“That’s the secret to performance: conviction. The right note played tentatively still misses its mark, but play boldly and no one will question you. If one believes there is truth in art – and I do – then it’s troubling how similar the skill of performing is to lying. Maybe lying is itself a kind of art.”
TITLE & AUTHOR: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
SERIES: Seraphina, #1
PUBLISHED : July 10th 2012, by Random House Books for Young Readers
MY RATING: 4/5
“We were all monsters and bastards, and we were all beautiful.”
I have wanted to read Seraphina for ages now, and before you ask – yes, yes I did pick it up because of the beautiful cover, sue me! I cannot control myself. ‘Tis hard. But the cover is not just beautiful, it also has a dragon on it and I looove dragons! My first impression was that Seraphina is a dragon-fighting kind of gal, and that I should expect some fierce fire vs steel battles. What I got is something entirely different.
In the imaginary land of Goredd, a baby girl is being christened. As is the custom, the priest hands the baby a psalter, and the new-born, unable yet to hold anything, drops it. The psalter falls and opens to the page with a picture of St. Yirtrudis, a heretic with her face blacked-out. The priest flips the page in terror, to the image of St. Capiti, the patroness of scholars, and anoints her instead as Seraphina’s saint.
Some 16 years later, Seraphina leaves her father’s home to serve as a music mistress at the court. She works under the court composer, Viridius, in preparations for the approaching anniversary of the Comonot’s treaty. The treaty was signed 40 years earlier by the Goredd’s Queen Lavonda and the Ardmagar Comonot, the ruler of the dragon land Tanamoot. The treaty may have ended the long-running war between the human and dragon kind, but not the mistrust and hate they feel for each other. The main clause of the treaty states that dragons may never assume their true form among people – instead they live transformed in a human form – a saarantras.
The stability of the treaty and the human-dragon relations is suddenly questioned when the crown prince Rufus is found dead in the forest – missing a head. Suddenly, people start remembering that dragons used to eat them for brunch. Rebels start gathering, people begin whispering, and everyone is under close inspection. A dragon is not what you’d want to be right now. In the midst of these events is Seraphina, who hides a terrible secret. Her divine talent for music is both a wonder and a curse, as Seraphina inherited it, along with some physical traits, from her mother – who was a dragon.
Seraphina, her dragon uncle Orma, and Prince Lucian Kiggs (captain of the Queen’s Guard) find themselves involved in multiple plots to endanger the treaty as they try to prevent a new war.
I thoroughly enjoyed Seraphina, and the exceptionally meticulous world Rachel Hartman has created. In the midst of many, many high-fantasy YA novels, Seraphina rises above like a beauty. I could tell you what it has that makes it special, but instead I will tell you what it doesn’t have: no insta-love and love triangles; no cheesy dialogues and eye-rolling opportunities; no Mary Sues or the opposites of a Mary Sue; no cliffhangers, BUT the plot is quite unpredictable.
So, if I loved everything about it, why 4/5? Well, because the first part of the novel is a bit slow, even though the latter picks up with action, intrigue and dragon fights, and is very rewarding. Second, the names. There are many characters, titles, species, cities and saints, and it’s hard to keep up at first – especially with saints. Also, there were some English words I had to look up, as I didn’t know the meaning. Hartman used a rich and sharp language which was too dominant at times.
All that aside, what I certainly loved the most were dragons. These dragons are not your regular kind, and not just because they wear a human form. They are cold, analytical thinkers who apply logic to everything. They don’t understand human emotions, music, or art, and that is the main reason they began shape shifting – to study the humans. And yet, they are repulsed by the human kind; emotional attachment is disgusting to them, as they are raised to live in strict ard (order in Mootya – dragon language). I imagined all these dragons as Benedict Cumberbatch, and if there’s ever a movie version – he’s the right guy.
All in all – a solid 4. I hope the second part of this duology will be if not even better, then as good as.
Have you read Seraphina or do you plan to read it? Answer in comments if you like, and happy reading! 🙂