by Rachel Hartman
Rating: 5 stars
Reading challenge: Bralnica monthly challenge – read a book with dragons.
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.
This novel caught my eye more than a year ago but it took me this long to get my hands on it. It was so worth it! I can’t imagine the disappointment if it were otherwise. Now I have to find a way to get the next book in this series ASAP. I don’t know how I will survive the wait (the release date of the sequel is 25th March 2015!!!), but I must find out what happens next. There’s no nasty cliff-hanger, so the book can stand on its own, yet it’s clear a sequel is to follow.
Seraphina reads like a much older character than she is, but at the same time her youthfulness and lack of experience shines through, so I can understand why she’s got so much insight into the human mind and condition. Being half-dragon, she has a difficult task of breaching these two worlds, feeling both horrified and scared of her status. Dragons are, after all, considered monsters and even she finds their coldness and calculating nature repulsive at times.
Thank the stars, Seraphina does not have transformation powers but is marked as half-dragon in another, less visible and dramatic way. Well, her headaches and snippets of memories can turn downright nasty at times, and yet they prove to be one of her strengths as well. Her double nature is yet to be fully appreciated, I think. What is clear though is my love for her. She’s a wonderful character. I definitely ship her with Prince Lucian. 😀 They understand each other perfectly and you can glimpse the potential there from the very start.
Lucian is considered a bastard although his mother married her foreign lover. This status does not prevent the court form binding him to his cousin, Princess Glisselda; a fact which I personally found to be squeak-worthy. I know, I know – it is or it was common practice among the nobility, but that still doesn’t make it alright in my mind. I see the two more as very good friends, and I think that is also a reason why Glisselda is so adamant to have Lucian and Seraphina on good terms with each other. Maybe she sees the spark between her fiancée and the music mistress? I seriously hope it is so. Lucian and Seraphina make too good a team and understand each other too well to match them with anyone else.
I know that some reviewers found the romance too rushed, especially when they though Lucien and Seraphina disregarded his engagement too easily. I do not think so. They never flirted – or I’m really thick in this regard, but let’s not go there – instead I saw their conversations and some light humour to be more that of good friends. They can’t help themselves – they have a strong chemistry going. You can be attracted to a schoolmate, actor, or co-worker, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to act on it, especially if you know they are promised to another, no? Although Seraphina does a lot to evade his scrutiny for various reasons, they bump into each other frequently enough to keep the spark burning. And it’s captivating to see where they are going, what will happen to their budding love.
I won’t go into other characters right now; I just want to read more about them in the future. 😀
What is important, though; this novel doesn’t shy away from tackling religion, philosophy, music and the nature of love. The way Seraphina’s and other character’s musings seamlessly intertwine into the story makes all this heavy stuff easy to swallow. As soon as you start reading you know this book is well-thought through, the plot tightly woven, and the characters wonderfully fleshed out. Oh, and I must not forget to mention the vocabulary – be prepared for some difficult words, old music instruments and architectural terminology. There’s a nice glossary at the end, so no fear!