Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Rachel Hartman's debut novel Seraphina won the 2013 Morris Award for YA literature, but the major thing defining the book as “young adult” is its teenage heroine—everything else about it is straightforward high fantasy, suitable for readers of any age.

The title character of Hartman's novel is a sixteen-year-old court musician growing up in a medieval kingdom where humanity is maintaining an uneasy truce with dragons, creatures that can shape-shift into human form. Seraphina is a gifted musician, but she is hiding a terrible secret: she is half dragon, and if her parentage was ever discovered both sides of her heritage would consider her an abomination that should be immediately exterminated. But when the human-dragon peace treaty is threatened by a royal murder, Seraphina gets tangled up in court politics... even though every interaction threatens to expose her true nature.

It's easy to see why Hartman's novel has attracted so much praise: Seraphina features a marvelously original setting, a complex plot, and an intelligent, self-sacrificing heroine. Actually, I found her a little too self-sacrificing. Seraphina was unfailingly mature and noble, and displayed little evidence of the defining characteristic of her dragon heritage: unemotional logic. (In Hartman's world, dragons are like the Vulcans from Star Trek, valuing reason above all.) I'm still totally looking forward to reading the next book in this series, but I do wish Hartman had created a more plausibly self-interested heroine—the most hard-to-buy creation in a fantasy novel should never be its (mostly) human protagonist.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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