Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Seraphina Book Poster Image
Richly conceived dragon fantasy with stellar young heroine.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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, t... Continue reading
Adult Written bybjernd September 15, 2019

Think outside the checkboxes: self-harm...

One thing the CSM reviewer missed: there’s one pretty graphic self-harm scene. Doesn’t fit any of the checkboxes, but it’s much more disturbing than any of the... Continue reading
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 exp... Continue reading
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... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate