Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Hooray! I read an almost-contemporary book!

And now I have to feel all nervous about reviewing it, as the author is neither incalculably rich and famous nor too dead to use the internet. Ah well. As normal in these cases I’ll try to give a fairly straightforward and to-the-point opinion so as to reduce any potential offense.


What is this?

It’s a relatively low-magic fantasy novel, set in a typical faux-European world, this time with a time period that feels sometime around the renaissance. It’s hard to say exactly – military elements suggest later middle ages (they don’t use guns, for instance), but some court elements suggest early modern, even enlightenment. Perhaps ‘generic historic Europe’ will do. The distinguishing feature are the dragons who live in areas neighbouring the setting country. These are unusually depicted as… well, Vulcans, to be honest. We could say “people with generic sort-of-Asperger’s”, but yeah, no, they’re Vulcans with wings. Who can take human shape.

The protagonist – and first-person narrator – is a young woman, a musician, and the story is just as much her personal story as it is a story of the world around her. She is very unique and special, but has dificulty recognising her own wonderfulness. There is also a man present for her to fall (almost) instantly in love with, though a number of misunderstandings complicate their relationship.

It’s not advertised as part of a series, but apparently there is a sequel. Certainly going by the ‘external’ plot it feels overwhelmingly like the start of a series… but the protagonist’s ‘internal’ arc feels at a point by the end of it where I wouldn’t have been wholly shocked if the author had left off right there.

It’s sometimes advertised as a YA novel, apparently. I don’t know why, but then I don’t understand YA. The protagonist is young, I guess, but is that really all it takes these days to be YA? After all, going by that, 90% of classic fantasy should be called ‘YA’… anyway, I guess there’s nothing egregiously non-YA about this, so whatever. [Not that I really know what’s non-YA either, to be honest. I don’t think I was ever a Young Adult in the marketing sense. I just read whatever seemed interesting]

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