Author: Rachel Hartman
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.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman was one of my first dragon books.
I mean… I’m a fantasy nut and obviously I’ve seen them mentioned before. Toyed around with, even. Tamora Pierce focuses a bit on them in her Immortals quartet, but those books are a distant memory; it’s been some time since I’ve read those novels. So when Tamora Pierce blurbed Seraphina and I found out about the dragons, it was no-brainer for me: it would be a book that I’d be reading come hell or high water.
And I highly recommend that you do the same.
It’s true that the beginning was sort of slow-going for me. Hartman takes her time in setting up the world and the current circumstances of it. Dragons, due to their supposed unfeeling nature and their cold approach to the world around them, put me off a bit. And Seraphina, maybe due to a similar reason and her necessity to distance herself from others, was also hard for me to relate to at first.
And yes, there were also a couple of aspects of Seraphina’s abilities that weren’t quite believable to me. I don’t want to spoil it for you by telling you what those were, but the longer we were entrenched in them, the harder I found it to move on and engross myself in the story. They were necessary to the plot, but personally I couldn’t make myself believe them… even in a fantasy novel.
BUT… you guys, this is important: we moved on from there, away from those things. And I was able to fall into Rachel Hartman’s fascinating world. The politics and religion of her novel entranced me. This idea of the prejudices between humans and dragons and the tenuous peace between them made me just as nervous as some of the characters. How could either side be trusted?
A major theme of the series is love. Dragons are incapable of it in their natural state and, though not a dragon, Seraphina is extremely wary of it, particularly the romantic brand of it. Emotions themselves are explored as well largely through the dragons who take human form and try to acclimate themselves to the emotions that come with it. Through the events in the novel, Seraphina comes to understand that love is not something that should be looked down on because it is linked to so many things, such as her art: her music.
Art is not something that the dragons really understand because it is something that is driven by passion. Though sometimes performances are technically perfect, they lack that extra something. But that something is a gift that Seraphina was born with. She has a natural aptitude for music and Hartman’s descriptions of her playing are something to marvel at. They make you float right along as though you’re there to hear the performance itself.
And soon enough you’ll feel that way about all of the events in Seraphina as well.
Overall rating: 4/5. With explorations of love while a character comes to terms with what it means to be oneself, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman has the makings of an excellent fantasy series.
P.S. Be sure not to miss the prequel story The Audition!