Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Series: Seraphina #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: Random Buzzers
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 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.
Seraphina is a respectable heroine who is struggling with her identity. Her struggles to accept herself make her sympathetic and her willpower makes her easy to like. Half in and half out of multiple worlds, she straddles the lines between human and dragon, nobility and commoner, science and art. Her unique point of view lends readers the perfect perspective to see clearly and from every angle the realm in which she resides.
The supporting characters are all amazing. Everyone has their faults, their strengths, their own personalities. They're all very human (even the dragons, though they would be annoyed to hear it). I particularly love Orma. But Kiggs, Glisselda, Lars - all of the characters, really - are perfectly written, with such wonderful depth and motivation, especially for secondary characters, and all of them come across as completely authentic and appropriately lovable (or loathable, as the case may be).
The setting is flawless and the world building is executed extremely well. Goredd is a fleshed out world complete with social castes, politics, warring factions, civil unrest, prejudices, religion, philosophy, magics, music, and technology. The pacing is perfect and the writing is absolutely gorgeous. This book is a seriously fun fantasy filled with mystery, danger, discovery and self-acceptance. But that isn't all it is. The tensions between humans and dragons allow for some great commentary regarding Otherness and I wished so badly that I had been able to read this when I was taking a capstone course on The Other in college. I gleefully absorbed ALL THE THEMES.
Seraphina is an impressive debut. I couldn't find a single thing in it to complain about! I highly, highly recommend it to fans of high fantasy, dragons, fun books with a literary quality to them, or fans of anything, really, because if you can't find something to love in Seraphina, then I don't really know what to tell you.