Seraphina (Seraphina, book one)
By Rachel Hartman
Published 2012 by Random House Books for Young People
Though peace has reigned in Goredd for many years, dragons and humans still feel unease with each other. Seraphina feels this unease even more, struggling to keep her secret while also living as normal a life as possible. When a royal family member is murdered and a dragon is suspected, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, assisting the handsome and perceptive Captain Kiggs. Is the peace of Goredd about to be shattered? Can Seraphina protect her secret and the life she has built? Or will Kiggs uncover the truth?
If there has been a more universally lauded debut in recent history, I certainly can't name it. Seraphina garnered an astounding seven starred reviews (which I think is the most one can receive). It won the William C. Morris Award for YA debut novels and was named a Top Ten book on the Best Fiction for Young Adults list. It was universally beloved by the book bloggers I read and trust. I fully intended to read Seraphina as soon as possible - I worried, you see, that the hype might ruin the book for me. Frustratingly, I didn't get my hands on a copy until January - many months after the book's publication. Did the hype machine do in another book for me?
Well, yes and no. Yes because, I mean, SEVEN STARS. That's a lot for any book to live up to. And no because this book is exceptionally awesome. Did I think it was SEVEN STARS worth of awesome? No - but I did thoroughly enjoy it and am thrilled that it received so much praise. What I liked about this book - I'm a pretty big fan of fantasy (if you had told teen me I'd be saying that, I would have laughed in your face) and I especially enjoy a nice epic fantasy. Hartman has done a superb job here. She has created an entirely new dragon mythos and it works so exceptionally well. The world that Hartman has built is so multi-faceted and huge, but it is vivid and wonderful. I loved discovering the rules of Seraphina's society and the secrets and layers that it is built upon. I adore Seraphina herself, and the struggles she faces daily with her identity. I loved the banter and romance that blooms between Seraphina and Kiggs - it felt natural and was a pleasure to watch develop. I just love the complexity of this novel and its world - I feel like there are so many stories to be found in Goredd and I want to hear them all. I loved Seraphina's garden and the characters she finds there - I want to spend more time with them. I cannot wait to hear more from this world and these characters.
So why don't I think this is seven stars worth of awesome? As much as I loved and enjoyed it, I don't find it to be the greatest book I've ever read. Yes, it's intelligent and imaginative, engaging and extremely well-written. But for seven stars, I expect to be so completely overwhelmed with amazingness that I can't read any other books because they just aren't as awesome. In short, this is a wonderful book that I am excited to have read and I look forward to reading more from Hartman. But the hype monster worked a little too hard on this one for me.