Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Digital Audiobook narrated by Justine Eyre, Mandy Williams
Published by Listening Library on July 10th 2012
Series: Seraphina #1
Genres: Dragons, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Length: 499 pages or 13 hours, 15 minutes
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In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."
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.
Hiding in the shadows is not suited to Seraphina.
The young music mistress doesn’t rebel, not intentionally. Music is in her bones and it calls to her soul. When an emergency means she calls up her instrument to perform at a royal funeral, suddenly everyone knows her name and it gets more complicated from there. But people can’t know her name because Seraphina can’t make friends, get into relationships… she has a dark and terrible secret and if anyone finds it out, she will surely die.
Meanwhile, the celebration of the treaty between humans and dragons draws near, and the mystery of the prince’s killer looms in the air over all of them. Everything points to a dragon, and certainly many of the townsfolk and courtiers believe it’s so… but they need more evidence. If it was a dragon, that would be devastating on the eve of the celebration….
Seraphina is loaded with gems and I love it.
From what I understand of discussion and reviews of this book, Seraphina is hit-or-miss with most people. Personally? I loved it! I thought the character development was really well done and I thought that the discourse about racism and justice were really, really excellent. Racism is an interesting subject to tackle in a fantasy novel without projecting our own world upon it. Skin color plays absolutely no part in this racism – instead, it’s species related, and driven by stories and fear that is not unfounded, but is definitely poorly managed (by the characters! not the author!). I think it does a very good job at portraying the tension in our own society – from the blatant racists to those in denial of its existence.
I like the grey areas in the characters as well. There was a character I thought surely was going to turn around and betray Seraphina, and she never did. She was actually a shining light in the story and she was kind and good and sensible and just in the midst of a group that were led by unfounded hate. While I love a good betrayal, this character was lovely that I’m glad she found her footing and maintained her values. I WANT TO TALK ABOUT HER MORE BUT I WON’T BECAUSE SPOILERS.
There’s a little romance, but not so much that it takes over the story. A lot of books aren’t this well-balanced, and as a plot before OTP person, I really appreciated this (also I ship Seraphina/Fruit Bat but I think he might be way too young and that’s creepy? MIXED FEELINGS). I had a lot of trouble gauging ages in this book and pretty much got the impression of old, young, and something in-between. And that’s good because it’s SO FRUSTRATING when a character comes out as sixteen but behaves like an eight-year-old.
This book makes you angry, anxious, and happy.
I spent a lot of this book being really anxious for Seraphina and her secret. I was 100% on her team and didn’t want her to die? Or be tortured, or anything? There were some places where I found her narrative a little boring, but for the most part I was charmed by her garden and her music. Her music makes you feel. This feat must be doubly appreciated because this is a book, with no noise. Even in the audiobook, there was no music. And yet, the description is so real and vivid it pulls at your heartstrings. I loved it!
You can’t help but be really frustrated with a lot of the people who behave erratically or irrationally. The way some people in this novel behave is infuriating… just like in real life.
I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel, and adding this one to my hardcopy library.