Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: “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 the court as ambassadors and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the peace 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.”
Review: There’s no denying that Rachel Hartman is a talented and lyrical writer. The first few chapters of Seraphina actually made me feel like I was reading something in the same vein as Ella Enchanted (which is huge praise coming from me, as Ella Enchanted is definitely in my top ten books of all time).
“The world inside myself is vaster and richer than this paltry plane, peopled with mere galaxies and gods.”
The descriptions of Goredd and the palace were excellent and I found the dragons of Seraphina to be unique and, by extension, fascinating. I particularly loved Orma, Seraphina’s draconian uncle with little sense of humor and no sense of irony. Concerning uniqueness, I don’t think I’ve ever read another book where music played such a pivotal and illustrious role.
“A feeling rose in me, and I just let it, because what harm could it do? It only had another thirty-two adagio bars of life in this world. Twenty-four. Sixteen. Eight more bars in which I love you. Three. Two. One.”
However, it took me a long time to wrap my head around Seraphina’s “mental garden of grotesques” (seriously… I had no clue what was going on). I also found that the plot moved at a really, really, REALLY slow place. It felt like Hartman made a trade off between world building and pacing. Interestingly, one of my favorite parts of Seraphina was actually the “Cast of Characters” glossary at the back of the book. As it turns out, Hartman can be a very humorous writer when she wants to be.
“Regent of Samsam – the regent of Samsam
Abdo – a dancer in a pygegyria troupe
A pygegyria troupe – and there’s the rest of them now”
I wish she had incorporated more humor into the actual story, as it might have negated some of the plot drudgery. I do think Seraphina’s story – particularly her journey to self-acceptance – is inspiring, but don’t feel an immediate need to read the second book in the duology.