Seraphina is a remarkable new addition to dragon fantasy for young adults. Seraphina Dombegh remembers her birth, precisely, and her mother’s death, at the same time.
As Seraphina grows up, she learns very little of her mother, who becomes more of a story than a person. Her father, an attorney specializing in the human treaty with the dragons, is always very protective. As Seraphina grows, she discovers that she has extraordinary talents, especially in music.
Finally, her father allows her to be tutored by her mother’s brother, Orma. As she matures, Seraphina realizes that she is so much more than she has ever imagined: she discovers that her mother was a dragon.
Eventually, Seraphina’s talents are recognized. She becomes the music assistant at the royal court and moves away from home. Here she befriends the princess and her handsome fiancé, Kiggs, whose uncle has been murdered.
Seraphina becomes involved with the investigation—dragons are suspected, but also a renegade human organization. Tensions build as they uncover a plot which will dissolve the peace between dragons and humans, and bring war to the peaceful kingdom.
Seraphina recognizes other beings that other people cannot see. They live within in her. In order to keep them from taking over her life, she places them in a “garden” within her mind and purposefully visits them each day. As the story progresses, she meets some of these beings in the real world.
In addition, Seraphina discovers that she has been given the gift of some of her mother’s memories—powerful recollections which provide vital information regarding the dragon side of her family and the painful decisions her mother made for love. Seraphina may just be the key to peace between dragons and humans.
Rachel Hartman’s brilliant prose weaves together many layers of Seraphina’s story. She explores themes of bigotry, self-discovery, relationships between different species, the ability to change oneself to fit in with others, the habit or necessity of lying and deceit, the importance of music, war and peace. Each idea streams from Seraphina’s own experiences, who she is inside, her family and her relationships with others.
The kingdom of Goredd is a marvelous setting, a bustling medieval city where the people are devoted to a myriad of saints and rituals. The setting enhances the story, provides places of intrigue in which key events take place.
Yet it is the characters and plot which drive Seraphina. A strong young woman, Seraphina does not always make the best choices or trust the right people. Her lies eventually catch up with her and cause terrible difficulties in her relationships. Still, through every step in the adventure, Seraphina always tries to make the right, if difficult, choices with a goal of peace, but which concludes with war.