Seraphina

Overview

Lyrical, imaginative, and wholly original, this New York Times bestseller with 8 starred reviews is not to be missed.  Rachel Hartman?s award-winning debut will have you looking at dragons as you?ve never imagined them before?
 
In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons and humans live and work side by side ? while below the surface, tensions and hostility simmer.

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Seraphina

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Overview

Lyrical, imaginative, and wholly original, this New York Times bestseller with 8 starred reviews is not to be missed.  Rachel Hartman’s award-winning debut will have you looking at dragons as you’ve never imagined them before…
 
In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons and humans live and work side by side – while below the surface, tensions and hostility simmer.

The newest member of the royal court, a uniquely gifted musician named Seraphina, holds a deep secret of her own. One that she guards with all of her being.

When a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive—and dashing—Prince Lucien. But as the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina’s struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult… while its discovery could mean her very life.
 
"Will appeal to both fans of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series and Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown." —Entertainment Weekly

“[A] lush, intricately plotted fantasy.” —The Washington Post

"Beautifully written. Some of the most interesting dragons I've read."
—Christopher Paolini, New York Times bestselling author of Eragon

Winner of the 2013 William C. Morris YA Debut Award
A 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Fiction Honor Winner

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

This promising teen fiction debut plucks its youthful title character heroine down into the mythical medieval court of Goredd. All is not well in the kingdom: A member of the royal family has been recently murdered and after a forty year peace, tensions between humans and dragons are once again escalating. As a lowly musician, Seraphina would seem to have little connection with these troubles, but a secret that she must hold close could endanger her life and shake the kingdom. One early reader praised Seraphina as "a book worth hoarding, as glittering and silver-bright as dragon scales, with a heroine who insists on carving herself a place in your mind." A young fantasy author to watch.

The Washington Post
Full of grace and gravitas, Seraphina's first-person voice is a welcome change from today's snark-infested YA novels…[a] lush, intricately plotted fantasy…
—Mary Quattlebaum
Publishers Weekly
In this complex, intrigue-laden fantasy, which establishes Hartman as an exciting new talent, readers are introduced to a world in which dragons and humans coexist in an uneasy truce, with dragons taking human form, dwelling among their former enemies, and abiding by a strict set of protocols. Sixteen-year-old Seraphina, assistant to the court composer, hides a secret that could have her ostracized or even killed: she’s half-dragon, against all rules and social codes. Along with the distinctive scales she keeps hidden, she has a mind filled with misshapen personalities whose nature she doesn’t quite grasp. As Seraphina navigates the complicated politics of a court where human-dragon relations are growing ever more fragile following a royal murder, she has to come to terms with her true nature and powers, the long-dormant memories her mother hid within her, and her growing affection for charming prince Lucian. There’s a lot to enjoy in Hartman’s debut, from the admirably resourceful heroine and intriguing spin on dragons to the intricately described medievalesque setting and emphasis on music and family. Ages 12–up. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (July)
From the Publisher
A New York Times Bestseller

An Indie Bestseller

An Amazon Top 20 Teen Book of the Year

A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book

A Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of the Year

A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

A Library Journal Best Young Adult Literature for Adults Selection

A Booklist Editors' Choice

An ABA Top 10 Kids' Indie Next List Selection

An ABC New Voices Pick

Nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction

Winner of the Cybil Award for Teen Fantasy and Science Fiction

A Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author

An ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book

An ALA-YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults Books

Winner of the William C. Morris YA Debut Award

A YALSA Teens Top Ten Nominee

Christopher Paolini, New York Times bestselling author of Eragon:
"Beautifully written, well-rounded characters, and some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy for a long while. An impressive debut novel; I can't wait to see what Rachel Hartman writes next."

Naomi Novik, New York Times bestselling author of the Temeraire series:
"A book worth hoarding, as glittering and silver-bright as dragon scales, with a heroine who insists on carving herself a place in your mind."

Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author of the Beka Cooper series:
"Seraphina is strong, complex, talented—she makes mistakes and struggles to trust, with good reason, and she fights to survive in a world that would tear her apart. I love this book!"

Alison Goodman, New York Times bestselling author of Eon and Eona:
"A wonderful mix of thrilling story, fascinating characters, and unique dragonlore. I loved being in Seraphina's world!"

Ellen Kushner, World Fantasy Award-winning author:
"Just when you thought there was nothing new to say about dragons, it turns out there is, and plenty! Rachel Hartman's rich invention never fails to impress—and to convince. It's smart and funny and original, and has characters I will follow to the ends of the earth."

The Washington Post, July 3, 2012:
“Full of grace and gravitas. Readers loath to turn the last page of this lush, intricately plotted fantasy will rejoice in the knowledge of next summer’s as-yet-untitled sequel.”

Entertainment Weekly.com, June 19, 2012:
"A novel that will appeal to both fans of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series and Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown."

io9.com, September 21, 2012:

"Seraphina makes dragons fascinating once again."

SheKnows.com, June 19, 2012:
"A beautifully-written fantasy debut about a young girl's journey to gain acceptance of herself."

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2012:

“In Hartman’s splendid prose debut, humans and dragons—who can take human form but not human feeling—have lived in uneasy peace for 40 years.

The dragons could destroy the humans, but they are too fascinated by them. As musician Seraphina describes it, attempting to educate the princess, humans are like cockroaches to dragons, but interesting. As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, things fall apart: The crown prince has been murdered, anti-dragon sentiment is rising, and in the midst of it all, an awkward, gifted, observant girl unexpectedly becomes central to everything. Hartman has remixed her not-so-uncommon story and pseudo-Renaissance setting into something unexpected, in large part through Seraphina’s voice. By turns pedantic, lonely, scared, drily funny and fierce, Seraphina brings readers into her world and imparts details from the vast (a religion of saints, one of whom is heretical) to the minute (her music, in beautifully rendered detail). The wealth of detail never overwhelms, relayed as it is amid Seraphina’s personal journey; half-human and half-dragon, she is anathema to all and lives in fear. But her growing friendship with the princess and the princess’ betrothed, plus her unusual understanding of both humans and dragons, all lead to a poignant and powerful acceptance of herself.

Dragon books are common enough, but this one is head and talons above the rest."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 6, 2012:
"In this complex, intrigue-laden fantasy, which establishes Hartman as an exciting new talent, readers are introduced to a world in which dragons and humans coexist in an uneasy truce, with dragons taking human form, dwelling among their former enemies, and abiding by a strict set of protocols. Sixteen-year-old Seraphina, assistant to the court composer, hides a secret that could have her ostracized or even killed: she’s half-dragon, against all rules and social codes. Along with the distinctive scales she keeps hidden, she has a mind filled with misshapen personalities whose nature she doesn’t quite grasp. As Seraphina navigates the complicated politics of a court where human-dragon relations are growing ever more fragile following a royal murder, she has to come to terms with her true nature and powers, the long-dormant memories her mother hid within her, and her growing affection for charming prince Lucian. There’s a lot to enjoy in Hartman’s debut, from the admirably resourceful heroine and intriguing spin on dragons to the intricately described medievalesque setting and emphasis on music and family."

Starred Review, Shelf Awareness, July 13, 2012:
"Rachel Hartman's captivating debut novel explores the pains 16-year-old Seraphina suffers as an outsider as well as the rewards of excelling in something she loves.

In medieval Lavondaville, an uneasy truce exists between dragons and humans. Narrator Seraphina is the product of a dragon mother and a human father. Dragons can disguise themselves as humans, so everyone believes Seraphina to be entirely human. Only when Seraphina's mother died in childbirth did Seraphina's father learn her true nature. Her mother left Seraphina a gift of "mind-pearls," memories triggered by specific events, and also her talent for music. Dragons are known for their technical skill, and that, together with the empathy Seraphina gained from her human father, makes her one of the finest musicians in the land. She has won a coveted position assisting the court composer.

After the death of Prince Rufus, in a manner suspiciously like a dragon's preferred means (decapitation), tensions run high between humans and dragons. Seraphina's position at court exposes her to aspects of both dragon and human societies. When she decides to trust Prince Lucian with her suspicions about Prince Rufus's killer, they embark on a journey that tests her loyalties and strength, and also awakens Seraphina's feelings for him.

In this first of two planned books, Hartman creates a world simultaneously strange and familiar. Her dragons are as magnetic as her human characters. Teens will readily identify with Seraphina's conflicting desires: to please her family or to make her own future."

Starred Review, Booklist, May 15, 2012:

"Hartman proves dragons are still fascinating in this impressive high fantasy. Equal parts political thriller, murder mystery, bittersweet romance, and coming-of-age story, this is an uncommonly good fantasy... An exciting new series to watch."

Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine, July/August 2012:
“To the innovative concept and high action, add Seraphina’s tentative romance with Kiggs, rich language lively with humor and sprinkled with an entire psaltery of saints and an orchestra’s worth of medieval instruments, and a political conspiracy aimed at breaking the dragon-human truce, and what you have is an outstanding debut from author-to-watch Hartman.”

Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2012:
"The medieval-esque world, filled with saints and dragons, is as deftly crafted as the characters themselves; Goredd has a distinct history, fraught with struggle and survival, and its residents reflect the conflicting ideologies and traditions that inform their world. Seraphina’s voice—passionate, wry, and wise—easily conveys her internal battle as a half-breed: the nonchalance of her self-loathing makes her struggle for identity even more heartbreaking. Secondary characters are given just as much nuance, and the romance between Seraphina and a bastard prince proceeds with believable hesitation and wariness, given the complications it will bring to both their lives... Readers will want to plan to return to this richly developed world to see where this intricate fantasy goes next."

Starred Review, Voice of Youth Advocates:
"Reading this novel is like falling into Alice's rabbit hole and never wanting to come out. Fans of fantasy will devour this book, and with a little pushing, this novel could appeal to just about anyone who appreciates a fantastic read."

Starred Review, School Library Journal, August 1, 2012:
“Hartman creates a rich story layered with intriguing characters and descriptive settings. This unique novel will surely appeal to fans of Christopher Paolini's "Eragon" books and wherever readers enjoy fantasies.”

Bookpage
“[Hartman's] world-building is so detailed and well-integrated, one wonders if they truly exist somewhere. An engaging and innovative fantasy that uses the plights of dragons and humans as an allegory for the real prejudices we all must face.”

Children's Literature - Annie Laura Smith
Humans and dragons mistrust each other and remain adversaries in the kingdom of Goredd in spite of decades of peace. This fantasy introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini observed, "...some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy...." The dragons in this story assume human shapes, and share their mathematical wisdom as scholars and teachers. Sixteen-year-old Seraphina Dombegh, a gifted musician in the royal court, is caught in the middle of these tensions, and in the subsequent murder of the Queen's only son, Crown Prince Rufus, by decapitation (dragons' preferred method of killing). Seraphina is the daughter of a dragon mother and a human father, but is assumed by others to be entirely human. She forms an alliance with Prince Lucian Kiggs, the captain of the Queen's Guard. They try to uncover who is trying to destroy the peace in the kingdom. Can Seraphina herself continue to hide the source of musical talent she inherited from her dragon mother, and survive the unrest in the kingdom? Rachel Hartman creates a complex, original world that will intrigue readers of both fantasy and science fiction. Young readers will identify with Seraphina's dilemma of trying to please her father and chart her own future at the same time. A Cast of Characters in the back of the book identifies the participants at various locations throughout the story. A Glossary defines terms and locations of this fantasy world.
VOYA - Lindsay Grattan
In the kingdom of Goredd, tensions exist between humans and dragons, even though it has been forty years since a peace treaty was signed. Sixteen-year-old Seraphina Dombegh holds the esteemed position of assistant to the court composer due to her exceptional musical gift. While preparing for the celebration of the treaty's fortieth anniversary, she is drawn into the rising tensions that are all the more difficult for her because she is half-dragon, a secret she is ashamed of and could prove fatal if revealed. She often has visions of strange, deformed creatures that seem to be tied to her past. To control her visions, she has built a garden in her mind where she treats her visions like people, maintaining them and keeping them content. Seraphina offers a unique take on dragon lore. The dragons in the kingdom of Goredd are intelligent, mathematically inclined creatures that can easily take on human form, only distinguishable by a silver bell pinned to their shoulders. Being a half-breed, Seraphina is an interesting mix of human and dragon; she struggles to reconcile the two while living in a divided kingdom. The line between reality and illusion is a thin one and often crossed, making Seraphina's world all the more intriguing. Reading this novel is like falling into Alice's rabbit hole and never wanting to come out. Fans of fantasy will devour this book, and with a little pushing, this novel could appeal to just about anyone who appreciates a fantastic read. Reviewer: Lindsay Grattan
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—For nearly 40 years, the treaty between the humans of Goredd and the dragons of dragonkind has held strong. Humans must not enter dragonkind territory and dragons, upon entering human lands, must take their human shape, or saarantrai. In Goredd, Seraphina's human father, a high offical, needs her to stay anonymous. The dark secret that she must hide is that her mother was a dragon. Because of her musical talents, Seraphina becomes Goredd's music assistant, helping prepare for the anniversary celebration. Layers of clothing disguise the scales on her arms and stomach, but unlike dragons, her blood runs red, not silver. Also, to keep from having fainting spells in which she relives her deceased mother's experiences, Seraphina must clear her head each night. She calls the figures in her vision grotesques, and each night, she must ensure all is calm in her mind-garden. When the decapitated body of Prince Rufus is found just days before the anniversary festivities, many humans are quick to accuse a dragon of breaking the pact. Seraphina's grotesques begin acting strangely, and the whole court is investigating the murder. When the celebrations are in full swing, all hell breaks loose as the rogue dragon that killed the prince enters Goredd in his dragon form and attempts to take control. Seraphina must risk revealing her true identity (and that of her fellow hybrids) in an attempt to save the kingdom. Hartman creates a rich story layered with intriguing characters and descriptive settings. Seraphina is a complex and fully developed protagonist. Although long, this unique novel (left open for a sequel) will surely appeal to fans of Christopher Paolini's "Eragon" books (Knopf) and wherever readers enjoy fantasies.—Lauren Newman, Northern Burlington County Regional Middle School, East Columbus, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
In Hartman's splendid prose debut, humans and dragons--who can take human form but not human feeling--have lived in uneasy peace for 40 years. The dragons could destroy the humans, but they are too fascinated by them. As musician Seraphina describes it, attempting to educate the princess, humans are like cockroaches to dragons, but interesting. As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, things fall apart: The crown prince has been murdered, anti-dragon sentiment is rising, and in the midst of it all, an awkward, gifted, observant girl unexpectedly becomes central to everything. Hartman has remixed her not-so-uncommon story and pseudo-Renaissance setting into something unexpected, in large part through Seraphina's voice. By turns pedantic, lonely, scared, drily funny and fierce, Seraphina brings readers into her world and imparts details from the vast (a religion of saints, one of whom is heretical) to the minute (her music, in beautifully rendered detail). The wealth of detail never overwhelms, relayed as it is amid Seraphina's personal journey; half-human and half-dragon, she is anathema to all and lives in fear. But her growing friendship with the princess and the princess' betrothed, plus her unusual understanding of both humans and dragons, all lead to a poignant and powerful acceptance of herself. Dragon books are common enough, but this one is head and talons above the rest. (cast of characters, glossary) (Fantasy. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375866227
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 12/23/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 354,338
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 760L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Rachel Hartman

As a child, RACHEL HARTMAN played cello, lip-synched Mozart operas with her sisters, and fostered the deep love of music that inspired much of her award-winning debut novel, Seraphina. Born in Kentucky, Rachel has lived in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, England, and Japan. She now lives with her family in Vancouver, Canada.  A New York Times bestseller, Seraphina won the William C. Morris Award, received eight starred reviews and was named to multiple “best of” lists. To learn more, please visit SeraphinaBooks.com or RachelHartmanbooks.com.

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Read an Excerpt

"He was going to kill you," I said, my chin quivering.  "I had to do something."

Damn propriety.  Forgive me, St. Clare.  

I stepped forward and took him in my arms.  He was exactly my height, which surprised me; my awe of him had made him seem taller.  He emitted a whimper of protest, or maybe surprise, but wrapped his arms around me and buried his face in my hair, half weeping, half scolding me.

"Life is so short," I said, not sure why I was saying it, not even sure if that was really true for someone like me.

We were still standing there, clinging to each other, our feet ice-cold in the snow, when Orma landed on the next hilltop, followed closely by Basind.  Kiggs lifted his head and stared at them, big-eyed.  My heart fell.

I'd told him I had no devices.  I'd lied right to the prince's face, and here was the proof: the dragon I'd called, and his dimwitted sidekick.

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