I didn’t read any reviews of Rachel Hartman’s delightful fantasy novel, Seraphina, before settling in to enjoy. The little I knew already felt like more than I should. A secret carried by the title character is revealed to the reader fairly early on and, I think, to be suspected well before that; still, even if a good story is often less about the What than about the How and the Why and the consequences of the What, it’s best to let the story unfold on its own terms.
Avoiding chatter about Seraphina was hard because Hartman’s novel is clearly what they call in the book trade a triumphant debut. (That ain’t technical jargon, obviously, just the sort of thing you see in blurbs. Like so: “A triumphant debut!” — Brian Saner Lamken, Blam’s Blog.) Moreover, although I don’t know her well, Rachel was part of my social circles both in person and online some 10-15 years ago when she was crafting the minicomic Amy Unbounded, which is where a precious few readers first encountered the land of Goredd.
Goredd exists in a world where dragons who can assume human form coexist warily with humans themselves. Seraphina is a young woman gifted with sublime musical talent who assists the court composer at the palace of the royal family in Goredd’s capital city. Withdrawn yet strong-willed, the caretaker of a mysterious cast of characters inside the garden of her own mind, Seraphina is thrust into a plot that threatens to undermine the peace between Goredd and the dragons’ country of Tanamoot.
That’s all you’ll find me giving away here. And it doesn’t hardly begin to suggest the nuanced, page-turning action, intrigue, and romance that awaits at the author’s deft hand. Whether you’re absolutely omnivorous when it comes to fantasy literature or inclined to sample it only on rare occasion, Seraphina is heartily recommended.
You can order the book through Rachel’s website. Those interested in some background can read a short prequel in PDF courtesy of Random House [new link to Scribd] and musings on Hartman’s road to realizing Seraphina.
Related: Braids of Glory • We Got a Live One Here • Forest Gumption