When discussing a young adult book to anyone, comparisons always come up. Is the book like Harry Potter or Twilight? These are unfair comparisons, as many of these books have nothing to do with these two genres. Seraphina, the first novel by Rachel Hartman, is a good book. While far from perfect, it proves that young adult books about girls don’t have to be Twilight.
Seraphina focuses on a girl named….well Seraphina. She lives in the medieval times, except that dragons live amongst everyone. They take human form, but don’t have human emotions. They are highly logical, and love mathematics. The concept is good, if a little clunky. There are many rules that have to be spelled out before the book can find it’s footing, which makes the first few chapters confusing. Many battles, places, and weird names are brought in without any explanation to what they are. I’m glad Hatman doesn’t pull punches and makes the reader catch up. Instead, she makes them go to the glossary in the back of the book to understand. The one thing that could have been changed is the setting. The book names many places that sound medieval, but the setting is never used well. If it hadn’t been stated at the beginning, I’m not sure I would have known it takes any another time but the present. If more books are going to be made in this setting, it should be used to full advantage.
Seraphina is an interesting character, but Harman needs to work on the writing of her. In the beginning of the story, she is a girl who wants to stay out of sight, since no one will understand her. Having her feel this way seems lazy, as its how every other female lead feels in a young adult book. Having her feel this way right off the bat makes it hard to get into the book. The reader has no clue why Seraphina is antisocial, with the “no one will understand me” reason being infuriating. It’s one of those teenage things that have been ruined in todays pop culture. It needs to be left a lone for a while. There is a sub plot about Seraphina being part dragon, but Hartman shows her hand rather fast. The reader can tell she is part dragon from the onset, making the revelation feel hollow.
What works in Seraphina‘s favor is forgetting a lot of these parts and focusing more on the conflict of dragons vs humans. The book is a superficial argument about what makes humans humans and fitting in, but it’s interesting with the characters at hand. Much like any good book, it’s hard to put it down once the plot ramps up. Seraphina becomes more interesting as she deals with these huge changes in her life. While the antisocial beginning was annoying, it’s good for establishing how far she comes by the end of the book. For all of those wondering if this teen girl has to go through the love triangle, she only slightly does. Think of The Hunger Games; the love sub-plot is there, but it’s not the main focus.
A sequel to the book has already been announced, and there are a few things that should change before that book comes out. While Seraphina finds out about her mother’s past by looking into dreams, it’s very confusing for the reader. It feels as if these avatars were introduced somewhere else, and we should know about them already. I have never liked this tactic in books, and Seraphina hasn’t changed that. I hate to compare anything to Harry Potter, but Seraphina should take one thing out of the former’s book (no pun intended). Dropping a lot of things on the readers lap and having them catch up isn’t a bad thing, as it make them an involved reader. They want to understand what is going on more. But it needs to be doled out in moderation. Dropping too much at once will make the reader want to give up and go home. Much like any new assignment in school, it’s hard in the beginning, because you don’t understand much. But as the teacher goes on and describes it step by step, the students a hold of what is going on.
Seraphina is a good book, even with its faults. Fans of Harry Potter looking to replace the fantasy book itch might want to check it out.
Seraphina gets 3.5/5.