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SeraphinaSeraphina by Rachel Hartman

A rich, absorbing fantasy world. The whole experience reminded me of Robin McKinley‘s work – a bit of a slow build, with plenty of character development and a fantastic setting, self-deprecating humor, and some action that is essential to the story but not really the point. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, plot-driven novel, look elsewhere. If you want complex but lovable characters and a world that feels familiar yet alien, dig in.

Dragons alone won’t sell me on a book, but I love what Hartman has done with them here. She uses them both for the thrill of their fantastical qualities, as well as to explore an extreme concept of “other.” These aren’t just another culture, another race, or another belief system (although they’re all of that, too) – dragons are another species entirely.

In Hartman’s world, they’re capable of taking human form, which in turn seems to let them experience human emotion. This, of course, is forbidden – dragons are meant to be rational, scientific creatures and emotions like love are thought of as particularly dangerous. The story deals with the aftermath of a relationship between a human and a dragon, and with the way Seraphina must naviate the world as someone who should not exist.

With so many YA books recently featuring instant attraction romances, I enjoyed the slower burn here, as well as the way she (doesn’t) wrap things up. I loved many of the side characters – Orma, the princess, all of the creatures in Seraphina’s mind. They all felt real and tangible, the kind of characters who could hold up their own novel if positions were switched.

Things are wrapped up at the end, but the door is left open for sequels – best of both worlds!

Source: ARC from NetGalley.
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June 2012

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