Sixteen year-old Seraphina is the new assistant to the Court Composer, a grumpy old man riddled with gout. As she tries to navigate her new daily duties and dealing with the royal family, she also hides a secret. Seraphina lives in a world where dragons and humans have peace based on a tenuous treaty and dragons can take the shape of humans. Actual humans are still weary of these dragons-in-hiding and the dragons are mostly content to study this unusual culture. Seraphina manages to get caught up in the middle of the dragon-human relations and must rush to keep the treaty intact.
Seraphina is a great novel that pulls you in, makes you wonder why Seraphina is different, what she is hiding without giving it away too soon. By the time the reveal came, I sort of expected it but definitely was not sure that was really going to be the answer. The novel is engrossing from the start and the plot and characters equally keep you involved until the very last page. I read Seraphina in just a day and a half, the first time I’ve neglected other things to really read for quite awhile.
During the first portions of the novel, I wanted Seraphina to tell me more about herself. Provide more about how these situations were making her feel. I felt it was so guarded that when things were happening it was only plot, no character. That was until a pivotal moment when Seraphina finally breaks, and at that moment I realized the first-person narrative was so guarded because Seraphina herself is guarded. She opens up more then, sharing more with the reader and more with the others around her. It is wonderful to watch this scared girl blossom into a far more comfortable-in-her-own-skin adult.
The other thing this book does well is provide a list of rounded characters. From Seraphina’s father to her tutor to the engaged Prince Lucian and Princess Glisselda, all are written with a surprising amount of depth for being supporting characters. These characters were probably the strong-poing for Seraphina, driving the story forward not because of plot points but because of the characters’ actions.
My only complaint was the climax; it felt a bit rushed and like Hartman wasn’t sure how to deliver something more compelling. It was good, but with just a few paragraphs, the “final fight” was over too quickly to create much tension. But Seraphina was written so well besides that I am desperately hoping there will be more forays into Hartman’s world.