When I was in 8th grade I was in the “gifted” program (read: irritatingly fast reader) and we read The Hobbit. I remember tearing that book apart, reading every word, analyzing it, asking questions, taking tests, and just destroying my enjoyment of the book in general. It is a book I have always meant to go back to and read now that I am an adult because I LOVE fantasy novels, I just haven’t made it around yet.
I am a teacher by trade, and as I read Seraphina I found a book that was ripe for teaching. The fantasy world is beautiful and well-described, the characters are interesting, the story has enough intrigue and suspense to keep you reading, but what really kept stealing my attention was how this book could be used to sneak learning into a young mind. Rachel Hartman hits it all: discrimination, stereotypes, old and young generational differences, peace vs war, war to preserve peace, religion and its effects (damaging and beneficial), forbidden love, family strife and relationships, and I’m sure so many more.
The jist of this story is that there is a dragon race and a human race. They used to war with each other but came to a peace and now they live in relative harmony, but with suspicious behavior towards dragons who take human form to interact and learn. Dragons wear small bells so people know they are dragons and not humans (another connection: Jewish stars, South African apartheid) and this only serves to reinforce the discrimination. This is not a spoiler: Seraphina is a half-dragon, half-human because her mom didn’t tell her dad she was a dragon and they married and she died in childbirth. Seraphina has to hide her half-dragon signs: small silvery scales on her right arm and her back. She’s the assistant music leader at the palace, where she is friends with the prince and princesses.
She has special abilities as a half-breed and she has to learn to control and use them from her uncle Orma, who acts as her music teacher and only reveals himself when other family members make their way into the story to disrupt the anniversary of the treaty being celebrated at the palace.
I don’t want to give away too much more. It does feel like a lot of plot points and locations are just thrown out there and not explored, but I sense they will come back in sequels. There is a glossary at the back of the book that I wish I had known about at the beginning, because several words happen to you and you have no point of reference to understand what they mean. I also wished for a map so I could see the layout of this fantasy realm and have an idea of where all the players are stationed.
This was a beautifully written book, and any gripes I had did not detract from the lovely story, and you will be left wondering what happens next. I plan to place the sequel onto my holds list at my library immediately to find out. Teachers should take special note as this book could turn on many light bulbs in students’ understanding. Thanks for visiting! Happy reading!