Seraphina by Rachel Hartman


Hartman, Rachel.  Seraphina.  Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012.  $17.99, 512 pages.

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Reader’s Annotation:  Caught between a world of humans and dragons on the brink of war, Seraphina’s secret may be the key to saving the kingdom.


Sixteen year old Seraphina finds herself as the newest assistant to the royal court’s music composer and thrust into the confusing and foreign ways of city life and court drama.  Student of the dragon Orma, Seraphina is gifted with musical talent.  However, she can never reveal her talents because of the chance of being noticed.  Seraphina has a dangerous secret that she must keep in order to protect herself and those that she loves.  A death in the royal family sets off a series of events that unexpectedly puts Seraphina in the spotlight and in the middle of a political intrigue with dragons, humans, and assassination attempts.  All the while, Seraphina must come to terms with what her secret means about who she is, and how it might help her save life as she knows it.


For lovers of fantasy and the coming of age themes, Seraphina is a wonderful blend of both genres.  Seraphina’s character is mysterious and believable as a teen with a secret.  The struggles she goes through, while fantastical, can be related to many a teen who has also struggled to come to terms with who they are and how their differences may set them apart from others.  The added component of a love interest, and the suspense of the political intrigue would also appeal to teen readers.  An interesting element is the construction of family.  Between Seraphina’s mentor dragon uncle, aloof human father, missing/dead mother, and evil dragon grandfather, it is unconventional those who constitute her family and their influence on who she is and who she becomes.  The writing style is complex and detailed, lower level readers may struggle with some of the language and syntax.  There are some higher level vocabulary words and world building details that also add to the complexity.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre: fantasy, bestiary – dragon; adventure,

Appeal Factors: dragons, mystery, political intrigue

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2013 William C. Morris Award
  • 2012 Cybils Award
  • 2013 Horn Book Award Honor Book

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Seraphina’s “dreams”/visions
  • Dragons and human relationship/conflict
  • Description of other half-dragons and half-humans

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • What would you do if you were Seraphina faced with her “grandfather”?
  • What human qualities does Seraphina have? / What dragon qualities does Seraphina have?
  • How would you handle the conflict with the dragons if you were Princess Glisselda?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this novel because it was about dragons.  The idea of a half-dragon/half-human was intriguing.  I was interested in seeing what qualities Seraphina would have and how her half-dragon side would affect who she was as a person.