Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

About the Book

Title: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Source: Library

Publication Date: July 10th, 2012

Pages: 512

Blurb: In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, “Some of the most interesting dragons I’ve read in fantasy.”

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 Review

Seraphina is a huge book, but all 512 pages of it are worth it. When I read this book, I was swept into an epic fantasy adventure with an immersive world, surprising plot twists, and beautiful underlying themes. While the beginning was a bit slow, once I got into the book, I couldn’t let go.

One of the best aspects of this book was the complex world that Rachel Hartman crafted. The dragons in this book are so unique and complex. Not only can they change into a human form to become saarantrai, but they are also extremely intelligent. These dragons have a very complicated relationship with the humans and there is much tension between the two races, which leads to added conflict. However, the world doesn’t end there. There are so many other creatures, among them the quigutl and their complex figurines. And then there is Seraphina.

Seraphina hides a secret that if revealed could place her life in great danger. I won’t reveal the secret here, but it is huge, and unusual. She also has a whole world that lives inside her head. She can control the creatures and people in her world through her thoughts, and she can see their every move. When things get wonky and she starts meeting these creatures and people in real life, Seraphina discovers even more about her secret, and realizes that maybe she isn’t the only one that harbors that secret.

Speaking of secrets, that’s what this whole novel was about. Everyone has some secrets that they hold close in real life, and that is exactly what happens in this book. When a noble figure, Prince Rufus, is murdered, and dragons are suspected, Seraphina must try to find out who killed Prince Rufus. Yet when everyone is hiding secrets, the job quickly becomes very complex. I was drawn into this world of great intrigue, and the suspense and plot twists had me flipping pages like crazy. And that one plot twist at the end. I’m still reeling from it. Rachel Hartman drew me into the story, throwing so many red herrings in that when the real truth emerged, I was completely shocked.

Just like the plot in this book shines, so does the prose itself. The writing styles used in this book is very sophisticated and beautiful. It leans a little bit toward a classical style even though the story is told in first person. While at times this writing style seemed to distance me from the main character, Seraphina, for the most part it was a nice flourish to the story. My only other complaint were the many fantasy names. They could get a bit confusing at times, but I suppose that is only natural of high fantasy.

Overall, Seraphina was a brilliant story full of complex character interactions, a complex storyworld and stunning plot twists. I highly recommend it.

My Rating


Have you ever read Seraphina before? What did you think of it? Have you read any books with amazingly detailed storyworlds?



37 thoughts on “Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

  1. I’ve seen this book aaround and about, and why I’m drawn to it: DRAGONS. ANCIENT TIMES AND DRAGONS. Can there be anything better? XD
    Also, the name Seraphina is one of my favourites. It reminds me of Seraphina from His Dark Materials, haha. Awesome review!


    1. No, there can not be anything about dragons and ancient times and dragons. Not even possible. Seraphina was a pretty wise name for the author to choose because it really relates to the story. Just don’t look up the meaning of the name until you’re at least half way through, because the name is almost a spoiler in itself.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! I’ve been wanting to read this one for a long time, but it always got put off. I definitely need to read it SOON, especially since the second one is about to come out. Can’t wait!


  3. I loved this book so much. Dragons are one of my favorite topics in high fantasy, and Seraphina had the perfect ones. I especially love the storyline with Orma’s past. I’ve heard Shadow Scale is even better, so I’m waiting with bated breath.


    1. Seraphina totally had the perfect dragons because the dragons in this book were unique and really broke away from the usual cliche. Orma’s past was pretty cool, but so was the past of most of the characters in the book. They all had secrets, which added tons of conflict. I can’t wait for Shadow Scale!


  4. I Love the sound of the complexity of this plot, with the dragons and secrets around this novel! The plot twists sound like it would make for a really compelling story and Seraphina herself sounds fascinating. Great review, I’ll have to pick this up soon!


  5. I loved this book. Her mental garden caught me off guard (since I’d not read about it before on anyone’s review), but though it was weird, I really liked it once I realized what it was. I picked it up since it had a similar premise to a book I’m writing (the premise you didn’t reveal, so I won’t, either), and I really like what the author did with it. Nothing like what I have planned, but still amazing, and the worldbuilding was so very rich.


    1. The mental garden was EXTREMELY weird, and that really threw me off guard at first as well. Once I got used it, though, I was fine. It was just…odd. I also came up with an idea similar to the premise (if you’re talking about Seraphina’s secret) of the book before I read it, and I was a little bit upset that the book used an idea similar to mine. Still, it made the book really interesting.


  6. YES! Finally a dragon themed fantasy that’s worth reading! I was really disappointed by Talon and considering how popular dragons in YA are, there aren’t too many really well written books around. Although it’s slow to begin, this sounds perfect. Going to check it out. Thanks for the incredible review Ana ❤


  7. Yay, I’m so glad you liked it too! The beginning was definitely a little slow, but I really had no complaints otherwise! Seraphina was an awesome main character, and it was easy to connect with her. Lovely review!


  8. I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH!!!! I listened to it on audio book, so I didn’t realize quite how strange the spellings were for the fantasy names. I agree with you though, the mystery and suspense were amazing.

    Can’t wait for the next one!


  9. Wow this sounds like a fantastic read! I don’t typically read a lot of fantasy novels but the worldbuilding which is so detailed and great characters definitely have me intrigued. Fantastic review Ana 🙂


    1. I typically didn’t read a lot of fantasy before unless it was Tolkien or Lewis, but I’m finding myself more and more drawn to certain types of fantasy. This is one of those phenomenal fantasy books that I’ve come across, and the world building is so in depth. You should definitely check it out! Thanks!


  10. YES I ABSOLUTELY LOVED SERAPHINA TOO. The world was so deliciously, beautifully rich detailed, and I absolutely loved the prose. For a book that long it really seemed to fly by for me. I actually didn’t have a problem with the book being slow like other people did either. I just loved it so much. I can’t wait for the sequel.


    1. Yay, for another person that really enjoyed Seraphina! The world building in this book was insanely detailed, which I loved. There’s so much potential for exploration in the world, and it makes the story so much more interesting. I think the pace really picked up for me as the book went on with all the suspense. I can’t wait for the sequel either!


  11. I was really into fantasy when I was in middle school/early high school, but now, not so much. That said, this sounds REALLY INTERESTING. Intelligent dragons that can take the form of humans? I’ve never heard of such a thing–but I want to know more! Thanks for the review. =)


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