Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Review: Seraphina

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.      Quoted from Goodreads


Ever since reading Leah Bardugo's wonderful Shadow and Bone (which I will probably review later), I have been looking for another great fantasy book, and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman was just what I wanted.  Strong main character?  Check.  Unique world building?  Check.  Mystery?  Check.  Internal and external conflict?  Check.  Multi-dimensional characters? Check.  A dash of romance that doesn't swallow the story whole?  Check.

In Seraphina's world, hyper-logical, emotionless dragons can take on human form, and their accompanying feelings, though these are seen as a disease or intolerable weakness. Despite forty years of uneasy peace, humanity still fears dragons, and as the day to renew their peace treaty draws closer, old fears and hatred grow stronger, ignited by the suspicious murder of a beloved prince. 

Enter Seraphina.

In her world, Seraphina is the unthinkable: a half human, half dragon hybrid.  Her human father didn't even know her her mother was a dragon until she died in childbirth, leaving him with a daughter that shouldn't exist and he didn't know what to do with.  One thing is certain, no one must ever know.  Only her father and teacher Orme (her mother's brother) know what she is.  So she pretends to be fully human, glorifying in the one legacy of her mother's that she loves: music.  Despite everything, she has risen to become the assistant to the royal music master, placing her at court, just as tensions begin to rise . . . 

Let's start with the lovely Seraphina.  I absolutely adored her.  She is strong, conflicted, filled with secrets, and torn between what she should and should not want.  She is brave without being foolhardy and acted instead of simply letting the story happen to her. Most of all, she is torn and maybe a tiny bit broken, and I like how she struggles to overcome that as the book progresses.  

The rest of the characters are just as interesting, and most are equally conflicted about something at one point or another.  

The writing is beautiful, and there is a texture to Hartman's world that I thoroughly adored. The pacing may be considered a bit slow, though I thought it was just fine, and the romance . . .  it was absolutely perfect.  It grew and developed between the characters instead of blasting the reader with insta-love.  Plus it was obvious why the two of them fell for each other.  Everything that was strong or messed up about them, drew them closer, making each one perfect for the other.

I also love a good mystery, and this book didn't disappoint.  Maybe  everyone else saw the ending coming, but the whole, who's he bad guy dilemma kind of reminded me of J.K. Rowling in her early Harry Potter books.  I know it's rather dangerous to be throwing that name around, but there it is.  Now everyone who reads this will be on the lookout, and you will probably all spot the villain before I did, but oh well.  I still think it was an excellent surprise, one that had all the pieces set up, but I sill missed it.

I give this book a solid 4 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy, adventure, or mystery and beyond.

Oh, and if you are interested, you can read a short prequel here.

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