Seraphina by 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.
I have really mixed feelings about this book. It was very slow to get going, but once it did, it was really good. I love the portrayal of dragons. It’s probably the most interesting dragonlore I’ve read. I also love the characterization and subtlety of the plot. Throughout the book, I thought I knew the answer to the mystery, and the end surprised me, but when I looked back, all the evidence was there. I love when authors do that. Hartman also did a great job working in diverse characters and complex ones. The Ardmagar’s comedic relief and confusion at human emotions keep the book from getting dreary in slower parts. To be honest, even in the slower beginning, I was captivated simply by the world in which Phina lives. The unique dragonlore and fantasy setting make it really very interesting.
Another point in Hartman’s favor is that she stuck to her dragons. In a lot of fantasy books, it seems like the author looked at a list of common things to see in the genre, and then decided to put them all in, which is overwhelming and takes away from the plot. Hartman does a wonderful job of focusing on her fuedal-like setting and draconian characters, without the unnecessary addition of faeries or ogres. I loved her book and I applaud her for it.