Reading Level: Young Adult
Size: 480 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Seraphina series
Source: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
I love a good fantasy read and was really looking forward to one that had dragons too! This ended up being a very slow book that was very beautiful written. The world is incredibly detailed but I thought Seraphina as the heroine was a bit bland.
Seraphina has just joined court as the lead musician’s assistant, right as tensions between the Dragons and the humans reach a climax. When a Prince of the realm is killed in a very Draconian way Seraphina can’t help but be drawn to the investigation. She finds herself investigating along side the charming and intelligent Prince Lucian. Seraphina can’t let herself get too close to Lucian though because she has terrible secrets of her own that she must hide.
This book is beautifully written but moves at a very deliberate place. Much of the story involves Seraphina’s day to day life as a musician’s assistant. It takes quite a while for Seraphina to get deeply involved in the investigation (200 pages or so) and it seemed like this story could have been beautifully told in about half the page space.
I had a lot of trouble liking Seraphina and thought she was kind of a lackluster character. She comes across as too passive and too quiet. I understand she was hiding a terrible secret and was trying to pass unnoticed; but I had trouble really noticing her as a reader as well. I love music and her passion for music should have helped me relate to her. Unfortunately there are very few scenes where Seraphina is really involved in music and, when she is, it always feels like she’s apologizing for her interest.
There were some good characters in here. Lucian was a wonderfully complex character that I really enjoyed. The Princess was also very engaging; she seemed to be all laughter and fluff in the beginning but ended up being made of very strong stuff as the story continued.
Dragons are portrayed with the ability to pass as humans although it is uncomfortable for them. I’ve heard talk about how creative this is and am puzzled. Sagara has been portraying dragons like this for some time in her Chronicles of Elantra series; Sagara’s dragons are more mysterious and have a much more engaging history behind them. I did think that Hartman did an excellent job showing how much difficultly the dragons had with human emotion.
The world is very solidly built; Hartman has created a full history for this world and it is full of detail. It is well done but I didn’t think it was all that more creative than other fantasies out there.
The story is also fairly predictable, it ends how you think it is going to end. There weren’t all that many twists and turns that left me surprised. In general I guess I just had trouble with the story really grabbing me, it didn’t have any intensity to it.
Overall this is a very beautifully written fantasy, the writing is lyrical. The world is intricate with a lush history behind it. For me the story just was way too wordy and moved way too slow. I found Seraphina to be a lackluster character, thought the plot was incredibly predictable, and just didn’t think the world was all that creative. This is one of those books that when I started it I thought it was excellent, then about 300 pages into it I just wanted it to be over. I would recommend this to fantasy lovers who love their stories beautifully written but deliberate. If you are interested in the “dragons as people” story definitely check out Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra, they are appropriate for YA and older and are much more interesting.