Two months ago, I compiled a list of my favorite books featuring dragons. There we only two books on the list that I hadn’t read myself, and both are books I’ve been meaning to read for a while now. A conversation with a friend Seraphina by Rachel Hartman that same week convinced me to check my local library for a copy. The audiobook was available without a wait, so I immediately downloaded the files and found some laundry to fold.
My ideal blend of originality and comfort is difficult to pinpoint, especially in a fantasy novel. If the story’s components (or names) are too strange, it can be hard to get into. If things are completely expected, however, I’m bored. Seraphina walked that line perfectly for me. Familiar elements include the setting (vaguely medieval), the main character (young woman of some talent and beauty who has a secret to hide), and the love interest. Just because I knew who she was going to fall for the minute we met him does not mean I didn’t enjoy it! The sort of nondescript setting and familiar characters provided a perfect backdrop for some really interesting ideas. I loved the juxtaposition of the relatively expected setting with the dragons’ society and customs and Seraphina’s meticulously imagined mind garden.
The story is, ultimately, about dragons, so I don’t know if I’d recommed it to my friends that never read fantasy novels. The story itself is so lyrical and lovely, however, that I would definitely hand it to anyone on the fence. Seraphina feels much more like The Night Circus than something like The Way of Kings.
Two caveats: First, I listened to the book, so I had no idea how any of the names of people or places were spelled. Since then, I’ve discovered that some of the names are weirder than I thought. Maybe it’s a good thing I ended up with the audio version! Second, I listened to the sequel, Shadow Scale, almost immediately after finishing Seraphina. It was good but not great. If you love Seraphina, I would definitely suggest the sequel, but I can only see myself rereading the first.