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Richly conceived dragon fantasy with stellar young heroine.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Although set in a fantasy world, Seraphina offers insight into medieval and Renaissance musical traditions and instruments.

Positive messages

The characters in Seraphina emphasize the importance of honesty. Fearing for her own safety and that of her loved ones, Seraphina keeps many secrets and reluctantly avoids the truth about herself for much of the novel. But by the end, she has the courage to be honest about herself, both publicly and privately.

Positive role models

In Seraphina, the eponymous narrator is a remarkable young woman -- an extremely talented musician and teacher, brave in the face of physical and emotional danger, and kind to the underdog but steely when facing misplaced authority.


Seraphina is wounded in an assassination attempt, and her arm is deliberately cut to prove that she doesn't have dragon's blood. Two other characters are poisoned, one fatally. None of these incidents is depicted with excessive detail.


Dragons and humans are able to interbreed in Seraphina, a fact that discomfits most characters who contemplate the notion in the novel. The mechanics of such a union aren't discussed. Seraphina finds herself falling in love with Prince Lucian, but their physical relationship goes only so far as a passionate kiss.


"Piss" and "bitch" are used a couple of times. "Bastard" is used in its technical sense, as well as an insult.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Given brandy after a harrowing ordeal, Seraphina becomes tipsy and makes some unwise declarations.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Seraphina is a clever and well-constructed coming-of-age fantasy novel that won the 2013 William C. Morris Award winner for best debut book for teens. Its female protagonist is smart, resourceful, brave, and empathetic, and the novel promotes the value of honesty. Language is infrequent ("piss" and "bitch" a couple of times, "bastard" as an insult), and the small amount of violence is depicted with restraint. Seraphina is wounded in an assassination attempt, and her arm is deliberately cut to prove that she doesn't have dragon's blood. Two other characters are poisoned, one fatally. None of these incidents is described with excessive detail. Dragons and humans are able to interbreed, but the details aren't discussed explicitly. 

What's the story?

In the kingdom of Goredd, humans and shape-shifting dragons have endured an uneasy truce for four decades. But as the citizens prepare for the arrival of the leader of the dragon world, musician Seraphina Dombergh finds herself in a dangerous position. A member of the Goredd royal family has been murdered, and Seraphina finds herself drawn into the investigation, along with Prince Lucian Kiggs. As they search for answers that might prevent a civil war, Seraphina struggles with a potentially deadly secret -- that she herself is the product of an illegal marriage between her human father and her deceased dragon mother.

Is it any good?


SERAPHINA is a cleverly conceived and well-executed coming-of-age fantasy novel, rich in detail yet not overwhelming in its dragon lore. Author Rachel Hartman has created a singularly resourceful and empathetic heroine in young music teacher Seraphina Dombegh. The action scenes are well choreographed, but much of the plot's power comes from the emotional interplay between the novel's unusual and well-realized characters. Clearly only the first installment of a new series, Seraphina ends on a high note, with promise of more captivating adventures to come.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why strong female characters like Seraphina often appear in fantasy books. How do you think she compares with other fantasy heroines?

  • Why are dragons so popular in literature, from traditional fairy tales to contemporary fantasy novels? 

  • Why is intermarriage between people of different races, religions, or societies controversial?

Book details

Author:Rachel Hartman
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies, Adventures, Arts and dance
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date:July 10, 2012
Number of pages:480
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

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Teen, 14 years old Written byTripFoot August 8, 2013

Great Book

This is a beautifully-written novel about many things, including music, art, dragons, prejudice, and self-acceptance. Even though the conflict is between people and dragons, humanity shines through, and there is a lot to be discussed and learned from, such as how interspecies misunderstandings arise, why art is important, and the cost of hiding lies. A must-read for any fantasy fan, and a wonderful pick for other sophisticated readers.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 17 years old Written bytripp106 December 3, 2012

Loved it!

My thoughts: I’ve never really read straight up fantasy. And, as far as I can remember, I have never read a book “about” dragons. So, this was a very new experience for me. I was worried it would be boring and I would be stuck reading it for 3 weeks (Because, of course, it is an absurdity to put a book a down!). But, alas, it was not! I read its 400 and some page self in 2 days, and it was actually good! Not sure that I’m actually jumping on the fantasy band wagon; but, I’m not totally looking the other way as it rolls by now. I loved the way it was written, it felt old and somewhat European. I laughed at myself as I tried to put everything in the realm of my understanding, “That accent must be like a Jersey thing” or “Oh, those people are like Swedish”. It actually had a bit of a Steam-Punk vibe in some parts, which was really cool. Honestly, there’s no way to really pin down this book; it is completely and utterly unique. It’s fairly rare that I adore the main character; I usually pick someone more obscure. But, I love Seraphina! She’s bright and loving. Her struggles feel so real, and, in a not so literal sense, are easy to relate too! Prince Lucian/Kiggs is pretty great too; I liked him all the way through, but, he’s best right at the end. I also really like Princess Gliselda and Orma, honestly though, all the characters are uber cool in their own right. There’s an index of characters and a glossary in the back of the book, the latter of which I would recommend the reader make their best friend. Though, after I finally discovered the glossary, it did not contain half the words I went searching in it for. I really enjoyed reading this! The world is absolutely mesmerizing and the writing is intriguing, how could one possibly go wrong? Content: Language: Moderate-Minor and moderate words used in moderations. Sexual content: Moderate-Little things that add up. Violence: Mild- Some old style fighting, bullying, and a dragon vs. dragon fight
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written byaidanm1 December 3, 2016

Must Read

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, really brings out the art in writing. Each word in this brilliantly plotted fantasy seems to be well thought out. Personally, this book has some of the best character development I’ve read in a while. However, I feel the plot lacks some surprise. There were times when I was waiting for a plot twist and it just never came. Furthermore, I also feel that this book hits a strange audience. It contains the fiction that children would enjoy, but the themes that only adults would understand. Overall, this book is a definite must read, despite its tiny quirks.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages