Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House
Part of a Series: Yes, first book
Why I read It: Recommended by a friend
Summary: The people of Goredd have enjoyed a treaty with the dragons of Tanamoot for many years, creating an uneasy peace between the two species. All is put into danger when Prince Rufus of Goredd is found dead, his head bitten off. It is clearly the work of a dragon. People get riled up, old hatred for the dragons flaring up on the eve of a visit from the leader of dragonkind to commemorate the anniversary of the treaty. Seraphina, the assistant to the court composer, is drawn into the investigation through her associations with both the royal family and her tutor, a dragon. As she and Lucian Kiggs dig deeper, Seraphina fears her darkest secret will be discovered.
Review: I start the year off with another book I loved.
Let me go further into why I read the book. I’m still getting more serious with reading the fantasy genre. In the past, I’ve only flirted with it. But I’ve also flirted with writing fantasy so I wanted to study it a bit more. An online friend who knew about my writing suggested Seraphina. When I went to Comic Con in October, I finally found the publishing area after three years of looking. And I found Random House’s booth and bought the book. The woman who sold it to me said it was great.
And she was clearly right. Hartman builds a vivid world with Goredd, including an interesting social dynamic between dragons and humans. Dragons believe human emotions are messy and unnecessary. Humans believe dragons are heartless killers biding their time as the treaty lulls people in a sense of security. The death of Prince Rufus seems to confirm this for them. It gives those who are outspoken in their hate popularity. The capital city is a tinderbox, waiting to explode upon the arrival of the Ardmagar, the leader of the dragons. Hartman expertly creates this world and its tension.
Seraphina walks between both worlds. It allows her to explain to her tutor, Orma, about humans while explaining to her own student, the Princess Glisselda, about dragons. And to aid Lucian Kiggs in his investigation. But she doesn’t know where her place is. While Seraphina’s secret probably is easily discerned by those who are genre-savvy (and I did discern it), Hartman was wise to not reveal it up front. It fits in with Seraphina’s character and she is our narrator. She’s been hiding it so long, it is not a surprise she hides it from the readers. Very clever.
I like Kiggs. I didn’t expect to at first, but he grew on me. And I liked him with Seraphina. Their relationship was developed well. It seemed Kiggs was always interested by Seraphina while she kept trying to push him away. And she worries the closer they get. She lives in two worlds and believes she is meant to be alone. But throughout the course of the story, she learns otherwise. And it’s a nice bit of character growth, watching Seraphina embrace who she is. Though it is sad to watch her get to that point. Her teenage angst is a bit worse than ours ever was. But I think everyone will identify with her.
The secondary characters were great as well. I wished we had seen more from Glisselda. Though she reminded me of G(a)linda from Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked,” a silly girl who is capable of so much more. But she is loyal to Seraphina and counts her as a friend. And she’s coming into her own as a ruler. I can’t wait to see her grow in future books.
Fantasy is the most prominent genre. But there is some romance. And it is built up really well without overpowering the main plot. So I recommend it for people who like both genres. Or even just one. It’ll give you a chance to explore another one.
Bottom line: A great read for everyone, but especially if you like fantasy!
Is there a genre you’ve been wanting to try?