Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: Rachel Hartman
Source: Ambuzzador program on Random Buzzers
Series: Seraphina #1
Rating: Direct Hit
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 day 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 a 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.
I’m quite glad I got the chance to be an Ambuzzador for Seraphina since I otherwise wouldn’t have read this amazing book. I’ve been burned by fantasy a few times before and had decided that I just didn’t like the genre. Seraphina definitely has me rethinking that, though.
The language confused me a bit at times, but it wasn’t confusing in a way that hindered my enjoyment. Plus, Hartman was kind enough to provide a glossary! I was afraid there’d be tons of made-up words and confusing imaginary creatures, but that wasn’t the case. There are a few creatures and words that need explaining, but Hartman does just that. She didn’t leave me hanging in the dark wondering what in the world I was reading about.
I love the subtlety of Seraphina. It’s possible that most of that is due to the historical setting in which it’s set, but no matter the reason I loved it. The humor is never blatant and mystery is one that slowly seeps into the story. I actually found myself laughing out loud at times!
The characters are all fantastic as well. I really felt for Seraphina. I can’t imagine what it would be like to hate your own body not because you’re “too fat” or “too skinny” but because you have scales! When she took a knife to her scales I could feel her pain deep in my bones but I completely understood her determination and likely would’ve done the same to myself. Not only did she find the look of herself ugly, but she was an abomination to both societies. And yet, she was a strong, determined woman with a loving and compassionate side. In short, I adored her.
Then there’s Kiggs. He’s so prickly at times, but I could see the determination and reasoning for his action so I respected him as a character.
And then there’s Glisselda. I really thought I’d hate her when I first started reading but she turned out to be a completely wonderful character!
The story itself is both quiet and dramatic. The action and intrigue is never thrust right in your face, but I also found myself to never be particularly bored.
The Nutshell: If you think you don’t like fantasy, you might want to give Seraphina a try. I was a self-proclaimed fantasy hater until I read this. The characters are wonderful; the story is intricate, beautiful and fantastic; and the fantasy elements are actually easy to understand and wrap you head around.