Rachel Hartman’s debut novel is a lovely thought provoking YA fantasy with an engaging portrayal of dragons unlike anything I’ve read before. Humans and dragons coexist on the basis of a fragile treaty. The fortieth anniversary of the treaty is weeks away and with it comes the imminent visit from Ardmagar Comonot, the dragon general. Before the Ardmagar arrives, a prince is murdered. The manner in which the prince’s body is found leaves the all too suspicious city of Goredd quick to lay blame on the dragons. The building ominous tension in the city is of particular danger to Seraphina, the new assistant to the court composer.
For safety’s sake, Seraphina was supposed to avoid drawing attention to herself. When the musicians under her direction are unable to play the Invocation, Seraphina must step forward to play at the royal funeral. Now it seems her every move attracts attention whether it is from her princess student, the prince who heads up the queen’s guards, volatile noblemen or dragons in human form that are appearing in increasing numbers throughout the city. To keep her heritage and lineage a secret Seraphina is forced to lie and lie again to the humans around her, even those that she comes to trust.
Seraphina’s mother was a dragon. It’s a fact that defies comprehension to many. Dragons are cold, logical, even soulless. They see emotions as something to be regulated, strong emotions as something to be censored. It is impossible to believe one of their own fell in love with a human and wedded one while in human form. For humans, Seraphina’s existence would be seen as dragons overstepping their power, as something beastly. In the current climate, it is essential that Seraphina hide her dragonish qualities more than ever.
Yet Seraphina cannot remain as aloof as she would like, not with Princess Glisselda as her student and friend. The princess has been brought up on ideas that dangerously wrong about dragons, ideas that could cause a scene with the new ambassadors in town. Seraphina also finds herself entangled in the investigation of what really happened to Prince Rufus. Then there’s the matter of her uncle, who she fears will be hurt for passing as an eccentric human rather than the dragon scholar that he is. Though she also fears what dragonkind will do to him as well.
I enjoyed the characters in this book very much, especially Prince Lucian Kiggs. I like how this head of the queen’s guard reacts to the world around him. He’s dedicated, perceptive and insistent on the truth (which causes a few tensions with Seraphina). His past colors his actions and I loved how Seraphina thwarted his sense of order. Seraphina’s prickly personality comes alive on the page.
Seraphina comes out in July 2012. I read an ARC courtesy of Netgalley.