for.
    Jeann recently posted…Chatterbox: Negative Book Triggers

    • Thanks, Jeann! This really is one of the great YA fantasies. Here’s hoping you do read it sometime, and discover that, yes, it was indeed the dragon book you’d been waiting for 😉

  3. Wow Jessica, fantastic review!! :] Your description and the quotes you picked out, definitely make me want to read this book. So let me go find it immediately! 🙂

  4. Wow, great review! I love the quotes, and the conversation with your daughter. lol. I’ve actually had this book lingering in my TBR pile for years (don’t judge), but I need to go on a mission to find it. It sounds fantastic. 🙂
    E.J. Stevens recently posted…Cover Reveal: Birthright by E.J. Stevens

  5. I’m still halfway reading Seraphina, but not because I’m not liking it, which I am, very much, but because I have been distracted by other books that had somewhat of priority given that I ought to review them first and the like… but today, today I will dedicate it to Seraphina only!
    And seriously, I want to be a dragon and hoard books! Because I already hoard books and being a dragon would be just an awesome perk!
    Great review Jessica!
    Pili recently posted…Friday Reads: Gates of Thread And Stone by Lori M Lee!!

    • I hope you like it, Pili! I’ll admit that this was one of the few times that a reread went even better for me than the first time, and I do recall thinking it was a bit slow. BUT. This time I blew through it, and just LOVED it all.

      Thank you! And you and my sister would be great friends, I think 😉

  6. It hasn’t been out that long has it? Really? Ok, that is kind of crazy, feels like it came out last year.
    Nathan ( recently posted…Tough Travels – To Blathe (True Love)

  7. Another great book I have had in my TBR pile that really needs to be read! Great review Jessica! I hope you have a fabulous weekend!
    kindlemom1 recently posted…Review, Excerpt, and Giveaway: A Moment to Love by Jennifer Faye

    • Thanks, and you too! And seriously . . . this one’s really great, I hope you do read it sometime 😉

  8. It sounds like a great read, and I totally love your sister, lol!
    Livia recently posted…DNF: The Ultimatum by Katy Swann

  9. 4.5?? Well say no more because you know what that means, right?? You are what I will be calling my Fairy Book Pimp…*snickers* And that conversation with your sister…HILARIOUS!!!! I love this review Jessica but I’m sure you know that. ♥

    • I’ve been called worse things . . . 😉

      And I thought so too, LOL. She’s a funny gal. ALSO—thanks! *hugs*

  10. I can’t wait to read Shadow Scale – I loved the writing in Seraphina *so* much! And, wow, this is quite definitely the most comprehensive review I read in a LONG time… Great job!
    Ramona recently posted…Lament, by Maggie Stiefvater

    • Thanks, Ramona! I’m excited about Shadow Scale too. I’m hoping to start it any day now 😉

  11. Your sister is hilarious. And has it really been 5ish years since this book came out?! Wow, that’s a long time between books. I’m definitely going to hit up Shadowscale – I probably didn’t like Seraphina as much as you did, but I did enjoy myself with it.
    Mogsy recently posted…Book Review: Deadly Spells by Jaye Wells

    • She kind of is 😉 And yeah, it’s really been that long. And oh, how quickly it’s gone. I hope you like Shadow Scale, I’ve got to read Shadow Study first, but hopefully I’ll get to it after that.
      Jessica recently posted…Review: In Deeper by Christy Gissendaner

  12. Ha ha very funny review! I’ve seen bloggers rave about this book for a few years, and I’ve just never had time to read it. But it sounds like something I’d love, so maybe one of these days I can manage to squeeze it in:-)
    Tammy recently posted…An Ending is a New Beginning: COVENANT’S END by Ari Marmell – Review

    • I hope so, Tammy, b/c it really is fantastic. Also . . . b/c dragons 😉

  13. Oh this sounds wonderful! Fun exchange with your sister and loved all the quotes too.
    Sophia Rose recently posted…The Great Pick Up Line with Mistress of the City by Mina Carter #TGPUL

  14. I, too, am surprised that there is a good dragon book out there. I haven’t found one so far. This book, however, sounds absolutely adorable and wonderful. I may just have to consider adding it to my ever-growing TBR pile.

    I love the way you include quotes in your reviews. Great post!
    A. P. Bullard recently posted…Quiz: Which YA Novel Do You Belong In?

    • Thank you! I don’t always, but when they’re this good, I can’t help it 😉

      And I don’t understand the lack of dragon love. You guys must not have read Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde or Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede when you were 12 o.O

  15. OMG! I went to check (like I always do) on audible because I remembered I added this one to my wish list a long time ago, and I found it on my library…LOL I always go on rampage when books go on sale, so I must have bought it in one of audible sales. I’m moving to the front of the list now 🙂
    Thanks Jessica!
    Lupdilup recently posted…Bound By Flames Audiobook by Jeaniene Frost (review)

  16. OMG..I want to read just for the conversation you and your sister had..I think your little sister rocks 🙂
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted…Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

    • I think she does too 😉 And I hope you go with that feeling, b/c yeah, this is a good one.

  17. I loved Seraphina too. I’m planning to read Shadow Scale soon, very soon.
    Did you sister read it? Did she like it?
    BookaholicCat recently posted…Movie Trailer: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

  18. I can’t wait to read book 2! Been waiting so long
    blodeuedd recently posted…Third Daughter – Susan Kaye Quinn

  19. Fantastic review, Jessica. I really would love to read this being a dragon lover and all. It sounds like a classic, one adults can love as much or more than children.

    • Thanks, Kim! It is definitely a book for all ages, and YES, you should read it–I can almost guarantee that you’d love it.

  20. Loved your review but loved your conversation with your sister even more! Who wouldn’t want to be a dragon and hoard books? Pretty sure I have this one in my TBR pile, but haven’t read it for some reason. Now I need to go find it and read it NOW! Thanks for the great review!
    Terri recently posted…Turn Offs & Turn Ons – What do you look for before following a new blog?

    • “Who wouldn’t want to be a dragon and hoard books?”

      Our sentiments exactly 😉 Thanks, Terri! I hope you LOVE it.

  21. Jessica, you can’t imagine my relief in seeing that you love this book. It’s been on my bookshelf for…well, clearly for a long time if it came out 5ish years ago. The cover caught my eye and the synopsis hooked and reeled me in. I didn’t even know a second book was coming. I’ll have to make time for this one soon. Because yeah, there is nothing better than being a dragon and hoarding books. I already have the hoarding books skill perfected. 😉
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…Bought, Borrowed, & Bagged ~ #54

    • LOL. Me TOO. I hoard books like a PRO. And yes, especially since you already own it, READ IT, Brandee! It’s soooooo good 😉

  22. LOL that text conversation tells me that a) your sister is awesome and b) you two are obviously very close! It reads like a text chat between me and my BFF…but with fewer curse words, haha. And YES, I love Orma! He’s the best. He seems like he has a lot of feelings that he just wants to let out, you know? *cues Mean Girls*
    Danya recently posted…Review: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

    • My sister IS awesome, and I talk to her every morning one her way to work 😉 If it sounds like I’m gloating, I’m not. This just hasn’t always been the case, so I’m inordinately pleased. And Orma is the best, LOL.

  23. I *LOVE* that conversation with your sister! Especially the ending (could it be more perfect??)! I don’t read much YA, but really enjoyed Seraphina and am looking forward to Shadow Scale.

    • NOPE. It could not. It’s like fate, or something. *snickers* I hope you like Shadow Scale. I’m going to start it any day now.

  24. Great review! I’ve seen this book around a few times but never paid it much attention, but a book about a half dragon with awesome characters sounds good. My sister loves dragon books, so maybe I should send this as a recommendation to her.
    Lola recently posted…Cover Reveal: Enticed by JA Belfield

    • This is a book that definitely warrants attention, and if your sister loves dragons, then yes, recommend Seraphina. I’ve not encountered more than a handful of people who didn’t love it as much as I did.

  25. I have heard a lot about these, but for some reason hasn’t appealed to me but maybe should look up

  26. GORGEOUS review, Jessica! And this is one of my favorite YA fantasies ever. I was told Janet Lee Carey’s dragons are very good too, but I haven’t got a chance to read her yet. Anyway, can’t wait for Shadow Scale 🙂
    kara-karina recently posted…Fantasy Romance Review: Chronicles of Warlands series by Elizabeth Vaughan

    • Thank you, darling. If I didn’t already say, it’s one of my favorites too. ALSO–I LOVE Janet Lee Carey’s dragons, DRAGONSWOOD, in particular. I cannot wait for her new book to come out.

  27. Your review reminds me how much I adored Seraphina. I’ll have to make an effort to read the 2nd book sooner rather than later.

    And I totally love your conversation with your sister. It fits right in with the rest of the review. 🙂
    Sarah recently posted…Review: The Windup Girl

    • Thanks, I thought it worked 😉 And yes, I need to hurry up and read Shadow Scale also.

  28. OOoh nice review! I bought this one not too long ago at HPB because I had heard good things about it over the years! Glad I did wait, because omg a 5 year wait for the next book?! My sanity is already stretched pretty thin with a few cliffhangers that have not been resolved as it is! 1 hopefully won’t be too much longer with its release, the other…who knows! And that’s deadly scary to me because OMG that was the most cliffhangery cliffhanger ever and there’s no resolution in sight!!!! *insert endless screaming!!*

    So yeah, a lot of rambling! I see you mentioned Poison Study and OMG I LOVE that series! Though I had NO idea it was classified as YA! I mean, I know I’ve seen it classified as both, but I always thought it was adult because when I bought it just before Magic Study released, it was considered adult. Though after reading it, I can see it as both…

    More rambling…sorry! Anyway, GREAT review! I cannot wait to read this one!
    Jessica recently posted…ARC Review–Soulbound by Kristen Callihan

    • Thanks, Jessica! The first book didn’t quite read like a standalone, but it did conclude nicely, without many loose ends, so the wait has just been the standard “OMG I love this author, when is she going to write a new book?!” kind of wait.

      And yeah, Poison Study is kind of adult of YA, especially considering that it was written 6 or 8 years ago, but it was never an issue for me, LOL.

  29. So I guess I need to read Poison Study huh. And jeez did it really come out five years ago? I am glad I think I only read it last year or the year before….but not that long ago. I hope your sister loves it!
    Tabitha (Not yet read) recently posted…Review: Snowblind by Christopher Golden