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.
“Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman
Release Date: July 10, 2012 | Publisher: Random House, 480 pages | Buy it
Recently, I opened my email to find my friend (Sonja from bookwink.com) comparing Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina this way: “It’s called Seraphina and I can only tell you that if Cornelia Funke and Kristin Cashore had a baby, it would be this book.” If you’re unfamiliar, she’s referring to Cashore’s Graceling series and Funke’s Inkhart series, of which we are mutually fans of (understatement). That’s not praise we just throw around, so I was not surprised to find the comparison apt.
Fantasy is a stretch for some people and I’m picky — I need to find relatable human emotion and not be overwhelmed by complicated legends. Dragons who can morph into human form is a bit out there, but, then again, I read Maggie Steifvater’s Shiver books and I crushed on Sam the werewolf pretty hard. So, I soldiered on and found this story hit those requirements with ease.
In truth, I listened to the audiobook, and it likely heightened my love of the story. The narrator had a lilting voice with a deep accent (something like Irish/Welsh/English) and she easily pronounced some of the words I would have tripped over. I had the hardcopy on my nightstand and after listening to it (in the car), I’d thumb through the parts I just heard — to hear what the scenes would sound like in my own voice and spend a little more time in that world.
Lots can be said about Seraphina, the teen title character that’s habitually lying and feeling crummy about it. I really liked her. And, of course, I loved Prince Kiggs, the Master of the Guard, who appears at the most opportune moments and finds Seraphina fascinating when everyone else thinks her plain, and prickly. There’s a large and varied cast of characters, that added richness to the story. And Hartman’s writing style is both rich and down-to-earth. The jacket copy calls the story “exquisitely-written” and I whole-heartedly agree.