A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Although set in a fantasy world, Seraphina offers insight into medieval and Renaissance musical traditions and instruments.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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"Piss" and "bitch" are used a couple of times. "Bastard" is used in its technical sense, as well as an insult.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Given brandy after a harrowing ordeal, Seraphina becomes tipsy and makes some unwise declarations.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.