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What a delight to read, Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina was! Wonderful layered world building, and a cracking cast of characters, headed by Seraphina herself. Strong, likeable, resolute, if a little reluctant, she’s one of my favourite (solo) lead characters this year.
Despite most of the story taking place in the court and surrounding town, it does still feel like a much bigger world. There always seems to be something to ‘look at’, whether it is the seedier parts of the town, or the splendour of the court and it’s many events.
The history between the world of humans and dragons is also nicely told, with information woven into the fabric of the story and not just dumped on the reader all at once. Seraphina’s unique position (both her heritage and being the daughter of the lawyer who helped negotiate the truce) means we also get to see a little of both sides of this, which again helps with the impressive crafting of the world.
Early on, I was a little wary of the fact that the dragons appear in human from for most of the time, but they are so different to the human characters, in the way they act and see the world, this ceased to be an issue, and in fact became a huge plus for the story.
There is a romance which is really nicely & subtly done, it creeps up on the two as the story develops, it’s almost certainly going to play a stronger part in the next book, but I did like the fact that whilst it did start to inform the actions and choices of the characters, it stayed in the background. Made it work so much better in my mind.
I’m also really glad that the book can be read as a stand-alone, with no major cliff-hanger to create false anticipation for the next book. My god, I do want to read the next book, but that is to find out more about the world and answer the plot strands seeded earlier in the story.
I’ve said this on this blog (and Twitter) before but, I’m so glad that I saw cover and the reviews of the US version, first, because if I had seen the horrible effort that is the British version first I would never have stopped to check-out the reviews, never mind pick the book up in a shop.
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.