Book Review: Seraphina

This week’s book review is Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

Quick plot synopsis:  Seraphina is the story of two dramatically different societies that live together in a fragile peace. The dragons are analytical beasts, and the value of emotion, art and music is completely lost on them. However, as they live with these highly emotive humans, they begin to investigate human nature by impersonating fleshy mortals and studying their behavior.

Seraphina is a child born of this intermingling – daughter of a dragon mother and human father, Seraphina is an abomination that should not exist. In a time where the treaty is about to end, tensions are high and Seraphina is caught right in the middle.

My thoughts: Hartman’s debut novel is a well crafted novelization that tackles the difficult idea of what it means to be “other.” This is the story of the marginalized, a resonant tale for our modern days embedded in a delicious fantasy setting. The landscape, citizens, cultural customs, religions, languages, and social issues are both imaginatively creative but emotionally resonant within their similarities to our world. The writing is beautiful on the whole, but in some areas it felt heavy handed. I think that is a habit Hartman will grow out of as she continues to write.

This is a serious fantasy novel, but Hartman does an excellent job finding an emotional range to play with in her writing. You’ll laugh, sigh with frustration and hold back tears while you read. Her characters are loveable and believable, Seraphina is not a “Mary Sue” but a vulnerable and brave woman. The romance (yes, there is a central romance) is the complete Anti-Twilight idea of relationships. Lucian Kiggs and Seraphina are not two super attractive people who sparkle at one another, but kindred spirits and minds. It gives me hope for fantasy relationships across the border.

This is a lovely addition to contemporary fantasy and I give it a very high recommendation.

– E.B.

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