Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered - in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one listeners will remember long after the narrative ends.
©2012 Rachel Hartman (P)2012 Listening Library
"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." (Christopher Paolini, New York Times best-selling author of Eragon)
"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." (Naomi Novik, New York Times best-selling author of the Temeraire 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!" (Tamora Pierce, New York Times best-selling author of the Beka Cooper series)
I was a skeptic of audible books, but I've been won over! I listen to my books everywhere, even while cooking. Audible is a perfect escape!
After first few chapters into this book, I was unsure whether to proceed to the end. It was slow, with very little description of the world in which the heroine lives. It didn't help either that the narrator's voice seemed so bland. However, I am glad that I decided to stick with it!! I soon learnt the reasons for the narrator's often seemingly bland, slow voice - there are numerous characters (dragons in human forms and, beings half human and half dragon) who by their nature, we are made to understand, neither understand, possess nor express human emotions in the way humans do - hence the bland tone attributed to their conversation. With regard to the humans voices, the narrator picks up quite well on the appropriate tone and speed. She narrates in such a way as to help readers distinguish between our heroine's mother's memories, passed onto and beheld by our heroine, and the heroine's own thoughts and speech.
The story does seem to start to come together and get more intricate and gripping midway through the book and really builds up from there; and the sci-fi reader begins to truly appreciate the book in its last 10 or so chapters . This said, I can totally appreciate why other readers have posited the book as one written with confusion or disorganisation, and therefore hard to follow.
Most sci-fi readers look to be transported and escape to a different world when reading a sci-fi book; and this relies on the author delivering an enargia, enabling the reader to mentally visualise and emotionally connect to the world and the characters. I do not think Hartman achieved this convincingly in this book. I do however think that for her first book, 'Seraphina' is enjoyable and shows a promising potential in Rachel Hartman as a sci-fi author.
I think I would have enjoyed this a great deal more if the narrator had more dramatic range in her voice. Each sentence seemed to end on a (literal) upbeat - spoiling dramatic tension. I hate to criticise but the girlish breathiness just didn't do the story justice. The dragon conceit was interesting and world-building probably better than average.....but Seraphina's voice needs an impassioned dramatic resonance. Let's it down, sorry to say.
Dithered about spending a credit on this as I wasn't captured by the audio snippet on preview. Very glad I picked it up-- it's a really superior fantasy novel. Not so much in the plot, which will be familiar verging on the retread to fans of Robin Hobb or Anne McAffrey; it's more in the writing, which is much better than you usually find in this sort of story. Literary prose meets genre plot, with a great sense of place, an interesting 'world', and an appealing protagonist, makes for a very pleasant listen. The reader seemed a little dull at first but she grew on me, a bit like the book! Recommended.
A fascinating story of dragons interacting with people. Some beautiful writing and beautifully read.
Wasn't at all sure about this book, but found myself listening late into the night as the story unfolded
"Completely Inspiring Fantasy"
My initial reaction to this novel (a week or so after I finished listening to it) is to reflect on my connection with Seraphina. A girl with an amazing talent who actively seeks to hide her talent in order to not draw attention to herself because of a difference that could get her killed. I am surprised that in a world so fantastical it requires a great deal of careful sculpting and building that my first thoughts are of this character. Seraphina's struggle helps ground the world. Seraphina, at the beginning of the novel, has defined and viewed herself based off of an identity that she didn't choose but was born with. She is caught between two races with each not even wanting to acknowledge her existence. She has grown up with shame and without a true connection with anyone just because she is alive. In our world people often treated differently based on factors they were born with --- I'm sure I don't need to tell you--- the reality of these situations just really hit me on an emotional level.
The world building: the religion, languages, differences between cultures--are very well done. I thought it was beautifully written and well thought out.
I don't want to comment too much on the romance--but it is a slow build and felt natural. I--I read another review that said she could not remember was Lucian looked like...and neither can I. Their relationship is built on similarities and understanding--and not without it's issues---really refreshing.
And intrigue--can this fragile balance between the dragons and the humans be sustained? Who is plotting the downfall of the peace and why? Can Seraphina help the Prince with his investigations without giving up her secret?
If you like fantasy---I can't imagine a reason why you wouldn't enjoy this read.
The best and I have listened to a ton of audiobooks!
When Seraphina confronted her grandfather and told him that she was his grandaughter
The narrator was awesome! Perfect for this book! I am forty years old and this book had me crying in places. Truly a beautiful wonderous Fairy Tale!
"It is a better read than a listen."
I began listening to this book and I must say that I like the story very much: the mythology, the backstories, the characters, the emotions- Rachel Hartman is an excellent storyteller, hence the 4 stars. However, for me, this is not a book one just LISTENS to. I found myself having to rewind the book a couple times because I did not understand something, but I decided to give up and carry on with listening to it. I am a college student and often like listening to something while taking the bus to and from school, but this just did not do it for me.
For me, this is a book that must be read and if it is to be narrated, the narrators must do it justice and for me the narrators did not. So a word of advice- buy the book itself because it is a great investment, the audiobook is not.
"Character development was missing."
Instead I got physical descriptions of characters and general world building - describing the history of dragons and humans together - their past and current conflicts. Then there are several scenes where Seraphina goes unconscious while she receives dreamlike information. I could not stay interested. My mind kept wandering. I had to repeat several paragraphs. I read a fourth of the book and stopped.
Immediately after this book, I needed a character development fix. So I went with John Grisham’s book “A Painted House.” Wow, what a difference. He’s the king of character development. I read Grisham when I start to forget what good writing is like. (My definition of good writing - not everyone agrees with me.)
I liked the Seraphina setting and world building concepts. I just didn’t like the way it was filled in.
Mandy Williams and Justine Eyre were very good.
Narrative mode: 1st person Seraphina.
Genre: YA fantasy.
"Pleasantly surprised. Story has everything in it"
This story has everything: Political intrigue, mystery, internal conflict, music, prejudices, humour, romance and Dragons. What more could you want?
I was hesitant by the premise. Forty year peace with Dragons, who can take human form, is threatened and two societies come close to war. Female protagonist has a secret that if revealed would bring prejudices against her and has a romance interest. Sounds typical.
However, every aspect of this book had an interesting twist or take. The Dragons are rational & logical creatures with a truly unique culture adding a higher degree of difference than just colour of their skin. I liked how they analyzed emotions and art, sometimes trying to explain or imitate it.
Politics and intrigue kept me guessing while explained enough that I thought I knew what was going on. .
The protagonist is a strong female with trying to fit in with secrets and internal struggles with identity. The way she handles situations is believable and understandable. Handles her romance in a well thought out manner and not just 'blind with love.'
Several times I thought the book was going toward cliches or common trope, especially with the romance but went a different route. Pacing between politics, romance, internal conflict, and back was handled well.
The ending is fulfilling with room for sequels. I won't hesitate to pick up the next one.
Narrators did an excellent job.
"Shape changing dragons, oh my!"
Most definitely. Hartman has a complete world here. The history and culture are complete, not created as she goes along. The characters are engaging, the relationships complex and real. I like the steam punk feel. I look forward to spending time with these characters, again.
I think I liked Seraphina's relationship with her uncle, Orma, the most.
I have not, but I did enjoy this one.
Not exactly. I didn't want to rush through so that it was over too quickly. But it was hard to stop.
"Deep and moving"
deep and emotionally moving.
well, I certainly enjoyed the musical parts.
I'd have to say where she digs her own scales trying to get them off.
It was wonderful for me to have the main character be a gifted Psalmist!
This book is deep and mature. Exquisite writing. In fact, some of the best recent fantasy writing I've encountered. The author's voice reminds me of Gail Carson Levine.
Wisely, the author assumes you will catch on to her world and doesn't bother trying to explain everything. You just gradually catch on.
It was very interesting for me that at the beginning, the church music that made Seraphina overflow with joy she described as "masculine". I think that is what good church music is -- masculine in a way that is healing and transforming.
Having said that, I find this book to be very feminine. There were some good action sequences, but much of the book, seen through the eyes of Seraphina, deals with the type of negotiations and intense murder attempts found in Royal courts.
The romantic parts of this book were extremely well done and did not degrade into becoming overly bawdy.
The gut wrenching painful things Seraphina feels (both emotionally and physically) from not wanting to have Dragon blood in her veins were very moving. It was something we could all relate to and having parts of ourselves that we wish we could get rid of. But then, God ends up using those parts in our lives.
Overall, as a guy, this book increased my sensitivity to many female issues. I tried to figure out the worldview of the author, but I honestly say that having gotten to the end of the book, that still remains a mystery. Which is a good thing.
Intriguing enough to read twice.
"Now this a book about being different"
This is a really good story. I enjoy the whole package - the characters are believable and enjoyable. It is a pity it's hidden in the young reader section! This is about being different and then coming to see that you are not the only one and that your differences isn't the most extreme in world nor does it define you but it does change how you are. But this isn't a moral story it's a actual story - enjoy read. My only question is where are more books by Rachel Hartman?
"Dragons and Music!"
Seraphina's troubles are unique to her...or are they? Seraphina finds that she is not alone in her challenges and struggles and forms a very different but special sort of family - both out of new friends and out of her strange really family. But though Seraphina's (and her friends) troubles may be unique to their world - her difficult road to accepting herself is something that will resonate with listeners of all ages.
At first glance, I must admit that this book didn’t jump out at me. A pretty cover and a unique premise just weren’t enough. Add in the lengthy list of awards that were racked up – 2013 William C. Morris YA Debut Award, Cybil Award for Teen Fantasy and Science Fiction, Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of the Year – just to name a few. You’d think I would be ready to tear into this one – but it still wasn’t enough to pique my interest.
Until I was in the mood for DRAGONS. I wanted a good dragon story and, boy, did I get what I wanted.
Seraphina starts out rather slow and I did feel a little like I’d been thrown into the deep-end without any proper explanation of what was what or who was who, but this is just one of those books that immerses you into its world within 50 pages and then you forget how or where it even began. The writing is absolutely stunning – rich descriptions of music and dragons – with politics, philosophy, and religion thrown into the mix to make the reader think.
Questions that I thought to myself while reading this book: What does it feel like to feel? What do I feel like when I’m sad? What about when I’m happy? Could I choose between my family and the one I love? How do people bring peace to times of war? Could (or rather, would) I be willing to put peace and my country in a place of higher priority than my own heart?
This series has the potential to be multiple books – and I would gladly read them all! And there is a sequel, Shadow Scale, but the release date is set for MARCH 2015 (insert sobbing here).
Overall, a magnificent debut that I can’t believe I didn’t read sooner. And the narrator - oh my goodness - she was absolutely wonderful with her accents and her pacing. Loved it.
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