The Audition and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

“The Audition” is a 17 page novella prequel to “Seraphina” about the brief scene in which Seraphina had to go through to become the assistant music composer and Princess Glisselda’s music tutor.

The story started with Seraphina and Orma who was on the way to the castle for the final audition with the court’s composer and the princess. Seraphina was nervous after Orma had predicted that she had 12% chance to succeed even after a grueling pre-audition and it does nothing but annoy her. When Orma didn’t come back after a walk, Seraphina went to find him but instead she encountered a very rude girl with a pail of fish sauce and hell bent on mischief.

The prequel introduced the reader to Seraphina, a young apprentice with a gift of music who was under the tutelage of her music teacher Orma. Her chanced encountered with Princess Glisselda provided their first impression to one another and their eventual friendship that were apparent in “Seraphina”. For a short scene, it gave a nice insight to the main character and enhanced the interaction with multiple of characters as should with the subsequent book.

I would recommend reading the prequel first before you start reading “Seraphina” to slightly enhance your readincg experience. It’s not a necessary read if you’ve had read “Seraphina” but the prequel to this book is free, click on the link and just click again on the URL supplied on the site.

Seraphina is a YA fantasy novel about a talented musician Seraphina Dombegh who came to live in the castle as an assistant to the court’s composer, Viridius and a music tutor to Princess Glisselda while preparing for Treaty Eve is a celebration commemorating the signing of Comonot’s Treaty; a treaty where both human and dragons (known in this book as saar) are able to live in peace. However, trouble is brewing with the Goredd’s people prejudices against all of the dragon kinds especially after Queen’s son Prince Rufus was found headless in the forest.

The book was written with Seraphina as the narrator who carried a secret that she couldn’t tell anyone : she is half-dragon and half-human. Her mother Linn, an accomplished flutist unexpectedly found love with Seraphina’s father, Claude Dombegh. For a dragon, the idea of feelings and falling in love was foreign and forbidden but Linn choose to follow her heart and abandon her dragon family for Claude. However, during labor, she realized that she wouldn’t survive the ordeal, she passed down her memory onto her newborn child before dying. Claude was grief-stricken by the death of his wife and the fact that she was a dragon, he began to distant himself from the newborn and so Seraphina grew up neglected by her father who wanted her existence hidden until her musical talent began to brought attention and so he gave her to her own dragon uncle under pretense as an apprentice as well as a place where she able to learn about the dragons and control her mother’s gifts; which manifested as visions from her mother’s past and of various of people inside her mind.

While I started reading the book, I was already a skeptic after reading bombastic reviews about the book. The book started with a prologue on the mind of a newborn Seraphina with a lot of descriptive thoughts for a baby and proceed with her experiences in her childhood where she choose an unconventional saint and the distance with her father. Soon after that, I got confused when Seraphina keep having this inner self moment where she went into an alternate dimension inside her head where she met with weird strangers and ask them to behave since it gives her headaches. Along with this, she had several collapses when her mother’s visions were triggered and she uncontrollably had to suffer through while suffering through a convulsive epileptic state. A lot of the terms (like quiqutl, porphyry, dracomachia, ard) were lost on me while reading the book but I caught up with the meaning as I followed the storyline until the end of the book, luckily I get to look up more works since the book have its glossary at the end. However, the language of the book weren’t difficult for a fantasy genre, so you’ll get used to it.

To much of my delight, Seraphina is a complex intriguing character.  Her musical talents brought a form of adoration to her listeners from the average citizen to royalties and dragons alike. Because of her heritage, she braved herself to pursue for the her love of art into the court life in the castle. Although she’s secretive about her personal life, soon her charisma shone through her that her empathy developed into self-confidence and bravery to uphold what she knows is true especially when someone is in dire need of help. Even parts of the book maintain her secretive charade, she can be too reckless when faced with problems that could lead to her exposure. From her mother’s vision, it brought her abilities to understand the complexities of being a dragon  and the strict almost-religion observance among the dragonkind had often guided her ways to maneuver through heated conversations that are very political in many sense. Eventually, her curious nature leads her along with the investigation with the bastard Prince Lucian Kiggs that leads to an even more sinister plot. Since this was a singular point of view novel, most of the time. Seraphina can be hard on herself and  frankly, she’s quite an enjoyable character to read since own character conflict is way fascinating to read.

Even earlier on, I had some misgivings about its plot progression but I didn’t actually have any problem with her as a character. As a country living in peace but on the edge with continued hate sentiments by its people against the dragons, for a YA novel, the book does not skimp on its political theme in peace-keeping by the Goredd and Tanamoot’s monarchs and its ambassadors and highborns. At these aspect, the book does reminded me a bit of HBO’s Game of Thrones, G. A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin (only the serious political storyline) and Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms. Some part made me think of Frank Herbert’s Dune and Ghibli’s The Tales of Earthsea.

I had no doubt that the book is enjoyable as a proper fantasy novel filled with politics, crimes and menaces, I just hope reader’s hearing about the books wouldn’t be too disappointed with the action and romance outlook in the book.

I haven’t heard any news about the future installments in this what would be a book series but I really hope the publisher consider atleast a 6 novel contract for this author. I wouldn’t spoil you but I had the feeling these dragon politics is getting much more interesting.

plus, I need more of these…

UPDATE: my wordpress is getting even more slower than before. I hope its not because of the ‘traffic’. I guess I really need to window shop for local host sites. But this blog is barely a couple of months old…. I’m stumped. And even more penniless…


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