In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."
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.
"He was going to kill you," I said, my chin quivering. "I had to do something."
Damn propriety. Forgive me, St. Clare.
I stepped forward and took him in my arms. He was exactly my height, which surprised me; my awe of him had made him seem taller. He emitted a whimper of protest, or maybe surprise, but wrapped his arms around me and buried his face in my hair, half weeping, half scolding me.
"Life is so short," I said, not sure why I was saying it, not even sure if that was really true for someone like me.
We were still standing there, clinging to each other, our feet ice-cold in the snow, when Orma landed on the next hilltop, followed closely by Basind. Kiggs lifted his head and stared at them, big-eyed. My heart fell.
I'd told him I had no devices. I'd lied right to the prince's face, and here was the proof: the dragon I'd called, and his dimwitted sidekick.
Excerpted from Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Copyright © 2012 by Rachel Hartman. Excerpted by permission of Random House Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
A New York Times Bestseller
An Indie Bestseller
An Amazon Top 20 Teen Book of the Year
A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
A Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Library Journal Best Young Adult Literature for Adults Selection
A Booklist Editors' Choice
An ABA Top 10 Kids' Indie Next List Selection
An ABC New Voices Pick
Nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction
Winner of the Cybil Award for Teen Fantasy and Science Fiction
A Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author
An ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book
An ALA-YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults Books
Winner of the William C. Morris YA Debut Award
A YALSA Teens Top Ten Nominee
Christopher Paolini, New York Times bestselling author of Eragon:
"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."
Naomi Novik, New York Times bestselling author of the Temeraire series:
"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."
Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author of the Beka Cooper 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!"
Alison Goodman, New York Times bestselling author of Eon and Eona:
"A wonderful mix of thrilling story, fascinating characters, and unique dragonlore. I loved being in Seraphina's world!"
Ellen Kushner, World Fantasy Award-winning author:
"Just when you thought there was nothing new to say about dragons, it turns out there is, and plenty! Rachel Hartman's rich invention never fails to impress--and to convince. It's smart and funny and original, and has characters I will follow to the ends of the earth."
The Washington Post, July 3, 2012:
“Full of grace and gravitas. Readers loath to turn the last page of this lush, intricately plotted fantasy will rejoice in the knowledge of next summer’s as-yet-untitled sequel.”
Entertainment Weekly.com, June 19, 2012:
"A novel that will appeal to both fans of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series and Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown."
io9.com, September 21, 2012:
"Seraphina makes dragons fascinating once again."
SheKnows.com, June 19, 2012:
"A beautifully-written fantasy debut about a young girl's journey to gain acceptance of herself."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2012:
“In Hartman’s splendid prose debut, humans and dragons—who can take human form but not human feeling—have lived in uneasy peace for 40 years.
The dragons could destroy the humans, but they are too fascinated by them. As musician Seraphina describes it, attempting to educate the princess, humans are like cockroaches to dragons, but interesting. As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, things fall apart: The crown prince has been murdered, anti-dragon sentiment is rising, and in the midst of it all, an awkward, gifted, observant girl unexpectedly becomes central to everything. Hartman has remixed her not-so-uncommon story and pseudo-Renaissance setting into something unexpected, in large part through Seraphina’s voice. By turns pedantic, lonely, scared, drily funny and fierce, Seraphina brings readers into her world and imparts details from the vast (a religion of saints, one of whom is heretical) to the minute (her music, in beautifully rendered detail). The wealth of detail never overwhelms, relayed as it is amid Seraphina’s personal journey; half-human and half-dragon, she is anathema to all and lives in fear. But her growing friendship with the princess and the princess’ betrothed, plus her unusual understanding of both humans and dragons, all lead to a poignant and powerful acceptance of herself.
Dragon books are common enough, but this one is head and talons above the rest."
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 6, 2012:
"In this complex, intrigue-laden fantasy, which establishes Hartman as an exciting new talent, readers are introduced to a world in which dragons and humans coexist in an uneasy truce, with dragons taking human form, dwelling among their former enemies, and abiding by a strict set of protocols. Sixteen-year-old Seraphina, assistant to the court composer, hides a secret that could have her ostracized or even killed: she’s half-dragon, against all rules and social codes. Along with the distinctive scales she keeps hidden, she has a mind filled with misshapen personalities whose nature she doesn’t quite grasp. As Seraphina navigates the complicated politics of a court where human-dragon relations are growing ever more fragile following a royal murder, she has to come to terms with her true nature and powers, the long-dormant memories her mother hid within her, and her growing affection for charming prince Lucian. There’s a lot to enjoy in Hartman’s debut, from the admirably resourceful heroine and intriguing spin on dragons to the intricately described medievalesque setting and emphasis on music and family."
Starred Review, Shelf Awareness, July 13, 2012:
"Rachel Hartman's captivating debut novel explores the pains 16-year-old Seraphina suffers as an outsider as well as the rewards of excelling in something she loves.
In medieval Lavondaville, an uneasy truce exists between dragons and humans. Narrator Seraphina is the product of a dragon mother and a human father. Dragons can disguise themselves as humans, so everyone believes Seraphina to be entirely human. Only when Seraphina's mother died in childbirth did Seraphina's father learn her true nature. Her mother left Seraphina a gift of "mind-pearls," memories triggered by specific events, and also her talent for music. Dragons are known for their technical skill, and that, together with the empathy Seraphina gained from her human father, makes her one of the finest musicians in the land. She has won a coveted position assisting the court composer.
After the death of Prince Rufus, in a manner suspiciously like a dragon's preferred means (decapitation), tensions run high between humans and dragons. Seraphina's position at court exposes her to aspects of both dragon and human societies. When she decides to trust Prince Lucian with her suspicions about Prince Rufus's killer, they embark on a journey that tests her loyalties and strength, and also awakens Seraphina's feelings for him.
In this first of two planned books, Hartman creates a world simultaneously strange and familiar. Her dragons are as magnetic as her human characters. Teens will readily identify with Seraphina's conflicting desires: to please her family or to make her own future."
Starred Review, Booklist, May 15, 2012:
"Hartman proves dragons are still fascinating in this impressive high fantasy. Equal parts political thriller, murder mystery, bittersweet romance, and coming-of-age story, this is an uncommonly good fantasy... An exciting new series to watch."
Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine, July/August 2012:
“To the innovative concept and high action, add Seraphina’s tentative romance with Kiggs, rich language lively with humor and sprinkled with an entire psaltery of saints and an orchestra’s worth of medieval instruments, and a political conspiracy aimed at breaking the dragon-human truce, and what you have is an outstanding debut from author-to-watch Hartman.”
Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2012:
"The medieval-esque world, filled with saints and dragons, is as deftly crafted as the characters themselves; Goredd has a distinct history, fraught with struggle and survival, and its residents reflect the conflicting ideologies and traditions that inform their world. Seraphina’s voice--passionate, wry, and wise--easily conveys her internal battle as a half-breed: the nonchalance of her self-loathing makes her struggle for identity even more heartbreaking. Secondary characters are given just as much nuance, and the romance between Seraphina and a bastard prince proceeds with believable hesitation and wariness, given the complications it will bring to both their lives... Readers will want to plan to return to this richly developed world to see where this intricate fantasy goes next."
Starred Review, Voice of Youth Advocates:
"Reading this novel is like falling into Alice's rabbit hole and never wanting to come out. Fans of fantasy will devour this book, and with a little pushing, this novel could appeal to just about anyone who appreciates a fantastic read."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, August 1, 2012:
“Hartman creates a rich story layered with intriguing characters and descriptive settings. This unique novel will surely appeal to fans of Christopher Paolini's "Eragon" books and wherever readers enjoy fantasies.”
“[Hartman's] world-building is so detailed and well-integrated, one wonders if they truly exist somewhere. An engaging and innovative fantasy that uses the plights of dragons and humans as an allegory for the real prejudices we all must face.”
FINALIST 2012 Kid's Indie Next List "Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers"
WINNER 2012 Amazon Best of the Year
FINALIST 2012 Cybils
WINNER 2012 Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC) New Voices Selection
WINNER 2013 William C. Morris YA Debut Award
WINNER ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER Young Adult Services Division, School Library Journal Author Award
NOMINEE Florida Sunshine State Book Award
NOMINEE ALA Best Books for Young Adults Top 10