Series: Seraphina #1
Author: Rachel Hartman
Pages: 369 (paperback)
Published: January 3rd 2013
Published by: Corgi Childrens
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.
So, the book club I go to decides what we're going to read from month to month democratically. People suggest books and then we vote on which to read. This book was suggested a few months ago, and while it didn't win it intrigued me enough to go out and buy anyway. Unfortunately, the stack of books I have waiting to be read means I've only just got round to it, and I really really wish I'd read it sooner, because this book is amazing.
But I'm having a lot of trouble putting into words what actually made it so great. So. Summarise!
Seraphina herself is a great leading lady, and she's surrounded by a whole range of characters who are (pretty much all) just as likeable, quirky in their own ways.
The world is intricately thought out, similar enough to not be completely alien but with enough differences to underline the presence of dragons. And it's not just the major things (though religion is probably the major one - dragons aside): even though it's a medieval setting, there are cultural differences when it comes to clothing and music.
The dragons themselves: how their mind works in both dragon and human form and that there's a difference is something I've not come across before. It goes beyond little things like 'not wanting to eat raw meat' to how they perceive the world and the sudden overwhelming presence of emotions when they're human.
The romantic relationship side of the story was a little predictable, but I don't mind a little predictability from time to time. It's nice to not have to worry about what the outcome's going to be, and just enjoy the getting there. And counter to this, the dragon-hunt storyline had enough mystery going on that I extra didn't mind. And, all the better, that ended in a way in which I did not see coming at all.
On a deeper level, this books is an interesting look at racial hatred and how easily it can be incited even after peace is all that many people have known. We, unfortunately, see this all too often even now and while this is taken to extremes (compared to nowadays) I'm sure it isn't too different from what some denominations - be they religious, racial, sexual orientation or a whole host of other things - have experienced in the past.
A hugely enjoyable book with depth and lightness each in their own place. Very much looking forward to the next book in this series.